India’s Business schools or Hogwarts school of money?

Anuvaub Paul (a comedian), reflects on his experiences of interacting with an Indian B-school based at Pune.

Being an MBA himself he is really surprised to see students having similar career choices as they had during his time. He is also disappointed how clueless students are and are just chasing these jobs for salaries so that edu loan can be repaid:

Recently, I was asked to speak at a few Indian business schools about what I’ve learnt from life. It seemed rude to say that I’ve learnt nothing. Or that the older I get, the lesser I know.

So, armed with my past life, I embarked on this cross-country speaking tour: cheating wisdom fundamentally because I was interested in what masters of business administration (MBAs) were like now. I’d done mine 15 years ago where career choices were banking or consulting because we were 25 and those two words sounded good even though we had no idea what they actually meant. And for people not good at engineering (read: mathematics), the world (read: Indian parents) told us that it was either MBA or homelessness.

I’m bewildered to report that 20 years later, in the age of new careers (comedians and food apps, Google and Flipkart), the primary choices were still investment banking or management consulting. Even though both those professions might disappear. MBA costs many lakhs. And these kids want to recover their investment. But it’s quite frightening to think that entire career choices — a whole life — is based on, “Money gone, what money is coming back in, and how quickly,” without actually looking at the world and seeing how it’s changing. In Pune, when I asked a young candidate what kind of consulting do you want to do, he replied: management consulting.

“Could you be a little more specific?” I added. The room, full of his batchmates, laughed — although they weren’t sure why they were laughing. “Do you mean healthcare, media, strategy… what sector?” “I don’t know all that, sir. They have 20 lakhs per annum.” It was delightful to know that this young man in two years would be advising CEOs, chairpersons, people in their 60s who’d spend entire lives in that sector, telling them how to do their job.

This will be a similar story across campuses.

The disconnect between academia and real world just getting wider:

It struck me that there seemed to be a disconnect between the real world out there — the new India, where innovative people were building startups or jobs no one had heard of, with no idea of what money would come — and this cocoon of beautiful business school campuses.

The first was this need to immediately get a job and make money. Which is why business schools (outside the top 10) are now a year long, six months long, four hours long — anything to squeeze in as much knowledge as quickly to make them job-ready. If they could fit in a whole course within a Kaun Banega MBA episode, that would make candidates even happier.

The second disconnect was the high theory they were being taught that was totally impractical to what they’ll face outside. One candidate talked of a visiting professor from Chicago testing them on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs to understand how Indian HR works. If they want to really figure out how Indian HR works, the professor should just make them walk around any Indian open plan office to see who is or is not on Facebook all day.

Money seemed to be the only motivator. And certainty of what they wanted to do. At 25. I was talking of alternative careers. How I switched from a 15-year corporate job to stand-up comedy and writing. And every question was about money. “Sir, did you have a safety net?” “Sir, had you made enough money to retire?” The underlying assumption was because it wasn’t banking or consulting, it must mean zero income and, therefore, death by starvation.

Many of these people, like we all do, will go through the money journey to hit their late 30s and realise, “Oh, what am I doing with my life? I’m just showing PPTs and organising taxis for my boss for Rs 20 lakh a year.”

My only hope is that it doesn’t hit them in their late 50s when it is too late. As one student was taking me to the airport, I asked him, “What do you want to do?” He was quite sheepish. He said, “I don’t like to talk about it much, sir. I don’t know what I want to do. I want to travel and see the world and learn and then decide. I don’t have 20 interviews lined up or playing one job offer against the other for more money. That’s why people in my MBA programme think I’m mad.” He was the sanest person I met the entire tour.

Much of India’s shining youth story is superficially highlighted by media and experts alike. Just dig a little deeper and one will get a reality shock…

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