Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Top B-School

India is home to around three thousand institutes offering management education. Of these, only a few schools can boast of imparting education of excellent quality, churn out leaders, and hence are worth joining. Given the large number of institutes, especially with their boastful claims (genuine and otherwise), it is difficult for a student to make the right decision regarding the selection of an institute. That the definition of a 'top B-School' varies between people and across years makes matters greatly complicated. Throw in into this mix is the fact that a lot of B-Schools make exaggerated claims and we have an extremely complex situation that makes it difficult to make the     right decision. To be able to cut through the clutter and identify these 'top B-Schools', it is necessary that one understands the key parameters to be used to evaluate and differentiate between B-Schools so that one can arrive at a consideration set of schools that they can apply to.

This is a complex process that needs a lot of research to get the correct information about the required parameters and then the ability to use the information in a meaningful manner. This also requires the ability to cut through the boastful claims of many B-Schools on various aspects.

With the objective of helping our students to make the right decision without going through this complex process, 
T.I.M.E. releases a list of India's top B-Schools annually. This list segregates B-Schools into various categories, thereby aiding the students in choosing the set of B-Schools to apply to. This list is made using a methodology that has a proven track record of over a decade, after months of extensive research by experts who have over two decades of experience in guiding students on Indian MBA admissions.

In this context, we bring you two important aspects: (a) various parameters that need to be looked at while verifying the credentials of a B-School and (b) 
T.I.M.E.'s list of the Top B-Schools in India for 2015.
(a) Quality of students
The quality of students on campus makes a huge difference on account of the interaction that students have with their peers. A significant proportion of the learning at any good B-School happens outside class and a fairly significant part of this comes from peer learning. A great deal of learning at any B-School is on account of group activities such as assignments and projects. Hence, better the peers, richer is the learning experience. The quality of the selection process (in terms of the percentile/cut off in the written exam, the rigorousness of the GD/Essay-writing/Interview, profile of the students, etc.) adopted by the institute gives one an idea about the quality of the students it admits.
(b) Quality of faculty
The quality of the inputs one gets at a B-School is driven by the quality of the faculty. All top B-Schools make significant investments to attract and retain a top-notch faculty team. Most top B-Schools have a judicious mix of full- and part-time faculty members. The full-time faculty team provides the continuity and monitoring that is needed over the two-year period, apart from providing any handholding required by students. The part-time faculty team gives students the much-needed external exposure, especially in terms of contacts with industry and access to real time projects. Many data points about the faculty - their longevity at the school, their research contributions, association/collaboration with foreign schools, etc., along with something as basic as the number of faculty with doctorates – help students get an overview of the quality of faculty at the school.
(c) Placements
A large number of management institutes boast of a 100 per cent placement record. With management institutes mushrooming all over the country, these claims should not be taken at face value, and should be scrutinized closely. While these claims may not be outright lies, they could be cleverly camouflaged by 'requesting some students to opt out of placement process'.

It helps to understand that all companies that B-Schools claim to be recruiters from their campus need not necessarily be picking up students in the final placement process. Some/many of them may be those who hired students for summer internships. Students should make the necessary effort to get a clear picture about this before making their decision, particularly if they are basing their decision on the kind of companies that visit the campus.

It requires a fair amount of due diligence before one can come to drawing conclusions about the status of placements in a B-School. It has been noticed that most students, in the excitement of considering the high average salary, miss the average number of offers that each student receives. This parameter is also important as it indicates the amount of choice that a student has in terms of jobs across companies on offer.

However, it is also important to note that placement numbers reveal only short-term trends. What may not be obvious are the long-term benefits that the school could offer. Hence, one could make a mistake if one looks only at the placement figures.
(d) Image of the Institute
It does not need any special emphasis to state the importance of the image/brand-value of the B-School. It is fairly obvious even to a cursory observer of the MBA scenario that stronger the brand, better will the placements be in the short term and more rewarding will the career be in the long term. The 'brand image' of a B-School in the student community and its acceptance in the industry circles is hence one of the key considerations while choosing a B-School. While it can be said that it is natural for older institutes to have a better reputation than the new schools, it cannot always be generalized. Also, the situation is slightly different when an older, well-established institute establishes a new campus. In such cases, the 'parent/guardian' institute certainly helps the new institute through its formative years. This help may include, but may not be limited to, faculty support, admissions support, and most importantly, placement support.

The long-term advantages of association with a good brand often overhaul the short-term parameters such as 'salary'. Students should understand that the brand value of B-Schools, for example, that of the IIMs, has the power to open doors in the corporate world; this would mean access to people and in many cases, it would make the difference between a deal and a no-deal. Long after a student has passed out of an institute, he/she will benefit from the power of its brand image – both in career growth and in the day-to-day work/business. Not only students, the image of the school helps in attracting faculty as well.

Some students are apprehensive about joining the newer IIMs. They should know that the new IIMs (located at Kashipur, Raipur, Ranchi, Rohtak, Udaipur and Trichy) have been witnessing encouraging placements, including for summer internships. Whether it is the average salary in final placements (around 10-14 lakh) or the reputation of recruiters, the newly established IIMs (set up after 2008) should certainly be preferred over most non-IIM B-Schools, more importantly for the long-term brand advantage that one can enjoy.
(e) Location of the B-School 
Location indirectly affects the placements on the campus. Placements are better at institutes located in places where there is a concentration of business and industry. This is because companies find it much easier to recruit management graduates from institutes located closer to their own headquarters rather than travel to an institute that is located far away.

For this reason, everything else remaining the same, institutes located in Mumbai, New Delhi, and Bengaluru always score better than institutes based in other cities. Chennai, Pune, and Hyderabad make up the next level of cities. The impact of location on the institute becomes more pronounced as we go down the category list.

If we look at the six new IIMs again, we understand that in spite of the non-metro nature of their locations, these IIMs are able to attract the best of students and are also able to attract and retain senior faculty.
(f) Quality of infrastructure 
One of the important things required for an institute to function satisfactorily is the availability of necessary infrastructure in terms of a state-of-the-art computer lab, high-speed internet connectivity, well-stocked library with subscriptions to management journals, and classrooms furnished with audio-visual aids. Any institute that does not have these facilities cannot be called top-class.

The fully residential programme of the top B-Schools fosters all-round development as the period of interaction with peers and faculty is just not restricted to the class hours but is an ongoing 24/7 process where the scope to learn is multiplied many times over.
(g) Fee 
The growth in the number of B-Schools and the lack of commensurate boom in the economy over the last four years has meant that the expectations of students from an 'Return on Investment' (RoI) perspective were not met in some cases. For many schools, their ability to place students has come under question, particularly for those outside the 'top-50' bracket.

With the fee being charged by many of them also rising sharply, it is necessary that one needs to ensure that the return on the fee being invested also works out to be reasonable. It could, however, be said that fee is a non-issue in the case of top B-Schools. Loans are fairly easily available to study at these schools and the ability of the students to repay their loans is also high due to the good placements.
(h) Programmes offered by institutes
There are two major types of programmes: (1) General Management Programme (GMP) and (2) Sectoral Programme.

A General Management Programme gives a student the flexibility to join any sector and thus offers maximum diversification and placement opportunities as opposed to a Specialization-based Programme. All the IIMs and most of the other top B-Schools offer this programme.

However, some B-Schools offer programmes catering to a specific sector or specializing in a specific area. Institutes like IIFT (International Business), IRMA (Rural/Agri-business Management), MICA (Strategic Marketing and Communication), TISS (Human Resource Management), and XLRI (Human Resource Management) are the best in their respective sectors and students who are interested in these areas should consider these schools as the first choice.

These days several new kinds of programmes are on offer, catering to specific sectors and needs of the industry like those in actuarial science, retail, and insurance. The placement opportunities in these specialized programmes are restricted to companies in that sector and as such do not lend the kind of flexibility to one's career that a GMP offers. This, however, should not matter much if one is interested in a specific sector and is hence looking at an MBA programme in that sector.

So far so good, but the question remains – what are the top schools in India from which I should select the schools I could apply to?

We at 
T.I.M.E. use our extensive student database, decades of experience in the field and a proven methodology to categorize the top institutes in the country.

The B-School categorization process adopted by 
T.I.M.E. is an elaborate, multi-step process where due weightage is given to the statistics available about an institute in the public domain and the opinion of experts at T.I.M.E. This unique blend of expert opinion and objective data makes it the most accurate categorization available. The objective parameters used comprise (a) placement data, (b) cut-off score in entrance test, (c) location of the school, (d) age of the school, (e) programme fee. The rating given by T.I.M.E. experts, based on the brand image of the school, its alumni base and its faculty strength forms the subjective part of the process.

Please note that only schools offering two-year programmes, with at least one batch having passed out, have been considered for this exercise.

The B-Schools in the list below are divided into seven broad categories:

Top 10 category features world-class institutes, such as the IIMs and XLRI, which every student aspires to secure an admission into. Many of these institutes are comparable with the best in the world. These institutes invariably have a 100% placement record. Even the not-so-academically-good students at these institutes manage to get good jobs on account of the 'rub-off' effect of the institute.

AAA category of institutes has excellent B-Schools in their own right. They offer high quality of education, faculty, and infrastructure facilities. These institutes have a 100% placement record in most cases. A significant number of the top students at these institutes are able to secure placements that are comparable to those offered at the Top 10 institutes.

AA & A categories of institutes offer a high quality of education, faculty, and infrastructure facilities even though these may not be comparable to those listed in the above two categories. These institutes are successful in providing high quality placements to their top students, especially those with good communication skills. They also have a decent brand value and are well recognised by the industry.

BBB category schools are also well regarded by the industry but may lag slightly behind in terms of the overall brand value, compared to A category schools. While many students get good placements, these schools may not always have a 100% placement record.

BB & B categories of institutes are those that are well regarded at the local level. These institutes may not provide too many national-level placement opportunities but are generally successful in providing placements to many of their students with prominent local companies.

Apart from all these, we have also listed B-Schools under the 'Others' category, which has institutes that may be found to be lacking in one or more of: (a) infrastructure; (b) industry interface; (c) faculty; (d) alumni network; (e) curriculum, and (f) placements. However, we believe these colleges are better than the hordes of others that do not feature in our list at all. You are hence advised to get thorough information (by visiting the campuses and speaking with past and current students) about these institutes before taking any decision regarding them.

Within a category, there is not much difference between schools. For example, a slight edge that one school has due to placements may be balanced by the advantage on cut-off that another school from the same category has. That would mean that one has to treat all the B-Schools within a category broadly at par while using this list to decide on the schools to apply to.

You would observe that the grouping categories do not have uniformity with regards to the number of B-Schools per category. However, this is done to ensure homogeneity (placements, cut-offs, brand value, et al.) between the B-Schools within a category. Keeping in line with this spirit, the 'A' category has been extended this year to include 15 schools from the traditional ten that we have had so far. Also, you would notice that all the new entrants into the 'A' category are better than the schools in the category below it for various reasons – placements, cutoff/profile, brand value of the institute, etc.

In other words, it means that the top 50 schools – Top 10, AAA, AA, and A categories – would be the schools to aspire for.

Students need to note that as discussed earlier, 'fee' as a parameter becomes increasingly relevant as one moves down the ratings list. We have considered 'fee' as an objective parameter for categorising the schools outside the top 25, i.e., schools from category AA downwards, till B and 'Others'.

An extremely important factor that students need to keep in mind is that, regardless of the kind of school they get into, their academic performance in the programme plays a great role in determining the kind of benefit (return) they get out of their MBA.

It is true that all schools have students who are laggards and their placements may not be the envy of many.

However it is also true that the really good performers from the schools in the lower categories may bag the best of placements from their campuses and make the most of their MBA stint.

The obvious point that many miss out on is that the students who work hard on campus during the course of the programme, across categories of B-Schools, certainly do much better than the rest.

The list of top B-Schools is a valuable guide that will help students pick their set of B-Schools to apply to. The first question one should ask is, 'How many B-Schools should I apply to?' The answer to this depends on a few factors.

The first factor is your 'budget'. With the cost of application for each institute being in the range of 500 to 2,500, an optimal number may be ten to twelve schools. However, it could be slightly higher, if one can afford it. It is strongly advised that you apply to institutes across categories.

The second factor is your 'current status'. A final-year student, for example, can afford to be selective as he/she can make another attempt the next year, while a person who has completed graduation and is not working will be keener to get into a B-School. A working professional, comfortable placed with two years of work experience may be selective, while one with over four years of work experience under the belt may not want to lose further time and play it safe by applying to more schools.

The third factor is 'your mock-tests' performance'. Depending on your performance, you may want to hedge your risk by applying to more institutes – particularly, to institutes across categories that we discussed above.

Once the number of schools is determined, you must decide on the individual B-Schools to apply to. It is a good practice to apply to institutes in three different categories – 50% of the schools in the category where you are likely to land calls for second round, 30% of the schools in an aspiration level – typically one level above your expected range – and 20% in the level below the expected range, to safeguard your interests in case of a bad performance. All students should be applying to the IIMs by virtue of filling in the CAT application form. We would strongly advise you to apply to ALL the IIMs. The time for picking and choosing will come later – once you have secured the final admissions.

Here's an example for a better understanding: Let's say that you have decided to apply to ten institutes. First, check how you have performed in the AIMCATs and what your percentile score has been like. If you are in the 85 percentile range, you will need to apply to five institutes from the A category, three from AA and two from BBB.

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