Source: E-mail dt. 18.10.2011


What an MBA will do to you.... a layman's view!!!


Khagesh Agarwal

Analyst, DE Shaw & Co.,

Hyderabad, India


Let me begin this post with a small story.... years back, there was a small boy who had a very curious mind. Whenever he saw a person practicing a particular profession, he would aspire to do that when he grew old. Those days, Engineering was a hype as a career, but alas, his mother was never able to justify the various specializations in the course. For them, as well as the other common masses, it was just a specialized course which was much valued, and a person would be taught some aspects of all fields during the course of the study. Today, we have a number of disciplines in which one can pursue his/her engineering course.

This is just a small story of a small town guy, and my readers ask me why I narrated this, I would say, hold on till u read the entire note. Management, MBA, the hype of the current times. This guy graduated and went ahead to pursue his MBA, and during his college days, he used to wonder.... what's so unique, so peculiar about an MBA. Everything that was taught in the classroom as a part of the course curriculum, he found it very obvious. He thought, "Kotler defines the elements of marketing mix in terms of concrete words, which a layman might not be capable of, though what he says and quotes is something very obvious."

Management doesn't start in a B-School or ends with the same.... management is everywhere. Right from the start of the day when we wake up till the time we go to sleep, we are continuously involved in the process of management. We wake up and start managing our time by allocating time to our various tasks. When we leave home, we have to manage the cash we carry, decide on how we are going to satiate our wants with the resource we have (we call this as financial management). While we go to a shop to make our purchases, we have to decide among various alternative choices available (after all, its a capitalist economy which respects and advocates consumer sovereignty), and we tend to get influenced by the competitive pricing policy, the offers, packaging, etc. just to name a few (we call this marketing). Having made the purchases, we sit back and imaging whether our decision was correct or not.... whether we did the right thing by purchasing good A and not B, or vice-versa (human behavior, organizational psychology when the context is of an employee who has to decide where he should join work and where not; theory of cognitive dishonors et al)..... adding further, when we start our day with a news paper or a magazine and read about social issues, we tend to think if something could be done, and rack our brains for various methods of helping the deprives (and we call this social marketing or CSR in the context of organizations)..... then, this guy feels, why MBA. We have been managing ourselves since the day we gained our conscience..... whatís so special about being in a B-School...

If I were to answer him, I would say...."Agreeing with you in most of the aspects, and to add on, MBA would facilitate you to change your viewpoint from a buyer to that of a seller.... from a user to that of a service provider..... and if you are facilitated well by your alma-mater, then your MBA is worth, else, you know, it really didn't make much of a difference. Moreover, it depends entirely on one as to how he/she wants to broaden his/her horizon.... to make a difference and strive to change the world around. As one of my role-models once remarked on how he learnt about 'Brand Management'- I learnt it by visiting kirana shops across the markets of Kerala and selling P&G products.... Going on further, lets analyze a few real-life encounters we face in our day-to-day lives-

1.††††† We are leaving for work and need to take an auto.... we bargain with the auto-wala bhaiya. He quotes a figure depending on the situation, the traffic, the weather (sometimes, its a perfect competition where majorly all auto-wala bhaiya's are willing to go as per the metered reading, and at other times, itís a monopoly when the traffic is huge or when its late at night or when itís raining). Tarry a little.... do they know what these economic jargon's mean.... infact, they implement these facets of life without formally being taught such situations or evidences, forget the case studies of the MBA school which boast of teaching us such jargons. Similarly, when they see you are with a girl, they would quote a higher figure knowing well that you won't bargain much as your image will get tarnished....

2.††††† You are in the market place when a beggar approaches you and begs for some quick bucks. Initially, you scorn off the person and say khulle paise nahi hai, aage jaao..... but the person keeps on begging till the time you shell out some bucks... that's what I call marketing. Do we ever think of inviting a beggar to teach how he/she is able to market so well and convince people to shell out money without even rendering any service whatsoever?

These are very crude examples to explain my thought-process of what management and its various disciplines mean to me. Summarizing my thoughts, I would just say that Management is within oneself. One cannot learn real management from books. These small day-to-day encounters will facilitate to imbibe and understand what management is all about. When you need to face a client, the way you have interacted with people from different walks of life would be of much more help than the thick management books. Talk to people, change your perspective from that of a buyer to a seller (and this would improve your ability to empathize too), you learn and eventually master the art of management. I say art, for the simple reason that management is always evolving, and everyone has his/her own style of managing things. Going by the conventional knowledge is important to the extent that it shall strike you to come up with something novel and different.... never think of yourself less than an IIM grad, for everyone is equally capable. Itís just the way we hone our outlook towards the small aspects of life..... don't remain confined to the disciplines that management courses offer in the name of specializations, coz your success would depend on knowledge of all the disciplines.....be smart, agile, responsive, and think from the perspective of a seller rather than a buyer to master the art of management !!!