Teeming, packed, noisy streets connecting the serene, sprawling, park-like campuses of Infosys and the Indian School of Business. Slum hovels just yards/meters away from beautiful apartment buildings.
These are a few of the images from the busy three days I, and roughly 16 other MBA admissions consultants, spent in Hyderabad, India as guests of the Indian School of Business. We made the trip to learn more about this top-ranked business school with a distinctive structure and mission.
Deputy Dean Deepak Chandra addressed us on Tuesday morning and provided a brief history of ISB and clarified its focus. In two words: Emerging markets. Since ISB’s exceptionally strong partnership with Kellogg, Wharton, and London Business School brings a steady stream of professors to teach in ISB classrooms frequently using HBS cases, students certainly study about developed countries and economies. However, the faculty focuses its research on developing markets. The professors naturally bring that research into the classroom and also offer students the opportunity to assist them. Whether it’s the Centre for Entrepreneurship, the Centre for Leadership, Innovation and Change, the Centre for Real Estate or any of the others, according to Dean Chandra, the research will seek to answer these questions:
- How do emerging market economies differ from developed economies?
- How do different emerging market economies differ from each other, and what can they learn from each other?
- What can developed countries learn from emerging markets?
This focus on developing economies was echoed by the international students we met. To paraphrase one Spanish student, Daniel, “I wanted to go where there is growth, and that’s not in Europe or the US, where growth has slowed or stopped.” Articulate and bright, he has been thrilled with ISB and its emerging market passion. He already has a job at Novartis in Hyderabad and will start working there after graduation. He assumes he will return at some point to Europe and is convinced his Indian experience will only add to his resume and job prospects wherever he goes.
Mr. V. K. Menon, ISB’s Senior Director of Career Advancement Services, provided a solid basis for Daniel’s assumption. He explained that multi- nationals in Asia, like Novartis, the strategy consulting companies, or large financial concerns, love to hire people who have Asian experience and a European or US passport. These individuals have fewer visa issues when continuing their careers in the EU or the US. With their emerging market experience and graduate business education, they are better prepared to be global business leaders.
Throughout our sessions with students and alumni, we asked about the ISB student experience. They are pleased overall with the accessibility of the faculty, the quality of teaching, the professional diversity amongst their fellow students. A few marveled at the spectacular ISB campus, and the level of assistance and support provided to students – all reside on the 260-acre campus, which has its own ATM, grocery store, pool, fully equipped gym, and basic medical facilities. (We felt like we were in a serene bubble, an oasis, when we returned to campus after an outing in bustling Hyderabad.) A couple of current students actually wished the program was a little longer. They felt it is so intense that they can’t experience it fully or take advantage of as many of opportunities as they would have liked.
When we sat in on a class, I was impressed with the students’ engagement in the class discussion. They asked good questions and had thoughtful responses to the professor’s questions. I didn’t see anyone checking email or Facebook; I can’t say the same for other MBA classes I have attended.
A few students and members of the administration expressed regret that the program is not more geographically diverse. Only about 5% of students (not counting those on exchange programs) are not of Indian origin. That statistic reveals opportunity for the non-Indian passport holder interested in emerging markets as the foundation for a global management career. It also represents opportunity for the student who is well-qualified (ISB has an average GMAT of 710 and climbing), wants a career in management consulting or investment banking, and is interested in experiencing India, but who can’t quite make the cut at the elite US or EU schools where those professions primarily recruit.
Essentially the foreign applicant is an “under-represented minority” on the ISB campus, and ISB wants to increase that representation. I had the distinct impression that if the foreign applicant shows he or she can do the work, even if the GMAT is a little low or the GPA has some issues, or the applicant is attempting to change both function and industry – the toughest kind of career change – ISB will stretch to consider and accept that applicant. I also inferred that generous scholarships are available for admitted international applicants.
In contrast to international students, ISB has been very successful in recruiting top performing Indians in India. For India, a post-graduate, research-based, independent (i.e. not government-funded) program requiring full-time work experience is something new. Its ties to internationally renowned business schools add enormously to its appeal, not to mention its impressive placement record at leading corporations like Infosys, Novartis, Deloitte, McKinsey, Citicorp, Goldman Sachs, and many others.
In addition, as one alumnus – who has been working at Microsoft since graduating from ISB – pointed out, ISB can ease the transition for Indians abroad who want to both change careers/move into management and return to India. Since it is a one-year program, ISB also costs far less than the traditional US two-year program both in out-of-pocket expenses and opportunity cost.
I can’t tell you how glad I am that I decided to accept ISB’s invitation to this conference. It was intense – probably mirroring the intensity of the program. Like all top MBA programs, ISB is a great fit for the right people — not for all people. I am convinced that more applicants should consider ISB than I believed when I left Los Angeles last Sunday at 6:00 AM.
If you would like to discuss whether ISB, the top Indian MBA program with a commitment to the study and service of emerging markets, is a fit for you, please feel free to contact me and write “ISB” in the comments box.
By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.