An article in Forbes titled “Is An MBA Worth It? After Covid-19, Absolutely Not” caught my attention and spurred discussion on LinkedIn. I’ve benefited greatly from my IIM MBA (ok, ok, PGDM), but will the graduates of 2021 benefit as much? I think not. They may still be better off than doing nothing, but they are unlikely to reap the disproportionate ROI that has been the norm over the past 20 years.

An MBA equips you with useful frameworks like BCG’s Growth Share Matrix which allows you to analyse a company’s product portfolio on the axes of growth vs marketshare. If I were to stretch the Matrix a bit, I could say that M.B.A is a “cash cow” for those who already have one. MBA currently has a good marketshare but is not growing much. So it’s heading towards “dog” soon – low growth and low marketshare.

An M.B.A is still a good investment for many people in the corporate world, but as technology changes and more jobs are threatened by automation or transferred to lower-cost markets overseas, it will have less value than ever before.

The Netflixization of Education:

The wait staff at TGIF are often decorated with pins and badges. Each signifies an achievement or recognition. As a kid I earned badges in the Girl Scouts and proudly sewed them onto my uniform. We’re going to adopt something similar for our corporate careers – adding the relevant qualifications to our sleeves.

We would sign up for courses that best meet our needs and “binge-watch” our way to competence. You could mix-and-match to ensure you’re learning from the best. So maybe MIT for data analytics, Dan Ariely for Consumer Behaviour, IIM Calcutta (of course) for an interactive program on the same topics, and and this newsletter (of course) to keep you current.

Companies should look at competency-based assessment systems where you can demonstrate your skills and knowledge without having to complete a fixed set number of years in school or university. This has taken off much more in tech where constant skilling and certification is the norm.  Areas like marketing and HR need to adopt a similar discipline.

The Rise of Multi-disciplinary Experts

When I went for job interviews as a young(er) MBA (ok, ok, PGDM) a common question was why I was ‘wasting’ my computer science degree by doing an MBA and marketing. I was reading Dilpreet’s article on the tools required to build a good customer experience and after swimming in the data lake and powering through terms like BI and CDP and I realized that marketing is more properly described as martech today.

So if you want a CRM role, you should have pin showing that you know how to create a tech stack – or even better, that you’ve earned a “Paul Writer Published Author” badge for writing about the topic 🙂

Just finished an MBA?

No worries – it is still a great investment and a good foundation to build your career. This year has been difficult from a placement perspective but that is more to do with the economy than an immediate devaluation in the course. In his series beginning with You have an MBA, now what? Elkana Ezekiel builds upon his varied experience as a professor, CEO and CMO to give advice on landing that first job and building your networks.

Thought leadership in the industry is becoming more important and an MBA can help with that – a premium tag can help you stand out. Think about your career trajectory – if you’re going to pivot or change directions plan one year ahead.

Which brings me to the importance of personal branding. Like any product, you need to have a roadmap for yourself, to keep your offering relevant and fresh. Otherwise your cash cow will become a dog earlier than it needs to. A good way to start is by creating a personal mission statement. You can use the S-M-A-R-T framework: Specific, Measurable, Achievable and Relevant with Timeframes. And, as I explain in this hot-off-the press article, you can learn from the likes of Bappi Lahiri, Indira Gandhi and Rahul Dravid (in my view the Cred ad does more for Rahul than it does for Cred!).

On a serious note the MBA has been certificate-at-scale to jump to a well-paying and enjoyable career. As Haroon Bijli put it on my LinkedIn thread on the topic, “If one has the means, one should go for it. It is the second best guarantor of success.” First being born into a well off family.” It’s getting rusty because the courses haven’t adapted fast enough to the changes in business, and also because automation and AI are replacing many of the entry level roles. What will be the equivalent for 2041? I don’t know. But my guess is that the skills required will involve the ability to either create things and experiences that don’t exist and people don’t yet know they need, or to develop the processes and algorithms to optimise the creation and delivery of these things and experiences.

Me? I still want to be a bot boss when I grow up!

Happy (insert your regional preference) New Year! Wishing you health, wealth and happiness.  The original art in the masthead is courtesy Indraneel Ganguli.


  1. My thoughts – The MBA is a great starting point and incredible as it may sound a lot of what I learned then was relevant and applicable in the different business situations I handled. In fact, I have felt, in retrospect, that I under-utilized the frameworks and models that could have given structure and insight as the business challenges piled up. This realization has come to me over my last five years in academia, teaching at a B School in India, after concluding a twenty-eight year corporate career.

  2. I also am guilty of under-utilisation of the frameworks and would say that was a case for pushing the MBA to later in your career when you have a chance to apply them in your work and secondly to make it modular so you can find the help you need when you need it.


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