Global or Indian MBA?

I often get this question. In fact, today I spoke to a candidate who is deciding between a top global B-School and a great Indian B-School.  This is a very personal call and so there are no general rules. But, I want to share some of the questions I would suggest people in similar situations consider, instead of just focusing on the short-term issues such as school rankings and cost.

The key to answering the global vs. local MBA question, in my mind, is to answer where you want to live and work long-term. If you plan to work in India long-term then it probably makes more sense to go with a good Indian B-school. The following are the main reasons for suggesting this:

  • Local Network: This is the top most reason for picking a local MBA. You will have an outstanding network of classmates, alumni and faculty upon graduation that is local and easily accessible. If you take ISB or IIM, there are thousands of alumni at various levels of the corporate ladder across different industries in India. Compare that to a global MBA, which would probably at best have hundreds of alums in India.
  • Job prospects: Ability to find work upon graduation is greatly influenced by the geography where you graduate. I would say, it is much easier to find a good job in any field in an Indian company right after graduation if you do an Indian MBA (and similarly for an US MBA if you want to stick around in the US). But one other aspect to consider is that you don’t have any visa issues to worry about if you are native to the geography. I know a few MBA graduates from top schools in the US who compromised on their jobs (picking jobs that sponsor visas vs. what they really wanted to do) or returned to India due to compulsion (especially during the past recession when many US companies did not want to process visas). If you are particularly interested in working in the startup space it becomes all the more important since most US startups will not process visas.

But, you would be losing out on the following benefits of going to a global B-school

  • Global network: There is no denying that if you go to a global top B-school you are going to network with the crème de la crème from all over the globe. It is definitely an outstanding experience (that I can personally vouch for being an MIT Sloan MBA).
  • Global job prospects: You will be able to work anywhere in the globe upon graduation (within the limits of the visa issues mentioned above) and on the medium to long-term.  This also helps in adding a global perspective to your thinking.

Other questions that come up:

  • Cost/ROI: I think, this balances out in the mid-term, as long as you plan to stay in the geography where you graduate. An ISB MBA (at the high-end in India from cost perspective) will put you down about US $50K (all costs included). Most top US MBA schools would probably set you back $150K ($100K tuition + $50K living). Granted you would probably make north of $100K if you work in the US post MBA as opposed to $30-40K in India, but still the payback periods (4-5 yrs) are roughly equal given the amount you get paid is at the same ratio as the costs (3:1 for US:India).
  • Two-year vs. one-year MBA: The internship opportunity that a two-year MBA offers is very critical for most people going through an MBA program (particularly those that are switching careers). Even if you are going through an one-year MBA program, try your level best to work in some internship experience (at least part-time) into your program.
  • Work experience: I think this is another important aspect to consider. IIMs in particular are more tuned towards people with <2 years of work experience for the regular MBA program (and not the executive MBAs). If the pedagogy methods are more towards case studies, its important for the candidates to have enough work experience to draw from. From that point of view, schools that take people with more work experience will have a better chance of higher quality case discussions in class. Based on my experience at MIT Sloan where average work experience of >5 years, my classmates used to draw from their work experience which was very insightful (Hat tip: Thanks to Akshay Bhushan for flagging this).

Those are some of my quick observations on this question. Would love to hear from others who have either gone through this process or in the decision-making process. What did I miss?

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6 thoughts on “Global or Indian MBA?

  1. Nice posts However I would like to point out:1)Local Network : ISB has a much smaller network than the IIMs. Also is there networking among the different IIMs? Or do the IIMs have their own separate alumni bases. For eg : a) IIMs all have different alumni associations, organizing different events b)Rashmi Bansal wrote "Stay Hungry Stay Foolish" which revolved just around IIM-A entrepreneurs. Had there been more networking, she’d have written it to include all the IIMs.Certainly there are better achievers from the other IIMs than some of the 25 IIM-A entrepreneurs she has covered.2)Diversity : Almost all the top IIMs have 90%+ engineers/science grads.Very very few lawyers/commerce/arts/doctors etc. This is all thanks to the unnecessarily high quant skills required to crack the CAT.Also hardly any foreign students.3)Quality of professors : Top foreign B-Schools (and also ISB) have far better quality of faculty than IIMs. Upon checking the faculty member’s profiles at IIMs, we don’t find faculty members who themselves performed well as students(i.e. did 1st degree from an IIT or PGDM from a top IIM or did an MBA from a top foreign B-School). Probably work culture and compensation are to blame.4)Foreign B-Schools give a fully accredited Masters degree. Whereas the IIMs and ISB give a diploma or certificate. We in India may praise these institutes but are their non-degree qualifications valid all over EU and USA?Please do comment.

  2. I would encourage an IIM grad to comment on the points you have made Rahul – particularly 1, 2 and 3. Regarding what the degree is called (whether an MBA or a diploma) I personally don’t think is as important as what you learn during the program and the quality of the network you build for future career.

  3. @adanieI fully agree that the learning is imp. However how will people in the US/EU know how good the IIMs are i.e. are they of the same standard as the MBA degrees from their B-Schools? Many jobs explicitly mention that they want degree holders.Also I believe many IIM PGDM alumni have got additional MBA degrees from top foreign B-Schools. One striking example is Indira Nooyi (IIM-C and then MBA from Yale SOM).

  4. Anand: Great article. I’d just add mention of the time axis: as an MIT Sloan MBA (2011), my sense is that directionally, future batches will have much a tougher time selling the incremental value of their US experience.

  5. MBA has become one of the booming areas and the driver for the success of any type of business in India..Its very important role in determining the growth and development of the individual, business users, executives, start-ups and other big organizations.

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