The Economist-The future of Indian business education

26 Jan 2016

 

AS WELL as being the world’s second-most populous country, India is the world’s largest provider of management education. But that scale belies problems. A number of business schools offer substandard education, as Which MBA? has previously investigated, and smaller institutions struggle to stay afloat. A quarter of business schools in India take in fewer than 60 candidates in each annual cohort, a class size that AIMA, the All-India Management Association, a national management-education industry body, calls “abysmally low”.

Whether in a well-attended programme or not, the employment prospects for Indian business students have also dropped, according to AIMA. The cost of courses has increased—even in the lowest-quality schools—while the salary graduates can expect to earn is falling. “There a lot of people graduating from business schools who don’t get jobs in metro cities or big corporations,” says Rajan Saxena, the vice chancellor of the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, a private university in Mumbai, and chairman of the board of studies at AIMA. This is partly down to strong competition for relatively few positions, but also a disconnect between educational and employer requirements.

Such problems have the potential to hold back a country that will need ever-more good-quality managers. So as 2015 turned into 2016, AIMA published a strategy paper, seven months in the making, from a committee tasked with finding a way to improve management education in the country. The goal is bold: “By 2025 [the] Indian management education system should clearly emerge as the second best in the world, second only to that of [the] USA.”

AIMA suggests tearing down pillars that have propped up business education in India for years. Standardised curriculums have been commonplace, says Dr Saxena. However, there is a vast gap between India’s best business schools (Ahmedabad’s Indian Institute of Management (IIM-A) tops The Economist’s global ranking of business schools’ when it comes to opening new career opportunities) and its more mundane colleges. Yet they both teach the same theory and techniques. That is wrong-headed. An MBA graduating from a business school in Kapurthala (population: 99,000) is much less likely to reach the board of a multinational firm than one coming out of a management institute in Mumbai (population: 12m). The skills needed to handle a smaller company—in Indian heavy industry, for example—are different to global corporations.

Entrepreneurship would be better suited to smaller schools, Dr Saxena reasons, and would change India for the better. Some schools offer courses on bootstrapping businesses, but it should become a core part of the education system. Integration with industry would help target curriculums to suit the needs of employers, too. Differentiation is essential: the task force recommends attaching boosters to the best 150 business schools to compete on a global market by improving faculty and facilities, and repositioning the remaining 4,600 or so schools better to serve businesses on a national or regional level.

AIMA’s claim that India’s business schools can rival those in America within a decade is probably overly ambitious. But it should, at least, be possible to emerge as a hub for global management education. For the world's largest business-school market, that is the least that should be expected.