The major distinguishing factor behind the delayed progress of business management education in the North East is the aspirational gaps residing as a stubborn tenant in the minds of the MBA aspirants. It is rather uncanny and unacceptable that the first full-time MBA programme was launched in eastern India by IISWBM, that too, in 1954. But the aroma and consolidation did not happen in the North-East even after decades. 

Although the XLRI Jamshedpur offered short-term programmes as early as 1949, it took a little more time to evangelise the complete structure of the programme. 

During the colonial regime, the need for professionally trained manpower was felt, who would run institutions responsibly with a good command over English to manage the business affairs with much élan.

With this noble intention, the All India Council for Technical Education was born in 1945, which was primarily a guiding agency to maintain the standard of education and later became the main regulatory body of all technical institutions operating in India. The University Grants Commission (UGC) was founded in 1956 to look after academic activities and sanctioning grants to public universities. 

The readers may wonder about the reference of historical data to the present context. But is it not a little less than amusing that even after so many decades, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme, a go-for-it professional course, is still struggling to find its place in the minds and hearts of the students, teachers and administrators alike. 

As per the available data of 2016-17 from AICTE, India had 2,450 business management institutions, churning out approximately four and a half lakh MBA graduates each year. However, according to a report of the Education Committee of the Associated Chamber of Commerce (ASSOCHAM) published in 2017, only 7% of them are employable, of course, excluding the cohort coming out of IIMs. 

More importantly, the survey report also suggested that average salaries offered to the students from these B-Schools (including another 1000 estimated unapproved ones) are even less than Rs. 10,000 a month. 

Interestingly, it won’t be out of place to mention that the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), in their Skill Study report of 2015, mentioned that India boasts of its demographic dividend where 65% of the population is under 35 years. Each year, about 1.2 crore youth are ready to join the workforce.

However, due to some strange reason, only 2.3% of that youth cohort undergoes formal skill training compared to 68% in the UK, 75% in Germany, 96% in South Korea, 52% in the USA, and 80% in Japan. Does it sound shocking? There are many such statistics and reference to studies, which categorically indicate that professional education has lost its professional attitude and education has lost its rigour.

The remnants of professional education left or taught in most of the B-Schools today are the quick fix augmentation of western models without any attention to local relevance and available infrastructure.  

The fundamentals of professional education depend on scientific inquisition, developing resourceful infrastructure, enabling environment, and a thriving industrial ecosystem.

Unfortunately, all are in short supply in the North East. The presence of industries provides an opportunity for the students to look up to their prospective workplaces, and they can imbibe and assimilate every little aspect of professionalism as a part of outbound learning.

The most desirable outcome of an MBA programme is a job placement with a respectable salary so that the candidates become potent enough to pay off their bills each month. Compared to cities like Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Delhi & NCR, Hyderabad and Bangalore, the North-Eastern states did not witness any major industrialisation effort.

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There is a complete void in the young minds about their future. It is not less than any predicament that we are still searching for salvation through education with a poor replication model of the West and further deteriorating with dilapidated implementation. 

We are making students corporate ready with finishing skills, marketing, and operations technique for a career in the corporate – a world is rarely seen by any student.

Except for a few lucky ones, mostly students, are unaware of the factory environment, lean manufacturing system. Rather, they see the world through the lenses of their teachers or an advisory group of peers having similar potential and makes imagery of a prospective workplace, mostly away from the harsh reality.

Unable to take the heat and competition and as an easy exit, many students prefer to settle down for odd jobs or prepare for a competitive examination to secure government service.

Though reiterated many times, it is worth pondering that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ programmes will not work in the Northeast states. Each state is blessed with its unique resources, and therefore, policymakers and institutions must contemplate starting business management courses to augment, market, operate, and financial management of the resources available. 

How long should we follow the traditional setting when we know the yield is insufficient? For example, the medicinal plants are available in the North East in abundance, organic farm produce happen almost in all the NE states, but there is no course of business management offered in any NE school about the marketing and logistical strategy of those supply chains. Shifting from a traditional oil-based economy, the blue economy is an emerging area where the government is giving enormous emphasis, and North-East being traversed by several rivers, the boom of the riverine economy and cross border trade would soon benefit the states.

Tourism is another area where there is maximum opportunity to earn a livelihood through the path of entrepreneurship or service delivery. Unfortunately, very few universities in the NE offer full-time postgraduate courses on the same subject. Modern-day business management education evangelizes the coexistence of society and firms, farms and firms, people and organizations as our environment is complementary to each other.

Therefore, to succeed in this competitive environment one needs to imbibe the traditional philosophies of supply chain management and sustainability because there would be no market without the farm or the disposable income will hit rock bottom if consumption is reduced to bare necessities. 

If we could care foster business management education in the NE states we must shun the consumption-based market-driven economy and rather focus on need-based equitable propositions of local relevance.

Big cities, heavy manufacturing industries, high disposable income, dedicated supply line, and cold chains are those desires which can’t be fulfilled overnight but smaller targets like skill development in the relevant and thrust areas with a professional outlook like tourism administration, adventure sports, data crunching, digital and pharma marketing or local cold chain are very well getable with a potential impact on the society and also as a career option.

Students should be encouraged to chase their dreams, and one can’t dream sitting within a closet. The day business management courses in the North-East focus on skill development and hands-on exposure to problem-solving using bottom-up theorisation process with emphasis on solving issues with local relevance, they will certainly capture the eyeballs of the young aspirants not only from the region but also from many other states.

The author is Associate Professor & Head, Department of Business Management, Tripura University

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