Monday, October 20, 2003

The MBA bandwangon

Read Mahesh Murthy's article on the validity of an MBA. It seems quite interesting and quite related to a CG discussion. What did I do? I wrote this to Mahesh Murthy.

This MBA thingy always had me thinking - I come from a very conservative
"banking" background, and went through the rigours of Engineering at a
fairly well known institute. Point being, the focus was always about getting
a job - and getting a better job than, say, your father, your roommate, your
aunt's sister-in-law's nephew twice removed. And in the hullaboo, I managed
to sit through tons of "CAT" material, go through mock tests, discuss GD and
interview strategies - all in my pre-final year. But all through, there was
this nagging doubt that this wasn't what I'd been looking for. All my life,
or at least as long as I can remember, I've wanted to start my own
business - which is kinda weird considering the environment I was in.

Anyways, keeping "start-your-business" as a long term goal, I started to
evaluate the possibilities, and then this MBA thing seemed like a sham -
just another effort to get to a better pedestal so you can negotiate the
TLAs at a job - CTC, LTA, EMI etc. And the IIMs just got me jittery - if
most IIM students are just out of college, what level of business skills
would you learn from them? Education was anyhow not my forte - I was always
a self learner. I couldn't figure out any advantage of an IIM MBA other than
one - Networking. Finally I decided against it - if it had to be, it would
have to be a few years later.

I ended up starting my own company five years ago. I don't know if an MBA
would've helped but it sure would have taken 2 more years for me to start
up, plus I'd probably have an education loan liability. And in the software
industry, the two years would've been murder! Ergo, I would've started in
2000 rather than 1998, and we all know what's happened since 2000.

All said, I know now that management skills are important - I learnt things
the hard way, and sometimes there's been no excuse for the ignorance.
Management books are good and helpful, and now I'm looking to get to short
term courses on global marketing, operations research, case study analyses.
Maybe I'm more qualified to do an MBA now than ever, and yet the courses
they all seem to offer have only a single light at the end of the tunnel -
the ubiquitous job offer. What I need is not a job - I need to know how to
keep my employees motivated, how to "break into" new markets, how to price
in a tender based project, how to negotiate with suppliers, how to spread
risk, how to manage expectations. Jeez, this sounds like management jargon!
But it's what I need - I know what business is, give me the skills to
administer. Sadly, Indian management institutes seem to have lost what an
MBA should stand for.

And you know what, I think I'm just full of it. IIMs aren't that bad, and I believe there is some quality education that emanates from its hollows. But does an IIM MBA suit me? Will it make or break the dream I had when I started Agni? What will it teach me? Answers- I don't know. In triplicate.

I can't say this to others, but I would say an MBA is a no-no unless you have money or time. If you don't have both, do your number the way you wanted to do it. It's no longer about blood, sweat and tears - it's about intelligence and being stubborn enough to keep to your goal. If you want to make it big, cut your dream into do-able chunks and build upon it. Management books may help, talking to people might help, but the major part of the work is going to be done between your ears.


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