For many Indians, life is about moving from one orbit to another, with most of us trying to jump to a higher orbit at every opportunity.
Each higher level promises more financial security, prosperity, satisfaction and happiness. This is exactly what admission into a B-school promises, at least in the Indian context - a magical gateway to a new world.
Essentially, what you gain from an MBA is confidence - an invaluable commodity in today's competitive environment - as well as the ability to work harder and without sleep, also an asset in today's corporate sphere.
Coming to what you don't gain from B-school, an MBA degree, even from the best institute, cannot make significant changes to your basic talents and skills. What it can do is polish your intrinsic abilities. The extent of polishing, however, depends on the clarity that you have on what you want from the MBA.
B-school brings out managers, not CEOs. The education trains you to understand and analyse a problem the way CEOs or MDs do. But you should not expect to join in the action and take strategic decisions immediately. The maturity to make informed decisions ideally happens only after a concerted work experience of, say, seven or 10 years.
It may get a little discouraging when your ideas are termed naive and inexperienced. Philip Kotler says "customer needs" is the end decision. Henry Ford had a different view, "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." So take heart.
A management course can provide good training modules on the technical aspects of marketing, finance, human resources and so on, but what is equally or perhaps more important are skills like effective time management, leadership, communication, people management, and relationship building. While these can be honed or encouraged, they cannot usually be "taught" through formal instruction.
"Management is the art of getting things done" is the old adage. But "how" to get it done is not something that is taught in a management institute. It is an art to get work done from colleagues and also convince them that this is a value-add to their work and career.
Rahul Agarwal graduated from IIM, Ahmedabad in 1996.