IIMs versus FMS, XL, MDI and other top schools

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B-School Selection / CAT

Now that the first round results of almost all the b-schools are out, we get regular queries about which b-schools to join. There is rarely any confusion about A, B and C but after that it seems as if aspirants are having a lot of trouble choosing between the IIMs L, I and K and other top b-schools such as FMS, XLRI, MDI and others. How does one go about making the right choice between the IIMs and other top schools? One of the terms thrown around a lot these days is ROI.


How you should really calculate ROI

A few years back an aspirant I was speaking to after an ISB info session said

  • Sir, these days even IIM-A does not offer a great ROI, the average salary and fee are more less close to each other.

A lot of aspirants tend to use ROI to evaluate colleges. They tend to use ROI in conjunction with batch size to decide which college to join where ROI is simply taken to be Average Salary/Cost of Education.

Well once you do an MBA you will realise that more than an ROI, the better tool to use will be a Cost-Benefit Analysis since you are not investing in a pure financial instrument or land or gold.

Whenever one does a cost-benefit analysis one has to consider not just the tangible but also the intangible costs as well as benefits.

The intangible benefits or the benefits to which you cannot put a number are the ones that most aspirants on the verge of joining an MBA program, those who are doing their MBA and those who have just graduated are unaware of. This post will deal with all of these intangibles that might help aspirants to make a decision.



The three letters I-I-M carry more weight than you can imagine

Firstly, no aspirant should forget that the second most prestigious & valuable prefix that an insitituion in this country can carry is IIM. When most aspirants start preparing for the CAT, they do not tell themselves that they want to crack XL or MDI or FMS, it is always the IIMs that are on most people minds.

The same hold true for the rest of the business management fraternity — the word IIM carries a lot more weight than you can imagine. People evaluating you at your work place are more likely to pull down an IIM grad at the slightest hesitation saying “How can this person be from an IIM” than they are to say “How can this person be from MDI or XL” (I overheard this as recently as last Sunday at a cafe).

The IIM-tag predisposes people to think positively about you

When you introduce yourself as an IIM graduate, people’s perception of your ability becomes vastly exaggerated. People will tend to treat you as being good unless you yourself prove them wrong. Whereas those from other brands are viewed neutrally and they have to prove themselves. It goes without saying the same applies when people look at your resume.

And if you are from say L, I and K and become a great professional, people might tend to think that you are from A, B or C; they might even assume you are from an IIT as well!


An MBA is about a lot more than your first job

The problem with the ROI method is that it places an unduly high importance on the short-term result — the first job you get out of campus. Don’t you think that is barely any return! Good investments yield returns over a longer time-period and a good MBA is also supposed to do the same.

You might not get your dream job even at IIM-A

On campus recruitments are very unlike recruitments off campus and this difference is key to understanding the long-term value of an MBA.

During placements on campus, recruiters are constantly comparing you with a huge list of other candidates they have at their disposal. For recruiters it is like a buffet with many awesome things to choose from but with one constraint — time and competing recruiters!

So what do companies do? They start using various filters to ensure that they look at fewer people and somehow get the people they want before their competitors get them. What are the filters that get applied? They vary from company to company but to name a few

  • the brand of the college you graduated from (everybody wants to get into McKinsey but they can’t possibly interview everyone, so they use the college brand as a filter)
  • leadership positions held (so guys with big leadership roles on campus get filtered in over may be people with a better CGPA) etc

So intense is the competition among companies that this year one prominent consulting firm at IIM-A was even willing to forego the final interview round if the people who they shortlisted so far were still not picked up by others. Imagine, they were scared that by the time they finish their process, they will no have candidates left!

Compare this with an off-campus process. Firstly, it is not a 3-day affair, so companies are not in any hurry to shortlist and interview people as fast as possible. So you will end up getting a fairer shot and enough time to make a good case for your candidature.

Companies do not need people only at the time of campus placements. In fact most fresh MBA graduates, quit their first jobs within a year! There is a constant need for people all year round and they scour various portals and recruitment agencies to get resumes.

So you do not need to worry about the campus placements being final summit or crowning point to reach. In fact it is just the beginning of the climb.

What the MBA gives you is a platform to reach the top over the course of your career.


It’s your peer network that will get you jobs in the long run

Campus placements last only a few days but your peer network, network of immediate seniors and alumni network will be the ones that will be getting you jobs over a longer period.

When you graduate from an IIM, you graduate with access to a network of people working in the best companies in the country. You will not come to know of openings through Naukri or other portals but from your peers since firms hire a lot through referrals.

Also you get access to platforms such as IIM Jobs through which candidates and recruiters find each other. A student who just graduated from IIM-A told me that after graduating this March he was approached by three companies via IIM Jobs.

Can you place a monetary value to the opportunities that this network will open up for you?


If you want to start your own firm, the tag is invaluable to attract investors

Investors are always taking bets on people as much as they are on ideas. Even before you pitch your ideas, investors will be aware of all the hot ideas and opportunities that are present in the market. So in essence they are only evaluating the capability of the team and one of the things that goes a long way in boosting your credentials is the IIM-tag.

So keeping all of this mind how should you make you choices?

IIMs – L, I & K versus FMS, XLRI, S.P.Jain, MDI

Technically I would always place the old IIMs above all other schools purely for the reasons mentioned above.

The only exception can be FMS, for the almost non-existent fees! How does one break this deadlock? Choose FMS over the others if

  • If you have already done your graduation from an IIT and/or
  • If you are sure you want to explore entrepreneurship options immediately after your MBA

What is the rationale behind this?

Firstly, If you have not studied at a premier national-level college, whilst staying on campus in the hostel, an education at FMS or S.P.Jain will be incomplete in terms of the experience.

You will do an MBA only once and the experience of studying in an awesome campus (in contrast to FMS, S.P.Jain and NMIMS) dedicated primarily to the program you are doing (in contrast to MBAs at IITs) is something that you will cherish for life.

If you have already experienced the same during your graduation then you can go ahead and choose FMS, else the IIMs.

Secondly, if you want to start working on your own venture straight out of college then education loan will always be an albatross around your neck, making FMS best option.


Choose other colleges over new IIMs

When it comes to the choice between new IIMs and other schools such as IITs, choose other top schools over them since you will get the benefit of the degree only over a very long-term, when they are no longer considered new.

Also, everything else right from campus, to college culture and placements will just be beginning to take root and hence leave you quite a bit on the backfoot in the short-term. There is also be no network of peers of seniors through whom you get access to jobs.


You are not investing in a college you are also investing in yourself

Most view the expenditure on an MBA from the what-am-I-getting-for-what-I-am-paying lens, making it the college’s responsibility to deliver. Well, unfortunately the college owes you nothing.

The college deems you suitable for a career in management and has offered you a seat giving you access to

  • the learning that they can offer and
  • the best firms in the country

You are investing this money to acquire this education and this network to maximise your potential and your career opportunities.

Most of the time what you study during the course will barely be used in the first few years of your life as an MBA. It will only start making sense when you come into big decision-making roles later in life (even those subjects which you will find most useless on campus).

You are not learning subjects that will help you do your first job better. You are learning and developing the skills to lead a company later.

So it makes a lot of sense to view things not from an immediate placement perspective but from the perspective of maximising your chances of leading the best firms or starting a successful firm of your own.

I hope this article goes some way in helping aspirants view things from the different perspective and resolve the queries in their mind but please bear in mind that the views expressed in this article are purely personal and aspirants are advised to take their own decisions depending upon the variables they wish to maximise.



  1. Rahul Bhayana says

    Hi Sir,
    I have a weak academic background with 7.6 cgpa in 10th, 78.5 in 12th and 6.54 gpa in graduation. I majored in Economics from a state university in delhi. I am very determined to score well in CAT and other management exams. I want to pursue a career in International business or marketing. Please suggest me some top b-schools in which i can apply.


    • Hi Rahul,

      Apart from the IIMs, you should apply to IIFT, XLRI, MDI, SPJAIN, NMIMS and SIBM.

      As a back you can look at applying to a few more b-schools in Delhi and Mumbai since a lot of major recruiters for Marketing are head-quartered in these two cities.

      All of these schools will give you great openings in IB & Marketing.


      • Rahul Bhayana says

        Thank you very much for the suggestions sir. One more thing i want to ask is that do i have any chance in IIM-K,L,I or S?


  2. Siddharth says

    Hello Sir,
    I’m from engineering background with 1.5 years experience, I invest in stocks, and has pretty decent knowledge about the markets. this is stint made me find my passion for it. I’m learning various things to gather knowledge on the accounting and other related stuffs. I want to do MBA in Finance.and I find you saying that people with CA background stands a greater chance converting IIM calls and also are most sort after by recruiting firms. Do I stand a chance ??(If not what should I focus on? i’m not working anymore) and also I haven’t any great tags. Getting into IIM will be my only biggest break of life currently. I would really appreciate your insights.


    • Hi Siddharth,

      To get into an IIM you will need to crack the CAT and do a good interview. Till this stage you might not need anything more than what you currently have.

      But once you get into the top IIMs, you need to back up your interest in Finance with some solid to give your resume atleast a chance of getting shortlisted.

      The best thing that you can do is to clear CFA, Level 1 by the time you join a b-school or atleast before you enter Final placements.

      Currently it has become almost a hygiene factor for engineers interested in Finance to have a CFA to compete with CAs and Commerce grads. Not only as a CV point, you will really learn a lot more about Finance than you would on your own or at a b-school.

      The CFA is conducted in December and June every year. You can find out more at wallstreetmojo.com


  3. Sarvesh says

    Hello sir,
    I have converted MDI pgpm and new iims and really confused as in what to choose.
    I want to pursue business in future,it can be my family business or something on my own…which would a better choice as of now for me…. please give Ur valuable feedback asap😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would say MDI since the new IIMs are not on par with respect to infra, quality of peer group you will get and overall experience.

      So I would suggest MDI over new IIMs.


  4. Arnab says

    Sir keeping in mind that probably I will get specialised in marketing, do I need to learn anything in advance before landing to IIMK? What is scope of marketing in K keeping me a fresher in mind from management background from a state university in UP.


    • Usually only freshers are considered for Marketing, unless the work-ex is in sales or marketing. So as a fresher you will be considered over those with work-ex.

      What matters for your finals is that you have a diverse CV with lot of extra-currics. So use your first year to become part of Marketing clubs, participate in inter-bschool marketing contests or even sports and culturals if that is your area of interest.

      As a fresher from a state university in Andhra I got almost all Marketing shortlists since my CV at L had a position of leadership, music and dramatics.

      So go ahead and get your fingers into as many things as possible.


  5. Hiren Ambasana says

    Hiii Sir. Thanks for a Very Informative Article.
    I pursued my B.tech in Mechanical from NIT, Now I am working in a good company since 2 years.by the time i will give the CAT my experience will be 30 months.My question is Which IIM you would suggest? & FYI I want to do my MBA in Marketing


    • Any of the old IIMs will give you a great Marketing placement. The difference between the old IIMs is related to Consulting and FIN jobs with A,C getting a good number of both, B more of Consulting, IIM-L Consult and Fin but lower numbers than A,B,C. I & K lower level consulting firms and very few Fin.

      Great Marketing roles you will get everywhere. While the perception is A for Marketing, B for Consulting, C for FIN, it is a different scenario when it comes to placements.

      As far as teaching goes, a lot depends on the current crop of faculty.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  6. Shiv says

    Which will provide better options for consulting/finance jobs among new IIMs and IITs(MBA ofcourse)?


  7. Sai says

    Hello Sir,

    First of all, thank you for such a good article.

    I pursued my engineering from BITS Pilani and graduated with 7.6 GPA, and both in 10th and 12th, I scored 90%+. I am currently working with a startup and have close to 14 months of work ex as of today. I want to purse my MBA in Strategy & Operations. According to you, how many years of work experience should I posses before going for an MBA ?


    • Hi Sai,

      If you are looking at both strategy and operations then you should have 2 years of experience by the time you start your MBA. In your case you should have that by June 2018.

      So give a serious shot at CAT 2017.

      All the best!


  8. Hello Sir,
    Thank you for such a realistic article, i have a very different profile. I am a law student, currently in 5th year at Symbiosis. I have decided to go for MBA and preparing with all my capabilities for the same. My X was 8.2, XII was 67 and Graduation is 2.8/4 ( 70%) I also have won different Awards in various co-curricular activities; Debate, Youth Parliaments to name a few. What do you see my chances of making it to old IIM’s( if there are any) or other premier colleges? I also have various internships( approx 10, 1 month each) Will they be a part of co-curricular or can they be used as work ex or they won’t be of any use ?
    Thank You


    • Hi Prasham,

      You have great chances of getting a call from IIM-A. I had a student this year who had a call at 85 percentile. This is because of their grouping of candidates as per streams.

      You also have a chance in the other schools that have a weightage for diversity.

      Internships are not considered work ex, so no marks for that.

      All the best!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello Sir,
    Thank you for such a realistic article, i have a very different profile. I am a law student, currently in 5th year at Symbiosis. I have decided to go for MBA and preparing with all my capabilities for the same. My X was 8.2, XII was 67 and Graduation is 2.8/4 ( 70%) I also have won different Awards in various co-curricular activities; Debate, Youth Parliaments to name a few. What do you see my chances of making it to old IIM’s( if there are any) or other premier colleges? I also have various internships( approx 10, 1 month each) Will they be a part of co-curricular or can they be used as work ex or they won’t be of any use ?
    Thank You


  10. kuriakose mathew says

    Hello sir,
    First of all I would like to mention that you are doing a fabulous job with this blog helping out confused people like me.This is my first visit to your blog and seriously regret not seeing this blog earlier.

    Coming to my doubts,I am a computer science engineer from a tier-3 engineering college.I am a 2017 passout and my X/XII/B.Tech scores are 95%/89%/76%.I would like to do MBA.I have appeared for CAT-16 without much prep and got 89 percentile.But since I am a fresher and also since my academics marks are not that great,I don’t expect a call from IIM ABCL even if I am able to significantly improve my score. Should I settle for any new iim or other top colleges? Or should I join an IT service comany(campus placement) and give another shot the next year with 1 year of work experience?

    Also according to you which MBA specialization will suit my background IT/ITes or operations or any other?


    • Hi Mathew,

      Thanks for the generous words. I have had to handle so many students across a city that I thought the best thing would be to start blog since most of the doubts fall overlap.

      As far as your profile goes, the quality of your graduation college doesn’t play a major role in your getting a call since the selection process does not quantify the same.

      So the only thing is stopping an A or a B call is your graduation percentage. You can get a call from C since they do not consider grad marks. So it’s not about settling for new IIMs. Also there are good schools like FMS, MDI and SP Jain.

      If you can work and prepare then take up the job.

      As far as specialisation goes if you want to get jobs in IT/Tech or Operations, a couple of years of work ex comes in handy. If it’s Marketing or Finance then work ex is not a must.

      So if you feel you are a techie at heart and would like to work in IT or Tech then it’s better to work and join after having atleast 20 months of work ex.

      If you are open to exploring then join now.

      I would suggest taking a real good shot this year since 89 last year without much prep is really good. Just put in all your energies into getting a great score; we can keep in touch and deal with the other questions as and when they arise.

      All the best!


  11. Rohit verma says

    Sir i am hospitality management graduate from IHM BHOPAL i am preparing to write CAT this year but struggling in QUANT please help and does being a fresher will affect my chances to receive calls from IIMs and other B schools


    • Hi Rohit,

      Just go through all the Quant Strategy posts on the blog and you will find a way to prepare for the section.

      That you are a fresher will not have a major impact on your getting from the top schools.

      IIM-B has a high weightage for work ex and academic profile, with only a 20% weightage for CAT Score, making it almost tough for freshers to get calls.

      In most schools freshers comprise atleast 30-40 percent of the batch, so you need not worry about your chances.

      All the best!


  12. Vasu Aggarwal says

    Hi Sir,

    I have 13 months of work ex. in IT @HSBC(have left the company now), got 99.54 in CAT 2017, but due to relatively weak acads( X(CGPA 9) XII(86.4% Sci) GRAD(76.4% B.tech from DTU) Male ), couldn’t land up an interview call from A B C. Also, I have interest in finance and economics, and do not want to settle for a bad college. Which colleges would you suggest, that I should target as per the above mentioned interests, and what approach should I follow for the same(should I focus on getting a new job and get more experience or any other option)? Would ISI-Delhi and ISI-Kolkata be good options as well?

    PS: Due to STUPID reasons I didn’t fill the form for FMS for any other colleges for CAT2017, so would probably be targeting for next year. Also, I am a little depressed, because of the same STUPIDITY and dont know what career options I am left with right now.. eagerly waiting for you feedback.

    Thanks in Advance
    Vasu Aggarwal


    • Hi Vasu,

      Firstly congrats on 99.54!

      Instead of looking at life in a 1/0 mode I would like you to be a bit practical.

      If you want to get into Fin – then you need to really do better than just get into A,B or C. A CFA has become mandatory for the same. At IIM-C there are more than 70 Engineers with a CFA L1.

      If you do a CFA however you can get a Fin job like so many of my students and colleagues, even out of campus as long as you are from a top-ranked college.

      So this is what I would suggest crack L, I, K and do a CFA L1 before Final Placements, you will get great options.

      Without a CFA and only an interest your CV won’t even stand a chance.

      And Eco is for economists, so a PhD. might be in order.

      Wait for another year and you might not get the same percentile, I myself did poorly this year compared to last year!

      What I have outlined is the best thing you can do to achieve your goals. Do not think twice.

      Let’s have a chat after you crack the interview calls of L, I and K.

      All the best!


  13. Rahul says

    What a ridiculous arguement in favour of IIMs. The above seems like a perfect example of the Indian mentality that most are suffering from. Sharma ji ke ladke ke liye Indians are screwing their lives. Let me point out a few tag blinded statements that you have pointed out -“How can this person be from an IIM” than they are to say “How can this person be from MDI or XL” (I overheard this as recently as last Sunday at a cafe)” Dude are you even serious? That’s something you will base your life decisions upon?

    “And if you are from say L, I and K and become a great professional, people might tend to think that you are from A, B or C; they might even assume you are from an IIT as well!”

    I have a good analogy – ” Let me ride the Red camel because emperors sit on them” Enough said

    “If you want to start your own firm, the tag is invaluable to attract investors”

    I agree with this point and that’s probably one of the reasons so many startups fail in India.

    Dude let me put this straight IIM A,B,C are brands because they consistently perform well. To call IIM I,K as brands and chosed above FMS/MDI/XL just because they have the two “I”s in their names which happen to be also part of the top 3 colleges in India is sheer herd mentality something which Indian students have always been struggling with and it’s high time they came out of it.

    – By a guy who ironically does not have the two II’s in his name/degree anywhere but has a better work profile/balance/position that the folks having two IIs can dream of. (its been 5 years since I did my MBA)


    • Hi Rahul,

      Whether we like it or not perception is reality. If people have a choice between something that has a higher perceived value and an other with not as much, the fact that the perception will get them more options or look-ins, is good enough reason to choose it.

      As far as the argument about startups failing goes – startups fail because of good money going to bad ideas or good ideas being badly executed or just bad timing (competing ideas getting there just a bit early or with a better minor tweak – there is an American TV Series called Halt and Catch Fire that really captures this well)

      Let us assume that this good money went to bad ideas that came from big brand name-tags.

      Let us also assume that there are many good ideas that don’t get the money they deserve because they don’t come from big brand names.

      What should an individual who has good ideas or the potential to generate them in the future do when faced with a choice between a perceived bigger brand/tag and a not so big one?

      If the goal is that his/her good idea should get funding, then the answer is obvious.

      The startup funding system is very, very flawed in that many great ideas don’t even get a hearing. And you are absolutely right in pointing that out. But this post is not about that.

      What should an individual do? Should one become a martyr for a cause that does not really resonate with those that make the decisions.

      The only way this can change is if investors decide to change the way they place their bets. More than students changing their choices, if investors decide that they are going to look for talent in untapped areas, we might have more startups.

      Recruiters should may be start hiring from colleges outside of wherever their perceived comfort zone ends.

      And if we are really talking systemic change then shouldn’t it start earlier. Should we even have a Verbal Ability section at all in a country like India? Isn’t it enough if a guy can speak decent English, something that he/she will eventually get very fluent in. May be then Indian b-schools will end up selecting a demographically different and more talented pool of students? Someone like me with a family and educational background that enabled me to develop an outsized advantage in the Verbal Ability section might not get in at the expense of someone who can barely

      The post was intended only to help people make their decisions to maximise their profile, within what might be a flawed system.

      In fact every year I have students who make it to top schools other than the IIMs and contemplate taking another shot without even having a great job. I talk them out of it saying that the schools will get them a good first job and then it’s just their work accomplishments that matter.

      I am happy that you have found the right work-life-position balance for yourself and I don’t doubt it.

      But to say that those with those two extra IIs can’t even dream of it is a bit of a stretch to say the least.

      I don’t support the system, I am just trying to throw some light on how it works. I hope you understand where I am coming from.



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