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Is ISB still worth the money and time? A statistical analysis

It has been 20 years since the idea of the Indian School of Business (ISB) was conceived. This is puny in comparison to say a Harvard that has a 105+ year legacy or even our home grown IIMs (IIMC being the first ever) that have been around for over 50 years now.

It has been a little over 15 years since the institute actually came into being. There is no denying the fact that the school has achieved a superstar status in this short time span.

For years, most in-country rankings kept ignoring the school until it debuted in 2008 in the top 20 for FT rankings. This made the world (read India mostly), stop and take note and the institute went from strength to strength.

Where there is fame, there is also infamy. Over the years, there has been a constant debate, especially with the exodus at the top and the ballooning class size, on whether ISB is really worth the money and time.

Is it a good or bad decision in terms of career advancement and return on investment?

At MBA Crystal Ball, we decided to do a more data-driven analysis to get a grip around this. Numbers, as they say, don’t lie – unless you make them of course.

ISB Statistics on the table

Let’s have a look at the data that ISB puts out transparently in the public domain. Here are two charts we created to aid the readability of the tables on the ISB website:

ISB MBA Salary Trends

The salary statistics have had a significant jump in the last 7 years. And this is the median salary – a measure I personally consider a much better indicator than the average which can be vitiated with extreme values. Not shown in this chart are the salaries and offers in the recent past. Since 2016 (till 2018), annual average CTC has risen to about Rs 22+ lacs.

Not many schools would give you this; they don’t even provide the 80% range. 2013 of course was the peak of recession so not an earth-shattering big hole in paradise.

The number of offers line shows an even healthier trend with no troughs and a very linear, upward trajectory. ~1000 offers for a class that is in the 800s – surely everything has to be hunky dory in the school? Number of offers too have gone up from about a 1000 in 2015 to well over 1100 by 2018.

Now let’s do a bit of analytics and see what a closer look reveals.

Are there enough companies recruiting at ISB?

Let me put the analysis first so you can make your own assessments and then I will guide you along it.

ISB Placement Statistics

So what do we see here? There are two graphs. The first shows how many candidates are there for each company that comes to campus. A lower number is better because that means better chances of selection for each candidate.

The number, as you can see, has been constantly going up. Which means, the increase in the number of recruiting companies at ISB has NOT kept pace with the number of candidates in the school. From a sub-2 number the value is went up to 2.8 candidates per company coming to campus, in 2015! In 2018, this steadied around 2.4 candidates per company, with about 890 candidates.

The next line, offers a similar insight for the number of offers for each candidate. Higher the better in this case. This is not as troubling and in fact went up in 2015! Ever since it has steadily maintained about 1.2-1.4 offers per candidate, by 2018.

So even if the number of companies haven’t increased much, they are making far more offers apparently to candidates at ISB. The brand and networking effect does seem to be paying off with companies hiring in bulk – and not just the ones that offer low salaries at that!

Let’s do a bit more number crunching before we pass a verdict here.

Salary trends at ISB

Now check out this analysis.

ISB Statistics

Apologies for the graph not being linear, but I am only using the numbers shared by ISB.

What do we have here? Can’t read the two graphs in isolation really. The % increase in salary number should ideally have no relation with the % increase in class size in an ideal world.

That is to say irrespective of whether ISB is a class of 100 or 800, they should be able to get decent salary hike. But we see that the two do have an inverse relation here. Troubling signs?

In 2013 for instance, when the class size jumped by about 200 students, the average salary actually dropped. While there is a confounding impact of a recession, perhaps the class size did take a toll too. Likewise, when the class size dropped from 2014 to 2015, the salaries again jumped up!

So where does this leave our big question? Hang on just a bit more and we’ll get there.

Beyond The Numbers

If only everything could be captured neatly in an Excel or a Chart! Thank God we’ve not come to that yet.

Beyond just the placement numbers and salary at ISB, having experienced the program first hand, I can say with some authority that the program is (cliché alert) truly transformative.

Entering the hallowed ground is akin to using a portkey for transporting into a Tomorrowland – literally and figuratively. Literally because the campus is just beautiful and out of this world. Figuratively, because the kind of person the program makes you is one who is ready for the new tomorrow.

Hyperbole aside, the program’s true value stems from its collaboration with the famed international schools. This ensures they get excellent exchange faculty which even to date, trumps the local, home-grown ones.

This is a dimension ISB is working on aggressively but still to come to grips with. Add to that the modeling on international school ensures that the student clubs are completely autonomous and are hotbeds of activity as well as networking.

Our verdict on ISB: Worth it or not?

If we look purely at the numbers, ISB has done a good job on the face of it, though it does seem to have trouble with the growing class size.

But then, if you were to do a similar analysis on the top schools, maybe the results will be the same. The point being, it is still a growing school, far from its maturity.

In any famed school, be it the IITs, IIMs or the Harvards of the world, there will always be the bottom 4-5% who struggle.

If you have the conviction that you won’t belong there, ISB is a pretty decent bet for the career in general.

Also read:
ISB placements
ISB blogs of admitted students
Early Entry Option at ISB
ISB Placement Success Stories

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Email. Or follow on Linkedin, Facebook.

45 thoughts on “Is ISB still worth the money and time? A statistical analysis”

  1. Have you drilled this analysis one step further by analyzing how many of the new companies that ISB has added were startups vs established company. I know that you were evaluating median salaries to present an undistorted view, but have you evaluated the impact on the median salaries if these startups such as and many more in the making go belly up? ISB would still be stuck with those 800+ students.

    • Interesting point you have there Sam. Allow me a bit of a rebuttal here. First things first, the question isn’t really about ‘drilling’ into the data since there is no other data. No school would share the kind of information you are talking about and I think they shouldn’t. The reason is because it can lead to a bit of panic (like you voice) or an unfair bias for a particular career.

      Qualitatively speaking, what you are saying isn’t true. There are sunrise sectors that always gain traction. About a decade back, this was true for IT. True when the recession hit or the dot-com bubble burst, there were 1-2 years when ppl struggled, but then another sector took over. Besides, there are always the more steady sectors that hire. And no one sector hires 800 candidates.

      • Hi Manish,
        That was exactly where I was trying to imply. I am a recent CO 2015 grad and I know schools like ISB project the CTC figure more prominently for a reason. I think the median salary (fixed+ variable) should be around 14-15 lacs had it not been for the startups and their spurious ESOPs and bonuses. As much as I agree with what you said about ISB experience as ” the year of transformation” and the 25+ lacs is worth just for the faculty it attracts, most students don’t evaluate the ROI from that perspective. The current sunrise sector take you brought out was an interesting one and I hadn’t thought of it from that view. However, Let’s say that those burgeoning sectors are e-commerce and perhaps energy sector (not sure what else is growing at record rate). I have read articles where these companies are thinking of hiring mostly from engineering colleges (non IIT’s) to save costs. What do you think about that threat? I know this data is not available, but i can speak from my personal experience that close to 200 (or ~ 27%) of batch went to e-commerce/startups and this is not only a sunrise sector in your parlance, but heavily concentrated one too. I am not sure if my point was clear, but I am contending that ISB will be under severe pressure one day if only a few sunrise sectors such as e-commerce companies are able to meet ISB student’s expectations on salary and those e-commerce companies suddenly realize that we might as well go to the engineering colleges where the young guys are smarter and cheaper anyways.

        • That’s a great insight not many are privy to Sam. Yes, it does seem polarized and could be a cause of concern if and when the ecommerce party gets over. For now, one should make hay while it lasts isn’t it?

          On your point about engineering Vs bschool. That’s a larger discussion actually. The roles most of these firms hire from engineering schools (even IITs) are very different than what they would hire from ISB for instance Product Developer vs Product Manager. So that I don’t see happening. The threat of the sector going bust exists however.

        • Innovation is the KEY. If e-commerce goes burst, there will be suffering for a while. But then, ISB will find some more innovative ways to place students. Even the outgoing batches will retrain themselves to adjust to the new realities. This is how B-Schools, MBAs and even Tech Schools ( and for that matter, everyone else) work. Being a top global B-School, chances are high that ISB will be able to innovate at a faster pace.

          If current sunrise sectors collapse, others will emerge. This is the truth of life, nothing is constant. As a professional, we need to think in these terms.

  2. What about five or ten years down the line? I don’t believe you want to spend 0.3 crores just to get a good first job! How are the alumni doing vis-a-vis those of other schools? Not just in terms of the rupees they earn, but also in terms of career growth and entrepreneurship. There should be a study on that.

  3. Hi,
    As part of the class of 2013, I’d like to weigh in on a few things.
    1. A significant number of students (not majority, but significant) aren’t that overly concerned about campus placements. There is some paranoia around placement time, but it’s nowhere in the same league as other B-schools. The lower dependence on the placement cell seems to be a source of major disconnect for people looking outside-in at ISB.

    The reasonably older average age means that a lot of students come INTO ISB with not just a network but with a plan of which direction they’ll be heading. They’re in to make a direction change, and not so dependent on grades to pick jobs for them.
    Age and experience tend to make you a lot calmer and you have a lot more people in your phonebook to call. A lot of us had already setup interviews outside the Recruitment process.

    2. 2012-13 was the year we took bigger steps towards startups. We pulled in few good startups on campus, mostly independent of the recruitment cell (I think, not 100% sure). Risk taking got a lot sexier. Of course, it wasn’t for everyone, what with student loans to pay off and all.

    3. The post ISB story for and IIM and ISB student is quite different – For many IIM students, it’s their first real job – with so much about the real world to learn.. about themselves the most perhaps (which is normal, and they tend to handle it excellently).
    A lot of that learning is already done for ISB students, so they’re already out finding a better fit for themselves, or better opportunities.

    4. Priorities: A significant amount of ISB grads are already married/married shortly after/have or are about to have kids, so priorities differ between them and a typical IIM grad. Not sure how that would impact the data here.

    5. One year. Only speaking for myself here, but I had a salary before ISB, so a one year course made more sense for me financially.

    Either way, I really think picking a B-school based on data like this is doing disservice to one’s self, one’s own ability and one’s own life choices. There is no ONE right answer.

  4. @Avinash: We haven’t come across any study like that. But if there is one, we’d love to see the data and analyse it.

    @Anon: Thanks for the excellent perspectives. I had to read the ‘disservice’ part twice to understand what you meant by it 🙂

    You are right in saying that no single factor, whether it’s rankings or placement & salary data such as this, should dictate an applicant’s choice of bschools.

    There are so many personal aspects (some that you’ve outlined) that cannot be covered by numeric data. We hope the analysis we’ve done forms one additional data-point (but not the only one) in the bigger set of parameters that applicants use.

  5. A very good fact based analysis using verified information available in the public domain. However, I agree with Avinash and Anon’s perspective about the decision being a much more holistic one.

    On an unrelated note, since you seem to be following the comments, I’d suggest a revision for one statement.

    “Likewise, when the class size dropped from 2014 to 2015, the salaries again jumped up!” – From 2013 to 2014, the class size remained the same, but salaries jumped ~6% (End of recession?). From 2014 to 2015, the class size dropped by ~1 percent and salaries increased by around 5.5% again. I agree with your statement about the flat salaries in 2013 potentially being attributable to both, the recession and the increase in class size, but do not see an inverse relation in the data post-2015 as you suggest.

    Just my 2 cents. Cheers.

    • So here’s the clarification on that. The graph is of % and not absolute numbers remember? So a downward graph does NOT mean reduction – it just means lower growth ‘rate’. So the salaries increased by 5% in 2015 over a higher base (that had already grown by 6% in the previous year) – which means it is still a ‘jump’. The assertion in the article hence still holds good – the class size dropped (negative % point in the graph) while salaries jumped by 5%.

  6. Wouldn’t you say the salary and ROI data of ISB on the global rankings are way too inflated and not realistically adjusted for costs in INR vis a vis $?

    • Shyam,

      Majority of placements at ISB is domestic. So it would actually be quite unfair to adjust one part of the equation for PPP (cost) and not the other (salary) isn’t it? Your argument would have been relevant if there was a substantial international placement out of ISB.

  7. MG, the discussion on international placements seems to have terminated abruptly in end Nov 15. Notwithstanding that, is there data avl on international placements out of ISB. If yes, can u share some facts n figures? Or may be throw some light on my query, based on the vast knowledge gathered on the forum thru discussions…

    • Anubhav, not sure what discussion you are alluding to here? We don’t have access to anything more than the school already puts in the public domain. At a high level thouhg, international placements from most Indian schools are in small minority. So if you want to make a career outside India, an Indian MBA is a long shot.

      • Hi MG, nudging a little further into my previous query. Beyond what the B schools put on their website, is there any information on the international companies that have recruited from ISB or IIM PGPX in the last few years. Im sure with your reach into the MBA ecosystem, you could rattle out a few names. Secondly, how would you rate ISB and IIMA in the Operations, Strategy and Project Management verticals.

        • The query is quite broad Anubhav and it depends on what sector you are asking for. IT firms do hire for roles in international geographies from time to time; sometimes there are consulting firms such as Mercer that do. The point is, the list also isn’t stable and changes dramatically from year to year. If international placements is so important, these aren’t the best schools in the world to target frankly.

          The two are pretty good in all the verticals you have mentioned.

  8. Have 9 yrs experience and worked in US for 3 yrs..still have H1B visa.

    Prepare for UPSC civil services and written 2 mains but couldn’t qualify.

    GMAT score 750.

    What are my chances for getting selected for ISB..
    Most importantly I am 37 yrs…….would guys of age 37 yrs are taken seriously?? any age limit please ???

  9. Dear Mr,

    Having work experience of 5 years in retail banking.. Already an MBA in 2011 from tier 2 B school.. Does it make sense to try for ISB to take an exponential leap in terms of learning and Job role.

    Yes Bank

    • Aman, depending on what you want to achieve in your career, second MBA may or may not be prudent. ISB may not be a great idea for instance for a career in retail banking but could be interesting say for corporate finance/strategy. So the answer really depends.

  10. HI MG,

    I am 32 Years old with an MBA in Rural Management. I have been working in Finance profile for last 7 years (Post MBA) & was thinking to do an MBA from ISB – preferably in Finance. My current CTC is 20 Lakhs (INR).

    Does it make a sense to do one more MBA as I find resistance in Finance sector for myself as my current specialization is not finance?

  11. Dear MG,

    I have been through your posts and replies. They have been very insightful.

    I request your view on below query of mine.

    I have done my MBA from a Tier II institute and have almost 9 years of experience in SME Banking.
    Career growth seems to have grown stagnant in terms of job role.Today also I do same thing I started 9 years back but now with more experience and better knowledge.

    I wish to jump to a better role (i.e. moving to corporate banking segment from SME segment) and I understand I need to equip myself for it.

    Pls. advise can PGPro (it’s a new off campus 16 months executive MBA program) from ISB help me to jump up on the ladder from role and salary perspective. My current CTC is 12.54 Lacs. The course cost is 32 Lacs plus.

    Looking forward to your guidance.


    • Amit,

      In general non-regular/non-full time programs have limited impact in your career from helping in career transitions such as the one you are seeking. They are best for career acceleration in your existing organization at best. So better to look at the flagship ISB program as well as IIM 1 year course ideally.

  12. Hi MG,

    I have been through posts they have been quite helpful.

    I am a system engineer for one of the leading automotive companies with of 6 yrs of experience, married woman torn between choosing part time MBA [PGPpro From ISB or other similar options] or to do a technical course relevant to my domain. In our domain salary hikes are not so great , so improve my salary figures which way would be better? Will MBA from institutes like ISB really help if at all if i am make it to through the interview?

    please advice.


  13. Hi MG,

    With a BBA degree and a specialization in Marketing & Sales, I have worked in the IT sector for over five years now. I have been exploring the idea of the one-year program at ISB to gain an added advantage. Would you recommend it to a 26-year old and is it likely to make a significant impact on the financial front given the course fees?

    • Meenakshi,

      I can’t make an educated comment on that since I dont know a LOT of things here – what is your current salary? What role you want to seek after MBA are just two of them.

      In general, from purely an age perspective, I see no reason why it can’t be done. It is also pretty good from a generic RoI perspective. The specific cases however can vary a lot.

      • The objective is to land a role in the strategic marketing/branding function. My current CTC is 8 lakhs. I don’t qualify for the 2017-18 PGPX programme at IIM-A given my age. I’m wondering if ISB is the right choice for someone who is clearly only focused on marketing/branding. Would IIM-A/B be better suited?

          • Hi MG,

            I have done my graduation in Economics from Calcutta University. I have an experience of 3 years in Retail Banking and a company switch to a promoted role in the same sector.My current CTC is 3 Lakhs p.a.

            Like Meenakshi, I am exploring the idea of doing the PGP from ISB. I also want to move out of Retail Banking and make a career shift into Consulting/ other finance roles. Hence, would you recommend it to a guy with the following profile and will the degree give me a significant jump in terms of job role and salary?

            Also, does the Pre-MBA salary affect the Post Mba Salary at ISB placements?

            Thanks and Regards,


  14. Hi manish

    I am a 31 year old entrepreneur with 9+ years of experience in manufacturing sector. I have secured an admit from ISB-PGP and am very positive about making it to IIMA-PGPX and IIMC-PGPEX. I wish to continue in this sector and wants to be placed in a manufacturing firm post MBA. Could you please help me in identifying, which of the above mentioned programs would better help me in reaching to my goals considering the fact that manufacturing jobs are scarce at all of the above programs.

  15. Hey Manish, wanted to seek a personal advise around this.

    I am considering ISB batch commencing ’17 or ’18, wanted your advise on how productive it would be provided my following background :

    I am a normal hons. grad (kind’a above average academics – noway close to extraordinary) with post qualification experience of about >2.5 years (Age 24 – fyi if relevant atall) and employed with the largest internet startup of the company with a CTC of ~14 LPA excluding variables (+2.9 L ESOP). Role : Associate Manager – Program Management & Process Excellence in their Customer Experience vertical (focusing on SCM)

    Wanted to understand the wisdom of choice from the following lenses
    ~ ROI (Incremental jump in C&B)
    ~ Long-term accelerators / catalyst to career choices ?
    ~ Possible post-qualification roles / industries ?

    PS :
    ~ GMAT score of 748
    ~ Economics Grad

    With Regards,

    • I presume there is a typo on the GMAT bit there Sam?

      In general, the RoI works pretty well for ISB. What goals/roles is really something you should answer for yourself – there is a HUGE selection set available, but just because there is some choice doesn’t mean you should go for it right?

      I think you should try this year itself.

  16. Hi Manish,

    Thanks for your detailed analysis. I wanted to seek your opinion regarding the same.

    I am presently working in Qatar as a sales engineer (approx 4 yrs of work exp). I want to pursue MBA in business development but i am confused as to what will be the right way forward for me. Whether i should go for a full fledged MBA degree or not? Is it worth spending so much for a mba degree? Also should i consider doing MBA from colleges outside India?
    I have been talking to many people regarding the same and most of them advise me not to quit my job . Rather do executive MBA where in you can attend the classes in the evening. The reason i am confused is that i don’t think an executive MBA has the same value as a full time MBA. Also i am currently 26yrs old. Is it right for me to pursue a full time MBA course in india?

    I am a graduate and this is my first job.

  17. Mr. Gupta that indeed is an insightful article there. I have been researching and digging up data on the prospects of taking up a course with ISB from a hospitality industry background. Unfortunately I have not been able to come across any such example that gives details on the future prospects with such a background in the same industry. Would you be able to throw some light on it and also if you have known examples of recruitments done in the hospitality sector.

    • Depends on what within hospitality you are looking at Vikas. If you are alluding to hotel chains etc, then it’s unlikely. But if you consider folks such as Make My Trip, then it might be possible.

  18. Hello MG,

    I have been thinking for taking up a one year Full time MBA course from ISB/IIMs and I must accept that this comment section gave me a good insight to arrive to a decision. Below are the details, request your expert advice regarding the same.

    I am an engineering grad of 2012 batch from a mediocre university (RGPV, Bhopal). I have worked 18 months as a software developer and 42 months as a Business analyst in Banking domain (Payments) in IT industry with a current CTC of 12.5 LPA. Also, I am going to get married shortly (in a year). I am planning to go for 2019 course for PGP, is it worth a shot from an ROI point of view? given that I want to work in banking/IT sector post the course.

    Your advice would of great help to me.

    Thanks and regards,

    • From a purely financial RoI sense, this should definitely make sense Amit. However, I would also encourage you to look at the slightly larger picture. While financials are important, they should not be the main reason for seeking MBA. You should assess your career priorities and then decide whether an MBA is even needed or not.


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