Is an MBA necessary to succeed in life?

MBA necessary or not

In a survey carried out by Harvard Business Review & INSEAD, 40% of the CEOs in India have an MBA, 60% don’t. That’s a big number in favour of one degree that dominates the business world.

Statistics such as these might be among the compelling reasons for ambitious Indian students and professionals to ask on various MBA forums (like ours) if an MBA is absolutely essential for their career.

The short (and obvious) response is No.

At this point, as is the norm while responding to hypothetical questions like these, we could cite some obscure examples of famous folks who didn’t have an MBA but were able to carve achieve name, fame and money anyway.

Who are we to fight convention? So, here’s an imaginary conversation that may give you some food for thought.

Is an MBA absolutely essential for name, fame and success?

Going back in time (always a good idea to drag in historical data to build credibility), Adam and Eve managed to create a name (and fame) for themselves without an MBA. All they needed were the right resources – an apple, a snake and raging hormones.

But in all fairness, despite all the, er, public exposure that they got, they didn’t make too much money or launch a startup either.

Why? Is an MBA necessary to become an entrepreneur and start a business?

No. In fact, your odds of starting a business immediately would probably drop. Due to many factors at play, most grads will not take up entrepreneurship after completing their MBA.

But an MBA can help you navigate the complex contours of big, established businesses where the complexity is much more than smaller startups. That’s the main reason why big companies are so selective in recruiting employees with the right skills.

Unlike in a startup, where the founder is the quintessential one-man-army, juggling everything from sales to quality to finance, in mainstream business having the right person for the right job is very important.

So you are saying it’s needed to succeed in business?

No. But it can help if you are trying to become a good manager in a business that’s already successful. The company might have excellent employees with specialist skills. But unless there’s a conductor to guide and manage them, it won’t sound like an orchestra. The uncoordinated individual contributions of the specialists would go waste. That’s why management is so important.

Ah, ok. Got it. I just need an MBA to become a good manager.

Nope. Many students who apply to bschools (specially in industries like technology, manufacturing, software, retail) are already in mid-management levels.

A majority of the employees start off their careers after a basic graduation degree (such as science, commerce, engineering).

Some of those folks might have gone for a traditional 2 year Indian MBA immediately after engineering to get a head-start in the race.

Do you think an MBA is necessary for engineers after B tech?

No. Though many prefer an MBA immediately after their engineering, we are of the opinion that a management course makes sense only after gaining a few years of managerial experience. Life after an MBA as a fresher may not give you the bang for your invested buck.

Damn you and your convoluted logic. Give it to me plain and simple. Is an MBA necessary for success in life?

We addressed that in the first paragraph.

To recap, you don’t need an MBA to succeed in life.

You can get along just fine if you have an apple, a snake and raging hormones…or if you prefer the sanitised terminology, we’re referring to the good ol’ fire-in-the-belly.

If that basic ingredient is missing, an MBA is irrelevant. However, all other aspects being equal, an top MBA degree on your resume could tilt the scales in your favour when the board of directors faces the tough job of hiring the next CEO to run their company.

Whether you become a CEO in India / abroad or not, nothing changes the fact that a good education is always a solid long-term investment. If you go for a top MBA from a globally recognised university, at the right time and for the right reasons, there’s generally not much to regret.


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat

Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here’s more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

7 Comments

  1. Vishwatosh says:

    To succeed I must know few things (and to the greatest clarity possible). First, what is that I like doing, will it pay enough to lead a comfortable life (as per my own standards) and am I good at that. Then I need to find out what is required to find such a job, do such a job and continue and grow such a job/field.
    If MBA falls in the scheme of the above two then I will go for it. Else just drop the idea. Please note job here means what I do and it can be being an Entrepreneur as well.

  2. Sameer Kamat says:

    Thanks for sharing your views, Vishwatosh.

    In a nutshell, you’ve provided a simple and effective decision-making framework.

    Unfortunately a large proportion of folks start off with the MBA and then struggle with the other questions during or after completing the course.

    • Vishwatosh says:

      Thats right Sameer. In my own humble capabilities I am trying to change this mindset to the extent possible. This is the first step to Skill Development.

  3. rachrla says:

    I am 29 years old, studied MBA and has no work experience. I am not interested in MBA but I did as I had no option. I am interested in engineering, but as I had biology in my +2 I had no chance to study engineering.
    One of my friend told me that in the USA one can study engineering without math at +2 . I am think to apply school in US to study engineering. My question is; what are the possibilities of getting a job as a fresher at the age of 33 or 34 ? Please suggest me. I am interested in doing computer science.

  4. Vinayak says:

    Hello Sameer.I am a Btech grad.I passed out in 2012.But I joined my family business of apparel retail immediately after that.Now after working for 3 yrs everything is looking monotonous with a little scope to move ahead.I want to start business many other business ventures of my own.Should I do MBA abroad?Please guide me.This question has been troubling me since last year

  5. Saloni says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I am a 26 year old female Chartered Accountant, having done my articleship from a top 5 CA firm in India. I am currently working in a boutique investment banking firm since the past 3 years ( 4 years pre MBA). The firm is headed by my father. In the 3 years ,I have been actively involved in the closure of 3 deals, amount disbursed around USD 200 million dollars. I have worked on the deals from scratch, right from preparing the financial models, information memorandum , pitching it to various banks/FIs to complying with pre/post -disbursement conditions. In the 3 years of work experience, I have worked on several sectors ranging from gems and jewellery, real estate, hospitality, retail, distress asset funding and manufacturing. Presently, I am working on live deal sizes in the range USD 300 million dollars. I also look into the admin, accounts and HR related issues in the office and have helped set up basic systems in the office such as MIS, HR policy, reporting system, interviewing for analyst and associate.

    My academic record is decent- top 5% in school and college (B.Com) and a 710 in GMAT.
    Languages :English, Hindi, functional Mandarin (appearing for HSK 1)

    I am looking to apply to a top B School for a 12 months/15 months program as I wish to return to India to work with my father and take the company ahead.The idea behind doing the 1/1.5 year/s MBA is to offer me a platform to develop the soft skills needed in a front end job, develop a good international network and interact with peers of various backgrounds.

    I am looking to apply for the fall’18 batch and would like to know my chances of getting into a top bschool such as LBS and Columbia.

    Would appreciate your inputs on the same.

    Thanks!

  6. ajeet singh says:

    A degree, whether it’s MBA or in any other specialization, has nothing to do with a successful life because Success is a personal feeling, which depends on certain factors like peace, happiness, contentment, generosity, clarity of your life aim etc. You can’t evaluate the real success just considering the authority and prosperity. I know a lot of people personally who are holding an influencing position, who have a large chunk of money and fame, still there is such a void in their life which deny at once that they are successful.

    Success shouldn’t be evaluated on the basis of achievements, as it overlooks all those values of life without which, success has no meaning. Considering the time and space issues it’s not possible to say much on this topic. while browsing for the articles related to successful life I got this inspirational one, which I think, everyone must read, but sadly it isn’t in English.

    It’s written in a different Language and for those who know Hindi, nothing would be better than this. This is the Link Most Successful Businessman in Hindi: आधुनिक युग का सच्चा दानवीर

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