Im pretty sure these headlines are unintentional. I saw one this evening which said, "ISB declines to reveal boy's identity." Another one, "ISB is not revealing boy's identity, yet."

Im sure you had the same thoughts I would have had. Some heinous crime has been committed and an organisation that goes by the initials of ISB is refusing to give up the accused.

The Indian School of Business is in the news. A graduate student has bagged a $233,800 (Rs 1.04 crore) job. That beats the previous record set by the IIMs.

Recently, IIM Bangalore kicked up a fuss saying they didn't want to turn their placement season into a circus and their students into animals in a temporary zoo. Makes sense I guess. ISB has picked up from there. And refuses to part with the lucky chap's identity. That makes him lucky twice over. He earns the money and gets to keep it, since the Bhais won't find him easily.

Totally Biased

For various, totally biased reasons, I would like to state that I always thought ISB would score in the longer term. Now, one does give educational institutions a little time to grow and mature, maybe a few decades, if not centuries. But this is the era of instant karma. So, even management schools are in the reckoning within 2,000 days of launch. Long term is only a year more now.

I am not an expert on B-Schools. I couldn't have made it to them or through them. I would like to say Ive found the IIMs pompous in their demeanour. Or ineffective. But that would not be fair. I've never dealt with them. But Ive met with IIM A alumni who've toured Harvard Business School as case studies. And yet they've never been considered as good enough for similar exercises by their own alma mater. And have made it a point to point it out.

I have `dealt' with the ISB though. And visited their campus at least on two occasions. Once to be part of a panel discussion. I may not exactly be a big catch but this guy who visited the ISB two months later surely was. His name was George Bush and he is the President of the United States of America.

Why It Will Pull Ahead

As an aside, the ISB, as I noted in the latest issue of ISB Insight, is understandably thrilled about Bush's visit, the first of its kind. And yet, they didn't devote a whole edition to it. Like many people would have been tempted to. So they score reasonably well on modesty.

Ive met with some of the ISB faculty as well. They seem lively and vibrant. Maybe its because they are a new team, who've just got together. Both the dean and the deputy dean are warm and friendly. And so are a whole lot of other people in the sprawling campus, a little outside Hyderabad. So, the cockles of my heart warm at the thought of an ISB graduate taking home a crore, in dollars. And yes, its possible Ive encountered him.

Why do I think the ISB will pull ahead ? For one, its not because some lucky sod got a Rs 1 crore job. Not at all. Nor is it because they were kind enough to remember me. Its simply because they work extremely hard at being what they are. Maybe because they are number two or five or whatever, the faculty and students are extremely competitive. They know they've got a while to go before they are truly in the reckoning in the hall of fame of Indian B-Schools.

But they seem to be doing a few right things. Like creating a truly international atmosphere. At the panel discussion I was part of, exchange students from Wharton (if I remember correctly) were firing questions in the classroom. They also have a Chinese B-School exchange program, among others. Students are thus exposed to a global, multi-cultural environment, in Hyderabad. ISB has affiliations with Wharton and Kellogs School of Business. This, in my mind, is a very critical requirement in the shaping of a global manager.

Quality Interaction

The other point that I can touch upon quickly is interaction and research. The ISB is trying hard to ensure its students get a well-rounded exposure to leadership, issues, academia, public policy, politicians et al. Im sure institutes like IIM Bangalore are doing well in this race. But the ISB is pretty much there too.

And then there are case studies. The ISB is yet to reach somewhere but the IIMs, who've been around for so long, have not. Their output often reads like a series of droll Planning Commission like papers. At least from what Ive seen. And heard. Totally unreadable. Having recently walked through a Harvard Business School case study in some detail and sat through a couple of classes after that, I have some idea of what it could be.

These two or three ingredients may not be sufficient for success, so to speak. And a Rs 1 crore salary slip does not mean you hoist the victory flag. Particularly since the student in question may have dollops of experience, particularly the right kind. And someone found the right fit. Oh yes, Ive met a lot of IIM grads who are mostly neutral to indifferent to their institutes. A few have gone out and thrashed them. And there must be others who absolutely adore these institutions. I've yet to meet them though. The ISB grads on the other hand seem more connected with their instutition. And even look at the ISBs shortcomings as temporary glitches rather than as a sign of decline or decay.

There must be many reasons for all of this but its interesting. Note that only four or five years have passed. Am sure the ISBians won't rest. From where they come, they would work harder. Or so I would think. In my biased way of course.


Bibs said…
I am not sure I agree with the tone of the post. I think the media should refrain from using words like 'beat' wrt this topic. There are a lot of aspirants out there who will get the wrong message.

Firstly I dont think there ever has been a clear parameter set up as to what makes a school better than others (I do not consider all magazine surveys to be true representatives) and hence it is really difficult to state this.

Secondly, I believe ISB by nature of the students who gain admission is very different from the IIMs. Please note that on an average, about 50% of the IIM students are freshers whereas the average experience in ISB is more than 5 yrs and ranging upto 15 yrs. That clearly makes a difference in the compensation and the roles they get (similar to the laterals in IIMs).

Wrt faculty, I completely do not agree with the comparison since most of the faculty in ISB have anyway been sourced from the IIMs. Why, even the dean, Mr.Rao was heading IIMB before ISB.

In terms of exchange programs, I believe IIMB and IIMA have a very extensive exchange program probably even stronger than ISB. I know for a fact that at least 140 students from the present batch in IIMB are expected to go to other schools worldwide.

Research, I will agree, is an area where the IIMs have been sorely lacking.

I believe there needs to be more rationality to the whole MBA business. The media is really making it out to be a circus and I think it is quite unfair to the guys who got it and more so for the aspirants who jump on to the MBA bandwagon with completely mistaken expectations.
Rashmi Bansal said…
ISB and IIMs are two different models of management education. I feel there is a a need for both models.

There is a huge demand in this country for an MBA program aimed at age 20-25. That, traditionally, was the time by which you completed your education. This is the space where IIMs have established a brand name, and where 98% of the 1000 other MBA institutes in the country operate.

In the last 5 years things have changed. Going 'back to school' after working for 10 years, when you're married and have kids is OK. But imagine at the time the IIMs were set up, in the late 60s. There would have been no takers for an MBA for 27 year olds at all!

So ISB came in at the right time, with the right vision and created a whole new market. And that's a great thing. ISB has forced IIMs to introspect and also to respond to the challenge. IIM A's PGP X program aimed executives with 7-15 years experience has just kicked off this month. It will be interesting to see what kind of placements PGP X grads get, this time next year.

All said and done I have no doubt ISB will continue to set a scorching pace. And one wishes more b schools of such a calibre are set up!

Also that in the very near future ISB and IIMs are able to attract international applicants. Not just NRIs.
Anonymous said…
hey govind!!!

howz you?

i have this theory! i feel the person who gets the highest salary in a bschool is the biggest loser!!! why?
coz hes and IIT grad , then MS , then 10 years workex of which 9.9 years is internation workex, ....
i wonder why does he need an MBA in the first place?????

its just the brand! thats it!

Anonymous said…
I think management institutes in India are playing an unofficial version of "Kaun Banega Crorepati."

For reasons unknown, we Indians seem to have a very strange habit of converting Dollars into Rupees. In this case 200,000 US$ = One point something crore rupees.
Anonymous said…
Guys ..Guys...
Accept the fact the Times have changed..
New Education models, which are success internationally, have come into India and are doing extremely well. Giving IIMs a run for their money..

When the school was started in 2001, the management was hollering on how different it is from IIMS.. And now after 5 years, its IIMs turn to talk about how they are different from ISB. The tables have surely turned !! and Now we are hearing about media rationality on MBA..come on !!!

BTW..let me also tell you, that IIM -A has launched a one years MBA program for Experienced people, obviously inspired by the success story of ISB's program !!

Brains from and of the IIMs are looking for new challenges. and rather than finding those opportunities internationally, they have found them in ISB !!

Regarding the Salary ..can't understand why the KBC comparison !! Indian Economy is booming, the MNCs are puring in, Salaries are why point fingers at those who are gettin paid for what they are worth !!
Go easy people....

as to why DOES he pursue MBA after 10 years work experience ?? Dude ..gota only one thing to say to You - go through the ISB MBA eperience and u will have the answer !!

There is surely no comparison between the 2 institutes but please give the credit wher it is dude and ISB has truly truly earned all the credit..

India surely can do with more internaional standard Education - more IIMs, IITs and ISBs...
get more tolerant guys !!!
Chaitanya Sagar said…
Dhar, Good post. I was just about to say that.

There was a time when ISB was dismissed and folks from ISB used to say that IIMs and ISB are two different models - respecting IIMs and yet giving ISB the credibility. Times have changed. So fast. You can hear it from the other side now. Good to see this.

Has ISB arrived? Not yet. It has a long way to go before it reaches its intended potential. It does not fully house to its capacity. Its research or full-time faculty are not world class yet. Its alumni do not yet occupy the CEO's chair in multi billion dollar companies. Nor does its endowment run into a billion dollars.

ISB's current progress is proof of the concept. More is to come.

Chaitanya Sagar said…
Jus to add, the point about affinity is true. When I was preparing for my placements, I needed some guidance and wrote to a few alumni. I got responses back in an hour. With detailed, thought-thru and insighful suggestions. Similarly, many of my classmates are involved in mentoring the current batch--in studies and in placements. In my case, I conducted mock interviews (after coming back from work at 10 pm) when a current batch student had to attend an interview the next day. And I make it a point to visit ISB at least once in a quarter.
Anonymous said…

getr ur facts right

When u point, & give a link to rashmi's blog, arguing that some iim students have thrashed their own institutes

u forget that rashmi is an alumnus of iima and the link talks about her views on iim cal

surely u do not expect all iim studs to have a greater sense of attachment to the iim brand than the respective alma mater from hich they graduated...

anyways thrash is too harsh an adjective to describe her views, in m opinion

BTW r u an isbian :D

just kidding u man

ur rant has demystified a couple of queries i had in my mind as to IIMs and ISB (having attented the pre-admission panel talk by the ISB) i felt that ISB has still a long way to go when compared to IIMs.
Unknown Indian said…
As an alumnus of IIM Cal, perhaps I am still biased towards the IIMs. But as someone who has recruited from both the leading IIMs (A, B, and C) and ISB, I can say that the IIMs still have a significant quality edge, esp. for I-Banking and Consulting jobs. However, with a little help from Arjun Singh, ISB may pull ahead. Reservations in IIMs wil irrevocably damage the brand equity of these institutes. If half the grads from IITs / IIMs are mediocrities, why should recruiters waste time going through the truly painful process. If this comes through, as a recruiter, I'd rather focus on ISB. For more on this perspective, please see my blog
Anonymous said…
Oppose this step of 27% reservation with full power beware of this selfish thakur and the present goverment there next step is to implement the Quota sytem in Private sector jobs
Anonymous said…
unitedly oppose this step of reervation of 27% in IIT & IIM other wise ur & the future Generations future will abolish awake now otherwise.....
Anonymous said…
All the hype surrounding the ISB and its crore-lapping alumnus notwithstanding, its my firm belief that when all is said and done, its intellectual capital that will take the cake.Lets look at how the ISB and the IIMs in turn do on this important, but oft-ignored metric in any comparison.

The ISB takes in students based on their profile- people with loads of experience(comparatively at least- this also helps one to withstand the strain of paying off the inevitable loan) and a reasonably good GMAT score generally manage to gain entry, provided they are reasonably articulate.So what do we have here?The average ISB batch consists of people who missed the CAT bus when the going was good in the 90s, or are too busy/tired/old for CAT and have money to spare, or younger also-rans in recent CATs seeking an easier entry into a business school with some credibility.There is, of course the small minority that has come to the ISB out of a clear vision and after evaluating all the pros and the cons(a 1-year course v/s a 2-year one at the IIMs, wider acceptance in the international corporate community because of ISB's tie-ups with US universities, and the like).In other words(this is not to belittle the ISB's tremendous progress in attracting talent), the average ISB'ian is already well-settled in his/her job and is coming to ISB as a sort of compromise, bowing to the pressures of work,family and the high barriers to admission in the IIMs.

But all the advantages that the ISB offers, I believe, are Institute-derived as opposed to being student-derived in the IIMs.

By "institute-derived" I mean that the ISB derives its reputation, its name & fame and the like from its high-profile launch and directors, its association with prominent US universities and industry endorsement(which are all attributes of the institute)- and not from the quality and brilliance of its students- at least, not yet.

But then take a look at the IIMs-50% of students are absolute freshers straight out of college, most of the other half with "experience" ranging from 12 to 18 months.With such raw,callow inputs, the IIMs manage to produce world-class managers who've made it to the top of the Indian and (increasingly) the international corporate ladder. How do they do it?Not because they have the best faculty, or because they have good exchange programs or world-class facilities(the ISB probably betters them in all these aspects), but because they get the best intellectual capital in the country- the creme de la creme of Indian youth- the most mathematically,linguistically(in English),logically proficient,the most articulate section, year after year. Hence the students form the bedrock, the very basis for the hallowed status these institutes command,ie their standing is "student-derived".

But this supply chain of prodigious talent to the IIMs will be broken, or at least seriously weakened if electoral politics and its attendant populism is allowed to decide the fate of the aspiring and (especially) the deserving.If this happens, then indeed ISB WILL beat the IIMs, and looking at the increasing demand they might well decide to hike their fees further!!

PS:Am not an alumnus of the IITs or the IIMs though I've aspired(still do for the latter) for both.
My sincere apologies for this excessively verbose post!!
R said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
In response to the quality of students, I am enclosing a ranking released recently on the Average GMAT scores of all students of top B-Schools on this parameter. ISB in ranked fifth globally on this:

Fuqua, Duke____700________9
NYU Stern______694________-

Institutions like ISB and the programs like PGP X give many students the second chance they wanted. It is mighty pompous to suggest that some of the aspirants apply to ISB cause they did not get through to the IIMS or were scared due to the difficulty. If I am not mistaken there are plenty of students in this batch of ISB alone who have chosen ISB over offers from Harvard and Stanford. And yeah a few IIMA's PGP X as well!

Hope some misconceptions on the quality and "compromise" as mentioned are dispelled by this.
Anonymous said…
Firstly, I think the comparison is not fair - it's apples and oranges! Initially only ISB was saying this, but now when ISB has faired better in terms of flaunting a higher salary (for whatever reasons), IIMs are also talking the same line...

Any marketing MBA (who has sat through the classes even in half seriousness) will agree that market segmentation is the core that led to the birth of ISBs, IIMs-PGP and the like... There is a need gap which the current system is totally incapable of filling, because by chance or by design, the CAT system doesn't cater to this segment....

The other thing that I've personally always found flawed in the IIM system, or at a more generic level in the Indian B-School system itself, is that freshers actually even choose to go for a MBA?!!! It's in my mind the stupidest thing to do, because unlike engineering or rocket-science, where you may need raw brains, MBA education is more about the experience and learning common-sense, which comes more by maturity and exposure, and cannot be assumed to be in a person whose only claim to fame is that (s)he has "cracked" the CAT!

Yeah maybe, in the I-Bank and consult jobs this is an advantage, along with the fact that its a cultural thing where-in a typical ISB profile (someone who has worked before for 5 years or more in non I-Banking or Consult job, is married and can't afford to spend 90% of his productive waking hours number-crunching on an excel or in hotel lobbies and airport lounges) doesn't fit in...

So, the way I see it is that while IIMs may continue to have an edge in I-Banks, ISB will probably score better in general management roles! Although IIMs will get competition on this from another front - these companies are going directly to IITs now, to get an even more 'raw brain'!

Finally, a point to close, taking cue from one of the previous blogs, when the advantage at IIMs is 'student derived' and not 'institue derived', the credit for the success should not at all go to the IIMs then? As they are probably getting the brightest kids on the block, who would have probably done well anyways, with or witout IIMs... So the IIMs claim to fame, in turn, is the tough as a nut 'CAT' that those who get in crack?!
Anonymous said…
1. One must recognize that the IIMs have been the flag-bearers of Indian management education over the last 30-40 years. The IIM model is as valid as the ISB model and anyone who believes one has to fail for the other to succeed has got it all wrong.

2. Having had more a flavour of the quality of professors at the IIMs and the quality of their teaching, I cannot avoid reaching the conclusion that IIM graduates are successful – not because of the quality of teaching and processing, but despite it.

3. Someone mentioned that most of the professors at ISB are IIM professors, citing Dean Rao as an example. I was part of a batch at ISB, and can state the following fact. Of the 32 courses that I took at ISB, only 4-5 were taught by IIM professors. The other courses were taught by professors teaching at US business schools

4. If the IIM professors I was exposed to are anything to go by, there is a huge difference between the quality of teaching of an IIM prof and that of an US prof. I’d rate the IIM profs 3/10 on average. While the US profs would on average be rated 7-8/10 – many in excess of 8 and 9. The gap is enormous.

5. It is a travesty of justice to refer to ISB students as ‘The average ISB batch consists of people who missed the CAT …. or are too busy/tired/old for CAT and have money to spare, or younger also-rans …. seeking an easier entry into a business school with some credibility’. This is (rather, typically) reeks of a pompous mindset. I took the GMAT twice – once in early 1995 and again in late 2001. The first time I scored a 660 – and did not do well enough in CAT later in 1995. But, guess what six years later I had notched up a 760 (I don’t care how you cut it, that is not easy to beat). The point being just because someone had a bad day at the test centre, it does not consign him to mediocrity.

6. To reiterate a point Govindraj made in his blog, IIMs (and its students) are pompous in their demeanour. I hope ISBites do not ever stoop to that level.

7. I agree with the assessment that we haven’t done as well as we would have liked in I-bank (not consulting) recruitments. My assessment is that this is primarily because I-banks in US and Europe are used to a certain stereotype of Indian MBAs – 22-23 years and fresh out of IIT or a top notch engineering school. By design, we have never had the ‘freshers’ profile in our batches. We do have alternative, high-quality profiles – but, it will take time to change the stereotype.

8. In 2001, even before the first ISB batch had graduated, message boards had been dedicate to the cause of ISB-bashing. They predicted that the institute will become a spectacle of high-cost mediocrity. I think its now clear as daylight that no such thing will happen. Are we the best in the world? Are we perfect? Hell, no! We must improve – like we have every year, year on year. But remember, we have covered all this ground in a mere 5 years. The mind boggles…
Anonymous said…
I sure believe that the students getting to IIM's are good...but I dont know how many attempts of CAT do they take to get into IIMs.....I have met a few IIM alumni and most of them had taken 2 or 3 shots at CAT before getting through IIM's.

I met an IIM A alumni who told me that at least 70% of the students have taken more than one attempt to get in.

If that's the case them the claim to raw brain power is in question and ultimately it boils down to how persevering you are.

I guess the MBA model world over has a preference for people who have proved themselves in professional life.

The fresher approach to MBA is India specific which evolved in wake of close markets....but with markets opening up i don’t know if freshers will be asked to prove themselves before entering MBA.

I believe IIM will change its model in favour of experienced guys if it has to maintain its top slot

Anonymous said…
Some good observations and some debatable language have characterized Govind's post. I think we are deliberating too much or trying to stretch some of the observations way beyond the point they were intended to convey.

In the process, I think we are missing the proverbial woods for the trees. I don't think Govind's idea was to belittle IIMs or praise ISB - although using comparative language like 'beating', 'better' etc was inappropriate.

Lets talk about the points he raised. There is enough room for several Bschools in the country. ISB and IIMs address distinct segments (although there is an increasing overlapp with IIMs also taking in expeienced profiles/some starting a 1yr program and ISB starting an internship). In India, we are so used to a competitive environment where one always tries to pull others down and climb up selfishly - so much so that we think the ONLY way to go up is at the expense of another person. Same is true with Bschools and those managing them. In the process, we are tending to view everything as a competition - including salaries.

If US can have 20 top rung Bschools, why can't we have 10 without being overtly competitive. The top US bschools work very collaboratively (though there may be competition) which the ISB and IIMs are not even exploring. Even the IIMs within them are also not collaborative. Talking of case studies, even in the US, barring Harvard, none of the other Bschools have been able to come with comparable work (although I must say significantly better than IIM-A case studies that are pathetic!). Talking of placements, all the $$$ salaries - in IIMs as well as ISB are for a select few and the salaries, like in everything else in life, are a normal distribution where these are outliers. The media and Govinds of this world make KBCs out of this event called placements!

Its true ISB is making rapid strides. Its true the intellectual capital of ISB has still some way to go. Its also true, as one of the foreign recruiter in my company recently pointed out, that the 'Managerial quotient' of IIMs is below par with only 30% of class being anything more than quantitative nerds. Even then, IIMs have many more CXOs among their alumni today which points to the vast amount of human capital that exists in India. This is huge enough to absorb many more ISBs as well as IIMs.

The need of the hour is to collaborate rather than compete. ISB is setting a good example - attract more foreign students, driving research, emphasizing on prior workex, good infrastructure etc. and I think IIMs can learn some of that which they have not been able to even though they existed for more than 30 years now. They've just been basking on a good 'intellectual input' which may not be good enough in times to come. These things assume importance in a global business context. ISB is on the right path and thats what Govind points out and lets read into those observations.

sorry for the long post and some 'gyan' (thats what bschool edu teaches you;-))


p.s: I work for a company that is among the world's most preferred recruiters in any top-tier Bschool. In India we hire only from ISB and IIM-A,B,C. In our second year in India, we have equal distribution of alumni from ISB and IIM. I must admit ISB candidates were more ready to go and we decided to visit ISB only next year onwards. Having said that, we could not find more suitable candidates and ended up hiring from Top-10 US bschools. The Indian Bschool education system should not have been in such a situation in the first place!
Anonymous said…
First they ignore you, then they dismiss you, then you win :)!
Anonymous said…
Well its a win win situation. When ISB was established the founders were aware of the fact that comparison with the IIMs was invetiable, as these were, and still are the most reputed educational institutes for management education.They thought through their strategy and learnt from the IIMs experience how to diffrentiate themselves and position themselves for a slightly different set of students ( though some overlap still exists in the market segments that they are catering to)
Since the ISB experiment seems to have taken off well, its time for the IIMs to sit back and strategise if they want to target a broader segment and how to go about it...and they can learn from the ISB experience now....

Healthy competition for that common segment of customers is bound to benefit the institutes as well as the aspiring students...
More collaborative projects and student interaction should also be encouraged....
I think both models are required to co exist peacefully to fulfil India's aspiration of giving world class education to its people....
Anonymous said…
Well, Which one is better one shouldnt care about it.

Motto should be that India as a whole is shining. Whether its ISB or IIM, the fact remains they are indian B-Schools. Its good to see that Indians are getting higher pays......But i guess it will be even better if we get higher respect.
Anonymous said…
Hey Govind,

How are you? Smriti found your blog and has been following it for a while and mentioned that you had written about my alma mater. So I had to read it!

It warmed the cockles of my heart to find out that my former colleague believes in ISB the way I did when i quit CNBC to join ISB.

Is your cell number the same or has it changed? Let's catch up. You can call me on 9873344641.

Anonymous said…
Well, the latest Financial Times rankings of global business schools put ISB at an impressive 20th place, ahead of many well-known American B-Schools. What's more, ISB is the only indian school in that list of 100 B-schools.

I think this fact gives a lot of weight to the assertion that ISB is indeed getting better than IIMs.
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