B-School Selection
Comments 164

IIMs versus FMS, XL, MDI and other top schools

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 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 the Average Salary/Cost of Education.

Well, once you do an MBA you will realize that more than an ROI, the better tool to use will be a Cost-Benefit Analysis since you are not investing in a purely 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 institution 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 holds 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 workplace 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 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 your 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. You are not going to really enjoy life again (maybe for a few years after you graduate) 🙂

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 an education loan will always be an albatross around your neck, making FMS best option.

A slightly more nuanced take can be this particular order(with the caveats mentioned about FMS) —  L, FMS, XL, IIM-I, IIM-K, and the rest.

There is a case for choosing SPJIMR-Ops over IIM-I and IIM-K if you are really keen on getting the full range of core operations jobs to choose from, the IIMs might not offer you such a vast selection since they do not admit based on specialization.

 


Choose other colleges over new IIMs

When it comes to the choice between new IIMs and other schools, 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 maximize 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.


 

A few years back this post elicited a lot of aggressive responses.

People accused me of favouritism in placing L over XL since the former is my alma mater. People have pointed out the average salary at XL being higher than the one at L, and so and so forth.

Firstly, I live by Groucho Marx’s dictum — I refuse to join any club that will have me as a member.  So, there is no special attachment that I have to IIM-L or any other institution. Wherever I have studied, it has always been a few teachers, the architecture and the library, that I have had an attachment to or fondness for rather than the school or college as a whole. It goes without saying that the moment I meet any person from IIM-L, I do not get particularly excited since that particular individual should be someone with whom I will get along (one has conversations with a person not a tag).

Secondly, yes, the average salary at XL is higher than that at L, but the fees at L is lower.  Higher average salary does not mean that every student at XL will get a salary more than every student at L.  Also, the average is a function of the denominator. If you take the salaries of the top 180 students at both colleges, I am sure the comparison will look different. Now if you feel that you will end up in the bottom 120, then it is a different matter altogether.

Thirdly, I am not sure if the everyone in the cream (the ones who score 99.5 and above on the CAT) of the test-taking population takes the XAT. IITians would always like to add a few more Is to their resumes instead of other alphabets. I myself eased off when taking the XAT since I was sure that I had aced the CAT. Also, XAT is verbal heavy than LR-DI or QA heavy, so the CAT ends up filtering out a different set of toppers. So as a batch goes, I feel the kind of peer group you are likely to find at the top at L might be different from the kind you will find at XL.

To validate my arguments we need to slice and dice a lot of data that only the b-schools can give us and they couldn’t care less. So readers can take “my take” with a pinch of salt and ignore it, instead of launching into tirades.

I am sure XL can be argued to be a better choice solely on the basis of its sporting rivalry with IIM-C and the events surrounding this rivalry. After a point, it always boils down to the premises that you use to reach your conclusion, with a different set of premises or criteria you can arrive at a different conclusion.

Another major accusation that a commenter hurled was that people like me perpetuate the Sharma Ji ka beta and elite college ke peeche bhaagne wala syndrome. Well, relying on labeling people en masse seems to be a major national malaise that starts at the top. It is any day easier to label and discredit rather than having to tease out the rationale.

Did I ever make a statement saying if you have to do an MBA, do it only from the IIMs? Nope. In fact last year, I convinced a student to take up NMIMS and not waste yet another year running after an IIM without a job in hand. In most of my replies to queries on this blog, I always ask students to take not just the CAT but XAT, IIFT, NMAT and SNAP. So the commenter was attacking an argument that I did not make!

All I am saying is that if you have the luxury of choosing between the old IIMs and other schools, my personal vote would be for the old IIMs, and you are welcome to crumple it and throw it in the dustbin.

The reason I am making these things clear is that I do not want to go through the drudgery of defending a personal opinion in the comments section. As Oscar Wilde said, there are two kinds of people, charming and tedious, one of my other dictums in life to avoid the latter variety as much as possible.

I hope this article goes some way in helping aspirants view things from a different perspective and resolve the queries in their mind.

164 Comments

  1. Sachin says

    Sir, which one would you recommend between IIM amritsar and IIT Kharagpur VGSOM?

    Like

  2. Sanskriti says

    Hi Sir,
    I will be graduating this year (GEF) and have good acads (9/9/8), with a placement offer at one of the Big 3.

    I have converted IIM Indore. Do you think that given the Covid situation it would be better to give another CAT attempt or should I join IIM Indore this time itself.

    Also, although I am still waiting for IIM B PGPBA results to be out, but Incase converted, would this course be a good choice given that this will be the first batch.

    Like

  3. Sanskriti says

    Hi Sir,
    I will be graduating this year (GEF) and have good acads (9/9/8), with a placement offer at one of the Big 3.

    I have converted IIM Indore. Do you think that given the Covid situation it would be better to give another CAT attempt or should I join IIM Indore this time itself.

    Also, although I am still waiting for IIM B PGPBA results to be out, but Incase converted, would this course be a good choice given that this will be the first batch.

    Like

  4. Utkarsh says

    Hi Sir,
    I have converts from SJMSOM and MDI (PGP-IM).
    I’m waitlisted for IIM L OBC-NCL (Rank 358)
    My first preference for MDI was PGPM so it may get upgraded to PGPM.
    Can you please suggest what should be done?

    Like

  5. Arvind says

    Hi Sir,
    I have converted IIM Shillong and IIFT Kolkata. Which among the two should I choose? I am an engineering graduate with 3 years of IT experience.

    Like

    • Hi Arvind,

      If you will eventually convert IIFT-Delhi, join IIFT, else IIM-Shillong (always main campus over satellite campus)

      All the best!

      Like

  6. Natasha says

    Hi Sir,

    I have a 9/9/8 profile and one year work ex in software development. I have converted IIM I & K. With an increase in batch size of PGP at IIM K and introduction of two new programmes PGP-Fin & PGP-LSM, the batch sizes of both the institutes have become comparable, making it difficult for me to choose one over the other. Would like to know your take on this. I’m inclined towards Consulting but I’m open to other roles as well.

    Also, given the current COVID scenario & its impact on summer & final placements of Batch 2020, would it be advisable to work another year & reappear for CAT? (GEF)

    Like

    • Hi Natasha,

      Between I and K, there is literally nothing to choose from and if both batch sizes are equal now there is no difference at all.

      I is on its way back after losing its way in the middle a bit; K has been steady throughout barring launching new courses the last two years.

      I would suggest K because of the really great campus and because the COVID situation is fully in the state (my folks are there) so it is likely that classes will start at the earliest there.

      Summers will be affected but things should be better by finals.

      Since you have only a year of work-ex, you can take another shot because the situation will be much better in 2022.

      But take another shot only if you are confident of cracking the test; if you any doubts or reluctance to launch another CAT campaign, join now.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!
      All the best!

      Like

  7. Yash says

    Hi sir
    9/9/7 commerce profile with 8 months of work ex
    I have MDI gurgaon and IIM Kozhikode as my best calls. I’ve not been able to choose between the two and have listed the pros of both after talking to current students and alum of both the institutes. Please help me make a decision sir after reading these points.

    MDI Gurgaon
    -Location advantage(Even during final placements as told by an K alum)
    -Comparatively better current placements(median is 22L vs 20L of K. And also 2.2L vs 1.75L avg in SIP)
    -Smaller batch size(420 vs 570 of K from this year, looks important to me because I’ve an average profile so might get more opportunities in competitions etc)
    -Older institute
    -#3 ranked HR programme in MDI which I’ve heard helps in SIP and PPOs especially.
    -Convenient/proximity to home.

    IIM K
    -IIM tag
    -better campus and hostel
    -people say better potential for growth in coming years (not sure how it will benefit me)
    -Batch this year will have almost zero GEM. Normal 9/9/7 commerce profile may fade in the background among other commerce students.
    -Some say better networking(don’t know how it is better than MDI)

    (Social fame of IIM brand doesn’t matter to me. Just want to know professionally sir.)

    Like

    • Hi Yash,

      First, we remove the personal convenience of location of MDI, since that has nothing to do with anything 🙂

      So on average, yes, you might end up with a marginally higher salary but if you attended my session yesterday those gains do not really matter.

      The most important things in my view are two: personal and professional growth.

      MDI will be a continuation of the same for you – location-wise, batch-composition-wise. We grow and mature when travel away from home and meet and stay with different people. Something tells me you will need this growth and confidence.

      Secondly, all future growth will come from being part of this network calls IIM jobs on which all the job postings are listed.

      Thirdly, if you and another candidate are equal in all respects when someone is considering you for a job, then the tag can tip the hat in your favour.

      This is my take, I can sense that you feel safe with MDI bit that is just the comfort of familiarity, this is the stage to explore.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!

      Like

  8. Gaurav Gupta says

    Hi Sir,
    I have converts from mdi pgpm, xlri hrm and sjmsom. My profile is 89/88/86, a 2019 computer science graduate from iiit. I scored 99.24 in cat 2019 and 99.1 in xat. I want good learning and career opportunity, I have no inclination for any domain. Which option will you suggest among these 3 or you suggest trying next year ??(I will have 12 months exp for cat 2020).

    Like

    • Hi Gourav,

      There is no point in doing an MBA if you do not what to do. If I were in your place with your background and your aptitude and in this economic situation I would — take another shot, ensure that I learn as much as possible about all specializations, and build my profile towards my desired one before getting into campus. The reason is that otherwise you will do an MBA but you will be able to use it as a springboard, and I am sure after 5-6 years you will contemplate a second MBA.

      You can watch my recent webinars on specialisations here — https://thecatwriter.com/category/webinar/

      (Part-II is yet to be uploaded)

      All the best!

      Like

  9. aditya says

    Hi Sir I have 3.5 years work-ex in IT (TCS). IIFT Kolkata and IIM Trichy are my best calls.I have not been able to choose between the two as I am getting kind of mixed opinions regarding the same.Your valuable opinion would be highly appreciated !!

    Thanks

    Like

  10. aditya says

    Hi Sir,
    I have 3.5 years work-ex in IT (TCS). IIFT Kolkata and IIM Trichy are my best calls.I have not been able to choose between the two as I am getting kind of mixed opinions regarding the same.Your valuable opinion would be highly appreciated !!

    Thanks

    Like

  11. aditya says

    Hi Sir, I have 3.5 years work-ex in IT (TCS). IIFT Kolkata and IIM Trichy are my best calls.I have not been able to choose between the two as I am getting kind of mixed opinions regarding the same.Your valuable opinion would be highly appreciated !!

    Thanks

    Like

    • I would always vote for IIM-Trichy because finally, IIFT-Kolkata is not not IIFT-Delhi in terms of experience as well as brand.

      My rule of thumb when comparing two programs that seem more or less similar — always first preference to the main campus, the flagship program.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!

      Like

  12. Shivang says

    Dear Tony Sir ,
    I have been selected at both NMIMS Mumbai and IIT B SJMSOM. Which B school should be selected for Finance Specialization ? Although NM is looked up for finance , IIT B has recently issued their latest placement report wherein the finance roles have improved quite a bit. I would love to know your valuable opinion

    Like

    • Hi Shivang,

      Honestly, there is very little to choose between the two, the smaller batch size and this lower competition might not be a bad idea to choose SJMSOM, provided you are happy with the kind of Fin firms and roles on offer at SJSOM vis-a-vis NM.

      All the best!

      Like

  13. Hello Sir,
    Thank You for the post.
    I don’t have any questions.
    I just have one suggestion.
    It feels like the new IMS test interface has degraded instead of getting upgraded.
    Following are some of the points that made me say that:
    1) we don’t get sectional scores after completing the mock during the proctored period which we earlier used to get.
    2) We cannot login using mobile browser and hence not able to review the attempted paper on our mobile phones.
    3) The analytics tab is not working properly.
    These are some of the points which many IMS students feels and that’s why finds the old IMS test interface better.
    It would be of great help, if you could look into this matter and resolve this issue.
    Thank You.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Akshay,
        As I had replied to Pranjal, the stats are ready and we tried to deploy it yesterday but the er sure crashed. We thus released Sim 3 with sand stats.

        The issue seems to be with ensuring that all the new tables with many more stats are visible clearly on screens of different resolutions.

        Our team and those of our tech partner has barely slept since Monday and they have been pulling all-nighters to get the entire stats and review player live as soon as possible. So you can except some version of it live over the next one or two days.

        All the best!

        Like

      • akshay sonawala says

        Thank you sir for your help . There is one more problem arising with respect to analysis , after taking retake simcat we are facing difficulty in preparing performance report such as areas of incorrect questions and unattempted questions .It would be a great help if it get fixed soon .

        Like

      • It’s available in the new time management report – correct, incorrect, skipped for sections, areas, and topics.

        Like

  14. Ashish Kumar says

    Sir, I have two choices. NITIE PGDIM and IIM K PGP Finance. I am not able to make a decision for myself. Kindly help as 3rd July is the last date to submit fee in NITIE

    Like

    • Hi Ashish,

      Ops and Fin are two separate streams altogether, so if you want Ops/SCM you should join NITIE.

      If you want to join Finance and if IIM-K is saying placements for this program will be along with the placements of the flagship PGP Program then join IIM-K.

      If you do not have a preference for anything it will be tough to suggest anything.

      All the best!

      Like

      • Ashish Kumar says

        Sir, IIM K said that, about the placement scenario, it is not decided yet.

        Like

  15. Karan says

    Dear Sir,
    I have converted IIM-L Pgp and IIM-K Pgp and I am confused as to which college to choose. I am a PWD candidate who has converted both the college with a low CAT percentile. The reason I am bit worried to join L is because I have heard that the academic is rigor is too much at L and they generally remove 20-25 students every year due to poor academic performance. I am bit worried how I would cope up given my CAT percentile.
    My profile is 8/8/7 in the 10th,12th and in graduation respectively.
    It would be great if you could guide me as to which college should I choose.

    Like

    • Hi Karan,

      Congratulations on both the admits. I had both at as well back in the day and joined L.

      L does not remove 20-25 people compulsorily every year, students who fail to meet the academic criteria (accumulate two F grades or four D grades) need to repeat the program (if you do not ever fail in two subjects and get a D grade in four, you can limit them to 1 and 3, you can stay in the program)

      Also, please understand that failing does mean scoring below particular mark say 40, the grading is just like CAT, relative and depends on the percentile you fall into on the normal curve (no re-exams by the way)

      Please find out the grading system and academic requirements at K (is there a re-exam for failing, for example) and take a call on whichever you feel comfortable with.

      All the best!

      Like

      • Karan says

        Hello Sir,
        Thank you for your reply to my previous question.

        I just wanted to ask if I choose K over L will there be any long term effects of that on my career? Will I be losing out on certain positions, opportunities lets say 5-10 years down the line?

        Like

      • Well, you will lose out on the larger L network and the roles that accrue from that network.

        Purely in terms of brand I don’t think it will have much of impact.

        Like

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