C-Tier B-Schools

Friday, April 24, 2009

Two days ago, I got a note from an esteemed B School in Delhi NCR. I must add that this is run by a mid-rung Indian Business House.

Our mutual love – between the School and me – is because of my association with this Institution as a Guest Faculty about twice in the last one year. On the first occasion, they called me because of a genuine interest that the students expressed to have some handsome dude (see photo on the left here – that’s me) from the industry who can also talk – about how any of the much renowned OB (Organizational Behavior) theories practically play out on the shop-floor.

The second occasion was when I forced myself to be invited – because I genuinely felt that these young students needed some tips on Corporate Grooming and Etiquette – because of what I observed in the class when I went there first.

Of course, this School is not Ivy League, but the interesting thing in this mail that I got, was a bunch of 48 CVs – of their MBA (PGDBM) Graduates – outgoing this year. All 48 graduates, out of a batch of 80 plus students, could not be placed through the campus placement program and so, this mail to me.

More than the fact that we are in the middle of a downturn, what struck me hard was the quality of these CVs. One look at some of these CVs and my thoughts went back to some early guidance that I got from my father and Readers Digest when I wrote my first CV. That ‘quality’ was missing here in almost all the CVs.

Most of these CVs were photocopies of each other – except for the Father’s name, contact details and date of birth. 62 years after independence and 59 of them after we became a republic, it still amazes me as to why a 23 year adult in this country needs to mention his / her father’s name in a CV. Unless there is a biological explanation to this inclusion, I can only see that the next gen CVs will need to carry a strand of the father’s DNA in every CV – a lock of hair perhaps, or other established forms of lawfully admissible DNA samples.

That’s fine with me as long as it’s a paper printed CV. But if you are transmitting CVs through e-mail, electronic DNA transmission will have to follow a different biological convention. How about a .dna or a .bio file?

Another interesting inclusion that caught my fancy was – there were at least a dozen CVs which carried 2 mobile numbers as contact information. Well – when I was younger, I was quite desperate to get a job too, but flashing even 1 telephone number on your CV was luxury; email was virtually inexistent; and network marketing was a sure-shot way of landing up in a job. Your chances were brighter, of course, if you carried a printed CV and a bunch of scholastic credentials and testimonials of extra-curricular brilliance into every interview that you took.

Today, you carry your multi mobile phone opulence to the interview – because everything else has electronically travelled already – with or without you.

Next, there was a genuine lack of ingenuity / individuality that the CVs carried – even when it came to people’s interests and hobbies. Most of the hobbies were ‘listening to music’ and ‘reading books’ and ‘surfing the net’. Well – nothing wrong with that – but all these in the same CV with nothing else under this head – gave me shivers. My fear is – are we creating colonies of loners and iPod junkies?

Dramatically, 42 of these CVs had the ‘Career Objective’ as the following copiously correct quotation : “To work hard and prove to be an efficient member in the organisation and apply innovative ideas, knowledge and skills for its growth” – till death or the exit interview does us part!

Like charity beginning at home, apparently my young friends thought home grown innovation meant grammatically replicating what has been written in the neighbor’s CV. Same as Above. Ditto!

Above all else, interestingly many of the young folk were from middle class north-western UP / Uttarakhand – the Hindi heartland. Barring the political resolve in these states to shun English, and barring the homogeneity of socio-economic-scholastic backgrounds of these young ladies and gentlemen, what stared me in the face was this BIG QUESTION : what has the School done in the last 2 years to be able to break the stereotypes and help each individual develop a distinct identity? Or worse still – on the flip side – I would dread to imagine their ‘Teaming’ orientation!

So, if this is this B School, it doesn’t take much intelligence nor is it an unknown fact, that the state of affairs in most of the B / C Grade B Schools is very similar across the country.

I had a dialogue with the Placement Officer yesterday. Not surprisingly, the lady seemed to be caught between the tremors of the directives of the School Management on the one side and the thousand tsunamis that the students were causing on the other. And above everything she sounded time warped. She painfully explained to me why things can’t change – even if I were to voice any need for change loud and clear with the Management, which also runs a few other businesses-for-profit, including this business of education.

I spoke to the Dean next. I tried instilling a thought in him about the state of readiness of his students; the current recession; and how the industry and prospect set of students for the next few years might react and adversely impact his School. He was of the opinion that irrespective of everything, Management Education will continue to sell.

My guess is they haven’t seen selling yet. They have only seen buying by unassuming wannabes for whom a Management Education – irrespective of its form, shape, manner and brand – is the next level of social elevation. Management Education – as we know it today – is soon going to reach its sell by date. It would be interesting to see how this, and the other similar B Schools in the country tide over the post recession blues. Those will be the testing times.

Within the next one week, I intend presenting a white paper to this B School’s Management on what ails and what needs to be improved. I hope I will have a meaningful discussion with them. After all, this set of students in the B and C Tier B Schools, will be the ‘vital many’ that will do what needs to be done tomorrow in the industry! The Ivy Leaguers will always remain a minuscule dot on the broader canvas.

While I do that, you have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

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