Category Archives: Faculty

Surviving your MBA

I want to ask you a question. You don’t have to answer me, just yourself. But first, I must tell you a story before asking my question at the end.

Three MBA students are studying together. We’ll call them Yudhisthira, Bhima, and Arjuna (and say upfront that any resemblance to people you may know is purely coincidental). This is how their conversation goes …

Arjuna: I want to ace the exam tomorrow. There are people coming to recruit next week and I want to say that I had the highest grades.

Bhima: You always have the highest grades, but you still won’t get the job. Recruiters don’t look for the best student, my friend.

Arjuna: Who do recruiters look for then?

Bhima: People who can get things done. Exams are just a small part of that. It’s people like me, who play sports, organize events, and participate in community activities who demonstrate what it takes to be a good leader.

Arjuna: Even if it means that you don’t understand the basics of management? Even if it means that you can’t read a balance sheet? Companies are not stupid. They value strong fundamentals.

Bhima: You can learn how to read a balance sheet by seeing a video on the Internet and by reading a textbook. It’s no big deal. Classes and exams are not where you actually learn things.

Arjuna: Be as you wish, my friend. I have spent good money for my education here and I intent to learn as much as I can from the classes, from the great faculty here, and from classmates like Yudhisthira. Which reminds me, why are you so quiet today?

Yudhisthira: I am thinking.

Bhima: He is always thinking. When is he actually going to do anything?

Arjuna: Bhima has a point. What are you going to do during your MBA?

Yudhisthira: I was thinking of becoming a better person …

[No one says anything for a while.]

Bhima: You can be a better person by doing social work, joining a religious order, even by working in hospitals and schools. Do you really think a MBA program will help you?

Yudhisthira: It should. The world of business can get complicated. Companies can lie in order to sell their products, officials can demand bribes for getting things approved, customers can refuse to pay for what they buy, so on, so forth. If I can learn how to function honourably in a world like that, I will end up being a better person.

Arjuna: The ethical side of business troubles you?

Yudhisthira: Even our own behaviour sometimes troubles me. We copy from each other during exams, we plagiarize reports from the Internet, and we take credit for work that is not ours. It’s all quite disturbing.

Arjuna: We are doing what it takes to succeed – here and in the real world. Our courses are hard and we need all the help we can get.

Bhima: The important thing is that we are learning how to compete. As you yourself said, we will live in a world that is not entirely fair. As we work and play, we abide by the rules we see around us, not a vision of perfection.

Yudhisthira: Sadly, I agree. But it still does not stop me from aspiring towards honest business, just society, and a better environment for all. How to do all that is what I want to learn in my MBA. This is a brave new world with new technology and a new dawn for Indian opportunity. We must change and so I must change.

Bhima: Be my guest. I am proud to call you my friend and will gladly live in your world. But today, I must spread my wings, get new experiences, and have fun along the way.

Arjuna: I have to get back to work. Tomorrow’s exam is going to be difficult …

[All are quiet.]

It’s me again with the question I promised. Who do you want to be – Yudhisthira, as he improves himself personally; Bhima, as he improves his personality; or Arjuna, as he proves his personal capabilities?

How will you survive your MBA?

abhinanda sarkar

Dr. Abhinanda Sarkar

Associate Dean and Director of Research

MYRA School of Business

December 24, 2014

MICE – The Mysore Intercultural Effectiveness Indicator

We are all more mobile than ever and more likely to traverse into cultures different from our own – for reasons of studying, marketing, selling, buying, serving customers, and production of goods: literally, in the old-fashioned way, as business travelers or as onsite assignees; virtually as ‘desk diplomats’ via email, chat, phone, or web-based videoconference in globally dispersed project teams.

Management research considers intercultural competence as an important condition for being successful in international business relationships. Yet, the development and transmission of intercultural competence in global teams has not been established clearly. There are environmental and contextual impediments to the effective application of the requisite intercultural competence skills, knowledge, and attributes often resulting in a gap between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing.’ My own experience working for more than a decade with several multinational companies shows that there are specific barriers to intercultural competence, mainly the non-availability of interculturally competent personnel within the company and on the external recruiting market, the perceived high costs of all activities associated with management training and coaching, and the difficulty of building an associated business case. This often leads to a situation where the status-quo is preferred and managers are unwilling to act.

As part of my research agenda, I have developed a low-touch self-report indicator, the MICE Mysore Intercultural Effectiveness Indicator. It helps project managers answer the question if an effective global team has been formed.

MICE provides two scales measuring intercultural effectiveness across the boundaries defined by cultural groups. Such boundaries – also called faultlines – split a global team into sub-teams based on certain cultural attributes and provide an informal structure for intercultural conflict. The two MICE scales examine how team members feel and behave when these faultlines are crossed. Or, in the words of the American anthropologist Edward T. Hall who remarked back in 1976: “Understanding oneself and understanding others are closely related processes. To do one, you must start with the other, and vice versa”.

The first MICE scale helps to understand the effectiveness in interacting and collaborating with foreign counterparts by providing an answer to the question ‘how I think I am with them.’  It is made up of four dimensions: (1) Ability to accept cultural differences; (2) Avoidance of psychological stress; (3) Successfulness of communication; and (4) Establishing of interpersonal relationships.

The second scale gives an indication about the satisfaction with appropriateness of communication from the foreign counterparts, and the outcome of the collaboration. It gives an answer to the question ‘how I think they are with me.’ It adds another two dimensions to the MICE framework: (5) Appropriateness of communication; and (6) Results of collaboration.

A test run in several international companies with live data helped to validate the indicator using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. The results are published in Vol. 8 / Issue 1 (2015) of the International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, an internationally ranked journal by ABDC, NSD, and PBN. Have a look at the research journal:  http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/IJMPB-05-2014-0044; or the implementation of MICE and its various reports: http://www.globusresearch.com/MICE-Mysore-InterCultural-Effectiveness-Indicator.aspx

Now, what does it mean for the organization and the individual caught in international assignments? The organization benefits from acquiring insights into global team dynamics; gaining an understanding of the strengths as well as deficiencies of its global teams; and being able to pinpoint the root cause for possible team conflicts, misunderstandings, or performance problems. The researchers Preston G. Smith and Emily L. Blanck confirm this in a research article in the Journal of Product Innovation Management (2002, Vol. 19): “An effective team depends on open, effective communication, which in turn depends on trust among members.” But measuring the intercultural effectiveness is not an end in itself. On the one hand, an individual global worker can get a greater understanding of self and foreign counterparts and use the results as a starting point for improving own intercultural communication skills; the individual is better equipped to become more effective by reducing anxiety and stress stemming from intercultural collaboration. On the other hand, an international organization can identify which training and/or coaching measures will be effective in order to help them cope with unexpected events in another culture.

And what does it mean for you, as an aspiring Indian MBA student? Have you travelled internationally before? Have you worked internationally? Looking at the continuing growth of India’s export-oriented industries like IT and BPO, you will be likely to jump into an international role right after your graduation. As a business school, we have an obligation to prepare you for a global world, which is often dream to be flat – but in reality full of barriers. At MYRA School of Business, we not only recruit a good proportion of our faculty from leading institutions around the world, we also have active exchange programs with business schools in the U.S. and in Europe. You are going to experience how different styles of teaching, evaluation, and faculty-student interaction will open your eye for intercultural differences – a realization of culturally driven behavior which can later be most valuable at the workplace. And last but not least, I am also offering an elective course on International Management where we will be talking in much more depth about the challenges highlighted in this short article. Please see http://www.myra.ac.in/overview-m for an overview of what you can expect at MYRA School of Business in Mysore!

Dr Wolfgang Messner

Dr. Wolfgang Messner is Associate Professor of International Management at MYRA School of Business and Director of GloBus Research in Mysore/India.
Email: wolfgang.messner@myra.ac.in or wolfgang.messner@globusresearch.com

eCommerce is Still Commerce!

When I joined the technology oriented Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for my PhD two decades back, I discovered this new technology called email using which I could contact all my friends in other schools for free. I was so excited by this discovery that I called home that night (at $1.60/minute) to report this to my parents. Today, students sitting in my class can verify every word as I speak using Google/Wikipedia and order any book I mention on Amazon — overnight delivery, of course. Such has been stunning progress of the e-world. The eCommerce field, particularly the B2C variety is the most buoyant sector of the Indian business landscape today. A recent study by E&Y valued B2C eCommerce in India at nearly $10 billion/year but growing at a blistering 50% per year. The key drivers being rising disposable incomes, increasing broadband connectivity, the mobile platform and business innovations by market players (COD delivery, etc.).

Expectedly the field has attracted many players—from home grown Flipkart to international players including Amazon, and the current super-nova, Alibaba. These span soup to nuts players such as Flipkart to specialized vendors such as Pepperfry. Indeed, no week passes without some big news from one or the other – if it was big plans by Amazon last week, this week it is the Softbank investment in SnapDeal. These players are also making news for their splashy recruitments from leading B-Schools.

The business press is agog, with discussions about the chances of success of these players perhaps rivaled only by discussions about the national cricket team in the upcoming World Cup!

However, it is prudent to remember that despite all the excitement, eCommerce is still essentially Commerce and not exempt from the basic principles and practices driving commerce. The e- component provides certain capabilities to the vendors to reach and service customers and also has created certain expectations in buyers. Success of a vendor would depend on harnessing these capabilities to meet basic business requirements as well as enhanced expectations from customers. Based on my experience at some of the top companies in the world, I’d include:

Product Mix: Given the characteristics of an eCommerce business, it would be tempting to offer everything to everyone. But this should be conditioned on the vendor’s capability to fulfill these orders. The backend supply chain for mass market products is vastly different from those of long-tail  products.

Pricing: As in all business, offering the right products at the right price is critical. Currently, most vendors, especially the big ones are offering deep discounts to capture market share in the hope that buyers will be sticky. This may have created an expectation in customers of ever-low prices. Clearly this is not a long-term sustainable strategy.

Marketing: The online media including social media makes a natural fit for marketing eCommerce offerings. However, this also requires that most of the population have broadband access – not yet in India. Hence those players who best leverage a mix of online and offline media for marketing would fare best. I repeatedly impress this upon my students in the course on eCommerce that I teach at MYRA.

Customer Experience: Nothing can ensure that customer will not return as a page that loads very slowly or a site that returns some inane error after you have filled all order details including the 16-digit card number. Hence, great companies pay a lot of attention to this factor – for example, at JP Morgan Chase, for customer facing web pages, our mandate was to ensure that page loads in 7 seconds or less as research had indicated that anything longer will result in visitors browsing away.

Order Fulfillment: Ultimately, it all comes down to order fulfillment. Delayed delivery, mis-delivery, non-delivery, all are killers of customer loyalty. As vendors shift to a marketplace model from stock and sell model, this gains additional importance since a player’s credibility depends upon the capabilities of suppliers.

Customer Interaction: Managing customer interaction including enquiries, product information and grievances make the difference between one-time and repeat customers. Online tools greatly enhance a vendor’s capability for a deep customer engagement and must be leveraged. Companies such as 3M and Honeywell where I spent couple of years leverage their eCommerce sites to make available the most detailed information on their complex technical products – something simply impossible in the paper world.

The above is sufficient to show that eCommerce must cover the requirements of basic commerce and more. What does all this mean to an MBA student?

For an MBA student being recruited by an eCommerce player, it is very difficult assessing the employer in terms of their future growth, survivability and so on since few publish verifiable financial and other metrics. But you can evaluate them on factors such as those discussed here to assess the desirability and possibility of success of the employer given your aptitude, career plans and aspirations.

dr-s-h-rao

Dr.Sudhendar H Rao

Professor of Information Systems

MYRA School of Business