Monday, June 7, 2010

Industry-ready MBAs are Chennai biz school's focus

CBS invites professionals to talk to and teach students..

CBS has launched its executive PG programme in management, the objective of which is to provide inputs and tools for decision-making that would help executives execute their roles more effectively in their businesses.

Chennai Business School's one-year compressed course is attractive for working professionals keen to get back to the jobs market.

Vinay Kamath

“Too much obscure, pseudo-scientific research is being pursued by unworldly academics living in a ‘publish or perish' culture. The students emerging from these schools are ill-equipped to deal with the real, messy world of management. They have theories and flowcharts and quaint analysis coming out of their ears, but little experience, poor judgement and questionable values.”

Warren Bennis, Leadership Guru, Harvard Business Review, as published on the Chennai Business School Web site.

R. Jyotsna passed out with an MBA in the retail discipline from the first batch of Chennai Business School's (CBS)' management programme in 2006, perhaps, the first time a business school was offering a course in retail management. Now a manager with Aditya Birla group company Madura Garments, Jyotsna manages the Esprit store in Chennai and has just been promoted as Area Manager responsible for four stores of the brand in the South.

Jyotsna was one of 10 MBAs that the Future group's Pantaloon Retail picked up, and after two intensive years with the group in places such as Mangalore and Bangalore, she joined Madura. “After six months of general management in the CBS programme we focused on our specialisation, in my case retail, and internships in Spencer's and Lifestyle, gave me a good focus before I joined the industry,” she recalls.

Even though only three of her batch continue to work in retail, Jyotsna symbolises the kind of MBA graduates that CBS wants to turn out: industry-ready and raring to go.

As CBS' philosophy, outlined by the group of CEOs who incubated the school with their personal monies, says, there is a concern in the world of business, that business schools graduate are not being equipped to handle real-life issues of business.

This is true of a large number of business schools in India and overseas alike. As Pradipta Mohapatra, one of the founders of CBS, says, “The industry focus has been our differentiator. Half our programme is delivered by outside faculty who are senior industry professionals, so it is easier for us to cover real-life case studies and create a bunch of street-smart kids.”

Adds Mohan Menon, another co-founder and CEO of CBS, “Learning banking from the vice-president of a bank or advertising from the head of a leading advertising agency is significantly different from learning them from academicians.”

This year, CBS will see its fourth batch of 48 students graduate. Quite similar to businesses being hit last year, CBS too found its intake of students dropping from a batch of 76 the previous year to 48, while placements and median salary levels too took a dip.

As Dean Sridar Natarajan points out, while last year the average salary levels for its students hovered around Rs 3 lakh (with a peak of Rs 7 lakh), this year, on an average, the compensation package has been Rs 4.2 lakh a year in various streams — IT, HR and retail being the main.

Almost 50 per cent of its students have work experience. A one-year compressed course too is a huge differentiator, points out Menon, as most working professionals want to get back to the jobs market, often switching streams.

The CBS founders — apart from Mohapatra and Menon, they are K. Krishnan, J.N. Amrolia, N. Sathasivam and M.S. Ravichandran — invested their personal monies to the tune of Rs 2.5 crore to start the business school four years ago.

Having spent years in the corporate world before focusing on academia, the founders were able to leverage their networks to get professionals to talk to and teach students on a regular basis. The school is located in rented premises in Velachery, a relatively new and rapidly developing suburb of Chennai, but the objective is to move to its own campus eventually.

The group of founders have invested in a 2.5-acre plot of land off the Chennai-Puducherry highway and as Mohapatra indicates, they are looking at funding models to develop a new campus. “We want to complete a round of funding for the campus in the next one year,” he adds.

CBS has also diversified its revenue streams by launching its executive PG programme in management, the objective of which is to provide inputs and tools for decision-making that would help executives execute their roles more effectively in their businesses. Within six months of its launch, CBS has two batches with classes being scheduled during weekends, points out Dean Natarajan.

That apart, CBS has entered into a partnership with Escorts to design, deliver and certify courses proposed to be offered at the Escorts Institute of Farm Mechanisation in Bangalore. The centre is being revamped to streamline and standardise training and to deliver a variety of courses in the areas of sales, service, business management and other competencies. This initiative of Escorts, points out Menon, is to enhance competency levels across its market-facing organisation. The training programmes will target managerial talent in sales and service functions, dealers and influencers. It is expected to train 3,000 people over a three-year period.

CBS is also training senior executives of electronics company Mel Systems in a custom-made programme for executive development.

A senior Chennai-based consultant, who also teaches at several B-schools, says the pedigree of the founders has helped the school establish itself and the school is attracting brighter students with good analytical capabilities well as language skills and is also attracting good placements for its students.

Making a comparison with the other B-school that has come up in Chennai, Great Lakes, this consultant says CBS has not achieved the same profile as yet but is getting there.

The Hindu Business Line, June 7, 2010

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