A slowdown is actually very good for weeding out the unwanted. It is only during tough times that you realise what you actually need and do not need. In corporate jargon, this is what we call, “consolidation.”
And at these times, today the relevance of having an MBA degree has become a vexing question. To do or not to do – is the BIG question. When things were booming, almost everyone and anyone was doing an MBA. But today, many are actually doing a rethink and trying to assess whether the degree really helps.
When we questioned a few of these B-schoolers about what the MBA gave them, most agreed that the degree helps them get a head start, they are hired at a better pay grade and designation. So like a wild card entry into these reality shows, the MBA does give one a leg-up but after that you are pretty much judged alongside the non-MBA’s – ultimately it is you’re the skills on-the-job, innate presence of mind and leadership abilities that will guide and help climb the ladder. So most agree that an MBA is a good tool to get a job, depending on where you did the MBA from but it does not automatically make you into a path breaking CEO. Thus an MBA from an elite school is a sure shot way to get you a job but does not guarantee a rise to the top as a CEO.
Today the stock market shows us the exactly the same thing – Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries hit a historic high and market cap is close to hitting a market cap of Rs.10 lakh crore. He dropped out of Stanford after the first year. On the other hand, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Capital has been hitting the lower circuits consistently and his debt problems are known to the world. He is a Wharton MBA. It neither means that non-MBAs do better nor does it mean that an MBA is a waste; this story of the Ambani brothers could be just an isolated case.
A study by Mint showed that 322 companies of the BSE 500 companies have CEOs who are not MBAs and it is evident that a B-school background may not be necessary to rise to the top, even in the case of professional managers. But the study does show that some 144 CEOs do have an MBA
Prior to that in 2012, INSEAD, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) and Business Today magazine conducted a very detailed study and found that 40% of India’s top CEOs have an MBA degree. Or in other words, 60% do not.
AM Naik of L&T, the late-Deveshwar of ITC, Sunil Bharti, R Sridhar of Shriram Transport, Pankaj Patel of Cadilla amongst many others did not have an MBA degree but the way they steered their company ahead is proof.
The study did conclude though that a group of young CEOs, some from the top Indian business schools, are delivering shareholder value in an economy where it is a challenge to sustain competitive advantage. Executives have had to step up to innovate, grow and stay ahead of the competition and a number of these high-quality CEOs are able to perform extraordinarily well in any type of private enterprise firms linked to Indian business houses or to foreign multinationals.
Our conclusion? An MBA is not exactly a must – there is no teacher better than experience. The top rates B-schools will get a job for sure but becoming a CEO, that’s completely on your talents and abilities.