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21November2014

Is A Global MBA Worth It?

by The Red Pen

As the 2014-2015 international MBA application cycle chugs along, many potential applicants are wondering, “is a global MBA for me?”  Understandably, the significant investment of funds and time required to complete an MBA abroad are reasons enough to consider alternatives. After all, if you can do an MBA in India for a fraction of the cost with nearly the same return on investment, why would you go abroad? Or you may be wondering if the type of role and exposure you will get post-MBA could have been achieved by simply working an extra few of years (while earning all along).

There are many reasons why a global MBA may be worth it but mostly it depends on your goals. If you want to gain international exposure and experience and the biggest, most prestigious players in your industry are headquartered outside India, a global MBA might be the best way to expand your network in order to gain the type of experience you want.  For example, if you are an investment banker working for a India-based firm, the best way to break into bulge bracket firms such as Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley would be to attend a top business school in the US or Europe and find a job through on-campus recruiting.  Or, if you are interested in ‘big data’, a field that is newly emerging, your best opportunities for industry-specific exposure and employment options might be abroad, where there are more experts and companies focused on the topic.

Many people who pursue a global MBA are looking for opportunities to immerse themselves in new cultures for both personal and professional reasons. We had a client who was committed to the consumer products industry. After having gained significant exposure in India, he wanted to study and work abroad in order to understand consumer behaviors and business strategies in other types of markets – both developed and developing. If he had remained in India, his career trajectory would have been good in his firm. However, he would have learned little about how consumers think about and use soaps, detergents and diapers in other markets.  His exposure to a wide view on the same set of products enabled him to bring new perspectives back to his company upon his return to India a few years after his MBA. Still others want the chance to study abroad because they come from a very homogenous culture and want the opportunity to explore different cultural values and approaches to broaden their own professional and personal perspectives, something that is hard to do in domestic MBA programs.  Another client, whose entire family were engineers from South India, could not wait to get to campus in the US and live and learn alongside with classmates from countries as far reaching as Korea, Brazil, Lesotho and Croatia.  As he put it, “there are few chances in life to gain that type of exposure so it is worth the investment in myself and my future.”

Finally, as the world becomes increasingly interconnected, studying outside of one’s home country provides access to contacts and opportunities everywhere.  Even if your family business is a leader in its space in India, it could probably benefit from partnerships with companies abroad. Or, perhaps a new product line could be developed for international markets, thereby allowing the company to diversify and grow.  Last year we worked with someone whose family owned an auto parts manufacturer in western India. By attending business school in the US Midwest, where manufacturing is the major industry, he was planning to establish partnerships with suppliers and vendors as well as explore the viability of selling his company’s products to US automakers.  By attending an MBA program with an emphasis on operations and manufacturing and that had faculty and students from around the world, this student is strengthening his understanding of best practices and deepening his industry-specific network, all of which will benefit his family’s company for years to come.

If you are able to look beyond the investment of funds and time, there are plenty of good reasons to study outside India for your MBA. Aligning your reasons with your career and personal goals will help you decide if a global MBA is worth it for you.

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