B-School Selection
Comments 41

Choosing between premier b-schools other than the old IIMs

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:

Specialization alignment

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)

MBA Experience

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




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.
















  1. Abhishek Saha says

    Sir I have been selected at MDI Gurgaon PGPM and have a previous experience of 7 months in sales. Marketing seems to be the natural choice here but I also want to work for some time abroad and that as far as I have gathered from alums is only possible if you study finance or go for consulting in big firms. SInce I have nothing on my CV for finance and have average gpa and acads what would be a prudent decision in this case?


    • Hi Abhishek,

      All the choices we make must be aligned to our true goals and the more these goals are aligned to our core skills, the better the chances of them being achieved.

      To be brutally honest, wanting to work abroad is not a goal on which you can base your choice at this stage.

      If that was the case you should have spent a bomb and pursued an MBA abroad.

      Since that is not the case, you cannot reverse engineer a specialisation chance that has nothing to do with your background.

      Fin and Consulting are very niche fields that are determined by professional certifications (FIN) and academic pedigree and college brand. So at this stage, you cannot become a different person.

      So go ahead and take up MDI and maximise your sales background to get roles in top FMCG firms. If you get into Nestle or P&G, you can get a posting abroad over the longer-term and if its P&G, they offer Singapore-based roles for Marketing on campus.

      Let the ball come to you.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Abhishek Saha says

        Thank you for the clarification, sir. But in case I develop an interest in finance or strategy consulting during my 2 years at B-School should I then take steps towards it or go for marketing since that is aligned with my previous experience. Also if you could suggest a few to do things before joining a B-School. Thanks in advance


      • Hi Abhishek,

        It can happen that you like a few subjects, say Economics, and say one or two introductory courses in Finance, but you need to be careful to make the leap from this is a good subject to learn to I want to build a career in this. Given that we rarely like any subject (studies always feel like a burden, or rather a means to an end) this feeling will be new and might lead you to feel that this is your calling. But that need not necessarily be the case, we might like a few things and areas and pursue them as an area of interest not necessarily build a career in them.

        I took all Eco courses on campus, did very well in the two courses in the first year, and was contemplating further studies in Eco (and there was no Raghuram Rajan as well that time) and I approached my Eco prof. He said that further studies in Eco is not Eco but pure higher-level Maths and asked me to evaluate if I was up for it.

        Similarly for you to make a shift to Fiance would entail retooling your entire resume, so it has to be a case where you are sure that your attitude, your personality traits, and your area of interest within Finance are aligned. If that is that case then you have to take the CFA, just an MBA finance will not make your resume stand out among all the CAs and B.Coms and CFA is not easy to clear while on campus for a non-Fin guy. So you have to plan for a longer-term beyond campus play at Finance.

        Consulting yes, you can take a shot but a shortlist depends a lot on the brands you already have on your resume and the spike on it.

        Hope this clarifies,

        All the best!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Akshat Maheshwari says

    Plus, it will be a blessing to leave Mumbai right now for an MBA and come back and see that the metro work is completed!


    • Haha, if they can get it up and running in two years nothing like it! But Mumbai (and even Bangalore) never feels construction free, it always feels like a work in progress.


      • Akshat Maheshwari says

        That’s true. Mumbai is certainly a city that never stops.


  3. Abhishek Saha says

    Again thanks for the clarity you have given through the answer, I also wanted to ask what are a few preparatory courses and few things we should do before joining a B-school so that we can bring our A game to the table from the 1st day itself. Also how to ensure we get a decent summer placement in the case like mine where my profile is average in terms of academics and brands but have good extracurriculars. I know it is a very subjective question but if you could throw some light it would be great so that I know what to expect when I walk in through those gates. Thanks again!!


  4. Snigdha Agrawal says

    Hi Tony Sir,
    I have converted IIM- Ranchi and Udaipur and I really confused between the two. From the limited information that I have, I want to go for finance. Ranchi not having a campus seems a big deal to me.
    Also I am hoping positive results from trichy as well.
    What is your opinion sir and which one would you suggest among the three?


    • Hi,

      There is little to choose from between the three. None of the three will give you core Finance roles (they might give you roles in the BFSI domain). So if you want to do Finance, you have to take the CFA and look for a job off-campus after you graduate.

      Between the three there is little to choose from. I have had students going to each of them, look a the placement records and which one at least on paper has more Finance placements.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  5. alexa9991 says

    Hi Tony,

    My profile- 97.2 CAT, X/XII/B.tech- 93/93/69
    B.tech – Electronics and communication
    Work ex- 2 years in an IT company(Infosys)
    I have converted SCMHRD pune, waitlisted at DFS(maybe I will convert as per previous year trends), waiting for NEW IIMs results.
    I am slightly inclined towards finance , but since I have no prior background in finance, will I get oppurtunities in finance roles.
    Should I go for SCMHRD pune or DFS(DU) or wait for new IIMs (waitlist clearing)
    The ROI factor and the finance specialisation and the improvement DFS has shown in last few years is inclining me towards DFS. But will I get the MBA Exposure at DFS?
    Also DFS is a CFA affiliated college, this is also an advantage.
    Can you please list out the order of preference of the above mentioned colleges?


    • Hi,

      Things are always easier if your specialization focus is clear.

      If you want to look at a broader of firms and specializations then SCMHRD will be a better bet.

      SCMHRD is also the bigger brand and hence over the longer-term, having the name SCMHRD on your resume will do more for you getting shortlisted or selected than DFS, which is virtually unknown but to a few.

      Also, RoI is not purely a ratio of average salary to fee since the returns on the investment like the EMIs you will pay are spread out over time — the alumni network (size and quality of firms they are in) the growth in salary from one job to the other, the positive perception of the brand — all of these are things that go a long way in building a successful career over a period of time.

      If you are really keen about Finance and looking at this low-cost degree as a way to get your foot into the world of Finance, take up a CFA and do a big brand MBA later in your career, take up DFS. Else, SCMHRD.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  6. Armin says

    Hi Tony,

    Brilliant article! Could you shed some light on the 1 year MBA course(GMAT route) vs 2 year MBA?
    Is the latter given more preference in the Indian market?


    • Hi Armin,

      It’s not about value but about profile. A 1-year MBA makes sense when you have 4 or more years of work-ex.

      This is because you can’t afford to waste an extra year of pay and because firms go to 2-year programs to recruit freshers and people around the 2.5 year work-ex mark on average.

      What does the market look at irrespective of 1-year or 2-year?

      Your profile and brand of the school from where you did your MBA.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  7. Vivek Kumar says

    My profile – 98 CAT, 10/12/B.Tech(ECE)- 88/65/69, Work Ex – 2.5 years(IT-Accenture).
    I am inclined towards an MBA in marketing.
    I have got converts from IIM Trichy, Udaipur, IIT Kharagpur, and baby IIMs.
    Considering my profile and ROI, I am in a dilemma if I should go for an MBA from the options I have at the moment. Would an MBA from these new IIMs make a significant change in my career growth especially after taking a loan of approx 20 lakhs? Would my below average profile be a barrier to my placement even if I give my best in MBA and score well?

    If it is worth, kindly suggest some courses that I should take up before joining the classes which can boost my chances of getting a good summer internship.


    • Hi Vivek,

      You would have seen the placement reports of these colleges and you will have an idea of the RoI, so you have to take a call if it is worth it. RoI will work out over a period of time and not with the first salary since it is a long-term investment.

      If you only had baby IIMs and did not have Trichy, Udaipur and KGP, I would have asked you not to join.

      You will get decent IT Consulting roles and IT Business Development roles, Trichy, Udaipur and KGP. Marketing with 2.5 years of work-ex I am not sure.

      As far as building a profile for summers goes, do certification courses on Marketing or Business Analytics from good universities offered on Cursera.

      All the best!


      • Thanks you sir for the detailed response to my query. There is an update, I have converted NITIE & now I am confused if I should join NITIE considering my profile( 98 CAT, 10/12/B.Tech(ECE)- 88/65/69, Work Ex – 2.5 years(IT-Accenture) ). As of now I have no inclination towards Ops/Supply Chain.
        Which one would be a good fit for my profile , IIM Trichy/other new IIMs or NITIE considering my intrest in Marketing.


  8. Manas Bhageria says

    Hi Sir,
    Profile : 85.5 / 74 / 74
    General Engineer Male
    CAT 2018 : 95.7 (This was third sincere CAT attempt)
    17 months IT work ex till now.
    Please help me in deciding what should I do.

    I am inclined to give a shot at one of three IIM (sambalpur, sirmaur, bodhgaya). But many people are suggesting me not to join them.
    What can I expect from the above three IIMS in terms of placements and learning? Is it worth doing MBA from these IIMS? Or will I regret my decision later in my life?
    Are these IIMS comparable to new iims like raipur, kashipur, etc? And is it worth taking a drop for new iims like raipur, kashipur, etc (given my profile top 15 institutes are unlikely to give me a call)

    One of my relatives suggested me drop the idea of MBA altogether because of the hefty fees. Is it worth paying 12-15 lakhs for above mentioned IIMS?

    I know I should not be asking such type of questions, at least after appearing for CAT thrice. But I am unable to get the answers of above questions. The more I read about them on quora, the more I get confused. Advice from you would be really helpful.


    • Hi Manas,

      There is no point in joining the baby IIMs, absolutely none as of today, since they neither have the infra nor the placements.

      When they will become worth joining only God knows. And even the new ones are not any better, Trichy, Udaipur, and Ranchi are decent but the rest are not very far ahead of the baby IIMs.

      You only have 17 months of experience, give it another shot, apply to the good private colleges as well.

      You took 3 attempts why not one more since you have time on your side.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  9. Aditya says

    Hi Sir,
    My profile is 10/12/Engg : 91.2/90.8/81.9 , i have 2.9 years work ex with infosys.
    I have converted NITIE, MDI – IM(according to admission office i can convert PGPM also but only in late JUNE after the course starts) , IIM Kashipur/Raipur. Which college should i join ?


    • Hi,
      If you want Ops very badly then NITIE, else MDI-IM, since the placements are common with PGPM.

      New IIMs are way behind these two.

      All the best!


      • Aditya Singh says

        I also wanted to know my chances of getting core finance jobs through MDI-IM considering i have an IT background and also an engineer. I do not have an inclination towards marketing nor the core IT sector. My criteria for B-school selection is inclined for the type of sector i will start in post MBA. Is Finance sector accessible through MDI-IM?


      • Hi Aditya,

        While it is admirable that you want to choose your b-school based on prospects for a particular specialization, one thing you fail to consider is your profile for the same.

        Even if you get into IIM-C, which has the best Finance jobs in the country, your profile will not stand a chance of a shortlist. Since everyone interested in Finance will take a Fin specialization and get good marks, so what makes one candidate more suitable for a particular specialization is the profile match. For Finance the big profile requirements are relevant educational background or professional certifications — Commerce/Eco, CA/CFA or all of them.

        This is the reason why engineers from elite colleges (who know this) are taking up a CFA. IIM-C has almost 80 engineers with a CFA – Level 1.

        So at this stage, it does not matter if MDI-IM is good for Finance or not as far as placement goes. If you are serious about Sin, you should get a specialization in Finance and clear the CFA(two levels) as well, and you will then can get Fin jobs after you graduate, which is what happened to a student mine with a 9-9-9 profile at IIM-A (he got a Fin Tech job on campus and core Fin Job after he did his CFA L1 and L2).

        Hope this clarifies,

        All the best!


    • If you really want Operations then NITIE, if you want to keep your options open then MDI-IM, definitely not Kashipur or Raipur.


      • Aditya says

        Thank you Tony, now things seem to be clearing up a bit.


  10. Akshay Raj says

    Sir ,
    My profile is: 10/12/grad-90+/90+/80+
    cat percentile-98.94
    I have been selected for MDI Gurgaon and IIFT DELHI. Waitlisted for IIM I and K although the chances are very slim for selection. Should I repeat or take college this year. Also, between IIFT and MDI which college is a better bet,


  11. Akshay Raj says

    My profile-10/12/grad-95/96/83
    Cat %-98.94
    I have converted both MDI Gurgaon and IIFT Delhi. Also, waitlisted for IIM I and K although chances are very slim. Should I take a drop or take college this year. Are IIM I and K comparable with MDI and IIFT. Also, between MDI and IIFT which is a better bet.


    • Akshay Raj says

      I want to go for marketing. How should I build my profile(any exams or courses)?


  12. alexa9991 says

    I have converted few baby IIMs like iim amritsar, bodh gaya, kashipur and i have also converted SCMHRD Pune. Since there is a perception that out of these three baby IIMs , amritsar is doing pretty well due to its location.So , I am confused between amritsar and SCMHRD. SCMHRD will give me a good alumni network (it is a 25 year old institution). On the other hand,amritsar has the IIM tag and maybe in next 5 years , it might surpass SCMHRD.
    So, please help me resolve this confusion?


    • Hi,
      It will be a long time before any of the baby IIMs surpass established private schools. It’s been 10 years since Shillong was established it has not exactly gone ahead of an NMIMS in terms of placements.

      So I would say SCMHRD.

      If it was the new IIMs then may atleast worth considering but baby IIMs not at this point.

      All the best!


  13. O.N. says

    How does JBIMS Mumbai compare to the other colleges on your list? I’m curious as it is a well-known college in Maharashtra, but you haven’t mentioned it anywhere.


    • Hi,

      JBIMS is very similar to FMS in that its placements will be comparable to the old IIMs but infra and the experience of a fully residential b-school environment will be way below what you will get an old IIM.

      So as I mentioned in this post — https://thecatwriter.com/2019/04/15/iims-versus-fms-xl-mdi-and-other-top-schools-2/ — my personal choice will always be the old IIMs.

      So I would suggest an old IIM, if you have an admit from one, over JB, else JB.

      The reason I did not mention JB is that finally, only 10 students from outside of Maharashtra can get an admit into JB, and those who crack CET and get into JB usually have no doubts about joining it!

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  14. Ashish Panda says

    Hi Tony Sir,
    I know its a bit late for the post, but atleast I would get to know your point of view.
    My Profile:
    10/12/ B Tech Mechanical: 9.8/93/8.6
    2 Years Work ex at Infosys as of Today
    CAT 18: 88%tile; XAT 19: 90 %tile
    Converts: XIMB BM; IMT Hyd, Nagpur
    IMT H, N are not worth joining but I gave a miss to XIMB BM (and I will be skeptical about this decision till next year)
    I will have 3 years work ex by this time of the year in 2020.
    Should I have joined XIMB BM considering my profile or 3 years workex is won’t hurt if I make it to a better college next year.


    • Hi Ashish,

      There is no reward without risk and you have taken a call so no point thinking about the decision you took regarding XIM-B. Is it good or bad purely depends upon your potential; you understand that a student with a stellar profile who leaves IIM-L for another shot at A-B-C will also go through the same doubts (and I know people who have).

      So the only question is about work-ex; 36 months at the time of joining will not be a problem at all and will not in any way hamper your chances.

      All the best!


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