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The Future of the MBA in India Post-COVID

The decision to pursue an MBA is never an easy one. There is a significant outlay required to cover the costs of the programme. On top of that, the time spent in an MBA means time spent away from employment, which translates to foregone income and other investments. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has only further fuelled the uncertainty. The economic downturn has forced companies to reassess their hiring plans while the business schools have had to restructure how they deliver the MBA experience due to lockdowns and other restrictions. Its natural to wonder if an MBA is worth it still and what the future of MBA in India holds for students.

But despite all this, the benefits of doing an MBA continue to outweigh the potential drawbacks. Some would even argue that given the current situation with the pandemic, an MBA could be a smart choice right now. Let's discuss a few reasons why an MBA in India remains a safe bet.

The opportunity cost of not working is lower right now

Whether you're a fresh graduate pondering over accepting that job offer or a working professional expecting some growth within your organization, the fact is that the current climate is not at all conducive to lucrative opportunities. Amid major operational disruptions and a bleak economic outlook for the near future, most companies are reducing costs by laying off employees, cutting salaries and bonuses, and halting raises and promotions. For individuals searching for a new opportunity, the challenges of finding any job currently are immense, let alone finding the one that you like.

With such a scenario, there has never been a better time to come out of the job market and invest in learning and upskilling yourself, without having to worry too much about the money not earned or professional growth opportunities missed. Data seems to back this, as the Application Trends Survey 2020 from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found that 67 percent of more than 1,000 business schools globally saw a relative increase in application volumes in 2020 as compared to 2019 when only 41 percent saw such growth. In fact, 39 percent of the schools saw a significant increase of 21 percent or more in the number of MBA applications.

There will be opportunities abound when you graduate

Starting your MBA in the next couple of years will likely mean that by the end of the 12 to 24-month programme (depending on your business school), you will be graduating into a very healthy economy and a strong job market, with the majority of the pandemic surely in the rear-view mirror. Every economic recession is followed by a boom wherein existing companies scale up while new companies are formed to meet rising consumer demand. This was witnessed in the last major global recession, the 2008 financial crisis, and it should be no different this time around. Especially in a country like India, which was already on a strong growth trajectory before the pandemic hit and will bounce back even harder when it ends.

Looking at some empirical data, a study by Bloomberg on 126 business schools across the globe found that almost everyone from the MBA classes of 2010, 2011 and 2012 - the years right after the recession - found work upon graduation. A recent GMAC survey of top recruiting companies found that although the proportion of recruiters planning to hire MBA graduates fell from 92 percent pre-pandemic to 77 percent in the middle of 2020, it is projected to grow to 89 percent in 2021, a figure higher than even 2019. It would be fair to assume that hiring trends will continue to become better beyond 2021. 

Companies will seek the best talent to drive their post-recession growth and MBA graduates, with their wide range of skills, will continue to be a major attraction, making the future of MBA in India highly secure.

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MBA programmes will continue to develop future-ready managers

Business schools are known for helping MBA students transform into highly effective managers by the virtue of cross-functional academic and practical learning as well as overall personality development. But with COVID-19 causing the most significant disruption to businesses in recent times, you may question why an MBA still makes sense and what role it can play in equipping you with the necessary skills for a post-pandemic world.

At this stage, everyone has seen enough of the pandemic in the last year to have a sufficient understanding of how it impacts various industries and business functions. The topic has inevitably found its way into the MBA curriculum with courses covering different segments of a business, from human resources to manufacturing, now encouraging lectures and discussions on transformation brought upon by COVID-19 and how it impacts future strategy. Indian business schools had already been incorporating data, technology, and innovation in their curriculum for the past few years, a trend that has been accelerated further due to the digital disruption seen during the pandemic. The kind of comprehensive and relevant learning an MBA classroom will provide on such topics is probably unmatched. 

Business schools are also laying greater emphasis on topics of crisis management and change management, with the impact of COVID-19 acting as the perfect case study. The focus is on teaching students what leadership means during a disruption, be it a pandemic or technological revolution, and how managers can not only deal with change and guide their company through it but also foresee change and realign their business strategy accordingly. MBA programmes are using a combination of classroom lectures, live projects, simulations, and sessions with leading industry executives to achieve this goal. 

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The MBA also offers students a chance to develop their soft skills such as their ability to communicate effectively, think critically and creatively, and collaborate, all of which are becoming increasingly important traits as businesses and industries undergo continuous change. 

According to GMAC's Corporate Recruiters Survey 2020, the top three skills that will see higher demand in the next five years are managing strategy and innovation, managing tools and technology, and interpersonal skills. It's not hard to see how MBA graduates completely fit the bill. This is also reflected in the survey, with the recruiters selecting the top three reasons for having confidence in a business school's ability to prepare graduates for success post-COVID as - 'they are strategic thinkers', 'they have strong communication skills', and 'they have a versatile skill set'. These results clearly show recruiters’ penchant for MBA graduates and further justify why an MBA is worth it.

The future of MBA in India looks bright

The National Education Policy (NEP) announced in 2020 will have a major impact on business schools. The policy aims to liberalise the Indian education sector and invite 100 top universities from across the world to set up campuses in the country. This move will enhance MBA education by introducing some healthy competition between institutions, attracting some of the best international faculty to India, promoting the adoption of leading academic practices and learning tools, encouraging infrastructure development, and establishing better governance through a single, central regulatory authority. 

Business schools in India will have greater autonomy in developing their academic experiences, and the focus will be on providing more practical and skill-based learning to students, thereby ensuring that MBA graduates are properly equipped to thrive upon joining the industry.

Are you ready to elevate your career with an MBA? Check out our best advice for managing the MBA application process for India’s top business schools.

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