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A premium on experience

A premium on experience

Schools like ISB only admit students with prior work experience. The IIMs, too, have started 'PGPX' courses. How are these post-experience programmes faring, and what are their advantages?

  • Last year, an ISBian was hired at a jaw-dropping crore-plus salary ($233,800). It was a first time any B-school grad in the country had bagged such an offer.
  • This year, ISB not only bettered the salary ($269,000 or Rs 1.10 crore), but also attracted companies from Australia, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the US, the UK, Singapore and West Asia.

Why are ISBians so much in demand? What's so special about them? The answer: all of them come with prior work experience. Given the global ambitions of companies and the hurry they seem to be in to achieve their goals, it's hardly surprising that several of them prefer experienced hands to fast-track their growth.

"Velocity has now come into the picture and there is little time available with businesses to offer long incubation periods to freshers joining them," says Bala V. Balachandran of Kellogg School of Business, who played a key role in establishing the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad in 2001 and later, the Great Lakes Institute of Management in Chennai in 2004. Both schools only take students with prior work experience.

Balachandran feels that increasingly businesses will opt more for MBAs with experience rather than freshers, because "it is a brutally competitive global market where you not only need to deliver results ahead of time but also ahead of the budget". According to him, the one-year model is best-suited to leverage the work experience of candidates. And, he says, he would rather call it an MBR (Master of Business Readiness) than MBA.

How successful is this model? Says Ajit Rangnekar, Deputy Dean of ISB: "The biggest proof is that companies are taking in more such students each year at bigger salaries-and also that other institutes have started adopting this model."

The stupendous success of ISB (see Work-ex Pays) and Great Lakes (which has grown from 120 students in 2004 to 165 at present while the number of companies visiting the school has increased from 20 in the first year to 60 now) has caught the fancy of quite a few other top B-schools.

Already, two IIMs (Ahmedabad and Calcutta), XLRI, Jamshedpur, and sp Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai, are running PGPX courses.

IIM-A's PGPX programme (which requires a minimum seven years of experience and an average 700-plus GMAT score) started last year and is already a hit. The batch size has grown from 60 to 72 for the current one. In terms of fees, too, IIM-A, at Rs 14 lakh, is less expensive than isb's Rs 17 lakh. Great Lakes charges about Rs 5.5 lakh.

IIM Lucknow is set to start a full-time one-year, International Programme in Management for Executives (IPMX) in April 2008. The course will include an international module of 4-5 weeks at McGill University's B-school, in Montreal, Canada.

At XLRI, too, the first batch of 55 students have just completed the one-year General Management Programme. The work experience required: two years. The 49 students who participated in the placement event received 106 offers in all. For the current batch of 60, the required minimum experience was five years (though the average experience of students is eight years), and half the class had international experience. XLRI is charging a little over Rs 6 lakh for the course.

Rangnekar says doubts were raised by many about the success of the programme, about which not many people had heard of, in 2001 when the school started its first batch with 128 students (the last batch, Class of 2007, had a batch size of 416). The abiding worries were whether the programme would be able to attract good quality students and whether a short one-year programme could offer the same rigour as the traditional two-year programmes, he adds.

All those fears have now been put to rest: larger numbers of quality students, with average GMAT scores of around 708 (against 690 earlier), are taking these courses; they are also coming from diverse sectors, such as shipping, logistics, media, the armed forces and the bureaucracy (earlier they were largely from the information technology sector).

The recruitment pattern has also been favourable. Says Prabir Jha, a former bureaucrat who is now Senior Vice President and Global Chief of hr at Dr Reddy's Laboratories: "While we will maintain a mix of recruits (in terms of freshers and people with work experience), three of the 13 we hired last year were from ISB." The company has been picking up students from ISB each year (since its first year) and now also goes to Great Lakes in Chennai. "The obvious benefit of hiring such MBAs is that they hit the road running and that is very important," says Jha.

Meera Sridharan, an ISBian from the class of 2007, now working for Microsoft in Chennai, sums it up aptly when she says: "An MBA is not so much about the academic experience; it also develops your faculties and orients you towards your career goals. And since it is a career development programme, one needs to live through the experience and be able to relate to it, which is why work experience and having peers with work experience makes a lot of difference."

Additional reporting by T.V. Mahalingam and Pallavi Srivastava