Rural Management

Until a few years ago, rural management was considered to be little more than a poor cousin to the MBA degree. Not any more. Rural management today is being touted as an area that is truly recession proof as an increasing number of corporates start looking at rural markets in a new light.

Most people who have pursued a degree in rural management have so far been restricted to working in non-governmental organizations, social organizations, the development sector or even joining a dairy development board. The rural financing sector where a student had the opportunity to pursue micro financing or micro credit management was also a coveted option for several rural management graduates.

But today, with recession playing havoc worldwide, there has been a literal change in the outlook of corporates and big companies, who are experiencing a dire need for rural management professionals. The rural business sector, which includes FMCG companies, telecom companies or bigger companies in other sectors, is now open to graduates from the rural management background.

In fact, the corporate sector’s interest in the rural segment is evident at the time of campus recruitments, when companies and consultants like Reliance, Deloitte and Tata Tele services collect at rural management institutions. Institutions have witnessed alumni achieve success in diverse professional arenas, including the corporate sector. Thankfully this pattern has not changed much despite the downturn, and since the rural sector is growing increasingly prominent on the radar of a number of corporate initiatives. One can expect corporate interest in rural management graduates to grow rapidly in the coming years.

So what can this sudden corporate focus on rural management graduates be attributed to? The primary reason is the shift in the outlook of such corporates in their marketing interest. Due to the saturation in the urban market, there is a special focus on the rural areas. Also, while companies need to spend more money per unit on their products/services to attract an urban customer, many rural areas have considerable power, with almost no penetration of a number of consumer goods.

Companies are now looking towards the rural sector for the same reason that the Government is focusing more on rural areas. Basically there is ready and available cash in the rural sector and there is a lot of money to be spent.

Add to this, realities like farm loan waivers, employment guarantee schemes, and a massive rise in the support price of a number of crops, and it’s no wonder that more corporates are looking at the countryside than the off targeted urban markets.

Rural management students have a clean knowledge of the livelihood and lifestyle of villagers, and are thus, the best people to devise the right methodologies to tap the rural market. According to corporate insiders, hiring rural management graduates can translate to a large customer base in rural markets. Our students have a clear understanding of rural customers, and are hence, able to devise successful strategies for companies that intend to expand their business in the agro areas of the country.

Candidates can consider a postgraduate program in rural management or a doctoral level program titled Fellow Program in Rural Management. There are also undergraduate courses on offer at some of the institutes which require different eligibility criteria.

For a postgraduate degree, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in any stream or its equivalent qualification, with a minimum of 50 per cent in aggregate. Final year students pursuing their bachelor’s degree may also apply for rural management programs. PG Programs in Rural Management need graduates with a minimum aggregate of 50 percent. Selection procedure consists of a written test, GD and PI.

With corporate jobs available readily the number of students applying to rural management institutes is also going up. Of late, some big marketing companies like Reliance and Tata Tele services have also recruited some students.

There’s always some amount of market in the agro sector, and the government would, anyway, spend money in this sector, given schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme. There’s also international funding in this sector. But though we are terming this sector as recession free it could be affected in the long run.

Most institutes make a conscious effort to place their graduates in jobs, where they can make a direct impact at the grassroots level, to address the needs of the rural poor and the organizations that serve them. IRMA’s participants should go not where they are best paid, but where they are most needed. The rural orientation opens up our participants to the ground realities of India’s burgeoning economy, the challenges ahead and the solutions that they need to work out in the real world. These skills prepare tem for careers in the development sectors, for jobs with people’s organizations, NGOs, cooperatives etc. However, graduates are just as well prepared for jobs in the financial sector or in agribusiness. Many have gone into business entrepreneurship or journalism, and some have displayed a preference for academic careers.

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