Faculty management is slated to remain a challenge as more stress on quality could expose the fragile baseline of many institutes. There could also be some serious tweaking in the accreditation and rating regime. Also, the Indian MBA education system could be further integrated with the global mainstream by way of foreign universities coming to India and their Indian counterparts reaching out to the other parts of the world (See box – Two-way Street).
But amidst all these, the fee structure is going to move northwards as the financial self-sustainability mantra will force trendsetters of the Indian management studies regime to take this route and the private ones will follow suit. The bottom-line is: the ecosystem for preparing next gen future managers is not going to remain the same in the coming years.
Closures due to Covid have undoubtedly been a major disruptive point for the education sector across the board in recent times: this includes higher education in all its forms, including management studies or MBAs. Stakeholders stress that prior to the pandemic, the sector and its leading players had a long list of transformative measures to be adopted for the long run considering the changing business environment and inevitable structural and regulatory issues (eg, government had asked the IIMs to eventually become self-sustainable).
The emergence of a digital eco-system (quintessentially an ongoing process) has had a sweeping impact across all business verticals and this has ushered in changes at such a rapid pace that it has caught many unawares.
The unexpected Corona disruption which had brought this process of transformation in the B-school sphere to a screeching halt for a brief spell is now forcing stakeholders to expedite their moves with fresh vigour as the campus life is back. The added benefit is: Corona has taught the world the benefits of adopting online modules and blended learning which are expected to be utilised more efficiently even in regular times.
But before examining the new and emerging dimensions of the MBA regime, here is a quick look at the existing equations – both quantitative and qualitative. In sheer numerical terms, India is a hotbed of management institutes with a base of one-sixth of the total institutes globally. “There are about 18,000 B-schools in the world. India has around 3,000 of them. So, it’s quite expansive and the universe has significantly expanded especially after the reforms in 1991 which led to relaxed norms in the opening of new institutes in the subsequent decades,” says H Chaturvedi, Director of Greater Noida based Birla Institute of Management and Technology or BIMTECH.
On a cumulative basis, these institutes broadly have an annual capacity of 3,00,000 students. However, lack of quality remains a major bane for the majority of the institutes and those who are not part of the top 500 list are believed to be sending talent into the market with serious employability issues.
For the delivery of quality future managers with the right skillsets, the eco-system remains confined to about 20 IIMs across the country and a bunch of top-tier private institutes. Most of the private B-schools opt for NAAC accreditation for a better brand image.
Moreover, the top business schools in the past ten years have enhanced their activities and apart from the mainstay residential campus programme, they have also doled out dual degrees in partnership with foreign universities, significantly enhanced their part time executive programme portfolios and have also begun providing consultancy services to the government or other agencies.
Those who figure in the premier layer of the MBA education edifice in the country now command a premium charge. “The overall fee structure of IIMs is already very expensive. Depending on where they are ranked and what salaries the students get, the fee structure ranges from Rs11-12 lakh at the lower end to R28 lakh at the upper end,” points out Dr Ajit Parulekar, Director of Goa Institute of Management (GIM).
The fee structure for regular campus programme of some of the top private institutes is also not too far behind and is in the range of Rs22-25 lakh. The gap in gender disparity is also being bridged. “10-15 years ago the ratio of females to male students in a typical top-notch business school was not more than 15-20 per cent. Now, in some places, it is as high as 40 per cent,” observes a senior faculty member of a leading private management school.
Back to normal
The difference between the leaders and the laggards of B-schools in the country became more apparent when the institutes had to quickly resort to online classes and then blended learning during different phases of Corona before returning to normal campus conditions. With their integral ‘staying ahead of the curve’ attitude, the leaders had faced the unprecedented crisis quite efficiently.
“At IIM Bangalore, we were able to do it quite fast partly because we had already invested a lot in online education thanks to our MOOCs platform, and so for the last six years the IIM-B faculty has already been engaged with online. In fact, our preparation started more than a decade ago when IIM-B was the pioneer in offering a degree programme, over weekends, for the software industry simultaneously in Bangalore and Chennai, with two-way video and audio using ISRO satellite technology, much before streaming video became commonplace,” says Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director, IIM Bangalore.
The institute had joined the Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in Business and Management in India way back in 2014 and today offers close to 60 management courses on the edX and Swayam platforms.
The campuses of the top-notch schools are now back to their regular routines which is a matter of relief for everyone. “We have more or less gone to the physical mode of delivery as students find core value in it, especially for our full-time residential programmes,” says Dr Renuka Kamath, Associate Dean at SPJIMR.
Going by the buzz within the sector, institutes that have well established and renowned campus facilities are now relying on offline deliverables 90 per cent of the time. However, heavy adoption of online modalities has taught the leaders what the best utility proposition in regular times is, and they seem to be capitalising on it.
“As a premier education institute IIM Udaipur continues to use hybrid classroom facilities to enhance its education and interfaces. For example, we can engage with guest faculty and industry speakers from across the world even during a live session, which was unthinkable in pre-Covid times,” says Ashok Banerjee, Director, IIM Udaipur.
We have five executive programmes running and they have nearly 2,000 students. As against this, we have a capacity of 250 students in our regular campus programmes
Bhimaraya Metri, Director, IIM Nagpur
XLRI director Fr S George has the same view. “At XLRI, we are adapting to blended learning ie consolidating the best of both traditional and digital learning methods of education. We believe that classroom learning is important in the overall development and discipline of a student’s life but online learning also helps them to customise their education curriculum as per industry requirements.”
The main winners out of the Covid closure for higher education were clearly online platforms which joined hands with leading institutes across the board to provide online courses. With the Corona threat out of the way, top-notch institutes have of course, gone back to focus more on their campus courses. But for leading platforms like Coursera and upGrad, students continue to enroll with them for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, not everyone can make it to an IIT or an IIM or afford the campus life of a top-rung institute (online courses are offered at one-fourth or even less of the campus-based physical courses). Secondly, for those living in far-flung areas, online education is a more convenient tool. And thirdly, big institutes are well aware that a large market awaits them from out of campus mode and they have begun capitalising on this, in association with leading platforms.
“The association between leading B-schools and online platforms can be seen as Harvard and Netflix coming together,” Debashis Chatterjee, Director, IIM-Kozhikode presents an interesting perspective.
“As automation transforms industries, business professionals will need a unique mix of digital and human skills to succeed. The new-age management programs must be designed to prepare them for in-demand digital jobs, collaborative remote experiences and to navigate business model disruption amidst uncertainty,” says Raghav Gupta, Managing Director, India and APAC, Coursera.
“To groom the next generation of leaders, top B-schools in the country are reimagining their curriculum and pedagogy. Institutions like NMIMS, Symbiosis International University and International Management Institute Delhi are leveraging the Coursera for Campus platform to impart a variety of digital skills, supplementing their foundational management education. We’re also seeing great traction for industry-aligned, fully online management programs from partners like OP Jindal Global University, Indian School of Business, IIT Roorkee,” he adds.
Prestigious institutes like IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Calcutta, IIM Kozhikode, IIM Indore, Indian School of Business, Ashoka University and OP Jindal Global University are also offering fully online degrees, courses and certificate programs on the Coursera platform. IIM Calcutta, for example, is offering certificates in Management Science and Supply Chain Analytics. IIM Kozhikode is offering five courses: Business Management, Strategic Management, Marketing Strategy, Product Management, and Data-Driven Decision Making.
upGrad is another major player in the space and according to Arjun Mohan, CEO - India, the platform has made swift moves to become a favourite with MBA aspirants. He says: “Our online higher education portfolio has crossed 25,000 active learners in the short period of two years which means we have close to 0.3 per cent impact on the number of people enrolled for university degrees in India (137 million eligible and 37 million enrolled form 27 per cent GER. 25,000 will be 0.07 per cent of 37 million or 0.28 per cent of first-year students since all our students are in year 1). Such developments are a testament to the efficient and accessible MBA curriculum we’ve created in partnership with top Indian and global universities.”
IIM-B was the pioneer in offering a degree programme, over weekends, for the software industry simultaneously in Bangalore and Chennai, with two-way video and audio using ISRO satellite technology, much before streaming video became commonplace
Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director, IIM Bangalore
According to him, the robust MBA portfolio is based on critical elements like Flexible learning, Higher career ROI, Global accreditation, Global Alumni status, Affordable and accessible learning, and No loss of opportunity cost designed in partnership with top Indian and International B-schools/universities. “We are committed to offering an outcome-focused pedagogy; therefore, our programs are not limited to recorded lectures but include 1:1 mentorship with academicians and industry leaders, doubt resolution sessions, 24x7 student support, case studies and capstone projects, simulation-based learning, Bootcamps, Dual credentials for select programs and top specialisation, and dedicated career support to enhance the skill competencies and facilitate the desired career output.”
In the near future, there are a slew of factors which will begin to play a more prominent role. For instance, online tools will become even more prominent. Online MBAs have tremendous potential, especially in making quality education accessible to many more people. This will not only help the individuals involved but also India as a country. The increasing penetration of smartphones and the fact that they are getting cheaper will definitely drive this change.
“It may take some time to become a robust parallel alternative for students, as even the industry needs to accept an online MBA as equal to an in-person one,” adds Kamath. Arjun Mohan of upGrad believes the decks have been cleared for the gradual mainstreaming of online courses. “The recent notification by UGC to consider online degrees on par with a traditional offline degree has also resulted in a wider acceptance of online MBAs. This has brought a greater emphasis on the role of edtech as the technology, content, and outreach partner of the universities. This is evident with some of the renowned universities like IIM Kozhikode, NMIMS WX, Amity University, and Manipal University Jaipur launching their online programs to make management studies more accessible and flexible,” he points out.
Meanwhile, with the government practically moving out of the aid granting mode with IIMs (including the new ones) sector leaders feel the fee structure will be on a continuous spiral mode. For clarity’s sake, there are 20 IIMs in the country and as premier institutes their footprint has expanded to include noted tier-2 locations as well. In the front row of the IIM hierarchy are the older units –
IIM-A, IIM-C (established in 1961), IIM-B (1973), IIM-Lucknow (1984), IIM-Indore (1996) and IIM-Kozhikode (1997). The second generation, set up about a decade ago, comprise seven units: Shillong (2008-09), Rohtak, Raipur, Ranchi, Trichy (functioning since 2010-11), Udaipur and Kashipur (2011-12). In 2015-16, six more units joined the IIM structure – Amritsar (Punjab), Bodh Gaya (Bihar), Nagpur (Maharashtra), Sambalpur (Odisha), Sirmaur (Himachal Pradesh) and Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh). Later, a unit was also allowed in Jammu.
“The IIMs are now expected to fend for themselves financially and the control on the fee structure of the past will not be possible. There are already reports of two IIMs facing a serious debt situation,” says an industry veteran. Another serious argument backing the projections for consistent fee hikes in the coming years is the trend of more Indian students going abroad for higher studies, including management and paying at least four times what they would have had to fork out for a similar offline degree in India.
“This proves that the paying capacity to pursue higher education and bag prestigious degrees has significantly improved and therefore, IIMs and top private institutes will continue to remain a draw,” he adds.
India has around 3,000 B-Schools. It’s quite expansive and the universe has significantly expanded especially after the reforms in 1991 which led to relaxed norms in the opening of new institutes in the subsequent decades
H Chaturvedi, Director, Birla Institute of Management & Technology
But it’s not only the fee structure that is going to come to the aid of top-tier MBA schools in maintaining the brand equity and upping the ante for value delivery as the flag bearers of management studies. New avenues are opening for them via consultancy, research and dedicated corporate training services. IIM Ahmedabad, for example, has recently undertaken projects relating to Front of Package Labelling report for GoI, and for the regulatory scaffolding at the International Financial Services Centre Authority.
According to Professor Arvind Sahay, a senior faculty member, there are ongoing projects with corporates on marketing strategy, pricing, human resource management, wealth management, digital transformation, value creation in relationship management, etc. An important reason for the increasing engagement of academia with practitioners is that academia is finally creating the institutional mechanisms within themselves to engage with industry.
Sahay argues that there are centres of entrepreneurships at many institutions that provide facilities for incubation, for providing support on licensing activities and for helping with fund-raising.
It has been contended that, given the government’s long association with IIMs in the past and their existing brand value, they are bagging prestigious projects outside of their traditional domain of management education. “The institute has received a grant of Rs19.95 crore from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India, to establish a Centre of Excellence that focuses on solving WASH – Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene problems in the nation,” says IIM Indore director Professor Himanshu Rai. According to an industry observer, institutes like IMD Business School in the US earn 90 per cent of their revenue through consultancy services, which shows the immense opportunity of this vertical.
The top B-schools are also looking to significantly expand their executive part-time portfolios as the economy bounces back post Corona. Here is an example. Bangalore based Vaibhav Singh (35) who worked with Alstom two years ago, signed up for an executive programme at IIM Kozhikode. “I wanted to improve my profile where my primary degree was: Bachelor of Engineering from a college in Gwalior. Early this year, I moved to Siemens Technology and I have no doubt in my mind that the executive MBA course degree helped me in this crucial career move,” he underlines.
“We have five executive programmes running and they have nearly 2,000 students. As against this, we have a capacity of 250 students in our regular campus programmes. And these executive programmes are contributing to 30 per cent of our revenue,” says Dr Metri of IIM Nagpur.
Offering dual degrees in association with other noted global institutes is another critical area where more action will be unfolding in the near to medium run. “Dual degrees provide a more immersive experience both academically and culturally. They allow students to study in another academic context that is equally rigorous but different, at the same time. To achieve this, both institutes undertake detailed due diligence to maintain parity in academics, extracurricular activities, opportunities, placements, etc to ensure that students from partner institutes can make the most of their time regardless of which campus they are on,” emphasises Errol D’Souza, Director, IIM Ahmedabad.
We have more or less gone to the physical mode of delivery as students find core value in it, especially for our full-time residential programmes
Renuka Kamath, Associate Dean, SPJIMR
“Students who opt for dual degrees possess great interdisciplinary knowledge and great adaptive skills. They are Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA),” asserts XLRI Director Fr S George. The institute had earlier launched a Double Masters Programme – PGDM (Logistics & Supply Chain Management) from XLRI, Jamshedpur & MS in Supply Chain Analytics from Rutgers Business School, US.
Under this collaboration, XLRI Jamshedpur & Rutgers Business School will offer students an opportunity for educational programs and to gain industry exposure. On successful completion of the required courses and other formalities as stipulated by the respective institutions, the students will be awarded PGDM in LSCM from XLRI Jamshedpur and MS in SCA from RBS, US.
Probably a more important trend would be the marked emphasis in improving research, which is often described as not at par with the best in the world and the reason why Indian B-schools often fail to make it to the top 25 or 50 list of prestigious global rankings undertaken by different agencies.
“There are two things that you need to look out for primarily when it comes to research. One would be the methodology, which is the research design, research method, etc which results in the researcher being able to publish in top journals. The second thing would be the overall contribution to the body of knowledge in those respective domains. That hasn’t been happening. We don’t witness grand theories, new inventions, and products coming from India,” rues Dr Ajit Parulekar of the Goa Institute of Management. “While the overall research culture in India has been improving, we still have a long way to go,” says Professor Vishwanathan Iyer, Senior Associate Professor of Finance and Director of Accreditation (GLIM).
However, observers believe that some institutes are now leaving no stone unturned to sharpen this aspect of their operations which often gets them the good rankings and ratings so critical to continue holding on to a leadership position. According to IIM Udaipur director Professor Ashok Banerjee, student transformation and high-quality research are two critical pillars for the institute. “We focus a lot on quality research by faculty by providing them with a conducive environment for research. This creates subject expertise and, thus, better teaching standards. IIM Udaipur is ranked fourth in India in research as per UT Dallas Research Ranking Methodology – a great feat for a decade-old institution.”
And according to Eroll D’Souza of IIM - Ahmedabad, the premier institute is taking the research drive to a different pedestal. “We have dedicated centres for research in areas such as Data Science and Analytics, Digital Transformation, ESG, etc. Together, with the Centres that were established earlier, IIM-A has about 11 such research centres that play a crucial role in policy advocacy and bringing industry insights into the classroom.”
Upping the ante on quality
For the top-notch B-schools, scale building or expanding portfolios will be a key pursuit and for that they point at a host of initiatives which they have undertaken in the recent past or are ready to set afoot. “The pandemic gave us the opportunity to introduce several electives that would cater to the post Covid business ecosystem.
We don’t witness grand theories, new inventions, and products coming from India
Ajit Parulekar, Director, Goa Institute of Management
Understanding the emerging demands of the industry, we introduced executive programmes such as Healthcare Management in post Covid India, Experiments for Business Decisions and Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Business,” says D’Souza.
“IIM-B has many new courses coming in. For example, we do have a course on gamification. We, of course, have courses which are covering the Metaverse and Web 3.0. These are currently electives, but from this year onwards we’ve also started a new core course on Digital Business in the first year of the MBA program,” says Krishnan of IIM-B. IIM Udaipur, on its part, has recently added capstone simulation and rural immersion as part of the MBA curriculum.
The point is: talk to anybody within IIM circles or in the leading private B-school quarters and everybody seems to be ready with an action plan to further sustain the momentum as the current placement season seems to have delivered better than expected trends across the board. “We are witnessing an increased interest from sectors like manufacturing and logistics, FMCG, insurance, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare, even more than traditionally strong sectors like technology and banking. Consulting is likely to remain at strong levels,” says Himanshu Rai. “80 per cent of our placement has already happened and we expect to touch the 100 per cent mark before December end. Earlier, we used to touch 100 per cent placement mark by February end,” adds Chaturvedi of BIMTECH.
But while placement trends are keeping everybody smiling, a much broader debate has surfaced recently within MBA circles. Will future managers equitably face challenges which will be difficult than what their predecessors had to face?
“Future managers will have a tryst with destiny as they stand at this moment when the world needs leadership to solve the toughest problems our society is facing like income disparity, gender bias, diversity & inclusion, the environmental challenge and extremism which are causing fissures in our society,” points out Tarun Anand, Chairman, Universal Business School. How these concerns will be formally responded to by way of efficient curriculum intervention is something that will be closely monitored, notwithstanding the fact that preliminary moves are clearly visible in the climate change sphere.
IIM Ahmedabad is taking the research drive to a different pedestal
Ever since National Education Policy 2020 was announced, speculation has been rife that top, world-class universities would open their campuses in India. “A legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place, and such universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India,” the policy had promised when it was unveiled.
The rising presence of Indian students in prestigious foreign campuses across different streams of higher education including business management courses is a well-known fact. Observers say many foreign universities believe that a presence in India will give them access to a bigger market which is in a growing mode. With the new policy initiation, the government is targeting achieving a Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of 50 per cent in higher education by 2030.
This had stood at 27 per cent last year. And the private sector has to play a major role in pursuing this target; considering the size of India’s population, this translates into a goldmine of opportunity for every stakeholder. Even for those who cater to the top crust.
The proposition of clearing the decks for the entry of foreign institutes got a major impetus early this year when in her budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced allowing world class foreign universities and institutions to set up campuses in the Gujarat International Finance-Tec (GIFT) city, a defining business district structure coming up in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar.
Last month, the government notified regulations for foreign institutes featuring in the top 500 QS World Universities to set up campus in the GIFT City after giving an undertaking to ‘place suitable infrastructure and facilities’. These institutes would broadly be global education majors in streams like financial management, FinTech and Science, Technology, and Engineering. Prior to this, the UGC had allowed the dual degree provision which points at another way for foreign universities to get access to Indian students in partnership with local institutes.
With the regulations in place, does it mean that in the not-so-distant future, the Indian management studies landscape will boast of local units of premier business institutes like Stanford, Wharton, Harvard, etc? How might this change the dynamics of the Indian MBA regime? “India has a rich talent pool, and our students should have access to the best possible education.
If the presence of foreign universities in India will lead to better opportunities for our students, they are most welcome. I only hope there will be a level playing field for Indian and foreign institutions,” responds Rishikesha T Krishnan, Director, IIM Bangalore. “While NEP can be considered one of the landmark reforms in the Indian higher education foreign policy, considering the liberalisation of the higher education sector and attractive avenues for foreign investment, there will be a spill-over effect of challenges for the existing or domestic market players. With the existence of affordable global universities in India, the challenges of attracting good-quality students will intensify,” adds Himanshu Rai, Director, IIM, Indore.
Premier B-Schools in the country now command a premium charge
“Don’t expect the Whartons and Stanfords of the world to open their campuses in India. As premier global brands, they will not take this route, offering courses at lower pricing points and lose their exclusivity. The proposition of opening campuses in India will not be lucrative for institutes who figure in the top 100 or top 250 global ranking list. It is institutes in the middle rung globally who will give the idea a more serious thought. This is how things are expected to unfold in the next decade,” says a veteran of the education sector who did not wish to be named.
Meanwhile, while different theories are doing the rounds vis-à-vis foreign universities’ entry, a parallel case for the top-notch management institutes from India establishing their base beyond the country’s boundaries is also becoming stronger. This picked up momentum after the union government announced the setting up of an IIT campus in Dubai early this year (as part of a bilateral deal between India and the UAE). With a sizeable Indian diaspora in several global pockets and other emerging economies also giving a similar push to higher education, many believe that the top Indian IITs and IIMs stand a good chance to make a mark outside of India.
Within B-school circles, senior representatives confirm the growing interest in more foreign collaborations and even a physical presence. “We are working on our plan to set up a campus in Singapore in 2025,” says Dr Metri of IIM Nagpur. Other top institutes, including some private ones, also maintain they are looking at options beyond Indian shores in a medium run scenario. Janat Shah, Former Director of IIM, Udaipur, however, believes the offshoring exercise of Indian B-schools is unlikely to happen at a rapid pace.
“The Indian market is too huge and, therefore, I don’t think top institutes will be interested in rushing to foreign locations. Earlier, a larger interest was noticed in setting up a base in a location like Dubai to cater to the diaspora and charge market prices for a 2-year MBA programme. But with financial self-sustainable norms, there is no pricing constraint in the local market,” he points out. Domestic consolidation, therefore, is expected to remain a strong guiding force for the local B-school majors.
The top ten institutes are expected to end the current season with base average salary in the Rs31-34.5 lakh bracket
Robust placement trends
There is a clear sense of elation in the quarters of top rung B-schools with placement trends being quite robust for the outgoing batch at the end of the current season. Most of the leading institutes are not only reporting early closure of their placement drive but also expecting a significant to modest double-digit growth in the salaries offered to their students. The base performance of the last season is expected to be exceeded quite comfortably.
“Even during the intense Covid year, our students got the best placements and the trend of increase continues. Last year’s placement season ended with a 22.8 per cent increase making the average CTC go up to Rs32.05 lakh. The highest CTC received was Rs53.16 lakh. All the companies have taken our students for internship and we expect another good year,” says Dr Renuka Kamath, Associate Dean at Bhavan’s SPJIMR.
Ashok Banerjee of IIM Udaipur says there has been a hefty jump of over 30 in the average CTC offered to its students in 2022 placements. “The institute has had final placements in 2022 with average annual CTC of Rs17.8 lakhs. This is a substantive 32 per cent over 2021. Out of 20 IIMs it puts IIM Udaipur at 8th position, jumping up 5 places from 2021 when we were at 13th position. This has been the highest growth by any IIM and a reflection on the academic strength as well as the industry patronage of the Institute.”
And the critical numbers related with placements are expected to show more robust trends. “The students of our big data analytics programme had received an average salary of Rs12.8 lakh last year which further rose to Rs17.1 lakh this year. I am expecting the closure of seasons to come soon the other programmes as well. Both the highest salary and average salary have experienced an unprecedented boost,” says Dr Ajit Parulekar, Director of Goa Institute of Management (GIM).
As per the market buzz, the top ten institutes are expected to end the current season with base average salary in the Rs31-34.5 lakh bracket. In the last season, it was close to the Rs30 lakh mark. “The ongoing placement this year on the summer internship front has been wonderful. Consulting, Technology and BFSI sector companies have hired the largest number. Contrary to our expectation, we see a large number of pitches coming from MNCs compared to the start-ups,” says Professor Vishwanathan of GLIM while explaining the sectoral push to the placement drive this season.