Operations Management: The View from India

The tech industry is among those looking to hire MBAs for operations management roles in India

The number of operations jobs for MBAs in India is on the rise, thanks to the region’s growing number of e-commerce companies as well as the increased use of technology in operations. How do business schools in India prepare their MBA students to take on operations challenges in the region? What kinds of operations job roles are available to MBAs in India? For answers to these questions, TopMBA.com spoke to the head of career development services and the operations chairperson at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIM Bangalore).

Operations management in India

Is operations management an emerging area of study in India? IIM Bangalore’s Haritha Saranga feels it is already well established: “Operations management (OM) has always been an important field of management in India, given the size of the country and the scarcity of resources,” says the school’s chairperson of its productions and operations management area.  

However, Narendra Modi’s Make in India campaign has, according to Saranga, led to an increased focus on and promotion of Indian manufacturing. The critical role of supply chain and logistics management in the e-commerce industry, along with the Make in India campaign, has recently helped operations management become a more prominent MBA specialization in recent years.

While operations management has its origins in the manufacturing industry, starting with Henry Ford’s assembly line in 1913, business schools in India have been looking at ways to apply operations principles to the service industry for the past two decades as its IT industry has continued to expand.

“In India, due to the significant role that the IT services sector has played during the two decades starting from early 1990s, the business schools to some extent offered courses that help adopt operations management concepts for the services sector,” states Saranga.

The application of operations to manufacturing is still relevant, however, since India is also home to a rapidly growing automotive sector. Operations principles which can be applied to the automotive industry include just-in-time (JIT) production, total quality management (TQM), total productive maintenance (TPM), lean product development (LPD), and Six Sigma.

Business schools in India, such as IIM Bangalore, incorporate these concepts into their operations management curricula. This is different from MBA programs available in the West, where operations courses tend to be more focused on the service industry as a result of manufacturing’s decline since the mid-90s.

Environmental concerns – an increasing emphasis for both the Indian government and multinational corporations operating in the country – have also resulted in changes to operations MBA curricula in India. Sustainable operations, green products, reverse logistics, and re-manufacturing are topics that are now being covered in operations courses as a result. Of course, environmental sustainability is a topic that is also addressed in operations MBA courses offered by institutions in the West.

Still, it’s important to note that operations principles are applied different in India to the way in which they are in Western countries, because of their differing economic climates. As one might expect, operations MBA curricula in India are more customized to the needs of its immediate surroundings. “India is a country of ‘Jugaad’ (innovative fixes or work-arounds) and, to that extent, all management concepts need to be adapted to Indian conditions and realities,” states Saranga.

While India’s large population lend itself to a large-scale economy in matters of production and operations, the relatively lower maturity level of widely available technologies and the traditionally smaller scale of industries in India pose challenges. Yet, this creates interesting opportunities for lean and agile operations. These are operations challenges that are unique to India, and applying operations management to region-specific issues helps teach MBA students how to use operations to solve business problems that are specific to India.

Operations jobs in India for MBAs

“In recent years, MBA hiring for operations jobs has gone up in India, especially with the increase in e-commerce firms and the use of technology in operations management functions,” states Sapna Agarwal, head of career development services at IIM Bangalore.  

Most industries in India have a demand for talent to take on operations job roles. Examples of industries where IIM Bangalore graduates have gone on to work include: E-commerce; manufacturing; IT and ITES (Information Technology Enabled Service); telecoms; and consulting.

E-commerce firms might hire MBAs with responsibilities across any of the following business areas: Supply chain; logistics; vendor management; inventory management; fulfillment; delivery and returns. Individual companies in e-commerce, such as Amazon, have also launched leadership development programs that focus on operations areas.

IT and ITES companies tend to hire operations MBAs for back-end operations where captive units cater to parent companies in the areas of banking, financial services, insurance and law. Elsewhere, telecoms companies hire primarily for customer service and circle level operations (which relates to city or state-wide mobile service areas or ‘circles’). Consulting companies, meanwhile, are looking for people who can specialize in the area of operations, since most of the major consulting firms have their own operations practices.

Operations roles offered across all of these industries above include:

  • Vendor management
  • Sales operations
  • Procurement
  • Delivery and returns management
  • Customer service
  • Production planning
  • Supply chain management

Companies that have hired IIM Bangalore MBA graduates for operations jobs based in India include:

  • Amazon
  • Aviva
  • Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (pharmaceuticals)
  • Alshaya (retail)
  • ACT (internet services)
  • TVS Motor Company
  • Airtel (telecoms)
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev: Read an interview with the Belgian beverage company’s global director of talent attraction and retention
  • Deloitte
Written by Nicole Willson

Nicole is the SEO manager of TopMBA.com, as well as a contributing author. She holds a BA in history and sociology, and a master's in library science. Aside from her work for QS, Nicole is a long-time contributing editor and administrator for WikiHow.

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