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How Would You Rank 1-year MBA programs at IIMA, IIMB and ISB?

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Among the 1-year full-time MBA programs run by business schools in India under various names are the PGPX at IIM Ahmedabad, the EPGP at IIM Bangalore and the PGP at the Indian Business School (ISB). How would you rank these three programs?

This question was asked in Quora with a request to explain the rationale, the parameters used in arriving at the answer and future predictions. Those wanting to answer the query were also asked not to base their analysis entirely on FT Rankings as it is already known. Certain parameters in those rankings are also not applicable to most of the schools (research publications, accreditation etc).

Abhishek Chawla, an ISB alumnus says the school’s PGP program is different from the other two. The class is much more diverse and there are more globally-renowned visiting professors from top schools such as Wharton, Harvard and Kellogg.

From my own experience, there is no separate process for senior executives (everyone is a part of the same placement process). I know many senior folks from my class at ISB who got placed on Day 0 & Day 1. Those who get placed later are generally people who are very choosy about the role/company they would like to join and hence do not sit for many recruiters’ process,” he says.

IIM A/IIM B 1-year programs are nice and suit senior IT professionals very well. However, they lack the diversity of the class that ISB has. Hence, you meet people very similar to you (which has its own advantages) but miss out on broadening your horizons which I think is key to the MBA experience,” he adds.

Having worked with an Investment Bank prior to joining ISB, he says he got fascinated by startups at ISB and joined a startup after graduation and now he has his own startup in the education space called Strategy4GMAT.

He also points to the advantage a flagship program like the PGP enjoys compared to other programs like PGPMAX in ISB. The IIMs are more known for their 2-year programs.

Overall, all schools/programs have their own pros and cons. Nonetheless, they are all top-notch and your career post-MBA from any of these schools is definitely better than your pre-MBA career since these schools open many doors for you,” he adds.

Rahul Ranjan, another alum at ISB says EPGP in IIM Bangalore is a relatively new program and usually people with more work experience go there. The batch size is small (75 in 2016–17). It is also not their flagship program. IIMA has a much better reputation, he adds.

Ranjan rates ISB as the one truly international experience possible in India. With 70% faculty from across the top institutes in the world, the experiences and domain knowledge adds a lot of value. ISB has a higher diversity of students, large cohort and lots of parties.

Swapnil Bhandarkar, PGPX student at IIMA says he has close to 12 years of work experience in the IT Services industry. He applied to all these 3 B-schools in the 1st round and got an early decision category admit from ISB, and also from IIMA a few weeks later. He did not get through IIMB EPGP.

As you know, ISB has a batch size of about ~800–850 participants, out of which close to 5–6% (around 50 to 75 ) are people with 8+ years of experience, also known as the senior executives. Out of those 50–75 people, even less number of people would have 12 or 12+ years of work experience.

ISB does not provide a further breakup of its senior executives’ club, but it’s reasonable to believe this. So if I had to make a guesstimate, I would be one of about 20–22 people of my age group had I gone ahead with ISB. In a batch of more than 800 people where pretty much majority of the batch is full of young guns with 3–4 years of work experience, I thought the peer learning could be somewhat challenging, because I have significantly higher practical experience dealing with both higher management as well as subordinates, which people of 3–4 years work-ex do not usually have,” he says.

IIMA PGPX participants, on the other hand, have average experience at 8–8.5 years. Out of the batch size of 85–90 (this year it is increased to 115), the experience range lies from 5 years to 20 years, though a majority of the batch has about 10 years of work experience, he adds.

I find pretty much everyone in the batch aligned with the kind of experiences I have gone through. Even for the professors, conveying a certain set of ideas to the batch would be easier since the majority of the students can show familiarity with the case in point since they may have gone through such events in the past in their corporate lives.

Personally, I placed a very high emphasis on getting a cohort which is similar to my experience level, since it was important to me that peer learning that happens should be both ways,” he says.

Even in placements, since ISB’s majority students are with lower years or work experience, their day 0 and day 1 placements are geared towards clearing the placements of this crowd (~Nov). The senior executives placements are carried on day 2 and 3 (Jan-March).

While ISB has its logic in place to segregate the placements for junior and senior professionals for their ease, honestly I find it inconvenient that I wait to get interview calls even as about half the batch is already placed, despite paying the same fees and bringing more to the table in terms of my higher experience in peer learning,” he adds.

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IIMA PGPX placements are rolling and completely student driven, meaning companies are invited without any apparent segregation in the industry or work experience, Bhandarkar points out.

For IIMB EPGP, I only realized later on that they had pretty much closed their doors to almost all the applicants having more than 10 years of work experience. This was despite their application process is open for candidates with 4 to 12 years of work experience.

Hence it was quite shocking to not even get the interview shortlist. Repeated emails yielded no reply from them. From their current batch profile, it seems that they are targeting 5 years as the average work experience, somewhat similar to ISB and less than IIMA, in order to differentiate themselves in the 1-year MBA game.

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I got to know that almost everyone who had admits from both ISB and IIMB, went with ISB without much dilemma (there are always exceptions to the rule though). Also, I have acquaintances who went ahead with ISB by rejecting IIMA, and many of my current PGPX classmates rejected ISB like I did. But the dilemma between ISB and IIMA was definitely more difficult, I would say,” he adds.

Bhandarkar also finds ISB deriving the biggest advantage over the two IIMs in placing the PGP as their flagship program. Industry recognises ISB by way of PGP. PGPX and EPGP are both relatively newer programs (despite having more than 10 batches graduated) and hence it would take a while to bring them to universal notice and at par with the 2-year CAT-based PGP.

However, I went with PGPX because I personally felt IIMA was a stronger brand than ISB in the long run (foregoing the commitment fees I paid to ISB),” he adds. Bhandarkar ranked IIMA first, followed by ISB and IIMB.

Another person, who preferred to remain anonymous, ranked IIMA first, IIMB second and ISB third. Subsequently, IIM Calcutta, IIN Lucknow, SPJIMR, IIM Indore, XLRI and Great Lakes Institute of Management (GLIM) have been ranked with a claim that it was based on placements as the sole criterion.

This person goes on to add that on the basis of pedagogy, curriculum and professors, IIMB, IIMA and ISB are only marginally different but still, if they have to be ranked, IIM B will be on the top. ISB is trying to capture the combined market segment of IIM PGP and PGPX/EPGP – so it is kind of stuck in the middle, he adds.

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