A couple of years ago, on a flight to Mumbai, I found myself sitting next to the senior professor of one of India's premier management schools. During the course of the conversation, he remarked that management schools across the country were being forced to re-examine what they taught and the way they taught it because of the demands of the market. His school, he said, was examining how to start a specialisation in family business management and succession planning because of the increasing number of scions of mid-sized family businesses, who wanted to get formal management education. While they all knew that they would join the family business after passing out, many of them were keen to know how to handle older employees who had been with their fathers for a long time while modernising the organisation. There were other issues also that were forcing a relook, he said. As businesses grew increasingly globalised, he had to ensure that his students could cope even if they joined a Korean company or European company with very different working cultures from home-grown companies.
The challenge for management schools to reinvent what they teach is bigger than ever before. This year, some of the biggest recruiters from campuses of the Top 10 business schools were e-commerce companies and other digital recruiters. Flush with cash from venture capitalists, companies like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Ola and others competed fiercely with traditional campus recruiters such as investment banks and management consultancies, who are also keeping their pace of hiring. Meanwhile, quite a few students from even the top IIMs chose to opt out of the recruitment process, because they did not want stable jobs with big companies - instead they wanted to set up their own firms.
The original mandate of management schools used to be to prepare students to work in big organisations and follow management principles. That mandate no longer holds. On the one hand, management schools have to teach their students about entrepreneurship - because an increasing number of their students are either choosing to join start-ups or becoming entrepreneurs themselves. On the other hand, there are other challenges from the market as well - ranging from teaching how to survive in a globalised world to managing family businesses in the second generation. Ashish Nanda, Director, IIM Ahmedabad, points out to Business Today: "You have to have a sense of where the world is going and move towards that." Ranjan Banerjee, Dean, SP Jain Institute of Management & Research, thinks that the next driver of growth in business and, therefore, recruitment will be from the interface of technology and finance - and is preparing his school accordingly to deal with those demands.
All the top business schools are trying to gauge the trends and see how they can future-proof their courses and students. There are several thousand business schools with proper accreditation in the country today. Many schools, ranked between 50 and 100 in BT-MDRA's best business schools survey, have impressive campuses and facilities. In fact, in terms of infrastructure, the gap between the top schools and the middle-rung schools have narrowed considerably. What has not narrowed is the quality of teachers, the focus on new courses suitable for emerging business trends, and the kind of rigour that is exercised while choosing students to take in. And that is possibly why many of our top B-schools retain their positions year after year. But still, as this year's exercise shows, there are plenty of schools that have moved up sharply while others have fallen in the rankings. Schools where deans and directors are conscious that they need to keep pace with the changing world will always do well - while others tend to fall by the wayside.