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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