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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 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; which is partially true, but 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

Gone are the days when IIMA’s class would absorb 60% of students (Class of 2011) with less than 1 year of experience. The Class of 2015, for instance had 29% with 1-2 years of experience, 17% with less than 1 year of experience, and 25% with no experience, taking the total of IIMA students with less than 1-year experience to 42%, an 18% drop during a 5-year period. The corresponding figures for ISB tell a different tale altogether. For the class of 2015, ISB PGP class had an average 5 years of experience, proving that ISB is suited for experienced professionals who need a shorter more intensive management education. As for IIMA, it is longer, more extensive and is just right for candidates with less experience.

Both the programs are Engineer heavy, with IIMA admitting 94% Engineers while ISB took in 75% - a clear indication that both the programs are suited for career switchers. When you compare the diversity of the background within the Engineering domain, ISB attracts a much diverse group (IT/ITES, Consulting, Banks, Oil/Energy, Manufacturing, and Telecom) while IIMA admits a more traditional group (IT/ITES, Industry, Consulting, Finance and PSU/Govt).

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 hired most students for consulting with ISB slowly losing the percentage recruited in this job function from the highs of 36% in 2011 to 24% in 2014. The biggest gainer in this shift in recruiting pattern has been General Management, which attracted 20% of the class. IIMA has maintained the 32% placement in consulting, followed by 18% in Marketing/Sales, and 12.7% in Finance.

Only 8% of ISB class of 2014 entered the financial sector while 17% IIMA students opted for Finance/Banking. Therefore, students looking for a Finance/Banking career should look at IIMA as a viable option and those who prefer the IT/ITES sector should choose ISB, which attracted 28% of the class. One interesting point to note is that Hyderabad’s strong Pharma presence has resulted in 9% of the students being placed in this vertical. A non-existent e-commerce industry saw a resurgence in 2014 with 9% of the ISB class opting for Indian e-commerce giants Myntra.com and Flipkart to name a few. FMCG jobs at IIMA totaled 14% whereas at ISB it was just 2%.

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 2014, ISB’s 766 graduates received 68 International offers - which represent 9% of the class. The corresponding stats for IIMA are 19 out of 362, representing 5%. So clearly, when it comes to international placements, ISB is well ahead, as expected since 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 partners. 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. 15, 80,000 for its 2-year program. On the other hand, ISB charges Rs. 25, 40,898, 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 2014 was Rs. 71, 58,000 internationally, and Rs. 18, 15,964 locally. IIMA had a median salary of Rs. 47,36,360 for international placements and Rs. 15, 30,000 for local placements. Both programs are 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, an ISB graduate has already spent a year on the job and potentially paid most of her educational loan.

Both B-schools have their 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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