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What we need to do is prepare our B-school students for an uncertain future

Softer skills are the subjects critical for success today. They will lead to implementation of bright ideas by the brightest minds, teamwork, collaboration and entrepreneurship

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Rohtash Mal 

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Leaders today are not looking for their first level hires, even if in a managerial field to be focused on the long term vision for the company

While searching for a young, fresh go-getter, all too often I have seen young people who are very energized, have loads of ambition and ideas, and are raring to go, come in for an interview and say the perfect things. Of course, there’s a caveat here — perfect things if I were looking for a Chief Executive Officer! However, their time to be CEO will come but before that they have to be willing to roll their sleeves up, work on the thinnest margin possible, tough it out, learn the value of money, be able to convert fixed cost into variable cost, and have an instinct for smelling revenue like jungle rats smell for food. That is what I want a fresh product from an Indian business school to be like.

That is the first of my points as to what is not vexing the minds of the business schools in India. They are going in and designing the perfect CEO whereas what they should be looking to be constructing is a kind of hardy specimen who is not afraid of hard work. Over 90 per cent of what the students at a business school get taught is very high financial analysis and subjects with lots of strategy thrown in. Therein lies the first major skew — equipping students with the wrong skill sets, attributes, and attitudes. Leaders today are not looking for their first level hires, even if in a managerial field to be focused on the long term vision for the company. What they are most interested in, like me, is how many products were sold yesterday, did we learn anything that could help us sell more tomorrow. Basically did we make a profit.

The second issue is that in the traditional Indian manner, students complete their studies and then go into work after their brahmacharya or student life. There is little option of deciding to change your career mid-stream or update your skills.

Rohtash Mal

Overseas, they have the right idea to work first after your basic undergraduate/graduate course, get some experience and then return to studying if you feel that your skills are not keeping up with your ambition. I feel we should be more stringent in letting the people do their undergraduate or even postgraduate degree in whichever subject they choose, but admission into a post graduate course should be basis a number of minimum years they spend at work.

The third issue is that by the time the turn comes for the student to put her hard earned of Business Administration into practice, a decade or more has already passed by and what she had so successfully learnt in administering business has now become hopelessly outdated. Add to that the way professorship is managed in Indian institutions. Professors aim to get a tenure and once they have got it, tend to live in the past. The thought is what they learnt while preparing for the task of teaching other business school students is perfect. Therefore, their teaching is only relevant to their era. Sadly, the world of business is ever evolving and both the professors and their valued students get left behind.

The fourth issue is connected to all the three that have gone earlier. It is a fundamental issue of nomenclature in today’s fast evolving times. With most young people joining start-ups I feel that there should not be a Masters in Business Adminstration, but a Masters in Business Entrepreneurship (MBE) programme. For those of the readers who think this is just play on words by me, let me assure you that I am deadly serious. Even the bigger companies like Amazon and Flipkart are very agile and they need to be with all the young people out there, snapping at their heels. They need to be assured that the people working for them are Entrepreneurs, rather than Administrators of a company.

Finally, I believe that we have been far too focused on the left side of the mind — numbers, facts and logic. I believe now we should move over toward the right side – things like creativity, intuition , emotional intelligence, Team management, leveraging people’s strengths, psychology et al. Those softer skills are the subjects critical for success today. They will lead to implementation of bright ideas by the brightest minds, teamwork, collaboration, and entrepreneurship.

These to me, are the factors holding our professionals back today. What we need to do is prepare them adequately and then let them loose at the world.

The author is Chairman of EM3 AgriServices. Rohtash was earlier CEO of Escorts Ltd, CEO at Bhart Airtel, Chief General Manager Maruti Suzuki and Senior Vice President Ballarpur. He is IIM Caluctta and IIT Delhi Alumni.

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First Published: Mon, January 18 2021. 06:18 IST