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Why is an MBA in 2019 incomplete without e-commerce?

Why is an MBA in 2019 incomplete without e-commerce?

Wednesday December 19, 2018,

6 min Read

Not that long ago, executives who refused to learn how to use a computer in favour of a secretary and a typewriter were relegated to the dust corner. 

A recent report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), shows that digitally influenced purchases are growing. By the year 2022 digitally influenced purchases in emerging markets will approach $4 trillion almost half of all retail spending. 

Meanwhile B2B (Business to Business) e-commerce, the silent big brother, crossed $7.7 trillion last year and is likely to top $12 trillion by 2020 (Inclusive of Electronic Data Interchange). The numbers might be mind-boggling, however they are true! E-commerce today is a fact of business, it is the reality that businesses must face. 

E-commerce is expected to become the largest retail channel in the world by 2021, according to Euromonitor International, outpacing sales through retail outlets like supermarkets, independent grocers, apparel and footwear retailers, among others. E-commerce will account for 14% of total retail sales by 2021.

Zoom ahead to just about a decade into the future…approximately 75% of the 8.5 billion projected population in 2030, will have both mobile and Internet access. Today’s babies get introduced to smart phones even before they attend pre-school. As they grow up, they would be as comfortable shopping on their phones as watching the latest video on YouTube. 

For forward looking businesses today, altering mind-sets that were developed in a non-e-commerce world is a top priority.

Why MBA students need to study e-commerce?

Management graduates need to be at the forefront of business changes. As leaders, they are expected to anticipate implications of the changes and lead their businesses to greater success while riding the change. 

Deploying e-commerce is an important strategic issue and a major task that is sitting on the desks of CXOs across the world. It will be a major factor in the short, medium and long-term planning and success/failure of the organization. Size of the business really doesn’t matter as the impact of these changes are uniform across the spectrum.

How can a manager operate effectively and efficiently without an understanding of the potential that e-commerce delivers now and in the future? The knowledge of e-commerce concepts and technology is just one of the tools that all MBAs should have in their "bag of knowledge". Not all of them will interact daily with accounting or human resources or finance, but given the growth of e-commerce, it is very likely that every one of them will interact daily with e-commerce applications.

MBA students need to be aware of the tools and terminology of e-commerce processes. They need to be technologically-aware and able to hold intelligent discussions with the technology team. 

The field of e-commerce is an amalgamation of several management disciplines. It is an interdisciplinary activity that calls for multiple skills to execute tasks. Given the business value e-commerce offers, MBAs need to be well trained in e-commerce even if they do not use it directly.

Expectations of employers from MBA schools

There is a reason why businesses value graduates from good MBA schools. Management schools are expected to impart to their students the knowledge of what works and what does not. Students should have the opportunity to learn about mistakes made in the past, so that they do not end up repeating them.

The growth in e-commerce has been dizzying to say the least.Businesses are playing catch-up not only to the speed at which commercial disruption is being caused by e-commerce, but also to the acceleration in the pace of change.

There's a need for highly-trained professionals to help businesses navigate the e-commerce era, to learn from the mistakes of the early movers, and avoid them in businesses today. By equipping soon-to-be MBA's with this knowledge, institutions of learning will be able to meet the demands of employers who are looking for e-commerce experienced graduates.

The E-Commerce domain depends on specialized expertise in varied domains. Due to the lack of interdisciplinary learning in the traditional education, there is a need for business schools to teach e-commerce as a separate subject. 

Employers will expect MBAs to have studied e-Business and to be familiar with its impact on the firm.

Expectations of the Society from MBA schools:

There is more to teaching e-commerce to students beyond just work requirements. As a society, we need jobs to keep pace with the rising population.

There is a great deficit of professionals who can directly take on job roles in e-commerce. The extensive business prospects combined with the low availability of skilled workers makes this field a rich ground for job opportunities. This is reflected in job projections published in the major business publications. 

In India, the fastest growing e-commerce major economy, over a million jobs await e-commerce trained professionals by 2021. Ironically in the same country, almost one in two MBA graduates fail to find a job *(See References). Clearly there is a rich societal dividend to be gained, the proverbial pot of gold to be found when MBA schools incorporate e-commerce as a part of their training.

How can MBA schools prepare for the e-commerce era

E-commerce is a technology and customer driven change. The pace of change has been so rapid that majority of the businesses are still trying to figure out a right e-commerce fit for them. Given the circumstances, it is highly ambitious to expect that the conventional education system will get rebooted to the e-commerce world anytime soon.

Companies must, however, respond to the changes in real-time or risk losing relevance to new age competitors. 

A way for MBA schools to address these demands is through collaboration with those at the forefront. Companies are usually too busy with execution to be a reliable partner, however e- commerce focussed educational organizations might be a safer, more stable bet.

A case in point is the MBA collaboration program by the Institute for Global E-commerce. It offers a seamless option for MBA schools incorporate e-commerce in to their course offering. Students can opt for e-commerce as an elective and the training is imparted online at a time and frequency mutually agreed with the school. 

The Institute originally started as a training resource for businesses and has ready access to practical projects and global case studies that are so essential for grasping the technology and practical aspects of e-commerce.

A few MBA schools have started to offer a specialization program in e-commerce. While it is a welcome addition, the need of the hour is that every MBA should have the basic knowledge of e-commerce. MBA students should study e-Business because it ‘is’ business.

In such a changing business environment, MBA students, who are largely going to occupy positions of middle to senior management, must appreciate E-commerce. It is imperative, to say the least.


Priyanka Dutta, Anand Bidarkar, Mukta Gawde

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