Mr Hussain used to be a scientist, part of India’s grand plans to be self-sufficient in defence technologies. During his four-year stint at the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), Mr Hussain used to split his time between the air-conditioned lab and the scorching heat of the test fields tucked away in the Thar desert in Rajasthan.
And he is not in Lucknow to build a defence shield for India’s premier B-school. Mr Hussain wants to tip his resume with a management warhead, which could come in handy in future.
“DRDO was sure exciting. But I want to explore the private sector now,” Mr Hussain says, hoping that his two-year post graduate programme in management at IIM-L will help gear up for the challenges posed by his new job. He is set to join Mahindra Satyam as a programme manager for its aerospace and defence vertical, liaisoning with domestic as well as global clients.
Mr Hussain’s is not an isolated case. He is part of an increasing number of ambitious government employees who are enrolling in IIMs as a launchpad for careers in the private sector where they are coveted, thanks to their first-hand insight on how governments work. With experience of up to 17 years, many of them in fact opt for the two-year standard MBA programmes that these institutes offer.
The departments vary, and range from government ministries to the armed forces to state-run firms and government departments, but the goals remain the same.
Their numbers have gone up in the past two years. At IIM-L, for instance, the number of such candidates has gone up to 15 this year from 5 in the previous batch while IIM Calcutta (IIM-C) has seen it increase from 10 in the past year to 14 this year.
At IIM Kozhikode (IIM-K), 21 such students will graduate from the 2010 batch as against 16 in the previous year. And not everyone is getting back to school with intentions of shifting to the private sector. While some want to reskill themselves and start their own ventures, others look for exposure to the private sector so that they can go back to their respective departments and implement those ideas. Then there are those who feel that an IIM tag will help their career regardless of where they work, even with the government.
“There is a lot of scope for defence-related research and development in the private sector and I didn’t want to miss it. An MBA from IIM seemed the best possible way to avail of such opportunities,” says Mr Hussain.
Others like Gali Sreedhar joined IIM-C after he realised the need to enhance his finance and management skills while executing crucial road projects for the ministry of road transport and highways. “The MBA will help me understand how the private sector works. This will help me execute ideas better,” says the executive engineer, who has signed a three-year bond to stick with the government, failing which he has to pay back Rs 8 lakh, equal to his two years’ salary.
Mr Hussain’s colleague at the IIM-L, Sharat Chander, says the opportunity to reskill is one of the unintended perks of being a government employee. “That’s the benefit of working with the government. Private sector employees generally don’t get this freedom. That’s why most of them opt for the year-long executive programmes,” says this former director at the I&B ministry.
Then, there are those like Deepak Arya, who was a deputy manager-electronic warfare at BEL. “I realised that if I start my own venture, an MBA from IIM would give me a broader perspective,” says Arya who is in the class of 2011 at IIM-K. He has already quit his job and plans to start his own business venture upon graduation.
Private sector players, too, appreciate a fresh pool of mid-career talent made up of Hussains and Aryas. The years spent by them understanding the processes of a government ministry and the edge acquired at the IIMs makes these people ideal picks for some firms. “If someone has spent a few years in a government job, he would have a deeper insight and wider perspective of the government’s working, besides knowledge of regulatory affairs.
In case such a person is brought on board, it helps our firm service the clients better,” says Deloitte India chief people officer Dhananjay Bansod.
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