It's a difficult task at a time when management graduates look only at the pay packet

While thousands of management graduates are churned out yearly, many taking seven-figure annual pay packages in multi-national companies, there is a dearth of professionals addressing logistical and marketing concerns of the rural population. And for many educators, this gap is directly linked to the fact that MBA education is driven by salaries.

Currently, most rural entrepreneurship programmes are funded and run by the State and Central Government. Sanjeevani, an entrepreneurial and innovation programme, launched by the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj department, is one such example. The Central Government scheme, which apart from imparting industry skills to rural youth, will also aid rural entrepreneurship by mobilising capital. The pilot project now covers 20 taluks in Belgaum, Dharwad, Gulbarga, Mysore and Tumkur districts and would soon be implemented across the State.

Similarly, the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development of Karnataka (CEDOK), which is aided by the Government, conducts entrepreneurship and managerial training to those subsisting on rural industries. However, as Maltesh Jeevannavar, Director of the CEDOK, puts it, the programmes are meant only to motivate the rural entrepreneur, while leaving it to them to figure out logistics and marketing.

“What a rural entrepreneur produces should be lifted, and the product marketed well. For this, some managerial skill is required,” said B. Vijaya, Professor, Department of Post-Graduate Studies and Research in Commerce, Gulbarga University.

However, from the private MBA education point of view, rural management is limited to short projects or electives in the syllabus, with very few students ending up in the hinterland to bolster the entrepreneurship foundation there.

“Only when MBA graduates have support or funding can they be encouraged to work in rural areas. With high pay packages in corporate companies, there is nothing to attract the graduate to the villages,” said Mr. Vijaya. He suggests that if rural management is seen as social responsibility, there may be a higher participation of MBA graduates in the rural sector.

Sanjay Padodi, a Board of Governor of the Institute of Finance and International Management (IFIM), Bangalore, concurred: “Anything with the tag ‘rural' doesn't command the same interest as consulting or marketing with an MNC, and in fact acts as a deterrent for aspiring candidates. Unfortunately, MBA education is driven by salaries, and students look at the prospective salary of campus placements before joining a college.”

To reverse this, he said, it was up to the Government to introduce special schemes for MBA graduates to allow their participation in healthcare, government agricultural storage houses, among others.

Like in most MBA colleges, rural management and rural entrepreneurship in IFIM is taught as an elective; and often, students are encouraged to do their management projects using rural case studies – which are hawked as an opportunity to learn rural marketing demographics.

However, the social impact of short-term projects is limited, said Mr. Jeevannavar. “Rural management cannot really work part-wise or piece-wise. Learning about the marketing, logistics in rural places, and overcoming problems like power supply take a long time,” he said.