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IIMA vs ISB: 8 Key Differences that you should Know

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) was founded in 1967 by the government of India in collaboration with business visionaries. Today it has cult status among Indian B-school aspirants and has grown into an EQUIS-accredited internationally recognized management institution. Indian School of Business (ISB) was founded by a group of eminent industrialists and academicians in association with Kellogg and Wharton. The first student intake was in 2001, and in just a decade, the school is now nipping at the heels of IIMA for the title of India’s best B-school in most international rankings.

Although Indian B-schools rankings do not really rate the AACSB-accredited ISB, students both in India and abroad have a fuzzy perception of how these two MBA behemoths compare with each other. Some say it is like comparing apples and oranges. While that is partially true, we have undertaken the challenging task of sizing them against each other.

Do note that in India, MBA degrees can only be given by universities. That is why B-Schools here offer management diplomas equivalent to an MBA, and both IIM and ISB call theirs – PGP or Post Graduate Program.

1) Course duration

The MBA program at ISB follows the European 1-year model whereas IIMA follows the US-style, 2-year MBA. Therefore, ISB demands a shorter career-break but IIMA requires a longer interruption of 2-years. Though ISB provides a minimum classroom contact of 680 hours, similar to US’ B-schools, IIMA’s course is obviously a more in-depth learning experience.

2) Class Profile

Nearly 60% of IIMA’s class of 2011 had 1 year or less of work experience with a massive 40% having no experience at all. Not surprisingly, more than 90% were aged between 21 and 25. The corresponding figures for ISB tell a different tale altogether. Among the class of 2013, 80% were aged between 25 and 30 with 2.7 to 7.5 years of experience. This proves that ISB is suited for experienced professionals who need a shorter more intensive  management education. As for IIMA, its longer, more extensive course is just right for candidates with less experience.

3) Admissions

IIMA is considered as the world’s toughest MBA program to get into with a mind-boggling acceptance rate of just 0.1%. To squeeze your way into the hallowed gateways of this school you would need to be in the top 1 percentile in the CAT exam or if you’re an international candidate, a minimum GMAT score of 700.  After filtering candidates through CAT and GMAT, a personal interview is conducted that is followed by a final selection that takes into account academics and work experience, with a higher privilege given to academic. Interestingly, IIMA treats any experience over 2 years as being equivalent to just 2 years.

ISB on the other hand will only take in students with 2+ years’ experience
. Exceptional candidates with less than 2 years’ of experience are given deferred admissions. A GMAT score is necessary, but there is no minimum requirement although the 700+ score among Indian candidates is a norm. The application process also mandates a thorough submission of personal, career and educational details, a few essays and an interview. IIMA prefers younger candidates with strong academics while ISB goes for professionals with exceptional experience and proven leadership skills.

4) Careers

Both IIMA and ISB had the highest number of students hired for consulting at nearly 30% each. ISB had IT as the second most popular post-MBA job function with 28% compared to IIMA’s just 14% for IT. The second most popular industry at IIMA was Finance with 20% vs. ISB’s 4% entering the financial sector. Therefore, students looking for finance careers can opt for IIMA and those who prefer the IT sector can choose ISB. One interesting point to note is that Hyderabad’s strong Pharma presence has resulted in 7% of the students being placed in this vertical. FMCG jobs at IIMA totaled 14% whereas at ISB it was just 8%.

5) Alumni network

IIMA was founded in 1967, and boasts of a vast alumni network of nearly 31,000 graduates. ISB is a much later entrant to the B-school scene and its B-school graduates have only totaled 3,500+. Where ISB claws back a bit of this disadvantage is in a slightly better international networking potential.

6) Post MBA location

In 2012, ISB’s 574 graduates received 92 international offers - which represent 16% of the class. The corresponding stats for IIMA are 40 out of 365, representing 10%. So clearly, when it comes to international placements ISB is well ahead. This is to be expected considering that; international assignments in managerial roles are rarely given to inexperienced hands.

7) Exchange programs & international tie-ups

IIMA has more exchange programs than ISB, with 50 leading B-schools partners but ISB has just 39. IIMA offers greater options for Europe and Asia and has an exchange program in South America while ISB has none there.

ISB was founded in association with Kellogg School of Management and the Wharton School. It also has strong ties with the London Business School, the MIT Sloan School of Management and The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy. IIMA had a close relationship with Harvard Business School in its formative years that influenced its dependence on the case method of teaching.

8) Course Fees

IIMA costs just Rs. 14,65,000 for its 2-year program. On the other hand, ISB charges Rs. 22,25,000 which still works out to less than half of what a top B-school in USA or EU would charge.

Value for money?


The average salary at ISB in 2012 was Rs. 71,58,000 internationally, and Rs. 18,83,000 locally. IIMA had a median of Rs. 37,00,000 for international placements and Rs. 14,00,000 for local placements. So both programs are definitely worth the cost.

Now comes the tricky question – which is better value for money? That is hard to judge, considering that by the time an IIMA graduate starts working, the ISB graduate has already spent a year on the job, and potentially repaid most of his or her educational loan.

Both B-schools have their own niches and choosing one mostly depends on the stage of your career path. Either way, both represent two different but excellent paths towards a credible learning experience and an accelerated career growth.

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