Management they say is deciding what needs to be done and then getting it done. In other words management encompasses almost every skill – right from decision making to people skills to risk taking to leadership and what not.Not that this is not ubiquitous, only that it becomes challenging when the stakes are as high as billions of dollars and territories include a dozen nations. This is of course today’s scenario. Things however were not always this way.

World War II which is known to be the deadliest and the most destructive war in the human history causing loss of over 7

2 million lives and of property worth millions of dollars, ironically also happens to be the single most important event that has indirectly contributed the most to the progress and growth of mankind. Even management as a science has its traceable roots in WW II. It was during WW-II that the Allied forces recruited scientists of various disciplines to assist with military operations. In these early applications, the scientists utilized simple mathematical models to make efficient use of limited technologies and resources. The application of these models within the corporate sector became known as Management Science.

Post war, the world was polarized into two socio-political ideologies viz. socialism and democracy. As it turned out democracy driven world led by the US and followed by relatively open and free economies surged ahead and the credit to a great extent goes to the fact that most of these economies were driven by professionally managed corporate sector. The polarization ultimately ended marked by important events like disintegration of the USSR and demolition of the Berlin wall. As a result, the stage for domination of political and management ideologies practiced by the US was set.

This is very important as over this period, the world realized and started acknowledging the importance of both professionally aggressive management and free trade. It took over 40 years for India to take any serious initiative towards liberalization. But better late than never they say. With the advent of economic liberalization in the early 1990’s, global corporations entered the Indian economic arena and brought the much needed capital to fuel the growth. They also brought the commercial vision and aggression so indispensable for a growing economy. And in the last two decades India has grown in a way that today we are one of the strongest economies in the world.

The reasons for this remarkable long term performance are multiple and diverse. But probably the most important one is that the ability of Indian education system to move and adapt to match the international standards has provided a steady supply of the most important resource required to drive growth engines – the Human resource. IIT’s and IIMs have emerged as the modern day temples of education.

The detractors of liberalization feared the death the of the indigenous industry as result of the entry of global players. As it turns out, Indian industry has emerged stronger and in a number of cases giving these players a run for their money. In fact last decade has seen emergence of Indian companies on the global horizon as major players.

This was made possible because of the availability of professionally trained business managers. Indian education sector realized the need of the hour and evolved rapidly. As a result, lot of quality B Schools came up and catered to the voracious appetite of the Indian economy for trained managers.

At the same time the youth realized the endless opportunities of career growth leading to a scenario where B-Schools had to choose from a huge number of applicants. This naturally led to the evolution of highly competitive entrance tests like CAT, XAT etc. Through theses tests the B schools could ensure intake of quality students who could be trained and groomed as future business leaders. MBA like anywhere else in the world evolved as a launching pad for high flying career with big organizations.

This macro scenario is very important to understand why graduates from any field should plan a career in the field of management. But a word of caution here is that while MBA as a degree is important, a more important point is to do it from a top B-School because that’s where top companies hunt for their HR.

The time to come belongs to India and students cannot afford to miss this opportunity to make a mark at not only the national level but to emerge as global business leaders.

Understanding Management – The Practice

There is no alphabet ‘I’ in the word TEAMWORK. Management is as one may say “one of the social sciences which preach teamwork to the maximum”. Thus, be it IT enabled services, FMCG, Consumer durables, Retail or any field for that matter, a manager is not only a professional but one who manages different professionals, those originating from a different background, different cross cultural traits; and then orients them in a team. Also, he then drives the team to perform to its optimum. Human beings are basically playgrounds of emotions and they matter. The best managers/ leaders are those who shape up the context for their colleagues/juniors/people many ranks below them, in which the heart n the brain work in tandem. It is these managers who go on to become a Jack Welsh, a Bill gates, a Dhirubhai Ambani and so on.

The two year MBA/ Post Graduate Diploma, as the case may be, offers the conventional specializations- Marketing, finance, HR, Operations, Systems to name the main five and a lot of unconventional ones- Environment management, Retail management, Public Policy administration, Media management, Rural management, Hospitality management, Agri business mgmt, Inetrnational Business n foreign trade management, management of actuarial sciences, Fashion management, Aviation management, Sports management, Tourism management, Event management…. The list is never ending.

Management education provides generalists the scope of becoming further generalists, to be a jack of all traded & a master of one i.e one can take up any of the above mentioned conventional fields( as ones interest may be) & specialize in the same. One cannot deny the fact that management education is – to be specific – General management. Also, for the research oriented specialists, one may then go on to make a career in that particular field (even widen the scope by pursuing a doctoral program in the said area(s) of interest.)

Understanding Marketing

One of the ways to define Markets (as efficient economists call them) is – market = people * ability to pay * willingness to buy.

India & China combined account for around 37 % of the world’s population but can India, per say, be as large a market as the U.S.  Our population is much higher than theirs, however, if you put the two- ability to pay and the willingness to buy, along with the population factor, lo and behold! India becomes a very small market compared to the U.S.  The world may be broadly classified into 3 markets- Europe, the U.S, Japan & the far-east. The fundamental guiding principles of the different specializations of management remain the same across all markets. With the world becoming more and more flat, unconventional and upcoming streams/specializations are here to stay.

‘Think Automobiles, Think Toyota’. Whereas Chrysler and Ford and the other American giants have come up with the major innovations in automobile design & marketing, when it comes to understanding marketing, it is not only about innovation or imitation or administering or services but an integrated effort to understand the whole of it both from the qualitative and the quantitative perspective. Here, there is no match for TOYOTA. Indeed, as TOYOTA rightly puts it- “KNOW YOU IS KNOW HOW”.

The blunder committed very often is that one mistakes marketing with sales. Marketing is – also sales, not only sales. Sales and distribution, is just one part of marketing- the others being Brand management, Advertising and Mass communication, market research and marketing research. Marketing includes the wholistic picture, whether it is Toyota’s ‘KNOW YOU IS KNOW HOW’ or Xerox’s shift in focus from ‘we make photocopiers ‘ to ‘we automate offices’ or Revlon’s shift from ‘ selling cosmetics’ to ‘ In the shop , we sell hope’. That’s marketing.

Most fields in management involve a strong grasp of quantitative skills. Marketing, to a lesser extent, and HRM(Human Resource Management), to a relatively large extent, are fields that involves less of quantitative and more of qualitative skills. Recruitment, retraining, retaining and retrenching form the four major functions (among other minor ones) of HR managers worldwide.</span></div>\r\n<div><span style=”font-size: 10pt;”>It is these HR guys along with the strategists who are responsible for making entrepreneurship as an ongoing process in Organizations. Questions like – &nbsp;‘How do u make renewal as an ongoing process’, ‘how do u make front line entrepreneurship as an ongoing process’ are challenges they face globally on a day to day basis. It is the job of HR, to implement the Organisational alignment- one &nbsp;of aligning the Organisation’s value creation logic, organizational principles and basic people processes.

Strategy Management

Offered by a few Elite Institutions in India (IIM Ahmedabad in the, T.A.Pai-Manipal, & others) and across the world, strategy ranges from Porter’s Five forces model to Organizational strategy, Marketing strategy, SBU strategy and so on. The vision and mission of the company is framed/ implemented by these guys. It is their job to ensure that Organizations not only become flatter &amp; flatter on paper, but in a true sense, entrepreneurship n leadership flows from top to bottom. Strong positive emotions are what the Organization needs to be filled up with. John Neill, the CEO of Unipart, one of the world’ largest Automobile spare part manufacturers, once equated the role of the top management to that of a Church in a town/ village. The Church remains empty for majority of the week, and on Sundays, you find a few people singing some songs and that’s about it. But the very presence of the Church in the town seemingly affects the relationship of every husband with his wife, every child and his parent and so on. That’s the job of strategy.

‘More Companies have fallen down trying to manage growth than have fallen down trying to manage decline’. The strategists form the core of the ship that takes Organisations , to safer shores amidst cyclones of uncertainity in terms of economic slowdowns, technological obsolescence, fierce competition in the marketplace, not to mention internal rivalry of the senior middle managers within the Organization.

Understanding Finance

One of the most happening things in the last 15 years in the corporate world has been the rise of “Mergers, acquisitions(M&amp;As) and joint ventures” as a career in itself. Lot of disciplined planning goes into it, whether it is the preliminary stage of valuation assessment or the pre acquisition discussions n debates to the post acquisition integration of delivery &amp; performance.
M & A s along with Investment Banking, retail banking and so on have formed the core of careers in finance over the past decade. One needs to have / develop good enough quantitative skills and a decent passion towards number crunching &amp; analytics. At the same time, the human neutral element which finance managers are so proud of, also has to be neutralized, thereby striking the balance between systems n processes.

The Testing Procedure

The CAT – Common Admission test, today is taken by approximately 3 lac management aspirants in the country. Other leading exams that boast of a good number of applicants include the XAT, SNAP, FMS entrance, MAT &nbsp;and so on. These aptitude tests test you on the basics (secondary and senior secondary) math and English. The sections of testing could involve Problem Solving, Data Interpretation, Logical reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, General and Business Awareness and so on. Also, as a test of ones written analysis n communication skills, the entrance exams could also have an essay involved. There is only one thing certain about the CAT- uncertainty, i.e &nbsp; even though the scope is defined, it is inappropriate to make assumptions about the number of questions, number of sections, difficulty level of the questions etc . And it’s not for nothing that the trainers have resorted to this oxymoron. Just when one feels one has fathomed the requirement for cracking CAT, one is faced with changes that are both overt and cover.t. Let’s have a look.

Structural / Obvious Changes

The journey of change has been particularly bumpy from 2003 to 2007. The first path breaking CAT was CAT 2004. In this year not only differential marking and differential negative marking were used for the first time but negative marking pattern was clearly mentioned in the instructions for the first time. There were questions carrying half, one and two marks. Thus the number of questions dropped from 150 used in (01, 02, 03) to 123. The trend of drop in the number of questions continued in CAT 05 with the number coming down to 90. Total time however remained same (120 minutes) over this period. Readers should know that the duration of CAT is known beforehand as it is a part of the notification. So CAT takers started gearing up for some more change as the notification for CAT 06 announced the CAT duration to be 150 minutes. Speculations logically included increase in the number of questions. As it turned out, the number of questions dropped further to 75. And that was not all. CAT takers were further confronted with one additional optional per question i.e the number of options was increased from 4 to 5 per question.

Surprisingly, in 2007 for a change CAT did not change.Amidst all the above overt structural changes during this duration there were certain things that did not change. The paper continued to have three sections based on a) Problem Solving b) Data Interpretation and Logical reasoning and c) Verbal ability. Also, the number of questions per section (with the exception of CAT 04) was equal. This is very important as it indicates the continuity in the philosophy and vision of the IIMs which decides what they are looking for in an aspirant. This also very important to understand, that the basic character of test has not changed drastically.

The Undercurrent

In the whirlpool of these structural changes one tends to be oblivious to the vision based changes and also to the forces that are driving these changes. To understand this let we need to understand the changes and the logic behind them.

For example let’s take the reduced number of questions. This was done as CAT is basically looking for the ability of decision making. With fewer questions, question selection which is a function of one’s decision making ability assumes a lot of importance. Also, through this CAT has been able to cut down the variety of questions. This puts the test taker under stress and the stress handling ability of the test taker is tested.

Decision Making and stress handling skills are becoming increasingly important in the light of the fact that IIMs are eying global placements. The curriculum has to keep pace with the international standards and its rigours demand the above mentioned skills in abundance.

Even in Indian context there is an ever increasing number of Indian companies thinking, acting and going global. So, even these companies are looking for quick decision makers who can handle the stress of growth, diversification, mergers acquisitions and so on.
Another example of a change in the under current is that in quantitative skill based sections viz. PS and and DI there has been a major shift towards reasoning intensive questions from the formula and calculation intensive questions. At the end of the day lot test takers realize in the hind sight that they could have handled the questions with straight forward logic which eluded them. This drives home the importance of spontaneous logical thinking and inherent problem solving approach- both being assets for a manager.

In fact IIMs are not looking for managers any more. They are looking for future leaders who will drive the growth of not only India Inc but also the global economy.

With such high benchmarks they can but rely on the ability of CAT to be able to identify these skills and prove to be an error free screening mechanism.

From the perspective of an aspiring test taker, it becomes imperative that he include enough emphasis on these skills apart from from the basic number crunching and verbal skills.

Post the written test, the candidate generally goes through round(s) of  Group Discussions, Personal Interviews, Case Studies, group Interviews…a mix of some, many or all of these. This process helps the B School to evaluate the candidate’s overall maturity level, his/her understanding and analysis of recent global developments , his/her perspective about the changing face of global financial and trade architecture, and of course to test his / her communication skills- content, clarity of focus, vision, confidence and so on. Topics for the group discussion may be based on current affairs( Eg: Tata Corus Acquision , Is the service sector the prime mover of an economy in the 21st Century ? etc ), ;or on abstract ( Eg: a pink flag on a blue temple, the nihilism of modern society etc) , leading quotations pertaining to management jargons, case studies & so on.

Personal interview questions may include anything under the sky: &nbsp;from the famous “tell me something about yourself”, to “Why MBA”, or to thrill one a bit more “what way doing an MBA will you contribute to the Economy/society”. A personal interview may often have an element of stress interview and one needs to keep his cool, calm and his composure and at the same time confidently answer the questions faced.

Article by Guest Author : Raj Tomar The Author is the Centre Head of IMS Jabalpur and has been training students for more than 7 years on CAT and other MBA entrance examinations.