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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Choosing Electives for MBA

This is the second most important question that any MBA (or PGDM, PGDBM, PGPM, etc... etc.) aspirant would need to have an answer to before starting this eventful journey. Believe me, Destination of this journey would completely depend upon this single very important answer. (Forgive me for not touching upon the first most important question which is - Which B-school to opt for? The same has been discussed innumerable times on various forums.)

The reason I thought I should touch upon this topic is because I myself had this dilemma about choosing the stream of specialization when I started out, and today, when I look back at the kind of raw, half-cooked information I had used to decide my stream, I really pity and feel sorry for myself. There was so much of misconception about the various streams. May be I had not done much of research or didn't have the right kind of network to give me a clear-cut idea, but when I landed at S. P. Jain, I found quite a few others were in the same bandwagon.

So this is for all those aspirants who have decided to do MBA but need some more information to decide upon their stream.

1. Streams have got nothing to do with under-graduation background. Never decide your stream based upon your educational background. One big misconception people have is MBA in Finance suits those with Commerce background. It is not so. Yes, if one has commerce background, it helps in some concepts. But largely, people with Engineering background do equally well if not better.

In fact, most I-banks or consultancy companies prefer people with MBA (Finance) and Engineering background. The reason is that engineering subjects stress more upon logical and analytical thinking and practical approach to solve problems. Also, most of the class toppers in Finance stream (not just my institute but as per my contacts in IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Lucknow) have been engineers. Now it is a separate matter altogether that the proportion of engineers as compared to non-engineers in any batch at a B-school is more.

2. Marketing Management is not about boardroom marketing strategy planning. Yes, please get real. The career for a Marketing Management graduate starts with Sales. Hardcore Sales. And if FMCG sales looks too glamorous from outside, lets get some basics right. FMCG sales realistically would mean going to smallest towns in India in scorching heat, or flooding rains, or shivering cold in old, about-to-breakdown buses or overloaded jeeps, and selling products from shop to shop.

If you think I am exaggerating facts, let me share my experience. I was posted in Bikaner and Sri Ganganagar districts in the month of June. At 48 degree C, I had to travel in a small jeep with 22 people in it with killer hot winds blowing. And sell candies in the smallest of town which I never thought even existed!! And I am not the only one. There are thousands of such examples.

Yes, you do get rewarded for the efforts you put in your initial years. And you do get to make strategies, but that comes much later. You have to spend no less than 3-4 years in sales before being considered for marketing role. But if sales is not your cup of tea, think twice before opting for marketing.

3. Doing Information Management is not a pre-requisite to get into an IT company. Just like IT companies do not only recruit Computer Engineers but also Mechanical and Civil Engineers (I was a mechanical engineer but was offered job by a software company), the same applies to MBAs also. IT companies do give preference to IM graduates but they are open to other streams too. So, even if you choose Marketing Management or Operations Management, you have not missed out on IT companies.

4IT companies pay well but only to people with relevant work experience. People who are freshers are paid much, much less.

I hope this will help the aspirants get some of their basics right and make a more meaningful decision about their area of specialization. Finer details can later be worked out as and when they proceed with their MBA.