I came across a thread on Pagalguy today. It was a heated debate over the IIMs vs ISB with people getting all heated up and making a lot of personal attacks without giving concrete facts and figures.
It was a sermon lasting many, many pages and I got bored by the time I finished Pg 1. So I decided I'l just shut it.
While I had decided, I should stay away from this debate since I am neither a part of IIMs nor of ISB(and there are enough IIMers who are crying themselves hoarse over why they deserve their top dollar salaries and enough PR by the ISB machinery too to say they have arrived), still, old habits die hard :-)... So here goes my two bits worth...
I believe theres no need nor any ground for comparison. Both are fundamentally different schools which cater to different domains, different target audiences, different cultures. Its like saying: "Hey, who is better? Australia or Brazil?" The point to note is, Australia are the world champions in Cricket and Brazil in Football. This debate, in my opinion, is similar to that simple question.
Point 1 - Target Audience
The primary target audience for the IIMs are graduate students fresh out of college. Whilst they have certain part time executive programs and another coming up for people with more than 7 years experience, their flagship PGP programme still primarily comprises of people with less than 1 year of work experience. In the current batch, it is 63%. Also the mix comprises primarily of engineers with the current batch having 70%+ participation from people with an engineering/technology background. For those who wish to cross-check, here is where you go.
For ISB, it is people with atleast 2 years of work experience, if not more. They also come from varied spheres. They come with experiences, both in terms of work and life, and their contribution to a class room will understandably be different from what it would probably be at an IIM ( I don't have the link for the ISB student profiles with me at the moment.)
Point 2 - Course Duration
An IIM PGP programme is of 2 year duration, which comprises of compulsory subjects(in the first year if my research is right - Mayank and Shipra, feel free to correct me.) and electives in a trimester format. An ISB course is of 1 year and is comprised of 8 semesters. 4 semesters for the core curriculum and 4 for electives, with each semester being of 5-6 weeks in duration. This point is pertinent for a couple of reasons.
One: At ISB, you have to be sure of yourself and very confident that you will be able to absorb the course curriculum, since the pace is going to be very hectic. It is a course for someone who knows what s/he wants exactly and is willing to go after it in the shortest span of time. At an IIM, there is still the opportunity to go back and do course corrections.
Two: The opportunity cost involved (i.e the salary you are losing since you are joining a B-School and also the increments you are losing out on.) For an IIM, it is around INR 200,000 avg. whilst for ISB, it is around INR 450,000 avg. That is to be expected since ISBians are people with work experience compared to more percentage of freshers at IIMs which will take the average down.
Point 3 - Cost Involved - Fees and ROI
An IIM PGP degree (at IIM-A) costs around INR 500,000 (INR 350,000 tuitions + living expenses.) The average salary on graduation is INR 500,000 - INR 600,000.
An ISB degree costs INR 1,300,000 (tuition) + INR 115,000 to INR 175,000 for apartment + living expenses + Laptop Cost(since it is compulsory) The average salary on graduation is INR 1,000,000. While this figure is higher than the IIMs, it must be borne in mind that this is given to people who already have work experience.
An ISB degree thus works out to be a very expensive degree, and students will definately consider the Return On Investment for an ISB degree vis a vis the IIM degree. In short, only the people who have saved enough or are rich enough will be able to afford an ISB education and it certainly isn't one the majority of the population can afford. In contrast, an IIM degree is much, much cheaper and also has a good return on investment
Point 4 - Faculty
The IIMs comprise primarily of Indian faculty drawn from the best talent pool and having people holding doctrates from institutes like MIT.
The ISB comprises of visiting faculty that is drawn from US and European B-Schools like London Business School, Wharton, Kellogg, Stanford, Chicago, Duke, and Texas throughout the year along with Indians. For a subject within a semester, one professor takes one half, while the other professor completes the course.
Point 5 - Culture
In India, an MBA is considered a done and dusted post-graduate degree, to be gone through as a ritual in the quest for the elusive top paying job, a way out of the present job, to acquire functional skills, to acquire the right "qualifications" to get a promotion over a colleague amongst other reasons. We seldom stop to think: "What are the skill sets I wish to develop? Do I need an MBA to assist me in the roadmap I have charted out for myself? Which school should I choose? Does it suit my purposes? Do companies in the sector I wish to work in, come to this school? What are their intakes? What kind of profiles do they look for? How much experience would qualify me for a lateral placement?" It's usually: "IIM - Barclays paid USD185,000" or "ISB - INR 1 crore school..."
How many applicants visit schools to study their profiles, talk to the alums, get a feel of the campus before deciding? I recently spoke to Raghu (IIM-L) and he said, the IIMs arent known for this. ISB has a visit programme and once you evince interest and send them your information, they will help you to get in touch with an alum for guidance.
That is the difference in culture I am talking about. The ISB is modelled on US B-Schools, where an MBA has evolved from a purely academic degree to a vocational course to something that is today, somewhere between the two(this line is credited to Vatsa - but I swear I jotted it down from what I remembered.)
Point 6 - The Qualification Process
For an IIM, the CAT is the be all and end all. It is the filtering process used to weed out potential applicants and keep the best of the lot for further weeding out through GDs and PIs. At ISB, the GMAT scores are taken as one of the parts of the applicant's candidature submission. There is weightage given to work experience, the industry, the gender, diversity of work and personal experiences, submission essays, recommendations.
Point 7 - Marriage Prospects :-)
For years, I have been hearing "That brilliant boy with an IIT-IIM pedigree" line. Guess, now I can start hearing about "That brilliant boy with a BITS-ISB pedigree" line. Its my (flawed???) research that more BITSians goto ISB.
A lot can be debated over this issue by people far more wiser, more qualified and more adept than me in all ways. But there's no substitute for common sense and common sense says: "Jeeyo aur jeene do..."