I – 9 : An MBA4India proprietary ranking of B schools for Indian applicants


by Deepak Punwani, Managing Director and Principal Consultant 


Members of Wharton India Club


Rankings are, and have always been, a priority within India’s highly competitive academic arena. For primary and secondary school students, final examinations determine individuals’ class rank and thus impact their admission to the most selective universities. Rank serves as a ticket to enter narrow corridors leading to even narrower doorways to sought-after seats at colleges such as IIT (Indian Institute of Technology), where the acceptance rate is a mere 0.7%.

Ranking-conscious MBA applicants from India are well aware of the “M7” programs. Poets & Quants describes this as the “super elite group of seven private business schools generally considered to have the world’s best MBA programs: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, Columbia, and MIT Sloan.” While these schools traditionally dominate published rankings, the “M7” is more a designation of quality and prestige than a true rank order of schools.

Following this model, India-based admissions consulting firm MBA4India introduces what we call the “I-9” – the group of nine business schools we view as offering the highest lifetime value for MBA students from India.

Having worked with hundreds of Indian MBA applicants, our criteria for the “I-9” reflect the satisfaction of Indian students and alumni from the past 15 years who we interviewed as well as our assessment of the schools’ current offerings for Indian students. Our “admittedly simplistic” yet experience-based model is based on the following factors:

  • Career planning, facilitation and support
    – Breadth of opportunities for post-MBA careers
    – Relative availability of post-MBA jobs for international students
    – Tools to help find a fulfilling post-MBA career
  • Learning resources and environment
    – Provide actionable insights into how business world works
    – Facilitate understanding of individual strengths and motivations
    – Offer tools to alumni for continuous personal and professional growth
  • India-centric commitment, offerings and resources
    – India-oriented learning content
    – Dedicated student clubs and events
    – Student treks to India
  • Relationship building and orientation
    – Alignment of school’s stated and demonstrated values
    – Relatively large, engaged and dispersed alumni network
    – Alumni demonstrate camaraderie and responsiveness

Considering the subjective nature of quantified rankings, and the many similarities among excellent institutions, we list the “I-9” schools in alphabetical order:


Respondents focus on the strength of the CBS alumni network, including the connection with undergraduate alumni. They also mention international employment opportunities and global recognition of the brand. CBS features the India Business Initiation, a platform for faculty and alumni to connect with industry leaders and policy makers on India-related topics. In addition, the school hosts its annual India Business Conference, a forum inspiring thought-leadership and prompting discussion around business, social, political, and creative aspects of Indian life.

Vishesh, who showed his commitment to Columbia by applying in the Early Decision round, mentions, “Columbia has a big Indian diaspora and great recruitment numbers even for international students.” He adds, “Those students interested in an urban setting, part-time internship opportunities during school, or working at Wall Street should find CBS very desirable.”


HBS earns the highest scores of the I-9 schools on its career outcomes, strength of alumni network and perceptions of the school. Relevant offerings include the HBS India Research Center in Mumbai, launched in 2006, which examines emerging trends shaping the region. Over the past 16 years, HBS has also held a student-run India Conference, co-sponsored by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Noteworthy HBS alumni from India include Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons.

On the HBS website, alumnus Raghu explains, “Choosing HBS proved easy. Talking to students and alumni, I observed that at HBS, the gap between ideas and execution is so small because of the resources available at the school. You have the I (Innovation)-lab, legal advice, marketing advice – everything you need to succeed.”


Respondents emphasize positive learning outcomes and ongoing connection with ISB as well as positive perception by other Indian MBA graduates. ISB offers students the best of both worlds – an excellent education without having to leave their native country. Consistently ranked among FT.com’s top 30 business schools, ISB brings a worldly perspective to MBA students by featuring faculty from elite schools such as Columbia and Tuck.

Alumnus Karan says this about his alma mater, “Though ISB is a very young school, its alumni network is now 10,000 strong. What impressed me was the sheer approachability of alums. I can’t remember a single instance in which I have reached out and have not received a response. The set of students that come to ISB is extremely diverse. My batch consisted of rocket scientists, venture capitalists and army personnel, which enhanced my overall learning experience as we got to understand perspectives of people from different backgrounds. ISB turned out to be extremely cost effective. I paid one-fourth the price which I would have in the US for an education of comparable quality – and most likely from the same professors.”


Notable mentions include the strong global alumni connection and breadth of career opportunities across the globe. Widely considered as “Business School for the World”, INSEAD’s culture is exceptionally welcoming for students from India and 100+ other countries. In fact, Indians are routinely among the three largest nationalities on campus. India Week is one of the most anticipated student-driven events each year.

Shyamol concurs, “The power of the brand and alumni network was invaluable and helped me make a meaningful career move. I moved out of banking to the technology sector, changed country, and changed function. For Indian applicants interested in career opportunities outside of India, particularly in Europe and Asia, those interested in a top-ranked, one-year program, and those looking for a strenuous yet fun-filled MBA program, INSEAD would be a great choice!”


Learning outcomes and brand recognition among peers worldwide are cited as major appeals by respondents. Campus location is also a major draw as London is one of the most sought-after work destinations for Indian professionals. Relevant LBS offerings include the India Business Forum, the LBS India Club’s popular Diwali Party, an India Trek, and the Mumbai Alumni Club.

Hiren echoes these views with his comments, “London is the best city in the world. Truly global. Being a major financial centre attracts many executive students working in London. Additionally, my partner can work in the UK full-time with almost no restriction. Cross-learning opportunities with the Executive MBA, Sloan Fellows, MFA and MIM programs make the learning outcomes second to none.”


Notable mentions here include learning outcomes, strength of the alumni network, and variety of international opportunities. Sloan features the India Lab, a four-month project in which students address current business problems confronting actual companies in India. There is also an active India Business Club, which sponsors an annual trek for interaction with leading Indian business and political leaders.

Palash says,MIT’s tech ecosystem is unparalleled. Further, MIT actively promotes collaboration among students across disciplines. The exposure to smart peers from across the globe and an opportunity to exchange stories and lessons from our experiences is an aspect of the MBA program that benefits me immensely as an Indian student.”


Respondents touch upon the collaborative nature of the program while also mentioning the accepting environment for international students. The support of Career Services and chance to interact with participants in other Kellogg programs (e.g., MIM, one-year) were other standout features. The ability to increase ROI by opting for the one-year program was also mentioned. Kellogg offers a popular Global Initiatives in Management (GIM) India program and maintains deep ties with alumni via its Kellogg Alumni Club of India. Kellogg partners with the Indian School of Business to offer an executive program on both campuses.

Mayank observes, “Kellogg is one of the strongest schools in Strategy and, as a result, has a large portion of the batch getting into consulting. The collaborative culture of the school ensures that international students are well supported in the overall ecosystem.”


Stanford earns high praise for its learning outcomes and overall connection between grads and the school. Other positives include career outcomes. Stanford features a burgeoning India Alumni Chapter with 270+ members and an active Business in India Club for students.

Ajay mentions, “Stanford is the best place to explore one’s own motivations and align them with business opportunities. The school encourages one to tread unique paths to enable making a positive difference for others. The alumni network is broad, deep and deeply invested in your success, making the entire Stanford community seem like one big, extended family.”


Wharton is recognized for having very positive peer perception. Other notable feedback centers on career outcomes and strengths of the global alumni network. Noteworthy MBA alumni include Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google. Wharton features the India Startup Challenge, an India-focused economic and business conference. The Wharton Club of India has an agenda for students that includes social gatherings and professional development opportunities. Also recognized as being of particular importance was Wharton’s STEM-major offerings and dual-degree programs with the UPenn Engineering School, which allows grads to work in the US for three years on a STEM Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT) compared to just a one-year OPT for most other MBA programs.

Abhinoor proudly notes, “Wharton’s robust brand and staggeringly wide alumni base, not only in US but around the globe, prompted me to prioritize it over other schools. Wharton is not just a Finance School. Its unparalleled global career support and recent initiatives such as Analytics at Wharton, Penn Blockchain Club, Tangen Hall for Entrepreneurship, etc., demonstrate a plethora of resources and how it continues to evolve with ever-changing student interests and business needs.”

Aditi adds, “Indian nationals represent the biggest international community at Wharton ~55/850 in a batch, thereby making it very easy to find people with shared experiences. The Wharton India Club provides events where we can celebrate the Indian national holidays, groove to Bollywood beats and be full-on desi. There are many Indian restaurants and grocery stores, so you will never have to say goodbye to dal makhani and masala dosa. The Indian community at Wharton is always there to help each other out… in landing internships/full-time offers, academic support, and life support in general.”


There are eight excellent business schools that could have joined an extended list of high-value MBA programs for Indian applicants. Listed in alphabetical order, these include Cambridge Judge, Chicago Booth, Dartmouth Tuck, Duke Fuqua, Michigan Ross, NYU Stern, Oxford Said, and Toronto Rotman.




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