Five years ago, Neeraj Arya, now a deputy manager with a telecom company, enrolled for a short duration, distance learning management programme being conducted by arguably the most prestigious business school in the country, the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A). He had hoped it would open up new career options for him. But after attending a few interviews once he had completed the course, he realised to his shock that it would do no such thing.
"As soon as my interviewers heard I had done a distance learning course and not the regular postgraduate programme, they were no longer interested," he says.
Thousands of young people who are already employed, but who, for various reasons, missed out on traditional management education, take such part-time courses - often conducted long distance, using satellite - hoping to improve their career prospects.
Though IIM-A has stopped them, many other leading management schools such as IIM, Bangalore and Lucknow, XLRI, Jamshedpur, and Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Delhi, persist with these courses.
Nor do they come cheap, costing between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 7 lakh for a year's programme. But most of those who enrol for them are cruelly disappointed.
"We open about 35 to 40 programmes a year and each one has around 100 to 200 people enrolling in it," says Aman Uttam, Director, Onyx Education, a satellite service provider for a number of institutes. Lectures are held in virtual classrooms, conducted via satellite-video-conferencing from different centres.
Why are employers unimpressed? It is primarily because, unlike in a regular MBA course
, where the selection process is rigorous, almost anyone who wants to - and pays the fee - can enrol for part time courses.
"There is a lot of competition to get into the MBA programmes offered by reputed schools. This is not perceived to be the case with executive MBA courses," says Ruchi Bajpai, senior HR consultant with Elixir Consulting, a recruitment and search firm.
Some also blame the candidates' expectations and motives.
"This mismatch arises because candidates assume that their employability quotient will leap up to the level of a full-time MBA," says Naveen Narayanan, Global Head - Talent Acquisition, HCL Technologies. Again, for many, the aim is not to learn more, but simply to get ahead professionally.
"Employers need to know exactly why a candidate has done a particular part-time course Randomness will not help the candidate's chances," says Jordan T. Misra, Managing Director, Spearhead Intersearch, an executive search consulting firm.
But there is one exception: taking a management course sponsored by the employer could well boost the candidate's promotion chances within the organisation.
"Companies want their employees to get this kind of education to be able to perform tasks better," says Aditya Narayan Mishra, President, Staffing, and Director, Marketing, at HR firm Randstad.
Some also pay for such courses in an effort to retain employees they consider valuable, often making those sent for them sign bonds promising to stay with the company for a minimum specified number of years.
Avantha Group's Ballarpur Industries Ltd (BILT), for instance, India's largest paper manufacturer, has tie-ups with half a dozen premier business schools such as Harvard Business School and London Business School for short-term advanced management programmes for its top level management. For mid-level employees it has tied-up with the Asian Institute of Management in Manila. Those selected for such courses often get promoted thereafter.
"We are very particular about return on investment," says S. Mohan, Vice President, HR, BILT. "If our own people want to learn more it is better for the company. We can avoid recruitment costs and the costs of grooming a fresh candidate."
Better still are courses designed by an institute for a particular company, which address the company's specific needs. Taking such courses certainly helps employees. But though IIM-A has prepared and conducted a few of these after consultations with concerned company executives, Bajpai of Elixir Consulting notes that there have been very few of them so far in India.
"Most part-time management courses see a high level of dropouts and a low level of commitment," says Premchander, a visiting professor at IIM-A. "But when a company itself is investing time and effort, as in our customised programmes, candidates are more committed to getting the best out of it."