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Ind a Abroad June 2009

MBA at the crossroads

Is a business degree the right career path in the current economic climate?


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From the Editor

T

he idea for this special magazine was sparked by a chance meeting I had with three Master of Business Administration students of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Nikhil Venugopal, Apar Jain, both 26, and Vishal Singhal, 28, had worked with Indian software major Infosys in Bangalore. They felt they had hit a plateau in their engineering careers and needed a leg-up, which only an MBA degree could give them. They spoke of their fears — fed by the doomsday stories of the global economic downturn — but said they were convinced they had made the right decision to pursue business education in Canada. That set us thinking. Amid the scary stories — the Globe and Mail recently wrote about how business graduates are now downsizing their salary expectations and The New York Times recently reported how even graduates from the presti-

gious Wharton School of Business are finding fewer jobs, to recall a few — we felt certain issues were still hazy. For example, in the wake of the global turmoil, does the MBA curriculum itself need change? What skills do B-schools actually teach? How do those skills help business leaders? Is the MBA just a passport to a fat paycheck? Is an MBA degree for anyone and everyone? Has the MBA degree been devalued? Thus, India Abroad sponsored a symposium, Center Stage 2009, held at Prego, downtown Toronto, March 21. In attendance and sharing their views were students and faculty from three of Canada’s best Bschools — Rotman, the Schulich School of Business, York University, and the School of Business and Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University — entrepreneurs who know what it takes to run super successful businesses in the real world, and academics who know what it takes to turn a bright student into a business leader.

Vishal Singhal, left, Nikhil Venugopal and Apar Jain

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AJIT JAIN In the following pages, you will find their wisdom — to help you choose the right career path. Special Thanks Center Stage would not have been the success it was without the help of the entire IndoCanadian community and especially students like Abhinav Dani, Sudhanshu Chopra, Shivanki Singh (Rotman) and Mugunathan Ganeshan (Schulich School). But, Center Stage would not have been possible at all without the help of four outstanding individuals: Nikhil Venugopal, Apar Jain and Vishal Singhal — who spared no effort in making sure the symposium was a star-studded affair — and Aditya Jha, president, Karma Candy, who so very magnanimously threw open his Prego restaurant for the symposium without accepting a single dollar in return. The staff at Prego mirrored their boss’ large-heartedness. We don’t have words enough to thank them.


LEADERS’ MANTRA

MBAs, you have all the aces

M

y message is one of hope. Despite the scary headlines and bleak prognostications of self-styled experts, the future of MBA students looks great. Your prospects remind me of those of a gambler who is dealt the very best hand in poker. You are holding a hand in poker that shows four aces! Your first ace is for being here in Canada, in Toronto, which thinks of itself as the center of the universe when we all know that center is really in Calgary. After all, Canada is blessed with unique natural and human assets. We have what the Germans call lebensraum, which is more room to grow than anyone else on this crowded planet. And, as the faces in this room testify, we are the world’s most diverse society and are at peace with each other as human beings. I know it is a cliché, but our diversity is our biggest asset as a nation of nations, a rich community of communities. So, when the global economy starts to grow again, we in Canada, with your MBA students in the vanguard of our future, will lead the parade. We have the people. We have the goods. We have the space. Your second ace is getting your MBA. The timing for receiving it could not be better. The only direction for you to go now is up. Your third ace is the simple fact you are South Asian. We South Asians need yield to no others in Canada when it comes to success in what I call the three Es: Education, entrepreneurship and enterprise. We are now the largest so-called ethnic group in Canada, having overtaken the Chinese Canadians in the last census. We South Asians are also adept networkers at a time when it has never been more important to rely on contacts, friends and communities to move ahead. That is why I am here today: To network with you as new friends, to share with you some of the reasons for my success. South Asians in Canada are going to help to make Canada the new, economic tiger of the western hemisphere. We have the

BOB

DHILLON essential commodities, and India has other key resources to complement us. And you are the ones with the unique talents who are going to bridge these two countries and help build that economic tiger. The fourth ace is timing, you are in the right cycle of life to be key players in the global economic village that will advance after the recession ends, a process that will start here in Canada if our prime minister and the head of the Bank of Canada are right. By the way, in the new era that lies ahead, we will be in the postAmerican world, according to Fareed Zakaria, the brilliant Indian-American pundit — that’s an Indian word! — who has a program on CNN and a column in Newsweek. Like me, Mr Zakaria sees Canada as a winner in the future, along with India, China, and Brazil. All of you are products of another of Canada’s greatest strategic assets — our colleges and universities, where worldclass minds impart not only theory, but practical knowledge about the real world to students like you. With that Canadian MBA, you are not only building bridges from Canada to South Asia, you are bridging the world. Your MBA will be recognized everywhere, because Canada,

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with reason, is regarded as a center for scholarship. In my case, it was the Western Business School, where my dean, Larry Tapp, infected me with a relentless passion to succeed and to take risks. Today, Mr Tapp is chairman of the Board of Mainstreet. India is my homeland in many ways, but in fact I wasn’t born in India but in Japan. My grandfather Saproon Singh Dhillon migrated from Punjab to Hong Kong at age 16. There, he eventually became a trader and established the North China Shipping Co, which exported goods to Japan. And that’s where I was born in 1965. Six years later, our family of wandering merchants moved to Liberia to tap the trading market of West Africa. During the 1970s, Liberia was torn apart by a brutal civil war. We lost everything and arrived in Vancouver. Our family moved to Calgary, where at first we met up with the kind of prejudice such as kids calling me a Paki and pulling my hair. My mother was fired from her job at the post office strictly because of its racist attitude. But we didn’t get bitter, we used the system and fought the case with the post office, a government agency, and we won. She was reinstated in her job after a year. She was a pioneer — a pioneer of the spirit of diversity, tolerance and acceptance that abounds in this beloved country. Yes, it was tough for me to get a job in Calgary. That wouldn’t be true today, but 25 years ago it was a different case. There were only stereotyped positions available for the Sikhs, and it was really hard to break in. So, I went into business for myself in 1984, at age 19. I bought two houses, fixed them up, and sold them for an $18,000 profit. That was the sum I started with. For the next 15 years, I bought and sold Calgary real estate worth about $150 million. I worked out of the trunk of my car and with a cell phone. What drove me to work 70 hours a week or more was that my family had lost everything in Liberia after the coup, and I vowed it would never happen again. Along the way, I realized I didn’t know


LEADERS’ MANTRA

everything. So at the age of 32, I spent two years at the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business, Canada’s top business school, nicknamed the Harvard of the North. Then I incorporated Mainstreet Equity Corp as a numbered Alberta company. It became my main investment vehicle. My office was the trunk of my car. I used every available course at Ivey to formulate the strategy for Mainstreet. Whether it was building a brand, running an efficient operation, financing growth or making a speech, I thought about the lessons in terms of what they meant for Mainstreet. When I started my first business in Canada more than 20 years ago, it took just 15 minutes and $50 to register the business, its name, and receive the paper that allowed me to open a business bank account. Everything was done in a morning. Later, when my business expanded, it was a simple thing to incorporate. It didn’t take much time. Try doing that in Peru or Egypt. Registering a business could take two years or more. Bank loans are unheard of for small businesses. I was glad I had chosen Canada as my home base. After I graduated, I took Mainstreet public. The people I had met showed me that building wealth, and holding on to it, needed a different strategy than being a super successful real estate flipper. I started buying properties to hold. I moved into a permanent office in one of my buildings. Along the way, I have learned to see opportunity where others see failure.

Here’s an example. Calgary’s Forest Lawn area had 60 deserted cars and trucks in its derelict parking lot, holes in living-room walls, and all the telltale signs of having been a druggie hangout. I invested $2.3 million, doubled the rents, and turned a slum into a middle-class complex. The secret to my success in real estate in Canada is simple. I buy distressed mid- market properties and that fits what I call my value chain model. I raise those properties to a standard that middle class renters are looking for. Mainstreet focuses on mid-market apartment buildings. The large investors ignore these buildings, even though it’s 65 percent of the market. So, it has been dominated by mom and pop operators who have neglected this market for 35 years. In many places, rent control has seen to that. There is poor service for the tenants, no branding of the buildings that is shown in an abysmal level of quality. On top of that, we only buy buildings that are in foreclosure or are in rough shape. So we take over these buildings, bring them up to our standards and increase the revenue by 40 percent. Today, Mainstreet occupies a unique niche: In between the small landlords at the bottom and the giant property holders such as Trizec and Brookfield at the top. What I specialize in is multi-family, mid-tiered residential rental properties. I started in Alberta, and then moved west to Vancouver and east to Toronto. Just nine years ago, the Globe and Mail Report on Business magazine ranked my company at the top of its list of biggest

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profit gainers, with a 15,791 percent increase! As my Canadian real estate holding began to grow, I found myself getting involved in buying land in Belize as well. The country and I seemed to discover each other at the right time. It is an English-speaking democracy with little poverty, and still virgin tourist territory. With only 300,000 people, it has all the advantages for expats: Offshore banks protected by secrecy laws, a diving paradise second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, dozens of Mayan ruin sites, and 540 species of wild birds. I bought a 3,000-acre island and marketed beach lots, only a few with price tags of under $1 million. Leonardo DiCaprio is a neighbor, and Madonna owns a nearby estate. Belize will be the next St Bart’s without the Euro trash. It has the best fishing, the best diving, the best sailing, white sand beaches, and the kind of lifestyle we all dream about. My real estate life in Belize is, of course, totally different from my one in Canada. In Belize we aren’t rebuilding, but starting from scratch, building houses and condominiums on Ambergris Caye. But there are ways my main business co-relates with what I do in Belize. First off, finding value. The reason I am in the multi-family game in Canada is because of the opportunity that exists. In the Caribbean, I could have gone to St Bart’s, say, but the opportunity doesn’t exist there. The second is timing. Just as it is a great time to be in the rental apartment business in Canada — it’s been ignored for decades and the demand is there — the same is true for Belize. While the socalled smart money was busy shoe-horning development into Cancun or building cheek-by-jowl apartments in Barbados and St Bart’s, Belize has remained a paradise. And it will remain that way because the government and people like me want to keep it that way. Just being in Belize makes me a little more introspective than most entrepreneurs. Outside my little paradise I tend to be what I call a triple-A type personality. But a few days in Belize has me thinking about who I am, and a big part of that is how grateful I am to have Canada and an MBA, as a springboard to success. Bob Dhillon, president, Mainstreet Equity, Calgary, Alberta, is developing a 3,000 acre island in Belize.


LEADERS’ MANTRA

Innovation is the key

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s the world struggles with a steadily deteriorating economic meltdown, individuals, companies and countries globally are seeking to redefine their roles in the new economy. One word rings true for all — innovation. Despite huge investments worldwide to establish globally competitive school systems, superior technology incubators, aggressive capital venture initiatives and a business-friendly political environment, we all must hang our heads for our abysmally poor track record in sustainable innovation. Why do we fail? First of all, what do we mean by innovation? I define innovation as ‘a process through which economic or social value is extracted from knowledge.’ First, you must have a creative idea. Next, you must generate enthusiasm for this idea amongst those that will finance and help deliver on this idea. Then, you must operationalize the idea so that maximum benefit can be drawn from it. Finally and most importantly, you must ensure that the processes are developed to sustain the operation in a sound business model to fully leveraged the societal and economic value. Where does this innovation process break down? It is evident on a global level that we produce fine minds that spawn amazing ideas in medicine, entertainment, retail, recreation and business. But for every one of these success stories, there are thousands of failures. Indeed, two out of every three businesses fail before their fifth anniversary. Innovation and the start-up The Datac Doblin Group found that the innovation initiative success rate over all industries is a mere 4.5 percent. The top three obstacles to innovation in larger firms, as stated by the Boston Consulting Group, include long development times, lack of coordination and a risk-adverse culture. It is proven that innovation pays shareholders. A study of global innovation firms found that total shareholder return reached 14.3 percent while the S&P 1100 returned only 11.1 percent. Finding a solution How can we all effect the changes necessary to change this momentum of innovation failure? Business schools can

GINNY DYBENKO influence a new generation of business leaders to assist in the necessary cultural shift that must take place around the world. But many schools are letting everyone down — teaching from a textbook point of view rather than from real life. Most business schools teach business practices that belong to a bygone era — an era of big stable corporations in an expanding economy. Few, if any, business professors have any real business experience — much less experience in the unique challenges of entrepreneurial start-ups. Few business schools have the insight or the expertise to provide training in business skills that are designed to complement the considerable technology expertise that our schools have been spitting out for years. Worldwide, just a few universities have broken this mold. Case in point, Wilfrid Laurier University’s School of Business and Economics. Laurier has recently introduced a wildly successful new MBA program, an MBA in innovation and entrepreneurship. Within this program, students will not only be exposed to new and creative courses focused specifically on the challenges of entrepreneurship, but they will also have access to the Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program to help them found their own new company. Students will complete their MBA program not only with a degree but also with their own business ready to go. Laurier’s curriculum provides a strong foundation in economic analysis, tech-

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nology management, business strategy, finance, accounting and marketing and policy specifically tailored for the entrepreneur. The program provides knowledge, skills and strategic perspectives required for leaders and senior managers in larger companies as well. All of this is done through small classes and research seminars that support interactive learning and maximum student-faculty dialogue and is informed by faculty on the cutting edge of research in innovation and entrepreneurship. We have had a steady stream of entrepreneurs through our doors over the past four years since we established the Schlegel Center for Entrepreneurship. Let me introduce you to just a few, like Alkarim Ladha, who started Simbiotic Corporation, that produces water filtration bottles for use around the world. Or Rachna and Mona Prasad, who founded Gourmantra, that produces pre-packaged, authentic Indian cuisine. An upscale Meal-in-a-Box, it has been picked up by Sobeys, Longos, Loeb and Food Basics here in Ontario. Or Matt Inglot who initiated Tilted Pixel, a popular Web site consulting and development business with a clever platform that provides the absolute easiest-to-update and most modern Web site in the market. Or Meghan Kirwin of iNERGY, HR Solutions — a human resource consulting firm that makes employee training easy, affordable and tailored to specific needs. Or Sean Sinclair, who is starting a company to provide custom designed, high performance mountain bikes. Or Amira Bayoudh, who is looking at the import and distribution of specialty Tunisian olive oils. Or Mike Johnson, who is investigating the import and online distribution of specialty products for the disabled population. Or Toni Bothwell, who is starting up a new consulting company in the pharma and drug industry tech transfer and regulatory space. Or Domenic Stalteri, who is looking to combine several complementary practitioners in one location — one stop shopping for your wellness needs. At Laurier, we believe that entrepreneurs and innovation will be the force that eventually drives economic recovery around the world. Ginny Dybenko is dean, School of Business and Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University.


LEADERS’ MANTRA

MBA curriculum in the global economy

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n ongoing debate among educators in business schools around the world is the impact of the economic meltdown on the MBA curriculum. Since most well known business schools deliver management education within universities, where normally the approach to education is more of continuous improvement rather than pursuance of reactive strategies to changes in the business environment, it is generally expected that there will not be drastic changes to the MBA curriculum in response to the current economic times. However, it is prudent to raise the question whether the current management education designed on the functional pillars of organizations, is only really suitable for an era of global business and economic interdependence. Since the 1990s, the new economic order has been globalization and privatization. This process has made all nations interdependent on each other because one economic shock rapidly spreads through the global economy. Under these conditions, we have to assure ourselves that students trained in business schools are prepared to provide global solutions to global problems. Taking a hard look at the current global recession, it is not entirely dissimilar to other recessions or down phases of economic cycles that have occurred. It would be fair to say that this situation reflects other recessions — 1974, 19811982, 1991-1992, 2001-2002, etc — each of which had a different trigger: The oil embargo, inflation, tech sector bubble and burst, etc. In each of these situations, recovery has taken place and management education helped facilitate the progress. So, what is different now that should cause us to reconsider the MBA curriculum in any business school? By many accounts, the severity of the present recession and the so far unseen triggers like subprime mortgages leading to the destruction of the global banking system, make this period different than previous. Also, unlike other recessions, since we are operating in a highly interconnected global economy, it is not a sur-

forefront management issues that are relevant to the times, perhaps through case studies. This assists in shaping the future business leaders who may face a cultural shift in the emerging global network. Dr Hugh Munro, director of MBA programs at the Wilfrid Laurier University School of Business and Economics, suggests: ‘The concepts in MBA programs are still very relevant today — managers need to be more effective in applying them in their thinking to solve today’s extremely challenging issues. To that end, there has been a shift in the development of thought processes in our MBA programs to reflect a more integrative perspective in addressing business issues. This includes more interdisciplinary analytical processes but also more balanced performance considerations, for example, socially responsible as well as financially prudent outcomes. To a lesser extent, but also an evident trend, is the need for more innovative versus conventional thinking. These developments in management thinking are particularly appropriate for succeeding in today’s turbulent economic times.’ For the longest time, finance and more specifically investment banking, has been a popular career path for MBAs. While this sector has been seriously affected by the [economic] collapse, business school professors say that the finance programs are not likely to change as much in response as the expectations of graduates. Finance skills that are particularly relevant to the current economy — such as cost avoidance, cost control and risk management — deserve attention. Certainly with Wall Street not able to absorb a large percentage of MBA graduates, new graduates cannot expect lucrative salaries or Wall Street firms as entry points, but should look for opportunities in smaller organizations, documented to be exponentially more in number globally. Investment banks that handle mergers and acquisitions will still need qualified new MBA graduates, but

MITALI DE

prise that this economic meltdown has a more global impact. Almost all business sectors are experiencing the meltdown and therefore it is fair to comment that the sectoral impact is also different this time and has much more of a domino effect, unlike other times. For example, the impact of the technology sector burst of 2001 was more restricted to that sector, to a certain extent. So, diversification of the risk is a much bigger challenge. It is also important to note the role of governments and regulations in this recovery and their impact on a primarily free enterprise society. So, while the market corrections are taking place, it is expected that good business models will survive and management education delivered through the MBA curriculum in business schools will continue to contribute to the new economy. The key to success of the MBA curriculum in these times is flexibility and adaptability to new environmental information. While the theoretical frameworks of the academic disciplines that form the backbone of management education remain consistent, flexibility in the MBA curriculum can bring to the

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LEADERS’ MANTRA

maybe with specialized knowledge to fill specific market needs. These economic times have become the driver for focusing on corporate and global governance, risk management, revenue management and ethics and MBA programs with the flexibility of nurturing these topics will be particularly relevant. No doubt the external orientation and how businesses are dealing with the environment in these times is of concern to management education. For example, all the rules of valuation are probably not working as the assumptions have to be modified in the M&A curriculum. Similarly, the new reality has brought to the forefront the stresses and strain of downsizing and restructuring normally covered in the organization behavior curriculum. As employers are no longer able to offer the guarantees that were the norm in strong economic times, business professors of human resource management are raising the issues of the more prevalent contract employment in the MBA curriculum. While the theoretical framework around pricing, distribution or marketing communication will not be revamped, we have to admit to changes in consumer behavior due to the economic times. It is therefore natural to

raise issues around luxury goods marketing and conspicuous consumption versus brands around necessary items. Once again, all of these issues can be addressed with relevant business cases. A proactive approach at Laurier has been to incorporate the experiences of cooperative education, business consulting projects and international study tours in classrooms. This best practice method has been particularly useful to make adjustments to the MBA curriculum in this continuously changing economic environment. Traditionally, the role of the government has not been a major component in the MBA curriculum. As the role of governments unfolds in the current economy, a proactive approach would be to include this in the curriculum. It is expected that in emerging nations like China recovery will be relatively quicker and stronger due to the role of the government. The non-traditional fiscal policies adopted in this recession such as large scale government bailouts, also directs us to adjustments to the MBA curriculum in the future by introducing topics on public policy, regulations, and the role of the governments. In these economic times, it is particu-

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larly important to maintain the quality of knowledge transfer so that management education is sustainable. It is generally expected that the ideal MBA candidate in the future economy will probably be a well-rounded leader who understands the basics of the core functional areas of business. Since globalization played an important role in how widespread this recession was, multinationals should be able to learn from different economies and strike a balance. For example, in South, Asia the recovery of economies with strong manufacturing sector — China, Vietnam, etc — or knowledge sector —India — should be closely observed and developed into case studies. The cultural growth and education emerging from these experiences can only benefit the MBA graduate in the years to come where leadership, transparency, ability to anticipate and flexibility will be valuable skills. Finally, ending with a tone of optimism, the future for the creation of a truly global MBA curriculum and degree is optimal now. Mitali De is associate dean, School of Business and Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University.


LEADERS’ MANTRA

Managers for the future

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henever an economic crisis erupts in the United States, a country where the MBA program was invented, the relevance of graduate business degrees is called into question. The current economic crisis is likewise blamed on the greed of managers. An assumption is made that MBA programs are somehow responsible for the crisis. There is no empirical evidence that the decision-makers responsible for the meltdown in the financial services and housing development/mortgage sectors have an MBA or a business degree. In the absence of hard evidence, it could well be possible that most of the decision-makers who precipitated the financial crisis did not have an MBA and perhaps could have benefited from one. We also need to recognize that there are bad apples in every profession and it would be unfair to tar an entire profession based on the actions of a few individuals. During the financial and housing crisis, most other industries have continued to function efficiently and ethically. Regardless of the arguments presented above, MBA programs in general have responded less than admirably to the ethical, societal and sustainability challenges that the business world has faced over the last couple of decades. For the most part, most programs have responded by adding courses in ethics or corporate social responsibility, or recently during the current crisis, courses in understanding the reasons for the economic meltdown. Courses on the interface between business and society have been around for around three decades. Since most MBA programs have included such courses as electives, the implicit assumption is that it is critical for all MBA graduates to understand that business is embedded in, and inseparable from, society. The reactive response of most business schools is evident if we trace the history of ethics courses. Revelations of several accounting frauds in the 1980s and Michael Milken’s indictment on 98 counts of racketeering and securities fraud in 1989 led to a rash of business ethics courses in MBA programs. The

SANJAY SHARMA pressure to launch ethics courses declined during the economic exuberance of the late 1990s and was revived, once again, after the Enron and World Com scandals in the early 2000s. Environmental disasters such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and the Union Carbide tragedy in Bhopal led to MBA programs adding elective courses in environmental management or business sustainability. Since these courses are electives, students who opt for them self-select into these topics. These are precisely the students who do not need these courses in the first instance. This also sends the signal that only a few MBA students need to be ethical, socially responsible, and concerned about the sustainability of the operations of their companies. Global environmental problems such as climate change make it evident that solutions to these problems involve radical innovations, the transfer of new technologies to developing countries, reverse knowledge flows from the developing world to the developed, and the facilitation of grassroots economic capacity building. Social equity, environmental protection, and economic growth are intertwined. For example, marginalized and poor societies often survive by burning wood for fuel and via slash and burn cultivation, all of which exacerbate climate change. The need for a holistic

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examination of the social and ecological impacts of business has been magnified by globalization and trade liberalization. Just as globalization is criticized for several negative environmental impacts, it is also criticized for the uneven distribution of economic benefits, with some segments of society experiencing a reduction in quality of life, loss of culture and heritage, reduced social welfare, and erosion of economic security. MBA programs are at the cusp of a great opportunity to increase their relevance in educating managers of the future who will lead radical change help address global problems by creating value economically, socially, and ecologically. MBA graduates must not only be able to manage core functional areas such as marketing, finance, accounting, operations, and strategy, but they must also understand how to make decisions in a globalized multi-stakeholder, multicultural, and dynamically complex world that must develop sustainably. At the John Molson School of Business, we have made ethics mandatory for all MBA students and have begun to integrate CSR, sustainability, governance, globalization and stakeholder engagement into the core. We still have a long way to go before we develop integrated projects, teaching cases, simulations and other teaching materials that enable an examination of the economic, ethical, social and environmental impacts of business operations along the entire supply chain — from cradle to grave, from one generation to the next, from one species to another, and from one society to another. Our goal is to equip managers to understand how local and regional ecosystems and communities impact and interact with global ecosystems and communities, and how they can develop capabilities for collaborative process of shared learning, knowledge creation and integration. Via such approaches, MBA programs will move from a reactive to a proactive strategy of educating managers for the future and avoid questions about the relevance of MBA programs whenever a fresh business crisis erupts. Dr Sanjay Sharma is dean, John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Montreal.


LEADERS’ MANTRA

Learning from the meltdown

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hat did the great financial meltdown of 2008-2009 teach the world? In my view, the following are the takeaways. 1. A short-term focus is counterproductive to long-term financial well-being. The incentive structure for managers and for shareholders has been heavily geared toward the short term. If managers could show gains over the next quarter, their organizations rewarded them with bonuses and the markets rewarded the organizations with an elevated stock price. In such an incentive structure it should be no surprise that both managers and organizations will seek to game the system such that the short term looks rosy, be this, as it may, at the expense of the long term. The incentive structure has resulted in a mortgaging of the future to secure temporary and largely illusory gains. 2. A restricted focus on key financial metrics is counterproductive to longterm financial well-being. By focusing attention on only a handful of financial metrics such as revenue growth, the system fostered a culture whereby managers within organizations chased revenues, or indeed even manufactured revenues as in the case of banks in the United States and companies such as Satyam in India, thereby mortgaging the long term to secure a temporary and largely illusory short term. 3. The financial well-being of the US affects the financial well-being of the world. All the talk of the rise of regional powerhouses in Europe and Asia aside, it remains the case that the US is the 800pound gorilla of global economies. Where it goes, the rest of the world follows. This is especially true for a country like India, where so much of its exports in key sectors such as information technology depend on the health of the US economy. Considering that 60 percent of Infosys’s earnings come from the US, multiply that across the IT firms in India and you get the picture of the extent to which India is dependent on the US. What does all this mean for the MBA curriculum? In my view, the MBA curriculum needs to unfold across three key strategic platforms.

both the multiple perspectives approach and the adoption of the stakeholder model of decision making. 3. Globalization. The final strategic platform entails considering the interplay between local actions and the global context. In doing this, students can begin to feel empowered that actions that that take in their local organizations can actually add up to have significant positive impacts on the globe. Thus, for example, the simple act of an organization procuring fairtrade coffee has a significant impact on how coffee is cultivated and on labor-management Ashwin Joshi, right, with a student relationships in this industry and a colleague worldwide. Keeping it real In my conversation with Canadian 1. Multiple Perspectives. It is imperative for students to be exposed to the educators, I tell them the MBA curricuhuman and environmental costs/bene- lum in Canada is actually quite robust in fits of engaging in commercial activity, in terms of the ideas discussed above. Be it addition, of course, to the traditional the commitment to integrative thinking focus on the financial costs/benefits. at Rotman, the drive to strategic leaderConsider a lending officer in a US bank ship at Ivey, or the commitment to the at the height of the subprime boom stakeholder model and the triple bottom where they were being pressured to give line at Schulich, all in their own ways loans to people regardless of their ability recognize the importance of keeping it to repay. The new MBA curriculum real and looking at the long term. My discussions with counterparts at would give the lending officer the tools to reflect on the human impact of their leading US schools, as well as discusactivities. It would force the officer to ask sions of proposed curriculum changes in the question: Am I helping this individ- the leading US newspapers such as The ual by giving them this loan or am I tying New York Times and The Wall Street them into a potential cycle of debt and Journal, indicate that the curriculum in despair? many of the leading US schools needs to 2. Stakeholder Model. In addition to be significantly updated to reflect the viewing opportunities/threats from mul- themes mentioned in this article. This is not to say that Canadian schools tiple perspectives, the new MBA should give students the tools to consider the should rest easy. Quite the contrary. The entire stakeholder network that is impli- time is now for us collectively to show cated in their actions. It should enable the world — like the Canadian banks students to routinely inquire, what have — that our model works and is would stakeholder x, for example, ready for adoption. As Canadian busiemployees, say, if the company engaged ness schools, this is our time to grasp the in behavior y? By giving students the mantle of leadership tools to consider the impact of business decisions across stakeholders, the quality Ashwin W Joshi is director of the MBA of decisions would improve significantly. program at the Schulich School of The twin traps of a short-term focus and Business, Toronto. July 1, he will become a short-range focus — in terms of range executive director of the Schulich India of metrics — would be overcome through MBA in Mumbai.

ASHWIN V JOSHI

10 India Abroad June 2009


LEADERS’ MANTRA

What companies are looking for employment opportunities is ‘follow the money’. I do not mean try to get the largest salaries, but actually know where the capital is flowing. When companies get their funding, they expand. Don’t wait for a job posting. Approach them first. Do not focus on mature markets. Please focus on emerging markets. There are two great areas to start your career in the current down market: they are the nonprofit and government sectors. You need to create your own job opportunities or start your own business when companies stop hiring. Every time that I visited India, I was impressed by the strong entrepreneurial culture. Canada and the Western world need more of this entrepreneurial culture. Look for the leaks in the value chains around companies. Where are companies losing their effectiveness? Which items are companies not getting to and what is the dollar value? Think of barriers to entry, which sectors or businesses are easier for you to get into a business and keep others out? Focus on industries or companies that make it difficult for someone to compete with them. For example, the McKinseys of this world, the IBMs of this world, are busy charging $10,000 a day for consulting. If you want to be a consultant, look at where are the gaps. Where do the big firms not tread because their overhead is too high? There’s a whole industry there — Tata Consulting Services, CGI and others focusing on adding value, focusing on technology integration, focusing on implementation and change management. Think about that as potential future career opportunities. South Asian students are very good at analyzing situations and coming up with solutions. South Asian students and professionals are sometimes challenged in knowing how to effectively communicate their recommendations in the most professional, persuasive and compelling way. Another trend in Canada and global business that will affect all of you is a decoupling away from the dependence of the US as our primary trading country. That’s a growing trend. There’s less trust in the politics, in the business practices, governance, reporting requirements and the confidence that the US would be able to pull us out of the current global reces-

JOSEPH PALUMBO

F

irst up, some questions to ponder: What are South Asian business students good at? What gives us the edge in North America? What are South Asian business students not good at? What should South Asian business students do to improve themselves? One of the things I teach my MBA students are to talk in sound bytes and to try to be memorable and opinionated as future leaders. There’s no such thing as talent shortage. Although there are plenty of people around the world, there’s a leadership shortage. And just like oil prices, right now prices and demand are down, but if you think it is over you are wrong. The best companies, not necessarily the largest but medium-sized entrepreneurs, technology firms, family enterprises, are aligning themselves; they are looking for great companies to buy; they are looking for great technology; and they are looking for great people. Let us take a look at what’s happening around the world. The G-20 and the International Monetary Fund are looking for emerging markets — China and India — to help the world come out of this global mess that we are in now. In Canada, we are looking at the government getting into business, not so much in the banks but investing in infrastructure. In Canada, some of the opportunities are in infrastructure, wealth management, natural resources and in

corporate social responsibility. In the United States, investments are also in infrastructure, health care, finance and also in new ventures. They are not going to get out of the mess that we are in now with the government infrastructure spending. That may help slow GDP contraction somewhat, but they have to get out of it through emerging technology. Entrepreneurs and innovators will have to once again lead the way for the US and its primary trading partners. New technology, green innovation, biotechnology, health care, new ventures — these are all things that India, the US and Canada have been leaders in. If you are thinking about working in Canada, or working in India, please be advised those are not the only two options. Think of global centers of excellence. Where capital flows, that’s where investments in people occur. Goldman Sachs is one of the global companies where most MBAs around the world would like to work. In my entire 12 years at Schulich, Goldman Sachs in Canada has posted three opportunities. Goldman Sachs in Asia, Hong Kong, in Singapore, to a lesser degree in Shanghai, and Mumbai has posted hundreds of jobs — same company, different locations. Many of you [students] are from India or have family in India; you have a huge advantage over students that have never been outside of Canada or the US. The best advice I can give regarding uncovering

11 India Abroad June 2009


LEADERS’ MANTRA sion. What can you do? You have got very different perspectives: First, you are in Canada, not the US. We try to enforce that as much as possible in our school. And second, you’ve got a very Asian and Indian global perspective. Global trade in products and services is big part of China and India’s success. Be and act like a global citizen. Enthusiastically seek out opportunities to work in the global centers of excellence, on the best projects, with the best teams and with the best clients. About entrepreneurship, do it on somebody else’s dollars first. Get trained, call on their clients, work on great projects and then go to your own company or start your own business consulting. When we go into India and sell the Schulich School, our programs and executive training of which I am part, we are told by CEOs and senior leaders that they have full confidence in their Indian people. We are told that they are absolutely phenomenal technically but they do not always know how to lead people, how to connect the dots. South Asians are really good project managers; they understand technology, they understand the financial statements and technical aspects of an organization. They don’t necessarily know how to connect each of these skills, how to commercialize it, how to engage an organization, how to communicate a strategy and get people aligned around that strategy. So, think about your competencies and comfort with communication skills, presentation skills, interpersonal skills, cross-cultural skills and team building. All those personal skills are crucial. A February 2009 survey of executives on Execunet.com asked where are the jobs in the next six months: 90 percent of the positions you cannot do without an MBA or the MBA would be a huge advantage. So, MBA is the right choice. Most of the positions were in business development and customer value creation roles. On your university campus, do not rely on just the 100 or whatever the number of companies that come out on campus to offer those opportunities. Although they make the job search process easier and make you feel that you are really wanted, they may not be your best companies. You have to think about what are

your value and cultural preferences, what are your technical preferences and where will you do well, what you did in

2. Match your head and heart and you will be very successful. 3. Be a global citizen. Excel in working across cultures. 4. Focus on the transfer of your skills. Focus on critical thinking, problem solving, value creation, and effective relationship building. Those transferable skills will be with us no matter what sector, what industry, what functions, what your geographical targets are. 5. Ensure that you always understand the business, understand the technical aspects. It is always important. If you look at the TSX, Dow Jones or any major stock index in the world, you will find that companies are getting more complex — engineering, accounting, IT are great, but what more do you bring to the table? It is not the best engineers or the technical person that rise to the top. It is the person who knows how to negotiate, play the political game, get people to rally around the strategy, is a great person in the boardroom and the frontline. Those are the skills you have to get. How do you get those skills? In class? Yes, but outside the class as well. Half of your learning must be outside of class. Organizations will invest in talent that can apply their learning in a global, realworld context.

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS TALENT SHORTAGE. THERE’S A LEADERSHIP SHORTAGE. AND JUST LIKE OIL PRICES, RIGHT NOW PRICES AND DEMAND ARE DOWN, BUT IF YOU THINK IT IS OVER YOU ARE WRONG your life, etc. That’s what you should do. Your passion is your heart, your head is your dollar and you want to make some money or you want to make sure that your education continues beyond education and therefore you have to opt for centers of excellence. So, let me summarize: 1. Follow the money, the flow of capital means investments in new projects and contracting for employment.

12 India Abroad June 2009

Joseph Palumbo is executive director, career development, Schulich School of Business, York University.


LEADERS’ MANTRA

Focus on the future

T

he changes taking place in India and China are seismic. I don’t have to emphasize this point to you MBA students from India studying in Canadian business schools. You have the great advantage of a superb Canadian education that you can take to whichever part of the globe you choose to make home. The Financial Times a few years ago noted, ‘companies that do not yet have an India strategy are in danger of being left behind.’ All of you will be the strategists and leaders advising us on how to get it right. When you combine India’s emergence with China, you can see why BusinessWeek stated in 2005: ‘Never has the world seen the simultaneous, sustained takeoffs of two nations that together account for one-third of the planet’s population.’ Our interest with India is best summed in the words of Raja Mohan, a leading Indian strategic thinker, when he observed in 2006: ‘India is arriving on the world stage as the first large, economically powerful, culturally vibrant, multiethnic, multi-religious democracy outside of the geographic West.’ In my view, it is this combination of economic rise with geopolitics that makes the study of India a most compelling one to understand. All the other reasons that are usually cited — democracy, widespread use of the English language, rule of law — are profoundly relevant, but by themselves provide an incomplete picture of our current and future interest with India. An area that has not garnered much attention, although it should, and it will, is the India-China relationship, both on the economic front, where the bilateral numbers are increasing at a phenomenal rate, but also in the political arena where their relationship will be more nuanced. Strategic concerns on China’s actions on India borders, in Asia and beyond — Indian Ocean, Africa, diversification of energy sources — are all factors which will make these two giants collaborators and competitors. China and India have been dealing with each other for over 2,000 years. In Dr Amartya Sen’s highly readable The Argumentative Indian, the Nobel Laureate devotes an entire chapter to the interactions between these two great civilizations. Then of course is the fact that India exported Buddhism to

KASI RAO China. While there is this relationship stretching over many centuries, about four and a half decades ago, a seminal event took place between them. The month of October 1962 will forever be etched in our memories for the Cuban missile crisis. That same month, half a world away, China and India were at war, which ended swiftly and decisively in China’s favor. It left an indelible imprint in Indian strategic thinking. The India-China relationship will need to be understood, and as you can see, not just from the business perspective but from a much wider lens. As business leaders, if you can combine the depth of your business education with the breadth of politics and history, you will be able to advise your organizations even more strongly on the global developments that will take shape in the coming decades. To do this, we all will need to: 1. Demonstrate an attitudinal shift. From a conceptual standpoint, we need to recognize the breadth and the permanence of this rise. According to a BCG report three years ago, which has since been updated, 21 Indian companies are on the list of top 100 global challengers, with China at 44. Interestingly, five Indian automotive companies made it to this list. India has emerged as one of the fastest growing car markets in the world and the production of the Nano is further testament. Similarly, in the fall of 2007, BusinessWeek listed Asia’s top 50 performing companies. Of these, 12 were

13 India Abroad June 2009

Indian or India-based; more interestingly, only one was from the tech sector. 2. Understand geopolitical factors. India is becoming the ‘swing’ power with a relevant role in international affairs, G20, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the African Union. Next year’s G-8 leaders summit will take place in Muskoka, Ontario. Perhaps you can organize this conference again next year and provide advice to those leaders on what you think needs to happen. 3. Understand the need for physical infrastructure. For all of its vaunted strengths, India’s ascent cannot mask certain harsh realities. The contrasts and contradictions are very much in evidence: Brilliant scientific and technical personnel and still 40 percent adult illiteracy; spanking state-of-the-art research and corporate facilities, but located adjacent to decrepit physical infrastructure. Significant opportunities are there in the long term. India is increasing its infrastructure spending. Canada has great expertise and you are the perfect conduit to make the key relationships happen. 4. Focus on higher Education. Half of India’s population is under 25 years of age and the middle class is clamoring for good education for their children. Canadian universities and colleges are collaborating with Indian ones. The Canadian brand is taking shape in Indian minds and again you can play a huge role in advancing this cause in the coming years. 5. Devise Diaspora strategies. Important Diaspora organizations like the Indian Institute of Technology Alumni Association gather across North America every year. You can create your own — Indian graduates of Canadian business schools! I assure you we will pay attention to what you have to say. This year you have three institutions, why not make it provincial, and indeed national? 6. Not ignore non-profit organizations. Your business education and knowledge are deeply relevant in this sector both in North America and more so in India. In India recently, I was struck by the small but growing section of leaders with MBAs who are making a real difference in advancing the public good. Kasi Rao is a consultant with several Canadian universities.


ALUMNI ADVICE

A degree in commonsense

I

had an opportunity to earn my MBA degree in 1985 from the University of New York and received what I refer to as a dose of ‘formal commonsense’ education. I have not looked back since. I believe that earning my MBA was the best thing that ever happened to me and helped me to grow as well as to rediscover myself. This foundation guided me in opening a whole new world of opportunities in my career. I first recognized these opportunities as I rose to senior vice president of a large company from the position of a mid-level manager. With my education in hand, I took advantage of all opportunities that presented themselves to me, allowing me to become an astute business owner and entrepreneur. Would I have been able to accomplish who I am without an MBA? I really don’t have to think about this question; the answer is very simple: Without an MBA I would not have been able to accomplish all of the things I have in my life. My MBA has taught me the ‘desire to succeed’ and without that desire I may not have pursued opportunities nor have been able to achieve the successes I have. Please allow me to share a few thoughts about how obtaining an MBA changed my life and how it can change yours. The first day I walked into my class, my professor said, ‘What all of you will get out from this degree is how to use commonsense in a formalized fashion; 95 percent of people have commonsense but unfortunately 95 percent of people do not use commonsense or do not know how to use it.’ That was certainly a good starting point. Leadership is a quality that we all think we have. We all assume we were born with this quality. I come from the school of thought that leaders are not born but made. We all have some leadership qualities. An MBA degree will help you unleash those qualities to become true leaders. Innovation and creativity always put you ahead of the crowd. The question you have to ask yourself is: Do you want to follow the crowd or do you want the

then! Time management is in your control. Manage your time and don’t let time manage you. I don’t have the financial resources. That is an important consideration. The only thing I can suggest is that get a part-time job, or consider going to school part time. I can assure you that even if you have to get a loan to earn this degree, it will be one of the best investments in your life. MBAs are dime a dozen. Sure they are, but if you don’t have an MBA you will be in the category of a penny a dozen. It’s all relative. I believe in practical work experience I don’t want to be bookish. Great line — by obtaining your MBA you have some bookish smarts to go with your work experience, making you extremely marketable. Apparently, MBA students today do not command the salaries they once did. Too many MBAs chasing too few jobs. This is true, but let’s look at the other side of the coin. Leadership qualities, sound decision-making and the ability to make informed decisions are more critical than ever in today’s economic environment. In these times, the fittest and best-experienced leaders will survive and prevail. Yes, it is also true that MBA graduates today are not compensated as they were prior to the economic slump. However, everyone else earns less also — whether you are a corporation, individual or even government. Remember, when there is too much competition, you need the competitive edge to be in the 5 percent category of leaders. By obtaining an MBA, you will have earned that competitive edge. Today’s economic climate poses many challenges. These challenges can also create opportunities. An MBA will allow you to explore opportunities that arise from challenges. Also remember, the knowledge and skill sets you acquire with an MBA will outlast any economic downturn.

AJAY

VIRMANI

crowd to follow you? By enrolling yourself in an MBA program, you are already ahead of many individuals who are still thinking or considering pursuing this goal. Out of the box thinking is finally in! Making sound decisions in any business environment is considered a trait. These traits are always in short supply. The days of crystal-balling and guessing are over. In order to make intelligent decisions, you need to take calculated and educated risks. I strongly believe an MBA degree will give you the tools and foundation to ensure educated guesses and calculated risks are taken. Nobody today wants to be known as a mediocre or an average person. We all want to be excellent at whatever we do. I can tell you that in order to achieve excellence you must first establish a sense of purpose and then a sense of accomplishment. Once you earn your MBA degree, you will have defined your sense of purpose. Group dynamics — working with people — is an important tool to achieve any success today. Companies today continue to promote and market that their strength is their team. Working with your peer group of students, listening and participating in these sessions establishes a sound footing to acquire these necessary skills. In today’s environment a debate often leads to the question: Is it really worth it to obtain an MBA? I often hear the following arguments: I don’t have the time. Well, make time

14 India Abroad June 2009

Ajay Virmani is president, Cargojet


LEADERS’ MANTRA

Focus on yourself

T

he current economic environment has put tremendous strain on all of us and definitely on new MBA graduates of 2009. While students should be aware of this, they shouldn’t be directed in their efforts by this. Their dividend will come from focusing on themselves and how well they are able to interact and network with people who may be able to open doors for them. A solid interaction with just three to four influential individuals can be more valuable than applying endlessly in response to job advertisements, etc. Networking is not about how many hands you press or how big your rolodex becomes. If you focus on just one or two individuals and ensure that they will remember you and become motivated to connect with you and your needs, then your mission is accomplished. Success is not a continuous state It is ironic that we keep addressing individuals as successful as though success is a continuous state. The reality is that success is just a point in time, an event in one’s life and the more lucky ones have many such points in their life. If you sat with a successful businessman like Bob Dhillon in a relaxed environment so that he is open to share his information with you, then I would guess he might convey that in his professional and business life he has encountered more misses than he has had hits. Let me take my own case. Five of us started our software venture in late 1990 with an initial investment of $1,000, and after three-and-a-half years it got acquired by Sun Microsystems for a lowthree-digit-million dollars. This was definitely the pinnacle of our professional and entrepreneurial life. However, today when I am referred to as a highly successful individual or a business role model, I cringe as I know that I have not been able to replicate any more such success points or events in our life. Having said that, I think that entrepreneurship is one of the best pursuits of excellence in one’s life. The highly effective entrepreneurs are good at understanding the power of multiple layers of leverage. It is multiplicity of leverage that is going to win because the thin edge of winning is so thin that the multiplicity of leverage would be the clincher.

ADITYA JHA Pursuit of passion Entrepreneurship should never be viewed as a career option; it is about pursuit of passion to create wealth. An entrepreneur by nature pursues opportunity of wealth creation that is beyond his/her current resources to pursue the same. To succeed in entrepreneurial venture, the defining trait is intensity in pursuing your passion about the venture. The success comes with a mixture of team, timing and talent — and I would even say that in that order of importance. Assembling the team and then having the emotional talent to keep it when you are successful or when you face challenging times is what differentiates whether you will be massively successful or not. The next important aspect is working smartly but also working very long hours. The definition of having a balanced life needs to be redefined. I read about Carol Bartz, who recently became CEO of Yahoo! She said if her husband doesn’t put their dinner appointment three months in advance then it is most likely that they are not having dinner together. But, they say that they have a normal life. They have redefined what is normalcy and each of you who aspires to be successful CEOs and entrepreneurs will have to understand what is normal in your extended life and how would it fit with your pursuit of passion. Mindset change As you enter the workplace after your MBA degree, you would not be served well by the industrial-era mindset of an

15 India Abroad June 2009

employee. It is no longer someone else’s job to help you grow. That is your and only your responsibility. Don’t put too much faith on the PowerPoint presentation from your human resources department. It is in your interest and your job to make it happen. Companies no longer owe you anything and the entitlement mentality has to go. You should not attempt to be indispensable; rather, make your organization and your senior management dependent on you. You and only you have to take initiative in areas beneficial for your organization. You don’t get paid for the job but you should be engaged because you like to do the job — that is the mantra to be highly successful in a professional environment. Lifestyle-support earning should be given and be just the starting point. Today, high-performing professionals consciously or subconsciously think about wealth creation and not just getting high salary. This new mindset will make you tremendously useful to your organization. Philanthropy is good for you I would urge students to make philanthropy an integral and well-thought part of your entrepreneurial life. The common approach of looking at philanthropy is that since you have the resources and you have been fortunate, you should do some good for the society. I have come to realize, on the contrary, that philanthropy is good for you — ‘good for others’ is just the byproduct. Herbert Simon, the Nobel Laureate, discovered that 90 percent of wealth we create in a wealthy society is due to the social circumstances we live in. If that is the fact, then it is our responsibility and in our own selfish interest to support such social circumstances so that we and our children continue creating wealth because of the continued presence of such social circumstances. Second, you will be amazed to realize that when you give time, money, your talents and passion to the social causes you believe in, it enriches yourself, your thinking and your self-worth. It brings you in close contact with people whom you would have never met otherwise and they will value you and look at you and listen to you in a very different way — a good way. Philanthropy gives you opportunity for benefiting most from the multiplicity of leverage. Aditya Jha is president, Karma Candy.


LEADERS’ MANTRA

MBA: Looking back, looking ahead

Y

ou have heard the story before. In 1907, when asked to consider developing a business school, then Harvard University president Charles William Eliot said, ‘There’s no market for it.’ Against that notion, the MBA program began in the early 1900s in the United States. It started as an educational response to the demand for increased supervisory and management cadre triggered by the active pace of automation and industrialization taking place on shop floors across the country. Therefore, as was obvious then, and quite as relevant today, the industry and economic practice in mainstream United States and its physical and virtual shop floors have been key influencers in the demand for management talent and hence in the development of this education program. If you pursue the preceding argument, it is easy to relate the evolution of the MBA program, content and pedagogy to three main developments. These include: 1. The increased levels of automation and engineering progress witnessed in the early 20th century enabled increase in scale and throughout of operations. This resulted in the need to develop personnel skills beyond shop floor practices to supervisory and management skills that facilitated oversight and guidance of larger, more sophisticated and distributed work environment. For example, the notion of capacity utilization evolved from basic labor capacity assessment to an interdependent balance between labor and machine capacity and level of automation. Hence, the early MBA was built off the traditional managerial accounting, book keeping domains coupled with industrial human resource practices. The Tuck School of Business, one of the first such programs in the US, began awarding master’s degrees in the commercial sciences, a

PRASHANT SHANKAR PATHAK

precursor to the MBA. 2. The MBA program of today was substantially influenced by the 1959 Ford Foundation report that characterized the programs as ‘vocational’ in content and ‘indefensible’ in quality. The report suggested making the program more entrenched in disciplinary knowledge, analytical practices and experiences. This is still the model that shapes the curriculum of business schools and MBA programs worldwide. 3. The emergence of the Internet and its adoption in the commercial domain resulting in the birth of the Internet entrepreneurialism triggered the demand for entrepreneurial focus within the MBA programs. The reach and boundary-less nature of the new enterprises that emerged from this phenomenon also brought into greater focus the need for a globally conscious and aware

16 India Abroad June 2009

curriculum at most schools. Impact of this includes the branding by schools around this theme, for example INSEAD in France is now the Business School for the World. Core Criticism The criticism of the MBA program has been long ongoing, ever since the Ford report. The recent criticism of the program has been around three main themes: The limited relevance and impact of the research, insight generation and knowledge creation from the program; unclear linkage between the MBA curriculum and content and ability to building effective leadership and management; and relevance, or lack thereof, of the increasingly commoditized technical skills around which the original program that had its roots in manufacturing automation was designed. Warren Bennis has argued that the MBAs ‘institutionalizing their own irrelevance’ as a result of focus on scientific research that has limited linkages to day to day business realities. Henry Mintzberg of McGill University has been more scathing in his perspectives that ‘conventional MBA programs train the wrong people in the wrong ways with the wrong consequences.’ In a recent BusinessWeek article, Mihnea Moldoveanu of the Rotman School argued, ‘The MBA is in crisis — because it selects for and cultivates traits and skills that are increasingly vacuous and superfluous.’ Finally, as if to drive a stake through the argument, Rakesh Khurana from the Harvard Business School has even linked MBA schools to corporate scandals by arguing that the MBA graduates fixated on shareholder value at the expense of other stakeholders have been drivers of corporate crime. Despite all the criticism, from a pragmatic and market acceptance standpoint, the MBA program appears to be alive and well. Claims to the contrary are either too premature or too biased. In an increasingly global business and corpo-


LEADERS’ MANTRA rate environment, with greater international trade the demand for trained management talent has increased. Furthermore, in the absence of any other general management program for training individuals in skills and competencies, in a risk-free environment, the MBA remains the destination. The numbers bear it out. A recent research conducted by the HBS concluded that B-Schools around the world turn out about 500,000 MBAs a year, with upwards of 150,000 of those in the US alone. Back to the future For the foreseeable future — read decades — the MBA will continue to provide a significant portion of the ‘raw input’ required for meeting the management and leadership demands of enterprises globally. There are several reasons for this relevance. The critical ones are: 1. The key proposition of MBA programs to enterprises often tends not to be the educational content but the credible ‘stamp of approval’ or confirmation of the highest selection standards. This is reassuring for the multitudes of new graduates in the current economic environment. They can and should take comfort in the fact that similar to other selections standards or ‘lists’, by virtue of progressing successfully through a recognized and wellplaced MBA program, they have increased their professional profile and hence — if I use generalities —their employability. 2. In an increasingly complex and international operating environment companies are looking to get their management bench strength and leadership talent trained in risk-free environments where lessons are learnt not from expensive mistakes but from shared knowledge and experiences. The MBA programs at most schools provide a rich portfolio of course content and interactions that enable the keen student to learn and grow from codified experiences and orchestrated class interactions — for example, international participants — that are hard to replicate in their job or work environments. Caveat Having touted the relevance in the near term, I also believe it is worth highlighting some caution for the MBA program based on personal experience. Increasingly administrators, teachers and participants of the MBA programs need to ask themselves how they expect to not only remain relevant but also more critical to the human capital required for global enterprise. There are

three considerations I will offer: 1. Remember Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai. There are two direct implications of this phenomenon: Analytical and algorithmic skills prized by most managers and MBAs like excel modeling and ‘five forces’ analyzes, are commoditized. These tasks can and will be ‘arbitraged’ to workers in lower cost countries, not too different from what has happened to other jobs. The program and its participants therefore need to focus on acquiring experiences para-

DESPITE ALL THE CRITICISM, FROM A PRAGMATIC AND MARKET ACCEPTANCE STANDPOINT, THE MBA PROGRAM APPEARS TO BE ALIVE AND WELL. CLAIMS TO THE CONTRARY ARE EITHER TOO PREMATURE OR TOO BIASED digms and deliberation habits that focus ingenuity and not just focus on algorithmic and analytical skills to simplistically model and structure complex and dynamic problems. Second, the MBA program that within its curriculum or experiences ignores to address the pragmatic aspects of the tectonic shifts — in supply creation, demand and consumption habits and capital formation, capital flows — caused due to the DMS phenomena risks being relegated to irrelevance. 2. The worldview changes when you have capitalist profits and socialist losses. A key outcome of the recent turmoil has been the socialization of the losses of institutions that are characterized as too big to fail. This is counter to the Schumpeterian concept addressed in business schools about the wave of creative destruction; it is also a signal that traditional models of competitive structure and industry conduct are incom-

17 India Abroad June 2009

plete. When Detroit is run from Washington, DC the implications emanating for MBA programs and their participants are a greater need for appreciating and illuminating the systematic and interplay between government intervention and corporate value creation. Mercantilism and autarkic principles denounced for long are alive and well, though in a different form. 3. If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. Amidst all the uncertainty out there is some certainty — the traditional promise of the high-flying financial sector, consulting and professional services opportunities emanating from business schools post an MBA have vaporized. A research within the business idea marketplace concluded that ‘most business schools… have not been very effective in the creation of useful business ideas.’ Clearly that statistic, state and stance will do little to improve the future well-being of the MBA participants or the program itself. In the current economic environment it behooves schools, administrators and participants to think entrepreneurially with regards to each element of the ‘old proposition’ and entrepreneurially explore potential elements of the future proposition from the MBA that will ensure they are ‘creating demand’ for the talent and skills that the program endows. In a simple manner, this asks participants and schools to shift focus from enterprise management to enterprise creation, from seeking jobs to creating jobs, from thinking that is left-brain-biased to wholebrain-balanced. It is these changes that will enable the current crop of participants and the MBA schools to create the environment where the exploration for building a new door begins. Building the new door is critical since ability is nothing without the opportunity. In conclusion, I will add the MBA program has and will continue to have relevance in the medium term as an effective educational and training platform for building the managerial and leadership workforce. Ironically, the seeds of its irrelevance as a moniker or degree are not outside the program but maybe sown in its very fabric. The threat from within being the active growth in continuous learning and executive education programs being offered by the same providers of the MBA. Prashant Shanker Pathak, who did his MBA from the French business school INSEAD, is managing partner, Reichman’s Private Equity Funds.


EXPERTS BRAINSTORM

A dose of the real world I

n such challenging economic times, how does the future look for business students? On a chilly Saturday in early Spring, a group of dedicated South Asian MBA students from the Greater Toronto area gathered to reflect on the world of the MBA, their education and their future. The setting was Prego, a beautiful Italian restaurant in Toronto, which the owner, Aditya Jha, had generously provided for the event. I had the privilege of moderating a panel of eminent business leaders, mostly of South Asian origin, who volunteered their time to provide their perspectives and advice to the students. The panelists included representatives of business schools and self-made entrepreneurs: Bob Dhillon, president, Mainstreet Equity Corporation; Professor Mitali De, associate dean, Wilfrid Laurier School of Business and Economics; Peter Sutherland, former Canadian high commissioner to India; Aditya Jha, president, Karma Candy; Hari Panday, president, ICICI Wealth Management; John Palumbo, executive director, Schulich School of Business, York University; Kasi Rao, consultant with several Canadian universities; and Ajit Jain, managing editor, Canada, of India Abroad, which organized the seminar. As a professor at the Rotman School of Management, I advise students on a daily basis and I was curious to see how the panelists would deal with the burning questions that I know were on their mind. The tension in the room was palpable. The students had rolled the dice on a highcost educational gamble: Spending tens of thousands of dollars for a business education with no assurance of work at the other end. The MBA is one of the most expensive degrees one can take, and many had taken out large loans to pay their tuition and living expenses and moved far from home. Yet, the environment was far from encouraging. Television, the Web and news reports were screaming of economic disaster and warning of job losses throughout the economy. The students in the room, like business students everywhere, were, to say the least, nervous. The panelists, with the benefit of experience and maturity, took the issue head-on. Take the long view, was their advice: The MBA is a wonderful investment in the future, one that will give students skills for a lifetime. While concerns about the job market for MBAs were understandable,

DAVID DUNNE the investment the students were making could be expected to pay back many times over — if one takes a longer-term perspective. Yet, to take advantage of their investment, MBAs needed to be nimble, flexible and conscientious. While the economic news looked grim, there were still many areas of opportunity. While the dynamic economies of China and India were expected to slow down, there was still a great deal of momentum and, with that momentum, opportunities. The students were encouraged by one panelist to “follow the money”: Not by looking for the highest salary, but by looking to see where the greatest investments in technology and jobs could provide them with opportunities. Other panelists disagreed on this point: One suggested that graduates should anticipate where the money was going to be, rather than go where the money is now; others felt that Canada remained a good place to make money — but all emphasized the importance of building a career over time, rather than looking for the short term financial ‘score’. Panelists acknowledged that, in the short term, MBAs may not get exactly the job they want when they emerge from their studies. It was likely, one panelist suggested, that they would have to take a lower salary to begin with than they might be hoping for. But the skills they were learning in their degree program would serve them well. What specific skills? Interestingly, many of the skills panelists emphasized are not

18 India Abroad June 2009

usually mentioned on the MBA curriculum: Hard work, focus, ingenuity, risk taking. These are real-world skills that MBA students learn these through the project work they do and through the pressure of meeting deadlines. In addition, panelists recognized the value of the business tools MBA students learn, but several speakers argued that these were not the main point. There was great value in learning how to deal with people: Again these skills were often learned implicitly in study teams, but also through courses in leadership. What was particularly significant was that the value of these leadership skills may not be seen for some years — again underscoring the importance of taking a long view. Students also raised questions about the value of entrepreneurship, a particularly useful topic as there were several successful entrepreneurs on the panel. The advice here was a) to learn while working for someone else; b) find a mentor, and c) remember that all entrepreneurs fail along the way to success and not to give up. For many MBA students, networking with potential employers can be particularly intimidating. Here, students were advised to flip the situation on its head, recalling the words of John F Kennedy: Think not about what you get from the encounter, but what you are bringing to it. Networking was not about competing to see who could collect the most business cards, but about selectively developing high-value relationships that will last a lifetime. It was obvious that the students were intensely curious and attentive. Each in his own way was a role model, a picture of what they could become in the future. It was clear that they benefited enormously from the discussion. I benefited from it too. What a privilege it was to see how the students absorbed these ideas and hung on to every word. There is nothing like real-world experience to put things in perspective. After the discussion, everyone reflected on what they had just heard, what it meant to them and how they saw their future unfolding, over a delicious mix of South Asian and Italian food. The real heroes of the day? The kitchen staff, who were invited to come forward and were warmly applauded by all present. Professor David Dunne teaches at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.


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EXPERTS BRAINSTORM MBA students are all ears at the India Abroad Center Stage symposium

Face your fear An MBA is a lifetime tool to help in a rapidly changing world, experts and entrepreneurs tell students at the India Abroad Center Stage symposium panel discussion AJIT JAIN

P

rofessor David Dunne of the Rotman School of Management moderated a panel discussion that was part of the symposium on the value of MBA education in the global economic scenario that India Abroad organized March 21. Students from three business schools — the Rotman School of Management, the Schulich School of Business and the Wilfrid Laurier School of Business and Economics — actively helped in organizing the event, which was attended by about 75 students. The panelists — Bob Dhillon, president, Mainstreet Equity Corporation; Professor Mitali De, associate dean, Wilfrid Laurier School of Business and Economics; Peter Sutherland, former high commissioner to India; Aditya Jha, president, Karma Candy; Hari Panday, president, ICICI Wealth Management; John Palumbo, executive director, Schulich School of Business, York University; and Kasi Rao, consultant with several Canadian universities — agreed that despite the global economic downturn, it is worthwhile doing an MBA but one has to be more flexible now in terms of salary expectations and job openings. Here is a transcript of the discussion: David Dunne: If we have said in different ways that MBAs are

valuable resources, which parts of MBA skills are most valuable in the current economic times? Joseph Palumbo: One of the reasons we [Schulich School] recently went to India to sell admission into the MBA program in our school was to provide to students there the cross-cultural communications ability, a kind of soft skill which is not soft, which is quite hard to achieve. When you move up into the management chain in your organization, it is less about managing numbers and projects and things like that. It is more about managing people. The challenge is to see others as the leaders and I think that’s what you learn in your MBA program. That’s why an MBA is a long-term play. I often have the pleasure of talking to a number of our alumni from all around the globe. So, I will say I will look for their communications, I will look for the strategy, their bigger picture thinking, the thinking that helps communicate, that helps you understand your colleagues with whom you are working but also helps you to understand the strategy and the direction in which the company is going, the skill to get underway and then get the job done. Aditya Jha: I think one area would be how useful you are to the company which is trying to reemerge. Let me explain what I mean. There’s a massive amount of corporate leakage in terms of money. And there are problems in other areas as well, which

20 India Abroad June 2009


EXPERTS BRAINSTORM Aditya Jha, president, Karma Candy, right and Wilfrid Laurier Business School Dean Ginny Dybenko at the event

are important for the company. I have run companies conveying the message to key people. Typically, let us say you make 10 percent, which is your bottom line in the company. Every time you let $10 go, basically you are wasting $100 revenue. If you can bring that kind of focus, that kind of usefulness to your organization, you could be the darling of the senior management. Peter Sutherland: There can be something useful [in] what we did in the law school — the first thing could be the whole process of usefulness. You students have to meet the company’s standards and that’s possible only if you have achieved success academically in the school. Your degree of confidence is very important. Second, your skill set is very important. A lot of black and white that you learn either in the law school, as myself, or in the business school — as you are learning — may not be used again. Your skill set and the foundation stones are important. The whole experience of going to MBA school, like law school, teaches you about the short deadline, working hard, focus, etc. All these skills are very, very important and are transferable to your business career. You [students] have your networking advantage as you are South Asians, and the South Asian network is global in the business community, not just in the graduate school where you are now studying. David Dunne: The next question is the whole question of shifting careers. I think everybody in this room is in the process of shifting careers. Somebody

with an undergraduate science degree wants to shift into business. But in these economic times, it seems to be tougher than in the past. Where do you think the challenges are and where there’s reasonable expectation to change careers in the current economic climate? Mitali De: The real good business models are going to survive. Therefore, I would suggest if you can align yourself with the surviving business models, you have a good opportunity. Peter Sutherland: The skill set involves a certain flexibility. In the past the economy might be booming but you joined companies, as in my time, for life. Not anymore. As the companies flat out, people go somewhere else. It is a little more difficult now as the opportunities are shrinking but over time it is going to be normal again. There will be changes. Bob Dhillon: I think flexibility is everything. You go from kindergarten to high school, then you get your undergraduate degree, you work for a couple of years and then you say how do I improve my income by $10,000? And so you say, get an MBA. By the time you get your MBA, you are in a box. Flexibility is everything. It doesn’t matter, as my colleagues said here, recession or not, you are changing lots of careers in your life. So, you are going to think along these lines as to what’s my career, where I am going. It doesn’t matter which country you are going to go, what profession you are going to choose. Joseph Palumbo: I want to build on this. Look where the money is going. Look at the center of excellence. It is not

21 India Abroad June 2009

Canada. I am a Canadian. Be a global citizen. Go where the money is going. What the heck, go out of Canada! If it is Mumbai, go there. If it is Shanghai, go there. If it is Singapore, Dubai, London, go there. You have to know where the centers of excellence are. It is not just for money. It is also to be surrounded by absolutely the best. The companies are investing in people. I went to Hewlett Packard in California. Next week, I went to Reliance in Mumbai and the comparisons were incredible. I know where I will work for — not at HP even though they are one of the partners. I will work for Reliance because they are investing in people and they are expanding. That’s number one. Number two is to remain absolutely flexible. Think of the long term. Think what you will bring to the company. Think that you are going to be a professional manager and also at your work you will be managing your expectations, managing your boss, managing your organizations and managing your career as well. Managing your career happens not only once or twice. It is a lifelong venture. The second [thing is], you are happy in your job — that’s what you should be thinking about. How big is my network? When is the last time I was quoted in the paper? How am I getting my brand out there? Do I know what my brand is? How can I reach persons like Bob Dhillon, the successful developer from Calgary who’s sitting with us on this panel? Those are the questions which should be popping in your mind all the time. What’s important is when you are happy and successful, you are ready for the next move. If people want to offer you a job, they will call you. So, don’t put yourself down. You have amazing credentials. The importance of risk David Dunne: Follow the line is a provocative statement. Follow the money is another intriguing statement. Bob Dhillon: I strongly believe, go in the direction before the money gets there. Whether you are a wholesale buyer or a retailer, if you go where the money is, it is too late. You go there before the money gets there. Go to Mumbai, but money is already there. Canada is a pretty easy place to make money. Look at me. I would say if I were to look at my crystal ball, the money is in Canada. Joseph Palumbo: When I say follow the money, I don’t mean where there’s high-


EXPERTS BRAINSTORM Aditya Jha: I would like to add one est salary. I imply where the money is being invested by the government, thing to Bob’s general notion about riskmaybe in infrastructure, in building taking. We entrepreneurs take larger bridges, roads, in the ports. The business risks — much more than an average perat such places will take off eventually. son who takes risk in his job. So, riskDuring the current bad economic times, taking is working double the time and a lot of MBAs are thinking of entrepre- you don’t known what happens in terms neurship, thinking of starting their own of managing it and the complexity of it. business. It will, however, be a challenge But risk is not about risky behavior, but for somebody who’s relatively new to being prepared to take a larger risk. Bob Dhillon: I want to add one story to Canada as this person doesn’t necessarily have a network of connections to build this. It was my second year in the MBA class. I took two years of marketing. I on. David Dunne: What kind of advice went for a PowerPoint presentation for a would you give to South Asian students multinational corporation in Louisiana or an international student starting their and discussed the rates about distribuown business after they have graduated or while doing their MBAs? Students asked the experts sharp Aditya Jha: I don’t think questions, and got sharper answers entrepreneurship is a clearer option. You may like to be behind an entrepreneur because that way you will have that learning experience of what an entrepreneur goes through. If I was looking at a crystal ball, I would say that in a few years entrepreneurship will not be a unique thing. It will be mainstream. Most people will be entrepreneurs sometime in their life. So, you guys will be tested. Bob Dhillon: It is a textbook case study you have to read anyway — it is a recession, I am looking for a job, so, I become an entrepreneur. What does an entrepreneur mean? He’s a risk taker, he’s an action taker and he’s willing to work 100 hours a week. If you don’t have these three things, it is not a god-given thing tion of Tabasco sauce for South Asia. I that I want to do it. It is not an intellec- had no money and I had no intellectual tual capital that you get on the street. It capital. I took a chance. At that time, is not something you will say you are foreign goods were almost banned in willing to work for free. India and the finance minister was Dr I will give you an example of my pub- Manmohan Singh who started opening licly traded company Mainstreet Equity the country as the time went on. I was Corporation based in Calgary, Alberta. lucky as a week after my presentation, it For the first 10 years of starting the com- was an open product to bring into the pany, I never drew any salary. I had country. What I was trying to do was to resources and so I was fortunate that I get rights for distribution of a branded could do it for the first 10 years without product for the whole of South Asia any salary. Now I have a multibillion- because it was a recessionary market. dollar company. I have an island in Nobody wanted these rights because you Belize that I am currently developing. couldn’t import such products in the India Abroad’s Power List calls me ‘The country that time. Joseph Palumbo: I have three pieces of Merchant of Belize’. Now I have reached a stage when I can do whatever I want. advice for our student audience: First, These are some of the things you have to learn while you are working for someone look into yourself. These are the ingredi- else. Do it on their dollar. Take advantage ents you need before you think you can of their training as the training doesn’t end when you finish the MBA. become an entrepreneur.

22 India Abroad June 2009

Second, please don’t go alone. Try to find a mentor. Find someone who can help you along the way. The third, entrepreneurs have failed along the way. Networking, the right way David Dunne: The question was also asked about networking. Aditya Jha: This notion about going to too many events, shaking hands and collecting business cards, will serve you very little. You are here today. Try to identify just one person with whom you can do more than just to get to know that person so that that person remembers who you are. Otherwise, it will be a fleeting kind of connection. I have over a period

learnt this that over time there are too many persons there. You have to zero in on just one or two persons and that’s it. That means if I can do that, I have accomplished more than what I could have otherwise accomplished. Joseph Palumbo: When you go to an event, expect to be curious. Ask some questions, why you did this, what about your job, how did you first start business, etc, and then all these givers of business cards, if they remember you, they will call you. Give some information about yourself, your business, and leave it at that. Kasi Rao: My take is based on personal experience. True networking is often used in a highly transactional way. It is a long-term thing. I would encourage you this as an exercise you will undertake for the rest of your life. If you can follow it as a matter of outlook — look at advancing


EXPERTS BRAINSTORM David Dunne of the Rotman School, University of Toronto, with students

the other person’s agenda, not so much as your agenda — for five, 10 to 15 years from now, there will be a way that you will be able to cash in on that. My own journey has been from Bangkok, to Bangalore, to Delhi to Moscow, to Zurich, to New York. All these years I have been staying in touch with people. I don’t ask them for anything, but just stay in touch with them. These people just open the doors for me when I am in Delhi or Bangalore or wherever. It is because I have stayed in touch with them. So, my advice is treating this networking as a long-term exercise, and look at the future. If you can help advance the other person’s agenda at some point, it will help your agenda too. Hari Panday: Some very good points have been mentioned, points about giving, and certainly about other people’s agenda. When our company decided to start ICICI Bank in Canada and I was brought on board to commence the Canadian operation, we were able to get our license to start the bank here in nine months. That’s the fastest a license has been granted in the history of this country. And that happened because anyone we called for assistance gave us positive support and response. There was no doubt whatsoever that I got value from each and every of my relationships. And these relationships were cultivated over 20-odd years. You water the plant and flowers come out. So, that’s something you have to keep in mind. As Aditya said, in a networking forum you don’t simply go across and say let me see how many cards I can walk away with. That alone doesn’t help. Joseph Palumbo: There’s a technique or a method that I have used in the past, with some success. People ask me about networking. There are many, many senior executives like Hari Panday who will be prepared to give you some time if you do not abuse it. So, he calls you to give two minutes of his time, but you don’t show up there and say here is my resume and give me a job. It is really about industry and doing research about industry and finding out what is this all about. You can ask for some other connections that he could provide and contact them. If you can do that, you are building your knowledge about that field and you are developing some contacts. You do not need to ask for a job because the job which is appropriate for you somebody, will eventually come up with the suggestion and at that time you might have your resume in your briefcase ready. MBA and the downturn

A student’s question: What’s missing in the MBA program, especially during these hard economic times? Joseph Palumbo: What’s missing from most MBA programs is, in general, students are too focused on jobs. You have to think about if I am not getting the skill for this market place I should do something about it. We at the Schulich School bring in companies all the time. If that’s not happening, you go to them. You have to learn by experience, by doing internships, by doing case studies and projects outside the classroom. Aditya Jha: I would say there’s disproportionate amount of premium around MBAs. Let us say there’s an engineering student from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the Rotman School of Management. I would be more inclined towards an engineering student in terms of the basic knowledge. What’s lacking from a business point of view is you guys have more exposure tools and you have been acclimatized as if you are on the base camp or you are still climbing. I have hired some MBAs from premier institutions and I wonder why I spend that $75,000. You are basically innately smart, but I haven’t seen anything that special. So, there’s this sense of premium and you have to evaluate yourself individually what’s that premium you have to offer. Another student’s question: Is timing is everything? Bob Dhillon: I was an entrepreneur before I did my MBA. So, the MBA didn’t help me to become an entrepreneur. What the MBA did was to make me learn the language and structure of business. I did my business model right through my two- year MBA program. When I graduated, I went public. My company Mainstreet Equity Corporation was listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange the day I graduated from Richard Ivey School. Hari Panday: I think there was a question earlier about where are job opportunities in industries during this time of recession. It is not a very pleasant thing to suggest that the area of growth is insolvency — it is very hot. Insolvency is a unique practice at this juncture. It is the best chance during this economic cycle — you have to apply your talent and get rewarded in an area that you may not have considered. David Dunne: As I listened to the themes as they came about, I felt a certain anxiety amongst you: Should I make the big [MBA] investment? Is it worth my while? And the answer to that was a resounding yes. But the real part is, you won’t get your $75,000 investment back in the first year. It is a lifetime investment, something that will pay over your career as a whole. I believe amongst the panelists there’s a consensus that you are doing the MBA for yourself and it will show the results over time. To follow from that is the whole issue of flexibility and pretty much all of panelists said in different ways, yes, you have the MBA but you have got to be very flexible in terms of your salary expectations because of the economic downturn. The other question was what really is the worth of MBA in contrast to the value of an engineer or a doctor? And what’s the difference? The difference is that a doctor sees people, an engineer builds bridges and it is very obvious what they do. MBAs are generalists, and so MBAs are in all kinds of industries every where, and they have to have skills to make them flexible and adaptable to those industries. The real strength of an MBA is that you are capable of fitting in so many different things.

23 India Abroad June 2009


ALUMNI ADVICE

What I learned at Stanford

A

s an engineering undergraduate, I always felt that there was missing knowledge for me in terms of how businesses operated, or should operate. This was my primary motivation to opt for an MBA. Looking around my workplace in the construction management industry, I knew things needed improvement and I had some thoughts on how to solve them, but I was hungry for some formal knowledge in this regard. Although I had little practical or academic business knowledge, I was filled with a deep desire to learn. I also wanted to equip myself with something that would give me the freedom to choose in my future professional life. Some would argue that they didn’t need the knowledge they gained from the MBA experience although the network of friends and professors was invaluable. I would argue that attending a top business school gave me both. I expect that in the future, if I choose to start a company or acquire one, I will seek out advice from my classmates, who are now located in many parts of the world and involved in every conceivable industry. I believe any business school can teach you finance, accounting, operations, etc. But at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, we learned from faculty that had taken part in the dotcom boom, sat on the boards of very successful companies, and invested and led successful companies of their own. So, what did I learn at Stanford? Stanford immersed me, obviously, in the classroom learning environment but for someone with a nonbusiness background, being surrounded by risk takers and entrepreneurs — teachers and my classmates alike — was inspirational. In the classroom we were taught how to quantify the value of a company but the Stanford MBA environment told us that we could acquire one ourselves. My past professional experiences had taught me that leadership was autocratic. But at the business school, we were taught the concept of shared leadership. The idea that every member of a team can feel like a leader and contributor was

AJIT MOHAN JAIN a truly innovative concept for a person who had worked in the construction industry. I learned that in order to achieve your dreams you have to be audacious. On a personal or financial level, the safe and secure path, if there is one, is rarely the

ones. In the business context, I think of challenges and solutions from a broader, long-term perspective. A decision today can have implications well past the execution and implementation date, both good and bad. Therefore, any short-term high-value perspectives can have negative results — and vice-versa. I also think big. Some people go to business school to move up in their corporate careers because they’ve hit a glass ceiling. For me, the MBA was also a tool I felt I needed to make it to the next level. Through the Stanford experience, however, I realized just how big one can dream. That’s the best part about reading so many business cases and listening to so many guest speakers, many of whom are Stanford alumni. It was all the more inspiring knowing they were given the same opportunities I was given, when Stanford opened its doors for me in 2002. I now smile when I think of my preMBA life because my views on how to operate a business were so limited and my dreams were hardly that. The reality is that there is no one rule when it comes to successful leadership but the one thing I believe in most is that every member of an organization, event, team must feel like a leader in order for continued, fruitful successes. Financial compensation should be fairly distributed but what many forget is that it must be coupled with a shared leadership mentality. I was first exposed to this mindset through my MBA experience. Although the world economy is facing uncertain times, I truly believe that things can only improve and this might very well be the best time to return to a university campus and pursue an MBA. The turmoil in the economy makes for some fascinating academic learning through relevant and real world examples. If nothing else, an MBA from a top-tier program will equip you with a pedigree that enables you to stand above the competition in a tight job market and inspire you to dare to do things you never even contemplated before.

MY PAST PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCES HAD TAUGHT ME THAT LEADERSHIP WAS AUTOCRATIC. BUT AT THE BUSINESS SCHOOL, WE WERE TAUGHT THE CONCEPT OF SHARED LEADERSHIP most satisfying one. How have I applied my skills after I graduated? What I developed from my two years at Stanford was a way of thinking about business, leadership and the world. I now approach problems differently, both business challenges and non-business

24 India Abroad June 2009

Ajit Mohan Jain is developing a start-up Internet service intended to streamline college admissions for high school students in the United States.


ALUMNI ADVICE

More than just a higher salary

I

completed my MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business in 2003 in an economic climate quite different from today’s. When I graduated, my classmates and I had many opportunities available to us — there were multiple companies recruiting on campus, and in general, the hiring had occurred earlier in the school year for most students. There were some students who had multiple offers and there were also a number of students who were looking for the right career fit for their next role and the process took a slightly more drawn-out route. I happened to fall into this second category. I had pursued my MBA to change careers — from structural engineering to the investment side of the building industry, more specifically the investment in commercial real estate. To be on the transaction side of this business, I needed more than the ability to design the support of buildings. I needed to understand the language of commerce and finance. I also wanted to have a broader understanding of management and strategy, and that is why I chose to go to Ivey for my graduate education. A big plus for me was that there were many companies in need of individuals with my understanding of construction and who had also had an understanding of finance. I was fortunate and found my first post-grad position in an investment advisory firm within a couple of months of graduating. I continue to work for that firm to this day, almost six years later. I could not have reached my current position and management role without attaining the necessary training in accounting, finance and general management. My engineering skills were not adequate on their own, so I had to pursue further education. Certainly, new grads from the class of 2009 will be in those same shoes — transitioning from one career into something related but in a totally different role, or in some cases, moving into a totally unrelated role. Given that there will be fewer roles available and the ones that are available will have numerous qualified candidates

SALMAN HIRANI

a driven and ambitious group — they are not satisfied with the status quo and are always looking to improve processes, strategies, operations, revenue generation and commercialization of new innovations. Sure, there may have been some MBAs — and non-MBAs as well —who might have contributed to some of the slip-ups that played a part in where we stand today, but I feel that MBAs can also be part of the solutions to today’s economic woes. Now, more than ever, the world needs people who have the training and ambition to lead companies out of turmoil, to transform plummeting sales by introducing new business lines, to advance new technologies to the stage where they can reach the mass market through new channels. The MBA is not a be-all and end-all solution, but it is certainly a particular way of thinking, a process to solving problems and that is what the economy we are faced with today requires — a strong base in fundamentals with the energy and creativity to guide a way through this. New grads who can demonstrate that they have an ability to help tough decision-making will be the ones that will succeed in today’s job market. Before Ivey, I thought the MBA was a silver bullet that could magically launch me into a prosperous career with a much higher salary. Luckily for me, I quickly realized success in my future required more than just the three letters — it required hard work, perseverance and an ability to adapt to changing times. I truly believe that any grad that can come into today’s marketplace and offer these three ingredients coupled with a can-do attitude will fare well and find the right role. They just have to be able to figure out that their degree was not the goal, but rather a tool in reaching their next goal. Similarly, the first role out of grad school is not the end game, but the first step on a long road ahead to becoming a future business leader. I just hope that along the way, the valuable lessons being presented to us on a daily basis in the news are not lost on this group of MBAs — and that we can learn from any mistakes that we have made.

NOW, MORE THAN EVER, THE WORLD NEEDS PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE TRAINING AND AMBITION TO LEAD COMPANIES OUT OF TURMOIL applying, the question arises, does an MBA degree have value in today’s economy? In my view, it most certainly does. I realize that there are jokes floating out there that the current situation was caused by a lack of oversight of MBA grads and there is inadequate emphasis in today’s curriculums at business schools on good governance and attribution of risk — which were major factors in the global economic meltdown. Regardless of the jokes, I do believe some schools fail to address these issues altogether, but for the most part, business education, like all higher education, plays a very important role in opening new avenues and driving creativity in the business world. On the whole, MBAs are

25 India Abroad June 2009

Salman Hirani is a senior real estate analyst, asset manager, at Blackwood Partners, Toronto.


ALUMNI ADVICE

A useful tool for business

I

do not think the value of a good MBA experience has changed because of the current economic downturn. If pursued for the right objectives, I think the MBA is a valuable graduate stream which holds relevance in many aspects of business and various types of careers. What I valued in my MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business was an opportunity to make a career change, in my case from operational — product marketing/engineering — to venture capital/private equity; an opportunity to meet and learn from incredible people — classmates, faculty, guests faculty/speakers, leaders that would come to school and speak in public forums as well in smaller settings — with accomplished and diverse backgrounds and learning from their experiences; getting exposed to academic frameworks of business and management; carrying a brand, credibility and networks from the MBA experience, which hopefully will continue to open doors for a lifetime. Given these objectives, I would pursue an MBA in 2009 from a good business school because these would hold relevance even today. Other than the career change — the MBA added credibility in my making this change to private equity — I have found my MBA has enhanced my risk-taking ability and confidence in my own capabilities. While I had a great job in New York in my field of choice, just a year after graduating I decided to move back to India with very little visibility of what I would do next, as my move back to India was driven largely by a family situation. This decision has worked to my advantage because I am professionally and personally satisfied with what I have achieved in the years after moving back. The relationships I carried from my business school have helped me on several other occasions in meaningful professional events in the last five years — like help-

MANISH KHETARPAL

ing strike a joint venture in a family business with a former classmate, making an important job transition, and using tools and skills learned at Stanford — especially soft skills of negotiation and leadership — in a messy family business situation. These skills also come in handy in my day to day job of principal investing as well as working with management teams as an active shareholder/investor. It’s important for students, say international students from India who take $50,000 to $60,000 annual bank loans to study in North America, to look upon doing an MBA as a serious, long-term investment. Therefore, one should not compromise on the quality of the experience, if one has the choice and opportunity. It is a personal choice for a student to travel from India to North America to study in a prestigious business school in the United States or Canada. The trip and the money you invest are worth it because you may be going to a better school. There are some very good business schools in India now. One has to weigh the pros and cons of the business school offering versus the cost involved. It is

DOING AN MBA AND CHOOSING THE SCHOOL IS AN IMPORTANT QUESTION OF COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS AND LONG-TERM OBJECTIVES

26 India Abroad June 2009

widely known that a good US business school can open many more career/job opportunities in the US. So, depending upon ones preference of post-MBA locale and target job, the choice of business school could be different. If I compare 10 years ago with today, I can say that the business schools in India are much better in the globalization of their MBA programs as well as opportunities they offer after the degree. If one has a very specific objective of, say, working in the Indian fast moving consumer goods industry after the MBA, it may not make sense to pursue a more expensive MBA from a North American business school compared to the best of the breed from India. These are also comparatively less expensive. But if one’s goal is to work on Wall Street or in the Silicon Valley, it is clearly better to pursue an MBA from a good business school in the US. Deciding about doing an MBA and choosing the school is an important question of cost-benefit analysis and long-term objectives. What does a student want to derive from this degree, from this two-year experience at the graduate business school? The top MBA degrees or top international MBA programs — whether in the US, Canada or India — definitely have something special to offer compared to an average or below average MBA school. One can settle down in India long-term by pursuing either path because there is no set template for that. But if the objective is to be in India in the short-term, then one has to think carefully the cost aspect of a top American business school and whether one will get the appropriate return on investment. There’s also now a middle path. There are alliances between top US business schools and Indian business schools. As a result, there’s an opportunity to pursue an ‘Indian cost’ MBA from a top US business school. I hope if the trend continues one day student in India will be able to pursue a Stanford or Harvard MBA in Gurgaon, Pune or Mysore. The international business schools are waiting in anticipation as the Indian regulators are discuss and analyze such proposals. Manish Khetarpal is vice president, Providence Equity Advisors India Pvt Ltd.


ALUMNI ADVICE

Unlock your potential

I

don’t often take the time to reflect on the experiences and decisions I’ve made that have led me to where I am today. The recent economic meltdown has given me some pause to reassess whether I’m on the right path. I am convinced that I am, but only time will tell. This isn’t the first time I’ve been through a tough economy. After completing my undergraduate engineering degree from the University of Toronto, I spent several years consulting, the last four of which were at a software company that I joined at the height of the dotcom boom in 2000. A month into my new job, the boom went bust, and my company started laying people off in droves. Every quarter, a new batch of employees were let go, and I was constantly wondering if I would be the next. It wasn’t just the looming threat of losing my job that kept me up at night. My quality of life was less than optimal — I spent five or six days a week on the road, working more hours than I liked to admit, and I was increasingly unhappy about how my company’s management seemingly dropped the ball on several strategic initiatives. In fact, there were several missteps that could have been prevented if management simply took a broader view of the market when formulating its strategy to cope with the ‘New Economy’. While I was doing quite well in my role — I was leading several go-to-market initiatives — I felt like I was on a sinking ship and needed to quickly decide whether it was worth it anymore. Fast forward a couple of years, and I found myself immersed in an MBA education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, learning about the very thing that I had wished my former company had employed — sound management. Life was great — I was broadening my horizons and learning a lot about

TEJAS MEHTA

I AM CERTAIN THAT THE MBA HAS GIVEN ME THE FUNDAMENTALS TO ACHIEVE MY CAREER ASPIRATIONS, GOOD ECONOMY OR NOT things I always wanted to pick up: Finance, strategy, marketing and opera-

27 India Abroad June 2009

tions. For me, the MBA experience was about gaining the tools necessary to achieve my long-term career aspirations of general management. I graduated almost three years ago and joined Microsoft in a marketing and business strategy role. I have held multiple responsibilities, including market opportunity analyzes, financial forecasting, pricing and licensing strategy, product launches and marketing campaigns. Each project that I’ve undertaken relied to some extent on the education I received at business school. Of course, I would be naïve to say that I couldn’t do my job without the MBA — I am confident that I could. What the MBA unlocked for me was a way of thinking. It provided a solid framework for analyzing and solving problems that would otherwise be more challenging. This has been especially true in this weak economy. Increased uncertainty around budgets, resources and headcount can lead to irrational business decisions if you’re not careful, especially if objective means are not used to assess merits of alternatives. I believe the frameworks I have picked up in my MBA have allowed me to make better decisions faster than I would have otherwise. The MBA has also helped me take a broader and more strategic view of my career, where I apply the same objective, analytical process to determine the next step for me. So here I am in 2009, having spent the better part of three years as an MBA in a big corporate environment. I have been happy with the experiences I’ve had so far, and look forward to the career ahead of me. While I am not sure what the future might bring, I am certain that the MBA has given me the fundamentals to achieve my career aspirations, good economy or not. Tejas Mehta, an Indo-Canadian, is a senior product manager with Microsoft.


ALUMNI ADVICE

Devaluation of MBA? Huh?

I

am always amused by articles that attempt to demonstrate the devaluation of an MBA degree, especially in tough economic times. The number of applicants to MBA programs actually increases significantly when the economy takes a tumble and jobs are harder to come by. Is it partially because people want a two-year respite from the professional world to regroup and ride out the economy? Maybe. But it is also that people see an opportunity in getting more education and learning how to still thrive. When I applied to business school in 2002, applications had soared at many campuses as the tech industry saw its bubble burst. Unlike many of my peers, I only applied to three carefully researched programs — all were top 10 schools and had equally strong graduate schools of education affiliated with the larger university. I knew that I would not attend a lower tier school so did not even bother to apply. Was I that confident that I would get into one of my three chosen schools? Of course not! But I realized the value that comes with attending a top school, especially for an MBA program. If I was not accepted, I would have worked harder and reapplied the following year. I chose Stanford for many reasons: Its fostering of the entrepreneurial spirit, its residential program, its smaller size, and its focus on public management, global leadership, and leadership. I was one of the few Indian students who did not have a background in technology, even though I was raised in the Silicon Valley. I was also really excited to be on a campus that had nearly onethird international students. Many of these classmates went back to their home countries after graduation and are accomplishing amazing feats. Other classmates traveled to new countries to set up shop and try their hand at a new venture. It is

PURVI MODY

BUSINESS SCHOOL TAUGHT ME HOW TO SEARCH OUT THE RIGHT RESOURCES AND TO THINK ABOUT BUSINESS PRACTICES DIFFERENTLY 28 India Abroad June 2009

always so inspiring to hear from classmates about their new adventures and their great business ideas that are literally changing the way that many people live their lives. In my own business, running an educational venture, the Stanford MBA has served me well. It has opened the door to partnerships, contacts with other experts in the field, and a set of skills that will serve me well throughout my life. Business school taught me how to search out the right resources and to think about business practices differently. In a class of 60 peers, I learned how people with diverse professional backgrounds — from the largest firms on Wall Street to the smallest garage start-ups — would have approached a problem differently. In many situations, where there is no one right response, being able to develop unique solutions is invaluable. Business school, for me, was more than just learning about EBITDA and the four Ps of marketing. Through classes like interpersonal dynamics and negotiations, I learned about the effect of perceptions in business situations and how understanding cultures can be the difference between a successful negotiation and a lost cause. An MBA will always have value — in strong economies and down ones. Business schools teach people how to be strong leaders in small organizations and in the global marketplace. And as countries and business become increasingly integrated, it is important that classes continue to be made up of a diverse set of individuals that represent many countries, backgrounds and interests. Now more than ever, business schools play a role in developing the leadership that will guide the world to a more stable global economy. Purvi Mody is president of Insight Education, in Cuppertino, California.


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Mary Camello, MBA CMA 2008 Senior Auditor TD Bank Financial Group “ The part-time Toronto weekend MBA allowed me to immediately apply what I was learning back at work during the week. It was the best of both worlds. Since completing the MBA I have changed jobs and I have great confidence in my abilities moving forward!”

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It Advisory, PricewaterhouseCoopers Project Co-ordinator, Imperial Oil “The integrated teaching style and team-based approach at Laurier allowed me to function effectively from day one on my co-op work terms. I was immediately using the skills I learned, giving me a holistic understanding of the issues before proposing solutions to senior management. My Laurier MBA has proven invaluable to my future career goals.”

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Mona Prasad, MBA 2006 Chief Operating Officer Gourmantra Foods “ I was introduced to the world of entrepreneurship at Laurier. I was able to combine my science background with business knowledge. By the time I completed my MBA degree I had also realized my dream of starting my own company.”

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STUDENT-SPEAK

The way forward A s many business students today feel uncertain and pessimistic about the future of employment opportunities, Center Stage 2009, the India Abroadsponsored symposium, provided encouragement to MBA students in Canada, particularly those of Indian origin. The discussion between business students and renowned guest speakers at this event was productive and inspiring. More than just a discussion on the current economic downtown, the speakers took a very holistic approach on current issues, which gave all those who attended some food for thought. The discussions revolved around how the ongoing global slowdown has created new challenges for students all over the world, and forced them to make informed decisions regarding their career choices. In particular, speakers focused on the scrutiny the MBA degree has come under during these recessionary times. Surprisingly, some still question the true value of an MBA degree. It is argued that an MBA is merely a ticket to a higher salary rather than a means for attaining advanced business skills. In my opinion, the MBA degree is still valuable. I believe that MBA graduates possess a well-rounded view of the big picture and have the ability to think and plan on a long-term basis. As businesses consolidate and evolve due to the economic slowdown, so will the expectations of MBA graduates. MBA graduates will be expected to work towards assuming more accountability for their actions as well as developing sustainable business structures. Opportunities will exist for graduates with a strong understanding of management concepts like leadership, business ethics and longterm sustainability. The current financial meltdown has

ANAND BHALLA

‘AS BUSINESSES CONSOLIDATE AND EVOLVE DUE TO THE ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN, SO WILL THE EXPECTATIONS OF MBA GRADUATES’ prompted many business schools to reevaluate their priorities and examine their curriculum. I believe that the business essentials — core courses — taught in business schools at present are not going to alter even in these times. However, these times present excellent

30 India Abroad June 2009

opportunities to further strengthen the academic prospectus. In order to better understand the causes that led to the crisis, MBA programs should further reinforce their ties with the corporate world so that professors can consult and work closely with companies to develop case studies pertinent to the global meltdown. Also, in light of the current downturn, I see courses like business ethics and risk management becoming more pivotal to the business curriculum. At the event, academics and business speakers agreed that the downturn is part of the business cycle and an upswing will soon follow. Most of the speakers highly valued the power of networking and advised students to network with a focus and purpose in mind. Some speakers noted that those MBA graduates who are willing to work outside of their comfort zone, that is, work in a different function or industry or geographic region, will open up more doors for themselves. In addition, most speakers saw the future of small and medium enterprises in Canada to be very bright and urged students to consider entrepreneurship as an option. The event brought into perspective the endless opportunities available to MBA students. Business students with connections to emerging India understand the cultural and business issues associated with both Eastern and Western worlds and therefore are well poised to benefit from globalization. Center Stage 2009 reconfirmed my belief that although there may be a slight shift in perspectives, the MBA degree is still as relevant, if not more, in today’s economic climate. MBAs will have to remain patient and optimistic — as they were during previous economic downturns. Anand Bhalla is an MBA and CMA student at the Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.


STUDENT-SPEAK

An experience to cherish

I

t was a great experience to be at Center Stage, the India Abroadsponsored symposium in Toronto. The key experiences I personally got was the opportunity to network with other Indian MBAs and listen to successful entrepreneurs from the community. One of the messages which came out strongly was the emphasis on going where the money is. The phrase was explained as going where the money is to be made, and not necessarily going where the money has already been made. I personally interpreted the phrase as going where the opportunity is. As was mentioned by one of the speakers, the world is our oyster and the future professionals will be global citizens. Having adopted Canadian citizenship after immigrating from India seven years ago, this comment resonated with my beliefs. I felt the need to remain mobile in pursuit of success. The other message which stands out in my memory is the view of Aditya Jha. I was impressed with his life-story and his philanthropic philosophies. I was impressed to see the amount of work he is doing through the POA foundation, which is funded by him. He has truly demonstrated his commitment to his beliefs. I heard similar overtones from our Dean Ginny Dybenko, when she emphasized on entrepreneurship and ‘inter-preneurship’ and the idea of business schools to look beyond business objectives and look at social objectives. Wilfrid Laurier University is renowned for strong student focus and a deep sense of community. Her views resonated with the vision of the university. I feel that the social objectives should be in the portfolio of every manager since they indirectly impact the business objectives in the long run. In fact, with the advances of technology and networking of society, the influences now have a more direct and a quicker impact on the

ASHWANI NANDRAJOG

SOCIAL OBJECTIVES SHOULD BE IN THE PORTFOLIO OF EVERY MANAGER SINCE THEY INDIRECTLY IMPACT THE BUSINESS OBJECTIVES IN THE LONG RUN... I FELT AMBITIOUS AFTER ATTENDING THE EVENT 31 India Abroad June 2009

business. Overall, I felt ambitious after attending the event and enjoyed the experience. I suggest that the network of the South Asian community which was initiated should continue to come together and host more events like this. We could continue to remain in touch with the participants and build a forum where more students could join and benefit from the collective learning. Ashwani Nandrajog is an MBA student at the Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario.


STUDENT-SPEAK

The lure has declined, not the value

I

decided to take up an MBA degree a year ago, to gain insight into business management skills. After doing my bachelors in engineering, I worked in the information technology industry for over three years. My work experience gave me good IT technical and product knowledge. It was a very exciting and rewarding experience. At that stage in my career, I wanted to move to the management position within the IT services industry and in the next 10 years, I wanted to see myself in an executive role making key decisions for the company. I did not see myself developing the required skills and perspective for such a career progression without a business education. More than a year into my MBA program, I have gained presentation- and decision-making skills. I could not have gained these skills necessary for my career progression otherwise. The current economical crisis is a difficult time for everyone. The job market is dull and depressing and finding employment is very challenging. Many of the companies have frozen recruitments and those recruiting have reduced the number significantly. With increased employee layoffs, fresh MBA graduates have to compete with many experienced professionals who have lost their jobs. With the reduced job prospects and difficulty in getting loans, the number of admissions for MBA programs has come down. So, the lure of MBA has declined. But MBA still is a valued qualification. There could be a shortterm decrease in MBA prospects but when long-term career development is considered, an MBA degree will still add value. It empowers the individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary for the business world, especially for those who are not from a business background. Business schools can see the current

UMA DOMA

A CLEAR DISTINCTION NEEDS TO BE MADE BETWEEN LEGAL AND ETHICAL DECISIONS. ALL THAT IS LEGAL NEED NOT BE ETHICAL situation as an opportunity to better prepare future MBAs to face such economic crises. The MBA curriculum can focus more on the financial risk management concepts in a global perspective. This

32 India Abroad June 2009

will help future financial professionals to understand the decisions leading to such economic crises and avoid making such decisions. Also, there is a need to focus more on business ethics in the curriculum. Students should be able to understand and apply ethics once they are in the real world. A clear distinction needs to be made between legal and ethical decisions. All that is legal need not be ethical. This will encourage the students to reconsider the ethical questions involved in financial sales and understand the fact that it is important to be socially responsible while keeping shareholders’ interest as the focus. MBA students graduating this year can’t wait for things to get better. For many MBAs, internship might not lead to a full-time job. Students will have to change their approach. It is necessary to broaden the horizon and reevaluate the job and industry preferences. Until now the finance sector, especially investment banking, has been the top preference for MBAs. But currently there are fewer opportunities in the financial sector. Therefore, students will have to consider other specializations like consulting, human resources, IT analysts, etc. It is necessary to remember that the employers are looking for more than just a qualification. Therefore, extra effort may have to be made to distinguish oneself from others. Amidst this crisis I still have the same enthusiasm in pursuing my MBA. The refined approach and constant and determined efforts for the job search will definitely help me sail through the tough economic time. I believe that the solid business fundamentals gained from the program coupled with my industrial experience will help me achieve my long-term career goals. Uma Doma is an MBA student at the John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Montreal.


STUDENT-SPEAK Schulich School students, from left: Rishikesh Misra, Abhishek Bhasin, Bharath Narayana Reddy, Gaurang Deshmane, Mugunathan Ganesan, Vikram Kumar, Sanju Jain and Manas Bhatia

The real MBA lessons

M

any have often questioned the value of an MBA education and the contributions from its students to the society. The high cost of the education and the perceived high returns for its students have been key reasons for this criticism. Critics argue that business administration — with the exception of a few quantitative and statistics courses — can be learnt from practice and that such costs and return do not justify an MBA program. As students of the program at a prestigious school like the Schulich School of Business, we strongly believe that the MBA program prepares students and equips them with tools to face the challenges of the business environment. An MBA is a valuable education with a lot of extrinsic value, unlike engineering and medical degrees that impart hard skills and possess intrinsic value. South Asian students at the Schulich School of Business come from a variety of backgrounds — information technology professionals, electrical engineers, sales and marketing professionals, and have work experiences ranging from two to 20 years. All these different individuals made a decision to leave their progressive careers to pursue an MBA program based on their strong belief in the value additions that the program will bring. The value from the program is in terms of increase in compensation, opportunity to change careers, and general personality development and growth required for business management. The big picture education of various aspects of business administration broadens the perception of students and enables them

MUGUNATHAN GANESAN AND ABHISHEK BHASIN

to take informed decisions making them better managers and future leaders. While we do agree that not all successful business leaders are MBA graduates, we also believe that most of us do not have natural, gifted business acumen and we require a formal business education. However, we do want students to think of the MBA program as another full-fledged education and look at the long-term benefits from the program rather than immediate financial returns. Such a change in perception will enable students to gain more from the education and reduce disappointments from lack of enough highpaying employment opportunities. The current global economic downturn, triggered by the subprime crisis in the United States, is one that is the gravest seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Jobs are being lost at an alarming rate and signs of recovery are mere rumors with the bottom yet to be seen. MBA students graduating this year and even students in the first year of their program are finding it difficult to find jobs and internships that suit their interests. Despite this, as students of the MBA program who understand the nature of the business cycle, we must realize that this recession like its predecessors is an opportunity for newer skills and jobs. It is important for students to recognize this and look at various skills to be developed in order to position themselves well in the post-recession economy. Some of the areas that we believe are key to the current economy and post this period are risk manage-

33 India Abroad June 2009

ment, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and Marketing 2.0, to name a few. If there is one development that will emerge even stronger coming out of this recession, it is the phenomenon of globalization. The future business world requires global leaders who can plan and run their businesses across the world, understand and work with different cultures, and build global business powerhouses. An MBA program with a strong international focus and having students from various countries is undoubtedly the best playground to practice and develop global business management skills. Furthermore, students from South Asia pursing their MBA program in North America and elsewhere have the potential to be the most sought-after talent in the coming years. With increasing opportunities in the emerging economies of our home countries, we are looking at prospective careers in the future and the current recession is only a short blip in the radar. It is important to recognize this, reset out targets and plans, accept opportunities that are closer to our interests, and work towards the larger goal of becoming a global business leader in the future. If not for an MBA program, we would not have been able to recognize these opportunities and grab them. Mugunathan Ganesan and Abhishek Bhasin are students at the Schulich School of Business, York University.


Thoughts to ponder I ndia Abroad published a special on business schools in Canada in March 2006. A number of academics shared their views on the value of an MBA, many of them calling the business degree ‘a path to success’. Some of what they said is still relevant. Professor Harjeet Bhabra, John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Montreal. “The first question that pops into the mind of every prospective student who is considering an MBA is very often, ‘What is the value of an MBA to me?’ The answer to this simple question is, however, not so simple. The answer varies and

depends on who’s asking this question – the aspirant student or the employer. I have been asked a very similar question many a times. I have always responded by saying that the value of an MBA to any aspiring student depends on the value each one of us assigns to it. Better opportunities for career advancement, enhanced reputation, flexibility and autonomy in career choices, better financial rewards and the ability to do challenging, innovative and interesting work. The answer could be any one or a combination of these.” Despite recent criticisms, a business degree today offers as much, if not more, value as it did a generation ago. The value that each person derives from the MBA is very individualistic.”

Management, University of Toronto. “Is it worthwhile getting an MBA? What do MBA programs have to do to overcome the barriers and the criticisms? What does an MBA teach and what should it teach? The MBA world is still struggling to define itself along these challenges. In an effort to be different, some schools tried to gain more depth and expertise in certain functional areas – for example, finance, or marketing — but that has created as new set of concerns. Business education tends to get too soiled and we are producing too many experts that can do their particular job well, but don’t have a broad understanding of the whole business – the very reason why an MBA degree was born in the first place. Business schools must take a long and hard look at their curriculum and ask what the essence of their experience is. Do they want to simply be providers of textbook knowledge and the MBA passport? Or do they want to accomplish something more meaningful for both their students and for the business and community at large? The more the number of schools that want to do the latter, the brighter is the future of MBA education.” Professor Paul Bates, dean, DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.

Dilip Soman, professor of marketing, Rotman School of

34 India Abroad June 2009

In a business school there’s a strong need for students to have exposure both to academic theory as well as industry experience and the split could be 75 to 25 percent. Industry experience or case studies mean live discussions of the case with someone who has lived through it in a very personal way. My approach as a teacher is to give MBA students analytical tools to really ensure that there’s deep dialogue about the cultural issues, the ethical issues, which they will face as they go into the marketplace. I favor experimental learning becoming a critical part of the learning methods. Professor Vern Jones, dean, Haskayne School of Business, University of Alberta, Calgary.

“An MBA is an excellent degree. There’s no question about it. We at the business school create opportunities for students to experience what they are doing. We deliver some lectures but are more committed to case-based learning, problem solving, experiential learning and simulations. At Haskayne, we have a highly interactive learning environment where business leaders themselves increasingly interact with students throughout their program.”


The Schulich MBA & IMBA LEVERAGE ALL THE OPTIONS. Customize your studies with Schulich’s 18 specializations,

2 campuses, multiple start dates and interchangeable scheduling choices. Integrate classroom learning and hands-on experience during the MBA’s six-month strategic consulting project and work with real clients, real problems and real solutions. FULL-TIME MBA 16 Months ACCELERATED MBA 8 Months MBA ’06 'JOBODJBM&OHJOFFSJOH 4QFDJBMJ[BUJPO

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Tailor your Schulich MBA to personal career needs. Start in January or September. Choose from 18 specializations, including business functions such as Finance and Marketing, as well as innovative options like Real Estate and Infrastructure, and Health Industry Management. Study abroad and gain international perspectives. Leverage the diversity of Schulich’s faculty, students and alumni to build global networks.

TORONTO (CANADA)

PART-TIME MBA Evenings, Days, Alternate Weekends

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SHARON RUSTON

The choice is yours. Start in January, May or September. Study on alternate weekends. Study in the evening downtown at King and Bay, or at York University’s main campus. Switch between part-time and full-time study and finish your degree faster. Use the flexibility of the Schulich part-time MBA to balance priorities.

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TORONTO (CANADA)

IMBA (INTERNATIONAL MBA) 20 Months (including a work term abroad)

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Whether you work in Canada or abroad, you’ll need international expertise to succeed. Specialize in global trading regions. Gain overseas exposure during work and study terms abroad. Make second language skills a competitive advantage. Leverage your Canadian and international interests and experience. The Schulich IMBA is the ideal choice for your global career.

CARACAS (VENEZUELA) Full-Time: MBA, Accelerated MBA, International MBA, MBA/JD, MPA, Master of Finance Part-Time: Evenings, Days, Alternate Weekends

Schulich Leads in Rankings 5IF4DIVMJDI.#"JTSBOLFEJOUIFXPSMEµTUPQUJFSPGCFTUCVTJOFTTTDIPPMTCZ5IF8BMM4USFFU+PVSOBM JOUIF XPSMEJO²5PQ*OUFSOBUJPOBM4DIPPMT³SBOLJOH 5IF&DPOPNJTU°&DPOPNJTU*OUFMMJHFODF6OJU JOUIF XPSME 'PSCFT UICFTUOPO64TDIPPM 5IF"TQFO*OTUJUVUF B64UIJOLUBOL JOUIFXPSMEJO4PDJBMBOE &OWJSPONFOUBM4UFXBSETIJQ BOE&YQBOTJwO JOUIFXPSME JOUIFJSNPTUSFDFOUHMPCBMTVSWFZT5IFZBMTP SBOLUIF4DIVMJDI.#"JO$BOBEB ,FMMPHHµTHMPCBMOFUXPSLPG&YFDVUJWF.#"QSPHSBNT JODMVEJOHUIF,FMMPHH4DIVMJDI&.#" JTSBOLFEJO UIFXPSMECZ5IF8BMM4USFFU+PVSOBMJOJUTJOBVHVSBM&.#"TVSWFZ5IF,FMMPHH4DIVMJDI&.#"JTSBOLFEJOUIF XPSMEBOEJO$BOBEBCZUIF'JOBODJBM5JNFTPG-POEPOJOJUTNPTUSFDFOUHMPCBM&.#"TVSWFZ

Global Reach. Innovative Programs. Diverse Perspectives.

www.schulich.yorku.ca

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