“People say that M.B.A. students are arrogant”
Accused of being part of financial problems and a decline in morals, one Indian MBA program is taking action, requiring its students to spend significant time in India’s slums, working with children.
The stereotype of the M.B.A. graduate is of a sharp-elbowed, aggressive, and arrogant creature, convinced of his own brilliance, and sure that managerial analysis can fix any problem. And the knock on business schools–particularly in the years leading to the financial crisis–is that they did little to discourage these worst tendencies of their students.
It wasn’t only U.S. schools that were criticized. In India, too, where up to 500,000 people apply for M.B.A. programs every year, institutes have been accused of contributing to a fast money culture, and declining moral standards. “People say that M.B.A. students are arrogant, that they don’t want to dirty their hands, and only want to give their advice,” says Abbasali Gabula, deputy director at SP Jain, a leading school in Mumbai.
To counter the arrogance problem, SP Jain has done something unusual. Rather than pandering to students’ whims, it has started requiring them to think about other people–specifically, to spend time in the poorest parts of the city. Every second weekend, the 240-strong M.B.A. batch has to put aside at least two to three hours to mentor school-children, helping them with their homework, talking through their problems, and giving advice about careers and cleanliness.
Gabula says the program, which started in 2008, is a direct response to the financial crisis. And he claims the idea is bringing results: both for the children involved, and for the M.B.A. students, who improve their sense of empathy and understanding of society’s challenges, and hone their skills as mentors–a key skill for senior managers.
“The companies that take our students say they are humbler than other graduates, that they roll up their sleeves, and are ready to work from day one. They don’t want to just give advice to everyone, but to lead by example,” he says.
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