IIMA vs ISB: 11 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.

As we had shared with our clients in the Detailed Profile Evaluation Service, compare programs on factors that matter: course duration, class size, incoming class profile, admission chances, post-MBA salary, alumni network, post-MBA location, international partners, and course fees.

If you are applying to ISB, Read our Essay Guide

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) Size

ISB intake is double that of IIMA, with last year class accepting 903 students in Hyderabad and Mohali campuses. On the other hand, IIM represented 403 students.

Class Size:
Campus: ISB: 2 IIMA: 1

3) Incoming Class Profile

The Class of 2016-18, for instance, had 25% with no experience, 17% with less than 1 year of experience, 29% with 1-2 years of experience, taking the total of IIMA students with less than 2-year experience to 71%.

The corresponding figures for ISB tell a different tale altogether.

For the class of 2018, ISB PGP class had an average 4.6 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 70% - a clear indication that both the programs are suited for career switchers with a heavy bias towards the analytic mind.

The GMAT Scores were another metric that suggests the entry criteria. For IIMA, the entry is much stricter at a median GMAT of 735 against ISB’s 707 average. 

When you compare the diversity of the background within the Engineering domain, ISB attracts professionals from IT/ITES, Consulting, Banks, Oil/Energy, Manufacturing, and Telecom while IIMA admits a more traditional group (IT/ITES, Industry, Consulting, Finance and PSU/Govt).

Women in both the programs are just over 30% of the class strength.

IIMA has a bias in favor of Engineers from IIT and NIT – the total representation jumping to 42% in the latest class.

GMAT Requirement:
Engineering Background: IIMA > ISB
Peer to Peer Learning: ISB > IIMA
Tier-1 Engineering Schools: IIMA > ISB

4) 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.

Entry Criteria:

Entry Criteria (Experience): ISB > IIMA

5) Post-MBA Salary

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 28% in 2017. The biggest gainer in this shift in recruiting pattern has been Sales and Marketing, which attracted 20% of the class.

IIMA has maintained the 26% placement in Consulting, followed by 18% in Marketing/Sales.

Only 8% of ISB class of 2017 entered the Financial sector while 16% 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 20% of the class.

Online Services and E-Commerce was the rising industry in both the program crossing the 6% mark.

The median salary at ISB in 2017 (middle 80%) was Rs. 20, 76,383 locally. IIMA had a median salary of $127,275 internationally and Rs. 22,00,000 for local placements.

Top Recruiters ISB PGP 2017
Although ISB has not released the recruitment pattern, the global consulting giants - McKinsey, Deloitte, KPMG, A.T. Kearney and Bain & Company were among the recruiters at ISB.

BCG was missing in action.

On the Technology/E-commerce front, Amazon, Apple and Google repeated their presence at ISB Mohali and Hyderabad campuses. In Banking, Indian powerhouses Paytm, and Reliance Payments solutions added to the local presence alongside the US banking giant - Citibank.

For IIMA, McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Amazon, Samsung, Procter & Gamble, completed the top list for two popular functions – Consulting and Sales & Marketing.

IIMA PGP Recruiters 2017
Consulting: ISB > IIMA
Sales & Marketing: ISB > IIMA
Finance/Banking: IIMA > ISB

Post-MBA (PGP) Salary: IIMA > ISB

Related: ISB PGP Essay Guide

6) 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 scene, and its Business School graduates have only totaled 3,500+. Where ISB claws back a bit of this disadvantage is in a slightly better international networking potential.

Alumni Size:

7) Post-MBA location

In 2017, we saw a dramatic fall in International offers at ISB that used to average at 60-70 offers from a class size of 760 to 12 for a class size of 900 – less than 1.5%. The international placements peaked in 2016 with 101 offers from 800+ students. IIMA managed to overtake ISB for the first time in international offers with 4.6% of the class receiving an international offer.

International Offers:

8) Exchange programs & international tie-ups

IIMA has more exchange programs than ISB, with 50 leading Business School 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.

International Networking:
International Culture: ISB > IIMA

9) Course Fees

IIMA tuition fee for 2018-19 was Rs. 24,50, 000 for its 2-year program. On the other hand, ISB charges Rs. 30, 41,000 (excluding service tax) which still works out to less than half of what a top Business School in the USA or Europe would charge.

Cost: ISB > IIMA

Which Program is right for me?

Now comes the tricky question – which is better value for money?.

Both programs have their niches and choosing one mostly depends on the stage of your career path. We help you shortlist the right MBA/PGP program. Send your questions through the initial free consulting form.

Those who want F1GMAT’s guidance in checking their eligibility and chances for shortlisted MBA/PGP programs, Subscribe to our Basic Profile Evaluation service

Those who want F1GMAT’s expertise in finding strengths, weaknesses, and strategy for MBA Admissions, Subscribe to our Detailed profile evaluation service

If you are a self-starter, reading ISB PGP Essay Guide would be enough to learn the nuances of writing a Winning Essay


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