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business education MBA, GMAC MBA admissions, Indian economy

Symonds GSB goes to India

I used to find it hard enough to pack for a week on the road, let alone several months on a world tour. The fine for overweight baggage could settle the British Airways current account deficit, so every shirt, every pair of socks has to justify its inclusion. Though can you ever pack too many socks?

But if I want to cover business education and the MBA from an isolated corner of India I’m going to need the extra battery pack, the plug adaptor, the endless cords, cables and data keys that will hopefully keep me in touch.

Ladies and gentleman, we will shortly be arriving in Mumbai. Reassuring tarmac, the blast of heat as we step off the plane, the thump of a customs stamp, and then the anxious wait at the baggage carrousel for our bags. Why did I choose a black suitcase? That’s the fourth bag I’ve reached for and returned.

Memories of Delhi in ’04, arriving in the small hours with World MBA Tour schools and teammates. Me drawing the short straw to return to the airport for the forgotten video projector, and sharing the 4am cab ride with wrestlers from the WWF. “The Rock will take you down Know Your Role Boulevard …” An Indian taxi never felt more cramped.

Checking in to the hotel, the Gateway of India is no longer a farewell to British Raj but an entrance to Indian GDP and site for the Ganesha festival. Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, widely worshipped as the supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. What a b-school admissions officer might call a ‘Clear Admit’.

So how is this SymondsGSB b-school coverage going to work? The answer may lie in the complimentary copy of India Today on the coffee table. This week’s edition features “The best Business Schools”. A 30-page report looks at everything from student expectations to entrance exams, the inescapable school ranking and a look at what the future holds for the MBA.

First reality check as I thumb through the pages… the content is entirely devoted to Indian B-schools. In a fascinating report put together by Shruti Maheshwari and her colleagues there is not a trace of an HBS, an ESADE or an HEC. With a reported figure of over 2,000 B-Schools in the country, here is a buoyant market that can barely keep up with demand.

Comparisons with North American and European B-schools are inevitable. MBA Programme Directors consider major curriculum reform to make the MBA more globalised, practical, shorter and specialized. A new generation of managers demand better growth prospects, international networks and robust salary packages. So far, so similar.

But it is the challenge of diversity that jumps from the page, and where hard earned lessons from admissions offices on both sides of the Atlantic may be shared.

The Indian Institutes of Management have long been recognized as the home of the country’s intellectual elite. Their entrance exams such as the CAT and the XAT may mirror the verbal and analytical components of the GMAT, but many feel that they place far greater emphasis on quantitative skills. Only those with a high score on each section of the test are eligible for the next round of interviews.

As a result, a mere 1% of students at IIM Ahmedabad – the top ranked school for the past five years – have a humanities or social sciences background. This compares to 20 to 40% at top schools in the US and Europe.

And whilst US and European b-schools consider professional experience and personal achievement when selecting candidates, most Indian B-Schools do not. Only the Indian School of Business follows the Western trend, though 56% of their Class of ’09 were engineers.

The other imbalance that remains a struggle for schools around the world is the lack of women pursuing an MBA. In India however the gender ratio seems to be an even greater problem, with many schools reporting fewer than 10% women in their programmes. A lack of role models, inherent industry bias, financial risk adversity and social pressure on women to raise families are common to the ideas pronounced in the landmark research study, “Women and the MBA: Gateway to Opportunity” that gave rise to the Forté Foundation in 2001. Forté has since tried to do something about the imbalance. Is it time for an Indian equivalent to emerge?

At the heart of these challenges lies the reward for any good business school  – a diverse classroom of talent, many of them team leaders and effective communicators, strong on soft skills and able to work across cultures.

These will be the MBA graduates to deliver on India’s economic potential, and ensure their place as a global success. I look forward to watching their progress from close up.



Did US and European business schools face the same diversity challenges over 10 years ago?

What have been the most effective ways of achieving diversity?


For editors and journalists, feel free to contact us about this topic and other ideas that appear on the Facebook MBA group or the SymondsGSB blog.


Click here to comment or reply by email to matt[at]symondsGSB.com.


About symondsgsb

Matt is chief editor of MBA50.com, a website dedicated to the world's outstanding business schools. He is an internationally recognised business and graduate school expert, consulting to the world’s top business schools, and has written for many of the world’s leading publications including : Forbes, The Economist, BusinessWeek, BBC, Newsweek, CNBC, America Economia, Washington Post, The Independent, Boston Globe, Handelsblatt, 21st Century Herald, South China Morning Post, Vedomosti, San Francisco Chronicle, Expansion, Beijing Daily. Matt was Co-Founder of the QS World MBA Tour Matt is co-author of Getting the M.B.A. Admissions Edge, a B-school admissions bestseller sponsored by Goldman Sachs and McKinsey. His new individual school guides will be available in the fall.


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