The Girl Child

I was at a barber shop yesterday and was waiting for my turn, the barber offered me sweets. When I asked him about the occassion, he very proudly said that a daughter was born to him. I was very happy to see the sight. Typically, the poor, lower middle class sections of the society are the ones where the girl child is not welcome. But this guy really made me see that perceptions are changing with more and more women doing well in studies, in jobs and are making people think about them differently.

One of his friends also came along to his shop and during their discussion, the barber said to him that her girl was not less in anyway than his friend’s son. This showed how proud was he of being a father of a daughter. These are the kind of changes we need today in society’s mindset to ensure gender equality in India.

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Eklavya School in Ahmedabad

I had recently visited Eklavya, a school run by Prof. Sunil Handa (IIM A Alumnus and a Prof in IIM A) in Ahmedabad. It was a great experience to see a school with such a different pedagogy and focus on development of a child into an all round, well groomed individual.

I saw a clear focus on development of various faculties of the children there through doing rather than reading or listening. I believe firmly that we always remember our actions and we can relate to our actions more than to a book we read or a lecture we heard.

I saw principles of science being taught to children through various games. It was easy for children to remember the principle of potential energy and kinetic energy through looking at a ball in action falling from a height and seeing the potential energy convert into kinetic energy and vice versa. There were a lot of mind games (called Taaleem) which made children think and develop their mental abilities. The school looked very clear in its vision.

One of the most touching incidents narrated to me was the following:

The school authority had got a picture of a goddess carved on a tree trunk. It was shown to students and then there was a big debate in the school by the students whether it should be done. The students said that the tree should not be disturbed like that as it is a living being and then no other tree was carved by school authorities. Team work, care for environment and collective decision making is very clearly seen in the above incident. It really moved me.

For people who want to no more about the school can visit: www.eklavya.org

What is My Designation?

Most of the times I call up a candidate for a position I have, one of the first questions apart from the company name is “What is the Designation?”. The candidate wants to know what he will be called, what will be written on his visiting card.

The above trend can be seen in the Banking and Insurance sector very clearly. We see fancy designations being given to people just to ensure that they feel good about the job they are doing. An insurance company hires fresh MBAs at less tan 2L per annum and calls the position as “Financial Planning Manager”. When asked why not a Sales Officer or the like, they say that they have to make the designation sound exciting to attract people to join them.

This is true for most of the companies today as the battle to hire the best talent is getting hotter by the day. Organizations are playing to the tune of the candidates at least on the designation front. What is most disturbing to me is that a very small percentage of candidates at AM level and below actually enquire about the actual job content, the career path within the company, the reporting structure and hierarchy, the growth criteria, training opportunities, volume of business handled etc. What the people at junior levels are bothered about is what they will be called and what they will be paid.

Let me give you a recent example. A candidate of mine was placed with a MNC Bank at an AM level. His current level was also that of an AM but the new role he was being offered was much bigger, more challenging and was paying him 1.5 times of his current salary. It was very hard to convince the candidate about the learning involved in the job, the challenge this job throws at him and the Brand of the Bank and money on offer. He was stuck at the “Designation”. Though we could finally convince him about all the above, it made me think that such was not the trend a few years ago.

This very clearly shows the lack of long term commitment from candidates today towards their organization. This is evident from their attitude towards a job when seeking with a recruitment consultant like me. Though organizations try to stress on other factors like career path, growth, company brand, cross-functional training etc., the candidates seem not to be very interested rather bothered. Very few candidates in their discussions say that he is joining a company for a long term and he is not thinking about any change further. What is very commonly heard is that “Another 1.5-2 years and we shall come back to you again for a jump” Such trends are really disturbing for everyone in the industry, though it gives recruitment companies a good opportunity for continuous business.

Education Counselling – The Next Big Thing

On of my cousins met me recently to discuss the education plan of her child. She wanted me to give advice as to what stream she should ask her kids to pick up after 10th standard. She has started thinking about it now as her child has just entered class 10 and she was confused on this subject.

My initial response to her was to tell me what she thought were the options. The answer was medical / non-medical (other sciences) / Commerce in that order. Then I asked her what was her son interested in. The response was that she were not very sure but he got good marks in science. To be honest even the child did not know what he wanted to do.

Take my own example. This was year 1995. I had thought of doing engineering and thus was standing in a queue of students who were getting enrolled for the engineering stream because it was the most talked about stream in the school and though I was not good in science as a subject, I wanted to opt for it. Side by side this queue was the queue for enrolling in commerce stream. I glanced at the commerce steam and saw that most of my friends from class 10th were standing in that queue. I dont know what came to my mind, I decided to change my queue and went on to enrol myself in the commerce stream. Now in hindsight i see it as such a stupid way of taking a career decision.

But was I at fault? No. I dont think so. My school where I did my 10th and 12th std was the best in my city. Even then they did not have any session with their class 10th students where they explained the pros and cons and career options for students enrolling in various streams. It was left upon students themselves to decide their career options with whatever limited access to such knowledge they had and fend for themselves. This has made me think for long that there is a definite need for a service which helps parents and students decide what they would like to pursue as a career and thus decide the education stream they would want to enrol for. This service can be provided by schools or by professionals (in partnership with schools) who are passionate about helping youngsters take conscious calls on their career, help them and their families take informed decision about their careers.

To my mind this is a huge business opportunity and if researched well and executed well, this can turn out to be a huge success. Today parents are willing to spend any amount of money for their child’s education even if they have to take loans. Such has become the mindset of parents which to my mind is a good thing because good education has not been given its due importance in smaller cities for a long time. A small amount for a service which could change the course of a stundent’s life is something no one would be unwilling to part with.

Industry Oriented MBA Program

Looking at the current job scenario where every organization in India today is facing a talent crunch in spite of us producing thousands of MBAs every year, I feel there is a lot of disconnect between what a MBA should deliver to a student and what it actually delivers.

Most of the B and C category MBA Institutes today are focussing on traditional specializations like marketing, systems, operations, finance etc. This traditional system classifies the real world into silos which do not have many linkages to each other. But if you see what is happening in the real world, we end up performing roles spanning multiple functions. There is a need to be multi-skilled and having exposure to multiple disciplines like Sales, Customer Service, Human Resources, Finance, IT et al.

Sales has become a part of everyone’s job, especially in the functions where there is a customer interface. It is more prevalent in the Banking and Insurance Industry where cross sell has become the mantra and we see a lot of new companies launching business which would earn its revenue from selling financial products of other companies.

Will a MBA in Finance in the traditional sense help here. I don’t think so. What is required in an industry like Banking is a strong skill-set focusing on communication, networking skills, negotiation skills and etiquette. But do such subjects form part of our regular MBA curriculum? The answer is that very few institutes provide such courses and very few students opt for the same wherever they are provided. Why? Because students are not aware of the need of such courses which are to their mind trivial electives and a waste of time.

There is a need today to impart managerial skills to students in a MBA program – abilities in the area of problem solving, communication, negotiation, people management, networking, working with ambiguity, creative thinking, working in teams etc are the ones we need to focus on apart from the subject knowledge.

Most of the things we study in our MBA courses are not used right after MBA. They are used once we reach at levels where we can make a decision to change things a bit. In the formative years post MBA, we end up doing the basic stuff and all this requires the skills I mentioned above and not the knowledge of management theories.

By focussing on development of these skills, the MBA institutes will make their students more employable and more Industry oriented. Like I had mentioned in my earlier post that the campuses also need to manage the expectations of their students and bring them down to realistic levels to ensure that there is a good fit between the company and the candidate.

Employability of a Fresh MBA

A good MBA program should add value to the knowledge base of the students, develop their managerial skill set, develop their personality further and also broaden his general outlook towards life.

An organization hires those students from an institute who they feel will add value to the organization based on their assumption that the MBA program would have imparted the above mentioned to its students.

An average student in India decides to pursue management education hoping for value addition in the areas mentioned above and thus secure “A WELL PAYING JOB” with a good organization.

So it is imperative that the MBA institute a student chooses, needs to be able to provide him what he hopes for.

We see advertisements from MBA institutes everyday attracting students into their MBA program portraying themselves as people who will truly transform the lives of their students. Many students join these institutes by paying huge amount of fees, many a times beyond their budget. The fee of a MBA program ranges from 1.5L to 4.5L per year depending upon how successful the institute is able to market itself and project itself as THE destination for the student to be. Post Induction, the institutes try to ensure that there is no “cognitive dissonance” amongst the students. All of this raises the expectations of the candidate from the institute’s program. (S)he has already paid a high fees, and is being reassured by its institute of good placements.

Cut to the placement season. Companies visit campuses. They hire some, they reject some and this goes on for good 3-6 months depending upon the quality of the product of the institutes. Students realise that there is a huge disconnect between their expectations (because of promises made) and market reality. Guess what will happen to a student (and the parents) who have spent 8 lacs on a MBA program and finally land up in a Job paying a mere 2 – 4 lac per annum. There are MBA institutes whose students get 1.5Lacs per annum and even less. Where does the problem lie?

Being in the recruitment business and having to interact with fresh MBAs and their institutes gives me a fair idea as to what is being touted as quality management education is nothing more than a money spinning venture. “Secluded”is how I would loosely describe most of Fresh MBA pass-outs from Cat B and Cat C MBA Institutes. Far away from reality, having very little knowledge of what they are going to face once they pass-out.

The problem lies in the poor quality of education being imparted in these institutes and the expectations of the students not being managed by the institutes. The pedagogy is predominantly lecture based giving little opportunity for students to think and apply themselves, thus not developing thinking and problem solving skills.Such a pedagogy only provides theoretical knowledge that too in a mono-logical fashion. The summer training period is not utilised by students as well as institutes who focus more on getting a summer placement for everyone than the quality of corporate exposure these students get.

The institutes also never try to bridge the reality and expectations gap by reducing the expectations. All they hope is that the companies would raise the pay bracket for their institute every year. The institutes fight with companies and do not allow them to hire from their campus if they offer anything below the minimum level they have set for their students. Many a times, because of the crunch in the availability of people, companies are forced to offer high packages than they think the students of that campus deserve.

Job Content awareness is another important aspect which a MBA program today needs to focus on. The institutes should have dedicated programs which takes them through the realities of the corporate life. They should be told that though they are taught marketing in the campus and not sales, they would end up selling products for most pat of their initial 8-10 years and not make consumer based marketing strategies sitting in a plush air-conditioned office somewhere in a metro. Students should be told clearly that though they are being taught theories on motivation and how to use them in leading teams, they would have to first work as an independent one-man-team and prove themselves for a few years to reach a position of authority and lead a team and apply those Organization Behaviour theories. Students should also be told that though they are being taught Strategy, it will be a long time before they apply the GE-Mckinsey Matrix and the BCG Matrix in their corporate careers.

This can be done by bringing in people specially alumni who should share their experiences with the students. The companies should mandatorily make Pre Placement Talks taking students through the Job profile and the career path within their company in order to ensure that there is a complete fit between both parties.

A external trainer could focus on all major industries giving exposure to students about various industries, typical job roles available to fresh MBAs, career paths for each job role, salary expectations from each industry, growth prospects, time-lines for growth, so on and so forth.

It is this change which needs to be brought about in the MBA programs which will actually help the students prepare for a tough corporate life. This suggestion is completely contradictory to what the typical practice at MBA institutes is nowadays.

 

This is my first piece on Education focusing on MBA programs. Look out for more on the same. Signing off.

The upwardly mobile poor

I use the Delhi Noida Direct (DND) Flyway everyday to go to work and come back home. A few weeks ago, their system mal-functioned and it was not able to deduct the requisite amount of money from the balance of the prepaid cards issued by them, though they were able to register the usage of the card. Since the balances were not reflecting correctly, the DND authorities let people pass even if their actual balances were in the negative (though the reflected balance was positive).

People were aware of this and also there were instructions on the card puching machine that the balances are incorrect. Once the system was corrected, the actual balances started reflecting (with huge amounts being accounted for and deducted on a single day) and a lot of people went down to negative balances.

Now when it came to renewing the cards, there was a big commotion. There was one old lady, who was speaking very fluent english, looked like someone who belongs to a upper middle class family abusing the DND staff over the negative balance questioning how will they ever allow people to go down to negative balances. A few more people joined in. Interesting to note was the fact that out of the 5 people whose cards showed negative balances, none of them renewed it for the fear of the negative balances being deducted from their fresh recharge.

There was a gentleman showing off all his 10-12 credit cards in a decorated wallet who also added fuel to fire… dont know why. If he can afford 5-10 lacs of credit limits on his cards, can he not pay the paltry Rs. 200-300 which the DND authorities are rightfully demanding.

When people were enjoying the free services, I dont think any of the ones who were making such a huge hue and cry about their system, would have gone to customer care and told them that they are being allowed to pass through the toll plaza for free… but when they have to pay for the same free goods later, it became an issue with them, they called the DND people cheats, alleging that they are being fleeced by them and so on and so forth…

The population I talked about above were car owners, well dressed, flashing expensive wallets, purses and credit cards, expensive sun glasses but unwilling to pay Rs. 200 odd which they rightfully owe to the DND authorities.

Dont know how they can sleep at night after doing such things.


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