Role of business education in India in creating managers and entrepreneurs

The business education landscape in India needs some soul searching. It is because post liberalisation the market economy has had a greater demand for educational institutions to support a creative class but have they stood up to the challenge is a critical question that requires scrutiny.

At present, we often confuse between business and management education. Management education appears to be broader than business education as tools and techniques employed for management can be utilised in various domains and are not particularly confined to the business domain. Other domains where these can be applied include agriculturehealthcare, education, etc.

Nevertheless, in common parlance management and business education is treated synonymously. A crucial question to ask at this point is what should be the yardsticks of measurement of success of business/ management education?

These days often the underlying question that one looks at before joining a management/ business programme is the Return on Investment ‘ROI’ that one will get post one/ two years of study. Also ‘Opportunity Costs’ are factored in while making the consideration of pursuing business education or continuing in the present job role. While this is appropriate for a substantial number of the salaried class should these be the only yardstick for the success of a management or a business school?

In the Indian context, one can categorise business or management education into three broad categories- The IIM system, public MBA programmes under the university system and the private MBA schools/programmes that range from ISB’s to some ‘Dukaan’ type colleges. All these operate between within the broader society.

But what is it that they offer to students that pass out from these institutions? The primary thing they are supposed to provide is education. What has increasingly been observed is that they are being rated/ thought of in terms of their ability to get students placed. While placement is one of the criteria should it be the only criteria is for broader society to ponder on. Often research and development as well as ability to produce ideas worth scaling up are not given due weight for measurement of success of business schools.

It is where the roots of the business education problems lie. It is because the primary role of a business school is not to produce managers alone, it is also to enable entrepreneurs who can become build businesses. The focus has been on creating employees rather than employers. Often one finds that the best colleges are not lauded for the research capability but in attracting the corporations which pay the highest salaries. One must look at what is being celebrated.

Should we celebrate, the ability to build enterprises or capacity to attract higher salaries is a foundational question we must think through and answer.

The purpose of this piece is not suggesting that managers with higher salaries are not necessary for the economy but what is being suggested is that these should be an equal if not more celebration of the idea of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in the country.

The yardstick for success should not just be the pay package of graduates from an institution but the number of new companies that a business school or management institution produces.

It will help nudge students in the direction of risk-taking and new venture creation which is the cornerstone of a competitive economy. A robust economy requires celebration of both good managers as well as the entrepreneurs that aid in new venture creation.

The government is doing its bit in supporting new venture creation with institutions like MUDRA Bank etc.; the need is for active support from the side of academics, media and society in celebrating risk takers and students wanting to create enterprises. Over the next decade, the future competitiveness of India will be determined by not only good managers but also by entrepreneurs who produce jobs in the economy.

Published with Business Insider on March 18, 2016.

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