The Big Decision: Choosing between IIM A, B and C

  • Content & PR team - MBAtious

    The below post was authored by Ashish Kumar from IIM Bangalore (PGP 2011-2013) and was shared with us by Pradheep Padmanathan, IIMB PGP (2013 - 2015)



    1. I being an IIM-B student myself cannot state that the following analysis/ collection of opinions is completely objective. Hence I am not making any effort in this regard.

    2. I may not be considered a suitable source of such information for this particular query as I myself did not face this dilemma. Having said that I out of personal interest have kept close tabs about the environments and happenings at these premier management institutes of India from very close and reliable sources (read “friends”). I am sure many of my batch mates as well many from the prospective batch (i.e. the intended audience of this thread) would have also “heard” and “learnt” about these pieces of information (reliable or otherwise, it’s for you to decide). What I intend to do is just put them together in a coherent format so that they aid in logical decision making.

    But as always in spite of millions of years of civilization and resulting evolution of logic, every human decision involves a bit of “gut feeling” and that much lee way is allowed for achievers of your calibre. Hence do not take this decision as the end of the world and in the end commit to whatever you finally decide with all your heart. Hence I won’t provide any recommendations but would like to help you in your decision.

    Following are some of the parameters you should consider while making your decision. The relative priority may vary from person to person.

    1. Academics:

    IIMA: Pedagogy is completely case based. Even subjects like accounting are taught through cases. An immediate resultant is the importance of student involvement which is measured through “Class Participation (CP)”. All courses have heavy components dedicated to CP. Courses have as much as 40% of the final grade decided by grade in CP. This can be a nightmare for some people who are introverts and find it difficult to voice their ideas unless specifically asked to.

    Another resultant is heavy preparation required before each class. Not only does one need to get through the case thoroughly but also do the necessary readings (from textbooks etc.) to understand the concepts and thereby come up with meaningful “talking points” to earn the CP grade. And all this is before even the class begins. Though the idea behind such pedagogy is self learning, it becomes increasingly difficult with accompanying quizzes, assignments, projects and other activities that a b-school life is filled with. The pedagogy itself is one of the primary reasons why IIM A is considered “acad-heavy”. But yes the learning out of such a system (if followed diligently throughout the 2 years) is immense and worth it.

    Moving on to relative distribution between the 2 years. IIM-A has 25.5 credits in the 1st year. Each credit consists of 20 classes each of 75 minutes. That constitutes 637.5 hours of classroom teaching in the first year. And in b schools a thumb rule is (for perfect learning) 3 hours should be spent outside the class for each hour spent in the class preparing for the future lessons and assimilating and contemplating on the past lessons. This drastically changes to 17 credits in the 2nd year. Thus only 425 hours of classroom teaching.

    The first year consists of all compulsory courses whereas the second only has electives. The exact courses can be viewed on the website: Some of the courses on excel and office (under Managerial Computing) are extremely beneficial and are compulsory for all students. The second year has foreign languages as credit courses.

    IIMB: Pedagogy is a mixture of lecture, case studies and seminars. The faculty has full freedom to design his/her own pedagogy to ensure maximum learning. And most importantly in my first year, I did not face any course which had more than 20% component dedicated to CP. This leads to better knowledge transfer from the professor to the student. On the negative side it also leads to lethargy and unpreparedness on the part of students in comparison to IIM-A’s pedagogy. But it gives students the opportunity to indulge in activities external to academics without having to sacrifice grades. But other than the basic difference in pedagogy, rest of the things are very much there. Each course has significant components dedicated to surprise and announced quizzes, assignments, projects and presentations. Life is hectic but not choking.

    IIM B has 50 credits (don’t panic the calculation is different from IIM-A) in the first year and minimum of 45 credits in the second year. This alone shows how evenly the workload is distributed. A typical course has 3 credits (subjects with lower credits also exist, but other calculations are pro rata) and consists of 20-22 classes of 90 minutes each. This leads to total 550 hours of classroom teaching in first year and 495 hours of classroom teaching in the second year. (There are means to reduce 2ndyear credit requirement further but you will learn about them when you get in). As you can see that total teaching hours vary very little between IIM-A (1062.5 hours) and IIM-B (1045 hours) . But distribution is 60% and 40% for IIM-A between the 2 years whereas it is 53% and 47% for IIM-B.

    IIM-B has a unique feature of providing 3 elective courses in the first year itself to better equip students for their summer internships. This model is seen nowhere else in India. Courses on basics such as excel are offered as electives and better designed to suit direct application. Though no official courses on foreign languages exist, student bodies arrange for such classes with proper certifications. Courses can be accessed here: Amount and variety of electives offered is the most comprehensive which is apparent in the link and some recent news articles. This is largely due to another point of difference i.e. faculty which I will deal with separately.

    IIMC: Mixture of lectures, case studies and seminars. But courses are more intense quantitatively. Even courses on HR and Organization behaviour require quantitative approach (Some faculties in IIM-B also followed such methods). Students need to clear a “basic” exam (Qualifying Mathematics) on quantitative abilities but the term “basic” there is an oxymoron. In words of IIM-C alumni himself, at the end of 2 years you feel like having earned a degree in M.Sc. Mathematics as opposed to a degree in business administration. Hence people with fear of Calculus and higher mathematics should strictly stay out of here as it would lead to depression and anxiety. But people in love with extensive numerical analyses and love for mathematics would find it easy to stay ahead of others here. This is one of the reasons why IIM-C (once?) used to be known as the“Finance campus”. It should have been apparent in your interviews as well that the faculty here like to indulge quantitatively.

    I am not aware of the exact credit requirements at IIM-C. But having a look at their courses, it doesn’t seem too different from IIM-B. But most courses have huge components dedicated to Mid term and End term exams leading to very little left for assignments, quizzes and projects. But the exams are one of a kind and again in words of their alumni, “the professor meets the student in the exam”. This is why it is considered “chill” in common lingo which should not be misunderstood as easy to get through.

    Again all 1st year courses are compulsory like IIM-A and they also have a compulsory course on Excel etc. No credit courses on foreign languages. (These may seem insignificant points. But given “very little” differences, I am trying to point out whatever I have perceived as differences.)

    2. Placements:

    This is the criteria where the differences actually become extremely minimal. IIM-A and C have slight head start in terms of alumni base (given the 10 year gap in points of inception). But IIM-B compensates through its convenient location and industry exposure. Each of the A/B/C campuses has a few unique recruiters every year. But that does not swing the balance in favour of any particular campus significantly.

    But greatest difference with respect to placements arises in the 3 campuses not out of availability of opportunity but relative competition among the batch. IIM-B due to its admission criteria usually consists of people with already exceptional resumes at the time of admission. Mavericks are few and rare (though not significantly insignificant). Hence companies get the chance to indulge in actual profile matching for summer and final placements. Having said that, everyone has immense opportunities to build resume after admission as final placements depend equally on career in B School as much as before it. In this regard also, IIM-A and IIM-C are gradually migrating towards the B formula of admissions (of considering overall profile rather than just CAT scores) and how much difference will exist in future is hard to predict.

    Batch sizes also create differences. IIM-A and IIM-C both have twin programmes for PGP (ABM for A and PGDCM for C) who are placed along with PGP batches (IIM-B also has many programs; but their placements are carried out separately) and hence greater batch sizes in comparison to IIM-B. Again this does not cause any difference to top half of the batch (if you are confident enough to belong there consistently).

    3. Faculty:

    This in my view is the greatest differentiator among the 3 campuses. How much relative importance is given to this, depends on the individual.

    The number of full time faculty is almost equivalent in all 3 campuses (hovering around the 100 mark). But a glance through the academic and experience profiles is enough to point out the stark difference. This is not believable. But just visit the following links and take time to go through the details:

    IIM A
    IIM B
    IIM C

    The no. of Ivy League PhDs and IIT/NIT/DU under graduation is not only maximum but significantly more in IIM-B when compared to IIM-A & IIM-C. IIM-C as expected has exceptional faculty in Quantitative and Information Systems area. Academic background is not an exact indicator of teaching ability. But on paper at least IIM-B is way ahead of the other two. And this is not a chest beating exercise. I could have easily pointed out the numbers but that would be disregard to other faculty members who are indeed much beyond me in terms of intellect and experience. Hence I just guided you to proper path and wish you to draw a relative comparison.

    4. Location:

    Though it may seem very insignificant in comparison to other factors, the climate does play a very important role in the learning process. And I do not think I need to elaborate more on this with respect to comparison. Besides in terms of importance to industry and accessibility to foreign MNCs Bengaluru outranks Ahmadabad and Kolkata by quite some distance.

    This also affects the faculty because for students it just would be a matter of 2 years. But for the faculty it’s a choice of lifetime. Hence as pointed out by Rajamayoor, many IIM-A and IIM-C alumni and faculties have relocated to IIM-B.

    5. Alumni Base:

    IIM-A and IIM-C have had head start of nearly 10 years before IIM-B’s inception. And besides in the initial years, IIM-B only focussed on the public sector. But as the distance increases, the relative differences become insignificant (distance between 0 and infinity = distance between 10 and infinity). Same can be extended to the dimension of time. 40 years now there is little difference between 50 and 40 and as time goes it will keep getting smaller. But having said that this does have a slight effect and I agree to it as my classmates already have.

    6. Culture:

    Extremely difficult to compare. Culture as such is very difficult to put in words. But not having experienced a culture, it’s near to impossible to draw a comparison. But I would try to answer one of the queries in this regard with respect to IIM-B culture. Leg pulling and crab tendencies are inherent in the Indian culture. But this is not a way of life at IIM-B. Here people are matured enough (highest average age of students among A/B/C) to understand the importance of cooperation and collaboration. To say that such behaviour is absent in IIM-B would be blasphemy on my part. And if such claims are made by IIM-A and IIM-C students, it is irreverence on their part.

    If any campus is trying to differentiate on basis of culture, kindly use your intellect to evaluate the amount of truth in their statements. As I said, culture is very difficult to compare unless experienced. Hence at their position it is improper of them to issue such generalisations. Hence I leave it to you to “experience” and then learn.

    7. Peer Group:

    Quality of students is quite exceptional at all of these 3 campuses. This is due to demand supply inequality. But there too due to its admission criteria, you get wholesome profiles more at IIM-B than at IIM-A and IIM-C. This is a reason why A & C are gradually migrating towards B’s admission criteria. And diversity is best seen at B within the top league. Since this forms a part of culture, I would not elaborate on it much and leave it for you to experience.

    Though there are many other criteria, these are among the most important. But I can understand how hard a decision it is for all of you. As beautifully said in Fanaa:

    “Sahi aur galat ke beech faisla karna aasaan hain,
    Lekin do sahi raasto mein se behtar chun na, Aur Do galat raasto mein munasib,
    Yahi Hamari zindagi ke faisle karte hain…”

    But believe me no matter whatever your decision, you will experience “wow” moments no matter where you are. And unless you have super human powers and emotional control, you will confront moments of self pity because these institutes have the capability to humble even the best. But at the end of it you will feel good about yourself not because you had made the “right” decision, but just because you would not know what the other two campuses had to offer.

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