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MBA Sees Asia As Perfect Fit For Online Media Career

In higher numbers than ever, MBA applicants are turning to Asian business schools. Nanyang grad Kabeer Chaudhary launched a career in Singapore after a social media internship with PwC.

By  Seb Murray

Sat Jan 11 2014

In higher numbers than ever, MBA applicants are turning to Asian business schools. The prospect of differentiating themselves from other grads, strong economic growth and high MBA Ranking universities is attracting business leaders from across the globe.

A recent report by QS Top MBA predicted that China would see a 35 per cent increase in MBA applications, with India set for a 29 per cent surge. Surprisingly, the United States, for all its ivy-league institutions and MBA Jobs appeal, was set for only a 2 per cent increase in applications.

Many Asian business schools, including Nanyang Business School in Singapore and China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in China, claim international reach. Candidates have gone global in search of the best programs too.

So it comes as no shock to hear that Kabeer Chaudhary, an MBA graduate from Nanyang, moved to Singapore from Mumbai to set himself apart from other graduates.

“That was one of the biggest considerations,” he says. “If you come from a business school in the US or Europe which is not Ivy League and plan to apply to an Asian company, a home-grown MBA would be preferred over you. Because we’ve studied here, we have the exposure to Asian business culture.”

But many top Western programs provide international exchanges to their Asian counterparts. It has become an integral part of the modern MBA.

At London Business School, 40 per cent of second-year MBA students spend a term abroad at over 30 different international schools, including AGSM in Australia, CEIBS in China and the Tuck School of Business in the US.

Is living in an Asian country for the full duration of an MBA really essential? Kabeer thinks so.

He has always had a passion for the media industry. “I got to meet a lot of different media companies during those one and a half years,” he says. “So my chances of getting a job over a guy in the US who applied to an Asian firm were much better. I already had a network, which was eager to pass on jobs to me.”

MBA Jobs are often the key consideration. 50 per cent of a recent MBA cohort at CEIBS stayed in China to look for work after graduation and it is increasingly likely for students to stay in the country where they attended b-school.

Recent surveys show that the US continues to dominate employer demand for MBAs in most sectors. Entrepreneurship, leadership, strategy and marketing roles are most likely to be given to States-based MBAs, according to a QS Top MBA report.

For roles in the media industry, however, Asia is a big player. Kabeer began his career in the sector at Endemol, a leading television production company in India. He wanted to make a switch into online-media and Nanyang has been instrumental in making that happen.

“Singapore is the hub of Asia for most media companies,” he says. “I knew I’d be exposed to new markets with huge potential for growth. And by the end of the MBA I knew I wanted to be part of the digital media industry in Singapore.

“The media industries in Europe and the US are not growing as fast as in Asia. Singapore is a few years behind the rest of the world (in this sector) which means there is huge room for growth. People here are ready to adopt new technologies.”

Growth (the economic kind) is also a huge carrot at the end of the MBA stick. For all the talk of developed industries in the West, there is also an economic crisis crashing through Europe.

Some countries in the Asia-Pacific region managed to stay relatively free from the credit crunch, and growth is much higher than both Europe and the US.

China, for example, has an annual GDP growth rate of about 8 per cent. Even Singapore, where growth is slightly lower (about 5 per cent), it is better than the US, on 4 per cent, and considerably higher than the UK, on less than 1 per cent (which is hailed as a breakthrough). 

Asia’s economic stability influenced Kabeer’s decision. “Strong economic growth means there is an extremely strong entrepreneurial and enterprising spirit,” he says. “Because of the money, people are energetic, are happy to change the way they live and are open to new ideas.”

Yet, with such economic growth, average MBA earnings are not as high as in the West. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), European MBAs have the highest median starting salaries, around $100,000 per year.

Figures from the US are slightly lower at $90,000, compared to between $55,000 and $70,000 in Asia.

When Kabeer began his MBA in Singapore, he did so with an open mind. He says you should assess your options while at b-school and utilize the careers department to help find you a job in the region after graduation.

For him, Singapore was the perfect fit. After an internship with PwC, advising clients on social media, he landed a job with Mobext, a leading advertising and marketing agency.

“Nanyang gave us the opportunity to meet a lot of companies on campus and we had many networking sessions,” he says. “I collected contacts during the MBA, all helpful and relevant people. Some of these alumni have even become my clients now.”

Those considering a move to Asia will need to consider which MBA programs are on offer, the industry they plan to go into and whether Asia is the right career choice for them.

For Kabeer, Nanyang “definitely” helped him launch a career in Singapore. “It might have been easier to start here with an MBA from an Asian business school,” he says.

“But moving to Singapore wasn’t the problem. Switching to online media was, and an MBA has helped me a lot.”

Kabeer hasn’t looked back since.