How do you see placements at ISB getting affected this season with the economic scenario and accompanying doomsday prophecies?
The way I see it, we have 400 odd students and the whole world is our market. Over the last 3 years, our focus has been international as well as within India. International offers at ISB have been doubling and this trend will continue. There will be dips and ups in certain sectors, but across the board we are tapping a very wide range of companies which spans Finance, Marketing, Consulting, Operations, Supply chain management, Logistics, Energy, Telecom, Technology, IT and more. If you aggregate all these and see the demand that exists, I don’t think the slowdown will affect us. The way I look at it, there are two things – some of the classical recruiters might lower their number of intake; the number of recruiters per se will go up. Niche sectors like consulting, real estate, healthcare will show good traction while others will be neutral. So in a nutshell, offers per company will be lower but the number of companies will rise significantly, so the overall number of offers will go up.
How do you see various sectors getting affected? Do you see a mismatch in expectations of students and what will eventually be on offer during placements?
You’re right to an extent. If you take investment banking for an example, this sector is not going to be as robust as in the previous years. So there is not going to be a rise in these kind of sectors. In my personal view, the number of students going to classical manufacturing or marketing companies has not been high in recent years. That trend will reverse. You will see more people going into marketing, strategy, technology, consulting, real estate and other niche areas. For example in ISB, there are 12 doctors in the current batch. Healthcare and related companies will have a large demand for these students.
The ongoing admissions process at ISB is working on an increased intake of 560 students. How is the ecosystem inside ISB equipped to handle the increased number of students?
Actually, ISB was originally designed for 560 students. If you visit ISB, you’ll see that it has 8 academic centers, each with a classroom, a board room, a discussion room, a students’ room and so on. Each center handles 70 students. So the school is already equipped for 560 students as per design. We’ve just been ramping up slowly towards that number since we started. From next year, we’ll have the full capacity coming in so systemically there will be no problem.
If the school was designed for 560, how did you plan the expansion of the batch and what took 7 years to attain full capacity?
That has got to do with how the ISB proposition stands. At ISB, teaching is done by two types of professors – one is the resident faculty and the second is the international faculty from Wharton and Kellogg. Getting both of these types of faculty in place takes time. The second reason is that at ISB we wanted to admit very high end students. In order to keep up with that, we wanted to go slow with the processes so that when we ramped up, everything was in place and the placements angle too was tied up. All this takes time to build.
It is often asked how ISB will be able to keep up the quality of students as they increase their batch size.
In terms of good quality students, I don’t think we have even scratched the surface. With the kind of demand that exists right now, we can do three times the current batch size without sacrificing quality at all. What really happens is that – there are different types of students who apply to ISB. One type has those who finish their engineering, are very bright in their batch, go abroad, work in international markets and then they want to come back and do their MBA from a top school. The other set has those who worked in India in high end jobs and now want to come back to school. This combined set is so large that 560 should not be thought at all as a large number. And interestingly, you will see that various parameters across the board are going up. For example, the average GMAT score in the previous admitted ISB batch was 740, before that it was 706 and two years ago it was 690.
How has the Financial Times 20th rank affected the school in terms of international and ethnically non-Indian applicants? Are you seeing increased interest and if yes, from which countries?
It is too early to say conclusively, but from the applications coming for the September 15 cycle, I anticipate a fair increase in that number. We’ll get to know for sure only by December. But right now applicants from the US, Nepal, Singapore and other neighbouring countries are showing high interest.
Why it is preferable to apply in Round One at ISB