On Campus

Planning a second MBA abroad? What to watch out for

Manvender Singh | Updated on January 08, 2014 Published on January 08, 2014

An increasing number of Indian students with local MBAs are now applying to top global B-schools

Rohan Vardhman works as an Area Manger in an FMCG company and has an MBA from IBS Hyderabad. Sourabh Goel is Vice-President, Private Banking, at an international bank’s India office and has an MBA from IIFT Delhi. Sonal Chhabra is an MBA from IIM Bangalore and currently works as a senior manager with an IT company.

At first glance, the common thread in this seemingly diverse crowd may appear to be that all three hold MBA qualifications. . But it’s not just that. Rohan, Sourabh and Sonal are also part of a growing crop of ambitious young Indians who already have an MBA but plan to do it again, this time from a top international school.

Different reasons

In the last 10 years, an increasing number of Indian students who already have MBA degrees have been applying to top schools in the US and Europe for their second go at management education. At INSEAD, a highly-ranked school which offers a much sought after 10-month management programme, roughly 10 per cent of Indian students already hold MBA degrees from a business school at home, including S.P. Jain, Mumbai, and IIM Ahmedabad. Their reasons for returning to the classroom, however, can be varied.

I speak to many of these candidates regularly and there are two primary categories that I’ve seen emerging. In the first category are candidates who went to lower-rung business schools in India and didn’t get the right opportunities after completing their courses. They feel that their no-name schools aren’t helping their careers in any way.

In the second category are candidates who did attend the best of India’s management programmes right after graduation but got into industries and functions they don’t enjoy. They now want to take a step back and develop the skill set required to transition to a different career.

Take, for example, Jay Dave. Jay graduated from IIM Ahmedabad in 2006 and is currently a student at INSEAD. Jay explains his rationale for doing two MBAs. “I went to IIM-A immediately after my engineering degree and after graduating from Ahmedabad, I worked with BMW and then a PE-funded real estate development start-up. I was reasonably happy with my career progression, but over time, I increasingly felt that I wanted to move out of real estate and explore other industries in new geographies.

“I decided to apply to Insead because I thought a year back in school would also give me an opportunity to expand my skill set, network extensively and reflect on potential career options. And I am glad that I made that decision. Here at Insead , I have grown immensely, not only because the programme is excellent but because I have learnt incredibly from a very diverse, mature and international student body.” Jay adds, “The decision to go back to school has also proved to be rewarding as I have several interesting job offers in different international locations.” While a career switch was the primary motivation for Jay, for Sourabh Goel, an MBA from IIFT Delhi, the need for a global brand on his resume pushed him to a second MBA.

“I’m in a good position in a bank. I’ve worked onsite in countries ranging from Brazil to UK but now my career is largely based out of India. However, I’m looking for more global leadership roles in which I’m able to make decisions that affect the top and bottomlines of a company globally,” says Sourabh. “Though the IIFT brand is very strong in India, it doesn’t help you stand out for global careers when you are competing with people from HBS, Wharton, LBS and other top international schools.”This is also probably why Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s Chairman, went to do her second MBA from Yale after doing her first from IIM Calcutta.

Is it right for you?

However, the decision to go for a second MBA is not right for everyone and you have to introspect deeply about how this fits in with your aspirations. Here’s a checklist that will help you figure out whether a second MBA can be good for you.

Do you have the patience and energy to give at least two years for the entire process, including preparing for the GMAT, researching good schools, writing essays and actually attending school?

Can you achieve your career objectives with your current skills and brand? Are you satisfied with the way your career is shaping up? If not, what are your options, apart from another MBA, for faster growth?

Do you see yourself as a global leader or are you happy with a good position in India?

Are you ready for the financial liability that will come with a second MBA, especially one abroad?

(The author is co-founder of Aristotle Prep, an online test prep company for the GMAT and GRE and provides and publishes books across seven global locations for students in more than 60 countries)

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Published on January 08, 2014
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