There are more than 2,000 Bschools in India where students pay between Rs.2-6 lakh fee hoping to find their dream career. Unfortunately, most of these schools (beyond the Top 100) are actually running on meager 20-40 per cent placements.

Remaining students leave the campus either without a job or end up working on some low skill base job. Think about this— two in three of all MBAs in India remain either unemployed or severely under-employed.

To find out why our MBAs are not employed, Elements Akademia conducted an intensive nation-wide research amongst the HR heads of more than 40 companies from various verticals, 60 MBA / PGDM colleges across 12 cities and more than 3,000 students and MBA aspirants. This research brought us face-toface with some startling revelations.

In sectors like BFSI, KPO, pharmaceutical, FMCG, etc, there will be approximately a million new jobs in the next three years sufficient to absorb most MBAs in India. However, these companies continue to work on a three to five per cent hiring rate as 95 per cent of all applicants are rejected, despite having job openings.

The research found that the industry needs certain skills beyond the regular AICTE/University MBA curriculum before it can hire a candidate.

However, the academia continues to teach what it has been teaching for many years. This result in today’s classic paradox — corporate world continues to have jobs but keeps complaining that there are not enough “employable” candidates. And students keep complaining of lack of jobs despite degrees.

Experts suggest that 70 per cent of the hiring decision gets taken in the first five minutes of the interview. Since most entry level jobs in Tier 2 (and beyond) B-schools involve either sales or customer service, deep technical knowledge is often not essential.

Unfortunately, HR interviewers lament that most students lack in the following:

Attitude and ethics were the most difficult to correct: Being pedantic almost never works in improving someone’s attitude. Still most college professors and principals continue to hope that by repeating their unsolicited advice multiple times, their students may listen. But even the use of innovative techniques like story telling has had mixed results. In reality the effect of few hours of class was often drowned by their 22 years of grounding. While some borderline cases did change, for the most part the already good ones became better.

Grooming and confidence, on the other hand, were the easiest to correct: Steady practice in small batches of 15-25 students, with people of similar ability carefully chosen and put together, and then giving every individual a chance to speak helped tremendously. Workshops involving specially trained grooming instructors, emphasising on “Dress to Impress” created impact. The process requires strict discipline so that everyone gets time to speak.

Communication skills development: This involves honing our listening skills and practise being crisp and logical in our responses. The second concern for most Tier II colleges is the inability of students to speak in English. A scientific module which covers specific grammar and spoken English /pronunciation, especially tailored for adults is required.

Current awareness: An everyday quiz on current awareness developed reading habits in the students.

Managerial skills: A good corporate style game followed by an intense and deep debrief and repeated twice or thrice can at least sensitise people and make them cautious towards exhibiting the “right” behaviour. While it would be ambitious to think that a two hour team work session will make everyone a great team player, still we have seen a significant improvement in the level of maturity and intent after this sensitisation.

Sales/customer service and practical domain knowledge: The challenge that most tier II colleges face is that the major chunk of students are freshers’ without any previous experience in any domain. Adding to this, average faculty of these colleges also has limited quality industry experience. So their ability to train students on practical industry-oriented knowledge is very limited. The best practice may be to get a significant portion of training.

Experience was the tricky one: Most companies wanted experience before a degree. Most HR managers were not convinced that a two month part time project can replace a relevant work experience. The only long terms solution may be for the colleges to recruit only experienced students, especially for a postgraduate course. Rigorous comprehensive “bridge” training can correct each of the above gaps, but obviously requires will and sustained effort. There is no proof that quick fix solutions work but improving fundamental aspects like English, presentability, corporate exposure or attitude requires guided effort.

(The writer is with Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management, Kolkata)