Done with CAT? Here’s why you should consider MBA analytics

In a fast-changing business environment, decision-makers need to make decisions quickly, combining all the available information, and collecting new information quickly if it is lacking. This is where analytics plays an important role. However, analytics is being more and more used in many traditionally run slow-moving businesses as well to turn them better managed and more agile.

— Written by Prof Abhradeep Maiti

MBA aspirants in India are done with the Common Admission Test (CAT), now it’s time for the aspirants to decide on their course for the next year or two. There are more opportunities to pursue an MBA (PGP) in Analytics in India this year than used to be even a couple of years back. A natural question for MBA aspirants is whether they should opt for an MBA in analytics or go for a more traditional general management programme?

The answer to this question can only be given by an aspirant’s own tastes and preferences. If someone is more interested in following the traditional job roles (such as sales, operations, or finance specialists) post-MBA, then a general management programme will appear more attractive. However, the aspirants who are more interested in understanding data and are equipped with a good grip of mathematics and statistics, generally tend to favour the new domain of analytics. It has been observed that in many cases aspirants are often predisposed to some areas in management based on limited knowledge or peer influence, without completely understanding all the available choices. This is a peculiar problem in Indian management education where a significant share of MBA students are freshers, without any work experience, which limits their ability to appreciate different available options.

In a fast-changing business environment, decision-makers need to make decisions quickly, combining all the available information, and collecting new information quickly if it is lacking. This is where analytics plays an important role. However, analytics is being more and more used in many traditionally run slow-moving businesses as well to turn them better managed and more agile. Even in sectors such as agriculture and aquaculture, analytics tools are now being increasingly deployed. The new group of managers proficient in analytics can transform many slow-growing sectors in India by bringing in new ideas and making innovative decisions.

What IIM Calcutta had started (in collaboration with ISI Calcutta and IIT Kharagpur), followed by IIM Kashipur and IIM Bangalore, seems to finally bloom this year as several other IIMs will also start offering MBA (PGP) in Analytics from the next academic year. This number is expected to only increase over the next few years. The new breed of analytics programmes at IIMs is in line with the recent developments in industry worldwide. With the advent of data-driven decision-making in the corporate world, there is a rising demand for managers who are not only adept at applying modern management techniques, but can also utilise the statistical methods to generate insights from data to make business decisions or to strategize.

As our daily lives are getting more and more connected to the digital devices, many firms now have access to unique data which are being collected at a speed and volume never observed before in human history. If used judiciously, this data can be utilised to increase efficiency, widen choice alternatives for consumers, and improve social welfare. The new army of data-aware managers will be entrusted to usher in this change.

A question that MBA students commonly ask while pursuing analytics-oriented subjects is related to the requirement of coding skills. It is only natural that some extent of coding will be necessary to pursue a career in analytics. However, with the right amount of practice and effort, enough of that skill can be acquired. The focus in an MBA Analytics programme is nevertheless on getting good at combining management principles along with analytics tools to generate actionable insights. Hence it is wrong to think that only engineering graduates can pursue this path, as more than an engineering degree, the ability to think critically is required here.

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The analytics industry in India is still in a developing stage. Hence the managers who specialise in this domain early, will get the first mover advantage. At the same time, it also necessary to have a comprehensive understanding of different units within the firm so that synergy in decision-making can be achieved. In many Indian firms, the utilisation of analytics is very new and often happens at a very basic level.

To be able to sensitise the upper management about various benefits of analytics in making business decisions, the managers also need to master the language of business management. An MBA in Analytics can potentially groom the future managers in this role.

New business challenges call for new and improved approaches to management. All of us are right now experiencing a once in a lifetime event. The COVID-19 induced recession has had an adverse impact on the economies worldwide. This has created both problem and opportunity for the analytics units within firms. In some cases, the analytics units have been the casualty of the economic downturn as these units are often the newest ones, and sometimes viewed as not an essential requirement for running the business by senior management.

Whether this is myopic vision or not that is a question for another day. However, one thing is clear that as is the case with any pioneering activity, the new entrants in this domain need to be prepared to fight it out when the going gets tough. But this turn of events also presents an opportunity as analytics can also be used to identify newer areas of growth and can guide firms to be ahead of the curve.

One of the greatest joys of educators in this domain has been the experiences shared by alumni about how the knowledge of Analytics gained during the studies has enabled them to chart their own unique career trajectories. As a new generation of aspirants await to join the managerial cadre, they can explore this new opportunity as well. We are witnessing arguably the most important industrial transformation in our lifetime, and an MBA in Analytics can well turn out to be their ticket to a front row seat.

— The author is assistant professor, Economics Area, IIM Kashipur

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