I finally made it to IIM Ahmedabad. Obviously I mean a short visit to the campus. What did you think ? Anyway I always thought the campus was tucked away in some quiet corner, away from the city. I guess it must have been at one time. Now, the town of Ahmedabad has pretty much wrapped itself around the institution, honking cars, dusty roads et al. Similar to IIT Bombay.

The Louis Kahn brick structure has stature and exudes the quiet grandeur, despite the scores of cracks in the walls and arches that look like they are going to give way any moment. Looking at the arches, I am reminded this is a Government institution. I understand the IIM Calcutta buildings are in worse shape so..

I realize there are actually two campuses, the old brick one whose photographs we see all the time and a new one built in `exposed concrete’ whose photographs we do not see. Not surprisingly because the exposed concrete (the result of thought out architectural strategy and not an accident) will take some time getting used to. After all your first thought is, hey, when are they painting these walls ? A busy road that separates the two campuses but an underground tunnel with a permanent and insightful exhibition of IIM’s history connects the two.

Its A New Course

My colleagues and I are being given the tour by Prashant, a PGPX student and former TCS guy – the one-year MBA programme, which despite whatever else anyone at IIM might say, is pitched directly against the Indian School of Business (ISB). I mean the 1-year-duration part, not necessarily the cut-off age or other factors. Be that as it may, the fact that IIM has responded is worthy. Given its parentage ie.

The one-year course has much higher cut-offs, you have to be at least 27 years old, or roughly seven years of work experience. All this was told to me by Prashant as well by professor of marketing Arvind Sahay who is one of the faculty members overseeing this course. It’s a bit of a pet project for Sahay and I would wish the team all the best.

Sahay is one of the many boyish looking professors who dot the IIM landscape. I met another IIM A professor T T Rammohan Rao (TTR as he is called) in Mumbai recently. My first words to him were, "Oh, I thought you were much older." "I am sorry to dissapoint you," he said with a twinkle in his eye and in a tone that must be trademark sarcasm. Incidentally, a study of Sahay's bio (IIT, IIM, PhD from Austin, U Texas in marketing, Assistant Prof at London Business School) can inspire or depress, depending on where you are in life. I guess I tilt towards the latter !

Job Market Will Set The Tone

Now the big question. How will IIM A’s new course stack up against the Indian School of Business (ISB) Hyderabad ? It’s a tough one. Sahay admits they are a late entrant in this format - the first batch passes out in March 2007 – and there is a while to go. Placements were on as we were walking around the campus and presumably in a month, things will be clearer. Sahay did say a couple of big placement offers had already come in.

From a course perspective, I did get the sense that IIM has tried hard to distinguish itself from ISB– notably its focus on a higher percentage of resident faculty. I also got a sense that the one-year is pretty exhaustive. The students point out that they are working all the time. That is not a comparison with ISB of course, just an observation. I also felt that IIM might have responded better and faster, if only it could.

My gut tells me that ISB might lead in the job market for a year or two more before it becomes a neck n neck battle. If the job market continues to boom, you might see equilibrium achieved even more quickly. I am basing this on the fact that the input in both cases is more or less similar and of a high quality. I have met ISB students and I met some IIM PGPX students – I see no structural differences ! Would be interesting though to hear what everyone else thinks !


Anonymous said…
when ISB is taking in students with 2-3 years of experience and IIM-A minimum 7 years (average experience 10 years), the input is very different. How then IIM-A is in direct competition with ISB??
Anonymous said…
There is no competition in the 2-3 year experience category - anyone in that category will happily go to IIM. What IIMA is doing by the 1 year course is pre-empting the future market for 7-8 year experience people joining MBA schools.
Anonymous said…
IIM's, your days are numbered. ISB is going to whip your ass!
Anonymous said…
Interesting comparison. But a closer look at the facts relating to the intake does have a story to tell. (Figures are in order of ISB, IIMA PGPX). Source - Official websites
Average Age (27,32)
Average work ex (5,9.4)
International work ex (Not available, 3.4)
% with International experience (17%, 83%)
International participants (1%, 3.3%)
Women participants(20%, 8.3%)
% with more than Bachelor degree (Not available, 50%)

having said this, these are mere numbers and provide one perspective. wait for more inside stories :)
Raju Komaravolu said…
Pls check out more analysis at

Anonymous said…
is there no scope for people who may be street smart but not very academically inclined but keen to learn and study more? what are the available options? is there any way of getting into ISB or the IIM's, without sitting in for those horrid exams?
Anonymous said…
Why does everybody want to compare? Shahrukh vs Amitabh; ISB vs IIM? what's wrong with us Indians? does anyone compare Harvard with Wharton or Ambani vs Mittal or Yunus vs Amartya Sen? ISB has done a great job, they brought in a completely fresh approach to management education and shook the rest of us up from our slumber. Does IIM have to compare itself with ISB all the time and feel defensive? If you have to compare why not with Harvard? ISB keeps quiet through it all.Or is that another lesson to compare with?
Anonymous said…
That's a good article I must say.
However, I think we are getting too much into this whole IIM vs. ISB comparison. Let us accept the fact that ISB showed India that there exists a huge section of people who have worked for 4-5 years and now want to look towards progressing up the value chain. ISB came right in to serve this market, a market which the IIMs looked down upon with contempt (remember the you-have-too-much-work-ex argument that IIMs doled out if you somehow made it through CAT but had worked for more than 2 years?). Now, suddenly, after ISB has established itself and created this whole new market for itself, the IIMs feel threatended. Imitation might be the best form of flattery, but it does us no good to compare the two institutions for every step that either one of them makes. IIM is in its own right to create newer programs, maybe playing catch-up, and ISB is right in continuing to do its own work silently. How come we don't see ISB doing a lot of publicity with a sense of proclaim and why do we see the IIMs always seeming to show their presence? I think the media should rest this comparison and let the two institutions do their jobs. Both are doing a good deed for prospective managers. Period. And that is how it should be.
Anonymous said…
Before making comments on the supposedly-in-worse-shape structures of IIM Calcutta, I would suggest that the author of this blog kindly visit IIMC and them decide, and not make such off-hand comments on the blog...
Ads said…
I totally agree with d! Imitation is indeed the best form of flattery. But then IIMA PGPX is not going to be just another 'me too' affair.

The comparisons, however inevitable, should be just the academic exercises. Both the schools have a charm of their own and prospective eomplyers are going to be more than happy to get even bigger pool of candidates to choose from each year!

And having said all that one slightly extremist thought that still prevails in moi mind - ISB rocks!!!
Arun Cavale said…
Hi Govind,

Nice read...without being biased - i dont belong to either the IIMA or the ISB camp - but from first hand experience through close affiliations with both instis, I tend to consider the following aspects in making my comparison of IIMA vs ISB.

1. Quality of input.
As a top B-school graduate myself, and a recruiter from campuses in recent times, I give more credit to the quality of input (what comes in), more than the process of imparting education (Transformation process)at any of the b-schools in India. In other words, I recruit from here since i know the raw stock of students coming in are of great quality. Am not too concerned about what value add the institute imparts. In that sense, I think - again my opinion - ISB has some distance to go. Diversity (ex-miss India's not withstanding) is a charming thing to say on your website, but of not too much value.

2. Strength of alumni network / shared contacts.
This is clearly one big area where IIMA scores over ISB. With a collective alumni base thats some 50x that of ISBs (obviously due to its recent vintage), there is already a ready network of IIMA alumni waiting to mentor freah graduates (and am not counting the other IIMs).

While the latter is a matter of time before ISB can establish some kind of a critical mass of alumni base, it is the former issue that ISB needs to address, and address quickly.
Anonymous said…
there is no comparision btw ISB and IIM.

IIM is more focused on freshers but ISB takes 2-3 years exp guyz
Anonymous said…
What's it with these IIM chaps? Are they all so insecure that they first slog their brains out getting into the place.

Once they get in and get out, they're still insecure they can't communicate in clear, simple, direct, straight forward language!
Anonymous said…
dear sir
i am a b.tech (IT) 2 nd year student
i am desperate to get in iim -a . i want to know what are the things that i can do at present to accomplish it .
i regularly read newspaper ( TOI).
magzines ( indiatoday)
but what else i can do at the moment to prepare for the CAT while simultaneously keeping attention on my engg studies.
should i may join the CAT COACHING NOW OR AT THE LAST YEAR .
would it better for me to prepare for the CAT right now or join up a s/w company for experience .
also i want to know if ther r any type of marks cutoff( OF GRADUATION OR INTERMEDIATE0 in the cAT .
WHICH books are the most essential in preparing for CAT

Anonymous said…
Anonymous said...
What's it with these IIM chaps? Are they all so insecure that they first slog their brains out getting into the place.

Once they get in and get out, they're still insecure they can't communicate in clear, simple, direct, straight forward language"

I fully agree. I run a firm in Europe and took an Indian MBA who went to IIM and his first month's work was to look at all aspects of our firm and suggest where we go from where we were. A month later, we congregated for his presentation. He power point slides were riddled with jargon and mis-spelling and his verbal delivery was so pathetic that at the end I had to let go off him. Since then I have had 20 others with the same calibre. What was strikingly obvious was that they all knew so little about the States in India where they came from (let alone their country). All of them could not string a sentence together without jargons. I think these IIM youngmen should work as interns in their local municipal offices before they are awarded the degree.
Anonymous said…
Ideally I would have ignored this conversation, but I see some strong sentiments by some against the best management institute in the country. May be because they could not make it.
Anyways there is a small difference. The best institute guys laugh away when others compare their school with the best one.

Constantly trying to prove that the best is not actually the best.

Good attempt.
Anonymous said…
I work for a famous IT firm and lots from here have gone to ISB and some to IIMs and one odd to IIM A.

Well the general feelings are.."yaar IIM nahi hua. ISB le leta hun" (means..could not make it to the IIMs, taking ISB)
Anonymous said…
Hmmm.. Pretty interesting to see so many anti-IIM comments in an IIM vs ISB debate. However, from what I understand from recent trends ISB is taking quite a few with 2-3 year experience and the same is the case with IIMs these days. The freshers percentage in IIMs have dropped considerably from the erstwhile 70% in 90's and 00 beginning to 20-25% these days and is on a downward track. Partly freshers themselves want to join after 1-2 years of experience.

Though ISB average is 5 years, its also because a considerable number with 7-8 yrs work ex join. I would like to see the median work ex and much better placement reports/class profiles from ISB the way US schools declare. That would give a better idea.
Anonymous said…
I am an ISB admit for the Class of 2010, but after evaluating ISB and none of the hype surrounding it, i have decided not to join ISB. The factors that influenced my decision were -
1. With 7.5 yrs of work ex in the Fin services industry and being in middle management, i wanted to do a course which would have helped me move up the value chain and i felt that ISB which states that its class has an average work ex of 5 yrs would be ideal. However, on doing more research,the work ex seems skewed towards IT with almost 60% of the class with upto 2-3 yrs of work ex. The average gets skewed because of 3-5% of students with > 9 yrs work ex. I am sure if they were to publish the median, it would be somewhere around 3 yrs.
2. International Students - They are mostly NRIs, or GC holders who apply to ISB.There are hardly any foreign nationals in the school, so the basic purpose of geographical diversity gets defeated, though the college is working on it, i doubt if a US or UK national would join ISB.
3. ROI - With a fees of 20lacs and average sal of 19lacs(as per 2008 stats), there would be considerable no. of students who would have got salaries lesser than the spend on the course, plus for people with substantial experience it would be a huge oppurtunity cost.Also, with regards to consulting, most of the consults take ISB grads at the entry level positions and laterals are very hard to come by in ISB.
4. Alum profile - While ISB is working hard on improving the class profile and the job profiles, they would be handicapped to a greater extent by the fact that most of their Alum are in IT/Telecom industry and very few have managed to diversify into fin services - the sector which creates the maximum jobs during a normal year.
So all in all ISB still has to work a lot in terms of improving the class profile (quality of input)and ROI by being able to get recruiters to offer better job roles and profiles to students passing out of ISB.
Smruti Mohanty said…
The Best Comment so far is from Kevin.
Hope those people who have tried to formulate the graphs of achievements between IIMA & ISB understand !!! Absolute Gibberish ... LoL
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