Hyderabad: It does not care what others—including the government and its various regulators of the education sector—think. And it does not provide data for the surveys carried out by newspapers and magazines ranking the various business schools in the country.
But based on the students admitted and the graduates it has produced, the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad has emerged as one of the most attractive destinations for aspiring managers.
Much of this is because of the surging interest in the Indian economy and the desire for more talented students to stay back and play a key role in it. But what really sets ISB apart from other business schools is its one-year programme and visiting faculty from some of the best-ranked management schools across the world.
ISB was started in 2001 by some of the leading industrialists in the country, including the chairman and managing director of the Godrej group, Adi Godrej, Max India Ltd’s Analjit Singh, Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group chairman Anil Ambani, B. Ramalinga Raju of Satyam Computer Services Ltd, HDFC Ltd chairman Deepak Parekh, ICICI Bank Ltd chief executive K.V. Kamath, former Hindustan Unilever Ltd chairman Keki B. Dadiseth, steel tycoon Lakshmi N. Mittal, Infosys Technologies founder N.R. Narayana Murthy, chairman of Bajaj Auto Ltd Rahul Bajaj, McKinsey and Co.’s Rajat Gupta, Hero Group managing director Sunil Kant Munjal, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd vice-chairman Anand Mahindra and ITC Ltd chairman Yogesh C. Deveshwar. The student body at ISB has grown from the inception class of 128 to 450 in 2008. This is expected to go up to 600 by 2009.
Site map: Though their residences are 5 minutes from the main building, where classes are held (top), students end up spending most of their time outside classes in the library (above). Bharatha Sai/Mint
Besides expanding the student intake, ISB will expand its presence nationally by opening a campus in Mohali, Punjab. It is to be operational by 2011.
“India is the place to be in from a career point of view. Every major corporation is either here or wants to be here, and they need quality human resource who knows how to run business in this country,” says Danish Faruqui, a class of 2009 student at ISB. Faruqui, an economics graduate and chartered accountant, worked with the Indian arm of global audit and consulting firm KPMG for four years before joining ISB.
According to its 2008-09 admission prospectus, the school prefers applicants with substantive work experience, preferably at least two years. For example, in the class of 2008, which has graduated, the average work experience was five years, with the minimum any student has worked being one year and the maximum, 20 years.
Last year, the Financial Times put the school in its ranking of the global Top 20 management schools.
For admission, ISB accepts the Graduate Management Admission Test, or Gmat, score—a mandatory admission criterion used by management schools in the US. This makes it easy for students who are applying to foreign schools to apply to ISB as well.
“I was interested only in (an) MBA from abroad and did not take CAT (Common Admission Test)—the qualifying exam for IIMs. That ISB accepted Gmat scores made it an easy choice for me,” says Vidur Mohindroo, who already has an MBA and was working with Citibank India for four year before joining ISB. When he failed to get into Kellogg, Duke or Georgetown University—all in the US—Mohindroo decided that ISB would do just as well.
However, ISB is not just a replacement option for those not making it to top management schools abroad.
One example is Ashish Vijh, a former Infosys software developer who picked ISB over the business school at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“At one year, the opportunity cost of going to ISB is reasonable and I get the same quality of faculty or better at ISB, and exposure to Indian entrepreneurship is extremely important in the current global economic scenario,” Vijh says.
He adds that with an increasing number of international employers coming to the ISB campus for placements, a foreign degree does not have much more to offer.
For people such as Radhika Bhalla, who do not wish to fly too far away from home, ISB’s strategic collaboration with top management schools such as the Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Wharton School and London Business School ensure that the students get the same exposure.
“I was particular about wanting to stay in India but did not want to miss the international MBA experience, and ISB was the closest I could get to (it) without leaving the country. Four months into the programme, I think I made the right choice,” says Bhalla, an economics graduate from St Stephen’s college who worked as a senior correspondent for T he Economic Times in Delhi before joining ISB.
Besides the quality of education, Bhalla is particularly happy about the friendly residential atmosphere at ISB that made it easy for her to get used to being away from family and New Delhi.
But ISB has tussled with the government and its ministry of human resource development, which oversees education. It does not seek approval from the All India Council for Technical Education, which regulates business and engineering schools. Critics also say ISB depends too much on visiting faculty and should be cultivating full-time professors to be based on campus.
At ISB, tuition alone comes to Rs16 lakh and living expenses, including accommodation, cost another Rs2 lakh on average. The school requires students to live on campus—and many bring their spouses and families for the year, so the hostels are like an eclectic colony.
“One of the most exciting facets of student life that I have come to like is the pool dunking, which happens on every student’s birthday. The rest of the students from the birthday boy/girl’s residence throw him/her into the swimming pool at the recreation centre at midnight as part of the celebration,” Bhalla says.
Though student residences are hardly 5 minutes away from the main building where classes are held, more often than not students end up spending most of their time outside classes at the library, arguing over case studies and falling asleep hours past midnight. Most agree that a student rarely gets more than 4 hours of sleep on average during weekdays.