New Manager

Fast-track MBA can accelerate your career

Chetna Mehra | Updated on May 27, 2014


The programme’s short duration is a draw for experienced professionals in their 30s

As a Lt Colonel in the Indian Army, Gaurav Bhandari had survived counter insurgency operations, a stint at the Line of Control and several peacekeeping operations in his 14-year long career. However, none of these had prepared him for what he was going to experience at IIM Ahmedabad. “The academic rigour was a new challenge for me,” he says. One among the batch of 85 students of IIM-A’s Post-Graduate Programme for Executives (PGPX) in Management — a one-year, full-time MBA programme for working professionals, Bhandari decided to opt out of placements this year and start his own company, instead. .

“I chose entrepreneurship to fulfil an aspiration and chase a dream. I wanted to take charge of building an enterprise,” he adds. “From being an army man I wanted to be a businessman.” Laurus Kidzone, his company, creates innovative toys for children.

Like Bhandari, several professionals are taking a break mid-career to pursue a one-year or fast-track MBA to enhance their prospects or take a diversion from their stagnating careers.

“People who have spent a few years in industry have become feel a kind of saturation in their careers and are most likely to take up a one-year MBA,” says Anurag Agarwal, Chairperson of the PGPX programme at IIM-A. “Most of them are looking for enhanced opportunities in the sector they came from, others are looking to make a career switch.” G Shainesh, Chairperson of the Executive Post-Graduate Programme (EPGP) at IIM Bangalore, agrees. “The one-year full-time programmes are popular among professionals who aim to learn business concepts to complement their technical skills and work experience. It helps them prepare for leadership roles,” he says. “The shorter duration of the programme is a draw, especially for those in their early 30s. Thereafter, they can get back to their careers with a professional qualification.”

Gaining momentum

Since about a decade, the one-year MBA has captured the fancy of India’s working professionals who wish to maximise their return on investment by considerably cutting down on the time invested in obtaining a formal education. In 2001, ISB Hyderabad was the only business school in India offering the one-year MBA programme. Soon, others, including the IIMs and XLRI, followed suit. These programmes have, over the years, become increasingly popular.

S Sriram, Executive Director of Chennai-based Great Lakes Institute of Management, explains: “With India’s business environment changing rapidly, people don't have the patience to wait for two years to graduate,” he says. “Also, for people with work experience, the opportunity cost of doing an MBA is very high, making the one-year option very lucrative.”

The one-year MBA is a good bet to accelerate one’s career in a particular domain but if he/she is looking for a career shift or a sectoral change, it may not be the wisest choice.

According to Agarwal, “For those looking at a sector shift, it is very challenging to find the appropriate opportunities.”

A significant proportion of students seek to go back to the industry they came from by leveraging their earlier experience, adds Sriram. “A few students opt for a sector different from the one they came from, in such cases, they are mostly offered jobs at entry level.”

The primary criterion for admission into the one-year MBA is work experience –ranges from 2 years (ISB, Great Lakes), 5 years (XLRI), to 7 years(IIM Bangalore).

Cost And benefit

The one-year MBA may yield a better return in the long term –when it comes to weighted annual salary– but it comes at more than a fair price. “Pricing is based on the value provided, and the one-year programme offers great value in a shorter period,” according to IIM-B’s Shainesh. The overall fee for a one-year MBA programme is 20 to 50 per cent higher than the two-year full-time MBA programme at most business schools. For instance, to pursue a two-year PGPM programmes at IIM-B one has to shell out ₹17 lakh for two years, on the other hand, the fee for its one-year EPGP programme is close to ₹23 lakh.

The higher fee structure doesn’t hurt much when one compares the salaries offered at the end of two programmes. The mean domestic salary of an alumni of IIM Ahmedabad’s PGPM (two-year) was ₹16.36 lakh in 2013, whereas, the number stood at ₹27.14 lakh for an alumni of the PGPX in the same year.

Companies too have warmed up to the idea of recruiting graduates from one-year MBA programmes and are looking at this as an opportunity to recruit lateral talent.

“Those who come through an executive MBA programme have the advantage of relevant work experience. Given the pre-MBA exposure they have had, their learning curve is sharper since they come with the experience of having worked in a corporate set-up before,” says Raj Raghavan, Director of Human Resources at Amazon India.

“These candidates generally join in managerial and leadership roles.” Amazon India recruits one-year MBAs from ISB, IIMs and SP JIMR, and offers them roles in operations, retail and HR.

Niche roles in specific domains are also being offered to such candidates. For instance, KPMG’s Advisory business functions hire graduates from one-year MBA programmes with relevant pre-qualification work experience for very specific roles. “When such students are selected, substantial focus is given to the quantity, quantum and relevance of their previous work experience so that at the time of recruitment, their levels in the organisation is representative of their peer groups in the firm,” says Shalini Pillay, Head of People, Performance and Culture, KPMG in India. “Depending on our evaluation, they mostly fit the requirements of our middle management positions.”

The consulting firm has added close to 150 MBAs this year to its work force, as part of its focused campus programme. Compensation and levels go hand in hand at KPMG. “Once we have evaluated the candidates in terms of what they can bring to the table, the compensation offer would match their peer groups in the firm,” adds Pillay.

Recruitment for most one-year MBA programmes is in sync with two-year MBA programmes now and takes place between November and December. Institutes such as ISB, Great Lakes, and IMT-Ghaziabad has large batch sizes and top recruiters from these business schools are IT, consulting firms, and ITES companies that recruit in bulk.

The one-year MBA programmes offered by older IIMs on the other hand, have carved niche for themselves. IIMs (Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, and Lucknow) have much smaller batch sizes and students with an average work experience of at least 7-10 years.

These candidates are hand-picked by the industry for leadership positions and specific roles.

Published on May 27, 2014

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