Thursday, December 24, 2009

With apologies to Mr. Arindam Chaudhuri

I was reading Mr. Arindam Chaudhuri's editorial, dated December 1, 2009, presenting a comparison of IIM, IIPM and the ISB. He does a stupendous job of converting an article titled 'Arindam Chaudhuri on why ISB is better than the IIMs' into a pro IIPM banter. As much as I might not agree with his point of view, I would be remiss not to applaud his marketing style. We should give props where props are due.

In this blog post, I would like to concentrate on one aspect of his article - importance of international placements to determine the caliber of an institute. Comparing placements at IIMs and ISB, he states that ISB is better than IIMs because a higher percentage of the class accepts international offers. Applying the same logic, he concludes that IIPM Delhi is the best B-school in the country (at least as far as placements are concerned) because it had the highest number of international offers during the last two years.

This argument sounds absurd to me. It has more to do with the fascination Indians (in general) have about relocating to a foreign country and less to do with the quality of placements. I am as guilty as anyone else out there in having that mindset. During my engineering in India, my career goal was to relocate to USA. Just thinking about my naivety makes me sad. Dont get me wrong, I love the USA and have had a great time for the past 6 years, but that should not have been my career goal.

Although international exposure is great, I believe that the reputation of the school is better reflected by the quality of domestic companies that recruit on campus and the roles offered. A professor of mine at the University of Texas at Austin used to say that the quality of a University can be determined by looking at the number of domestic students it attracts as opposed to its international student enrollment. Anyone who has completed their masters in the US will know what he meant, but for the benefit of others, let me explain. At most medium tier to low tier US universities, the engineering colleges are comprised of students primarily from India, China and southeast Asian countries. As an example, at the University of Texas at Arlington, the electrical engineering graduate classes consist of 95% international students. A friend who studied there told me that his classmates called their American classmates as "foreigners". Unless studying part-time, domestic students always select reputable universities for their masters.

In my opinion, the number of international offers by itself in no way represents the reputation of an institute. Placements can be better assessed by comparing how successful the institute was in placing students in their desired fields and roles. As an example, many of you want to change careers and switch to consulting. Assuming that your preference does not change during your time at ISB, the percentage of students who successfully transition into consulting would be a better metric than the number of international offers.


  1. Not sure I agree with the whole "more local students = better school" argument. Take INSEAD for instance. Not only would you find hardly a token Frenchman in the class, most of the companies that recruit at INSEAD, do so for their offices all over the world. Not just France.

    I agree that the number of international offers should not be the sole criterion for determining the quality of a school. But, when companies offer international roles to those graduating, it means that they believe those students are true world citizens, capable of performing just as effectively in any geography. That can only be a good thing.

  2. Saad,

    I understand your point. I guess i did a poor job of expressing my views. My point about "more local students = better school" was more about graduate programs in the US. Europe in general and Insead in particular is a totally different beast altogether.

    Its easy for companies to recruit for international locations when the class itself is made of international students. For example, both LBS and Insead have more than 90% internationals on campus. I am sure most will agree with me when I say that Harvard with about 40% international students is a better MBA program than Insead.

    As far as international offers from IIPM are concerned, as has been documented in other articles, international companies hire their students because they dont command high salaries. As a case in point, a multinational company for its Texas office hired an Indian from a top Indian MBA program and paid him about 80K. They would have ended up paying at least 100K if they had hired an MBA grad from a top US univ. Sure, the candidate was great, but cost also played a major role in the company's decision to hire him. So, although i agree with you on the "world citizen" argument, its not always rosy. All I saying is IIMPM grads were probably selected because the companies knew that they could get away paying them 4-5000 Dhs a month to work in Dubai, a figure none of us would even consider.

    Having said that, in my opinion, ISB does need to increase the international student intake to truly qualify as a top ranked b-school.

  3. i think the "more local students = better school" is not a generalisation that one can apply to every school. What I believe is that anything in excess is detrimental - be they local students or international. However, not all programs can be looked at in the same narrow perspective with which you have viewed engineering masters programs.

    You will appreciate that in a business program, as opposed to an engineering program, a substantial pool of internationals helps bring in an understanding of international business. Diversity in engineering college does not increase the learning experience in the same manner. The ISB - as an aspiring top 10 business school MUST increase its foreign intake (for which it really is putting in efforts - you guys will find out when you'll enter b-school what those sops are ;-) ) - to the point where an international body comprises a substantial fraction. You see, indian business methodology is very removed from the way the americans and also the europeans do business and view trade. Unless you understand their ways, your perspective on the business world would continue to remain restricted and narrow. Students must have a part to play in the teaching process too, right? A homogenous body of students is detrimental because it prevents outside-the-classroom learning; a critical element of personal development while at a b-school. You're right, the ISB doesn't need to increase its international student numbers to qualify as a top ranked b-school: it already is one! It MUST increase its international student size so as to increase the inflow of global ideas and input during class participation.

    Also, by attacking the fundamental premise of international placements is not the correct approach to looking at the value of an IIPM certificate/degree. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn't right. The IIPM misrepresents facts and figures to produce misleading statistics for which they must be taken to task. Whether companies get away by paying foreign workers cheaper than domestic workers is not really an issue we're concerned about.

    In my opinion, you cannot just generally apply your experience in a US engineering school (and the US engineering industry) to other Masters schools - especially not to business schools.

  4. U&S,

    Just to clarify, "more local students = better school" does not mean that the entire class should be comprised of domestic students. As you mentioned, diversity is every imp. I was talking abt the entire class not being just international. Thats y i mentioned the 95% international enrollment of UTA. I believe in moderation. Be in placements, be it student composition, be it LIFE, my mantra is to not be at the very extremes, as the extremes are generally not the best place to be!