A Closer Look at New Age MBA Specializations

Nidhi Bahl updated on : 07 Mar 2016

Demand for programmes/specializations in the spaces of E-Commerce, Social Media, Big Data & Analytics & Supply Chain Management is growing.


Gone are the days where a MBA would suffice for preparing students for a career in management. General MBAs gave way to specializations such as Finance, Marketing, HR, Operations. While these served the purpose through the 90’s the Systems specializations were added through the mid-90s and 2000s. With time it was realized particularly in the Systems space that the changing nature of the IT industry required that the executives/managers playing the role of a Business Analyst needed to have both technology as well as domain knowledge. The Systems specialization, therefore, gave way to dual specialization such as Finance+Systems, Marketing+Systems, Operations+Systems or HR+Systems. 

With innovation at the core of education delivery, instructional pedagogy and business models, leading B Schools quickly adapted a new approach to address emerging industries as well as social needs by designing programmes with a focus on industries/sectors such as Retail, Healthcare, Agri-business, e-Business, Pharma, Telecom, Media & Entertainment and certain domain areas such as Business Design /Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Rural Management, Environmental issues, Leadership Development etc. to name a few.

These sectoral programmes tend to enjoy the benefits of the core MBA curriculum + the usual MBA specializations (Marketing/Finance etc.) along with the focus on the industry or domain vertical. Thus, the healthcare industry, for instance, would find a unique professional who has a B. Pharm background, done a programme in Healthcare Management with a specialization in Operations and joins a hospital to manage their operations or a pharma company in the supply chain department. The same applies to management programmes in IT/e-business where one could specialize in Finance to make a career in Business Analysis while another could take a Marketing specialization to step out as a Pre-Sales consultant in the IT industry. Sector focused MBA programmes are likely to ride on the macroeconomic policy waves of Banking, Insurance, Finance, CSR, etc. As the sectoral expert will have an inclusive, in-depth and analytical understanding of the chosen sector as well as the flexibility to move across different functions, such initiatives are finding acceptance as industries too are working hard towards bridging the talent gap in their respective sectors. 

As successful business is all about identifying good opportunities for the future and making the first move, a smart business leader is expected to analyze data and predict the market dynamics of future before anyone else. With the ‘internet of things’ becoming a reality worldwide, demand for programmes/specializations in the spaces of E-Commerce, Social Media, Big Data & Analytics, Supply Chain Management is growing. And with the climate in India becoming more and more conducive to the growth of the small/ medium sized family managed businesses as well as start-ups/entrepreneurship, this stream of education will also gain importance in the times to come. The leading B-Schools that are responsive to the demands of the emerging changes in the business environment are already embedding courses/sessions on Design Thinking, Innovation, Leadership, Ethics, Sustainability, Technology, Inter-cultural competence and Big Data. Analytics has become one of the most talked about specialization and is being offered in a variety of forms – beginning with a simple elective course to a stream to a complete programme i.e. PGDM (Business Analytics).

Another model which many institutes have followed has been in providing MBA programmes with specific streams focused on certain job roles. For example an MBA in Project Management, Construction Management, Event /Music Management, CSR, Luxury Management, Information Security,  Enterprise Risk Management, Consulting, Image Management to name a few. The unique aspects of these MBA programmes is that they provide the student with a strong background in what may be called a ‘horizontal’ rather than a ‘vertical’. For example, someone who masters in project management or information security or consulting can work in any industry vertical of his/her choice.

Even though the Oil, Petroleum, Natural Gas industry continues to go through a slump worldwide, Oil & Gas Sector in India is witnessing a major phase of growth. Discovery of newer hydrocarbon reserves, better refining and logistics infrastructure; growing demand for autos and many such factors are converging to change the petroleum business in India. This constant change needs to be managed well to reap economic as well as environmental benefits by influencing the business in a holistic manner.

With the agenda of reformation for social progress manifested through the various national projects like Smart City, Make In India, Swachh Bharat, Digitizing India it is obvious that the future leaders not only from the business arena but also those in the government as well as non-governmental sectors will have to equip themselves with skills that allow them to meet policy and management challenges as they advance further in their careers. And a set of core skills in policy analysis, programme evaluation, management, and politics that are valuable in dealing with national, state, and local governments to consulting firms, community groups, and service providers not only in India, but around the globe will be needed. And those in the NGO sector will have to develop an understanding of a series of issues like fundraising, managing technology, marketing, finances as well as taxation, advocacy with community groups as well as government bodies and boards to manage a successful non-profit.

A different kind of techo-mannagerial professional with an eco-sensitive mindset will be required here and one sees the emergence of different types of management programmes to cater to this need.

Contributed by Prof Dr Pradeep Pendse, Dean, IT, Innovation and Business Design, WeSchool

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