Tuesday, March 04, 2008

ISB versus a top B-school in the US

A lot of my friends in India are faced with the option of MBA from ISB versus an that from an American B-school. I will take a shot at penning down my opinion on this.

The first step is to figure out what factors are relevant to making this decision. Some factors that I can think of are:

Career Prospects
Both the breadth (range) and depth (options within a particular job description) of career paths is important. I think a US MBA has an advantage here. Brand recognition is critical specially when you are looking for jobs that are not run of the mill.
First of all, the sheer range of options that are possible if you are graduating from a top B-school in the US is unparalleled - Investment Banking, Sales and Trading, Private Equity, Hedge Funds, Wealth Management, Venture Capital, Consulting, Real Estate, Marketing, Sales, General Management jobs in almost every industry vertical that you can think of - the list is as endless as the number of job profiles that exist in this world. A US MBA opens window of opportunity to many more possibilities than ISB would. Caveat - As an international student, it is really difficult to enter into job functions such as Marketing.
But then what about people who want to pursue careers in industries where it is possible to find a job through ISB? That is where the depth comes in. You have the opportunity to get an Investment Banking job with Goldman Sachs in New York or London of you are graduating from ISB. However, do perform due diligence on what percentage of people actually get the job - more importantly how many people having your background and experience get what they consider to be the best possible scenario. This should be particularly relevant to career switchers - it is easy to switch your function or your industry, but difficult to do both things simultaneously. A US MBA will open that much more possibility of you pulling it off than an ISB. If after graduation, you would anyways prefer to work with Cognizant versus the same job profile in Google's headquarters, then ISB is probably a better choice.

Return on Investment
A major concern about US B-school education is the extremely high fee, specially when converted to Indian Rupee. I wonder if anybody would have even bothered comparing the two options had the investment amount been the same. Joining in the US is definitely a bigger risk - given that it is a bigger investment. However, the returns are definitely bigger as well - even if we consider only money and no other aspect. Question you should ask is what you want from your career in the long term. In the short term, it will probably take the same time to pay back either loan (assuming that you are taking a loan that is).

B-school experience
B-school is a remarkable journey. You have to live it to believe it. Academics is just one small component of the journey. Apparent cliches like diversity in cultures, ethnicity, professional backgrounds can only be appreciated once you are here. My curriculum team of five at Fuqua consists of a people from three different countries and five different professional backgrounds. This is so typical of any MBA student's experience in the US. The educational and learning value of this team I realized only after I was a part of such a diverse team. I doubt if one can get the same experience at ISB. Also, the skills that get ingrained in you by experiencing and learning so many different cultures can only help you in the real business world.
I am sure the quality of education in terms of faculty and facilities are at par with the world's best at ISB. Still, not everything is taught and learnt in the classroom.

Alumni effectiveness is a very strong factor in the business world. We do not realize this much in India, but networking is almost a make a break factor in business - and networking starts with alumni most of the times.

A two year MBA makes it easier to transition into a new career. This relates back to the first point about career prospects for career switchers. A summer job is mutually beneficial for both the student and the company. You get a chance to explore and understand whether you actually want to do that job or not. The firms are also more willing to give you a chance to explore and learn.

There can be numerous other factors that can be deciding factors - such as geographic location, personal reasons, weather, affinity to Hyderabadi cuisine etc. To each one her own. I do not think you can go wrong either. It is more a matter of what you want from your MBA and from your career.


Anonymous said...

Good posting. I can see a transition between the pre-MBA posts and In-MBA posts.
I am an MBA aspirant. I am looking at team-schools like Kellog, Duke and Tuck. Kellog and Tuck so far seemed to be partner friendly.
I dont know about Duke yet.
My post MBA goal is IB as cliched as it sounds. If you have time, can you please write on the internship prospects in IB while at Fuqua.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for this post. I am currently fighting the same battle. I have admits from both Duke and ISB. I am exactly in the same situation as you have mentioned here. And as stupid it may sound, I am unable to decide. :)

MBAstarter said...

Anonymous 2 - Let me know if I can help you with your decision in any manner.

Anonymous said...

A great post but looks biased towards USA in some way.. I have friends who have done their MBA from USA but have struggled to find a right job for themseleves there.. later on they did find good jobs though.. with ISB the struggle is far less and learning far more I guess... just my opinion

and looking at the current situation I suggest to hold on your money as much as possible..

so be wise and spend well

Anonymous said...

I feel the post is biased towards the US schools. It seems the post was written to plainly justify an American MBA, rather than doing an unbiased analysis of both options. BTW I have admits from CMU, Cornell, IESE and ISB (expecting Yale too) but considering the present high-risk scenario, I am going in for ISB. In troubled times, apna desh apna ho hota hai. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

...."The educational and learning value of this team I realized only after I was a part of such a diverse team. I doubt if one can get the same experience at ISB."

----I don't think you have information or the experience to draw such conclusions. Have you ever attended a class at the Indian School of Business?? Because of the visiting professor model I got to study classes with some of the best professors in the world. I doubt Duke provides the same opportunity.

Govardhan_Krishnan said...

Plz go through this strategy:

Aim: to land up in a associate profile in Wall street companies

Small intro of me: common but smart Indian in Infosys with mediocre financial support.

1.Do a MBA from ISB..if lucky try to get placed in Invesment Bank or else in IT firms (which shall certainly give u an option of going to US).

2.after reaching US with the same GMAT score apply to MFE(Financial engineering) from University of california Berkely.

3.All said and lucky you are,get admission in UCB and one can get in to wall street...

U can ask me why shuld I do MBA from ISB for going to MFE in UCB..
My assumption is berkely demands prior Finance exposure and a greater brand and some solid reputable work exposure & experience.

Above all indian banks are ready to shell out 20 lac for ISB ..So i have decided y not use them for me in this lifetime??


Please correct me if there is any hiccups in my strategy towards Wall street.

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MBAaspirant said...

I stumbled upon this article while I was researching the pros and cons of ISB and a top US bschool that I have got admission to. While some points you have raised are valid, I feel you have gone wrong the moment you start making assumptions of the oppurtunities and experience at ISB.
1)The industries that ISB places students into include all the industries you mentioned and infact for Indian students interested in Marketing related jobs, ISB might be a much better option. This is because many MNCs (including Johnson & Johnson) do not sponsor visas and this stated in many job openings as well. The comparison you made about Google and Cognizant doesn't hold good either as I have spoken to a lot of ISB alum who are in Amazon, Google, Microsoft etc. Yes, the locations they are working from is India but with technology transforming how we communicate, the distinction between working in the HQ and working in an important allied campus is getting blurred. There are also several people from top US schools whose linkedin reveals they they are working in Cognizant (Consulting). Hence the implied superiority over Indian Bschool placement is misplaced.
2) From what I have gathered, the international diversity at ISB is fairly minimal so yes it does fall short in that aspect. However, the school does boast of students from different walks of life. Moroever, the professors in ISB are among the best in the world and have lived & worked abroad extensively. The experience does not seem linear or uni lateral due to this important fact.

I could go on and on but i guess I'd just like to summarize by saying that your post is highly biased towards what YOU know. That said, Fuqua is a great school and I am sure there is value in weighing the pros and cons of studying in a highly regarded India vs US B-school.