As the years pass it seems to me that the decision-making process that goes into choosing a b-school is getting more and more complicated. This might be the reason behind me getting messages and emails asking for help in choosing between the premier non-IIM b-schools such as FMS, XL-BM, MDI, SPJIMR, NITIE and others. This post will address this specific issue.
Firstly, to keep things simple, FMS and XL-BM do not go into this list, they go into the list with the old IIMs and I have handled that in this post.
For the love of god, please stop comparing XL-HR with mainstream programs
If there is one thing that really riles me up, it is aspirants bringing an HR program into comparison with general management programs. And all of us this only because the HR program in question is from XLRI!
Let me get one thing straight, an HR program is as different from a general management program as chalk and cheese in terms of subjects, job roles, salaries and career growth. So you are not comparing apples with apples.
So your first job is to read this post, decide between HR or non-HR programs, and then if you choose HR, don’t come back to this post, and if you don’t, come back.
Let’s look at the variables that you should consider
The most important thing in a decision-making process is to list down variables, rank order them and rate them.
I would say the most important things to look at for colleges in this list would be:
Will this college really maximise your chances of getting jobs in the specialization you are looking at. Two big ways in which this can happen —
a) the program itself is a specialised program such as XLRI-HR or SPJIMR-Ops or NITIE or
b) the location such as Delhi-NCR for Marketing (a huge chunk of the leading recruiters are headquartered in Gurgaon) and Mumbai for Finance (this comes into play only when comparing colleges of equal stature)
One big part of the MBA experience is that the two years you spend should be transformational at some level, even if you do not realise it during or immediately after the program.
A big part of this has to do with the campus — the experience of a fully-residential program on a great campus away from the city will be leagues ahead of programs that are not fully residential.
Another important factor is whether the MBA program is the main reason why the institution, the infra, and the whole campus exists! So programs at IITs might be great, but you are part of just one small building on a sprawling campus where neither you nor the M.Techs, are the main item on the menu.
Both of these factors ensure that for 2 years you live in a self-contained universe, completely cut-off from the outside world, everything on campus is there for you — for you to study, for you to have fun, for you to learn more about people, for you to learn more about yourself. So colleges based in Bombay will rate lower on this factor since they are in the city and there is only so much space to spare.
So when you are comparing programs you have to take this factor into consideration otherwise you will do an MBA but might not fully become one.
Brand & Stature
One of the big ways in which you are going to find jobs over the course of your career is through your alumni network across industries and across the world. In this sense, the bigger the brand the, larger the alumni base, the larger the network.
Some of you might say, but what about batch size and RoI. Since we have removed FMS from the picture, RoI debate is not that huge. Look at the next 10-15 years, not 3-4 lakhs.
Similarly, batch size matters when you are talking about colleges in the next tier, say IMT, and not in this tier. Top-tier colleges should be able to place 500 students.
If I ignore specialisation then on the basis of MBA experience and brand, my personal order will be — MDI, SPJIMR, IIFT-D/NMIMS, IIT-D/B/NITIE, SIBM
If we consider specializations, then among the schools listed
Finance — SPJIMR, NMIMS, MDI/IIFT
Marketing — MDI, SPJIMR, IIFT, SIBM
Operations — SPJIMR, NITIE, MDI/IIFT
General Management — MDI, SPJIMR, NMIMS/IIFT
Those who are passionate about Finance should know one thing, the core Finance roles — I-Banking, Treasury, Trading at big brand firms — are available only at a few of the old IIMs (and those too are accessible only if you have a good CGPA, and relevant educational background or professional degrees such as CA or CFA), the rest of the colleges get you more BFSI roles — front-end wealth management, insurance etc.
MDI has an IM program, the placements for students who come back to India are along with the regular PGP-M batch, recruiters do not get to know whether candidates are from PGP-M or PGP-IM.
IIFT has foreign trade roles but these comprise only 10% of the placements. The roles typically involve commodity trading in Africa, where you travel around with a bodyguard, and in some cases get kidnapping insurance as well, so much for foreign trade. People end up taking these roles to make a quick buck in the first two years and get back but then these roles do not really great options later. The highest percentage of placements are in IT/ITes, followed by Marketing and BFSI.
Another thing, this applies to people from Bombay especially, do not choose a college based on your personal preference for a city. I know Bombay is everything, so are the other major metropolises of the world — Tokyo, Paris, Berlin, London, New York — with the latter being the final destination may be.
When I was transferred to many different cities in the first few years of my professional life, I was a bit miffed, and I wrote to my favourite prof at L (who apart from Economics, taught classical music to me and a few others once a week). He just said that mobility in the early stages of your career is a blessing, embrace it.
Bombay is my favourite city without a doubt but I do really cherish the long stretches of time and experiences I gathered from other cities. Mumbaikars, you will always come back to Mumbai (the pace, the crowds, the spirit, the pollution, and the stench are an addiction) but take a few years out for other cities and places, let the rest of India in, you will be better off for it.
You will do yourself a favour by not giving your peers five options and asking them for a vote or putting up a random question on Quora. You will be better off speaking to alums, to students who are studying, and by studying the placement reports.
Once again, this is my opinion based on reports from various batches of students across the years and my take on what an MBA experience should be. You are free to make a completely different choice based on different parameters or suggestions from other mentors.