Can the Indian School of Business Become a Global Top Five B-School?

Meantime, Rangnekar is applying for an AACSB accreditation and the first initial review is in October. Interestingly, ISB’s success with the one-year PGP has created a whole new market where none existed. Today, a large number of other institutions in India – including the hallowed Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) – also offer similar one-year PGPs for experienced students.

Becoming India’s Premier Business School

Over the years, ISB has built a formidable reputation not just in India, but also in the Asia-Pacific region. “We did what everyone said was impossible,” insists Rangnekar. “We ramped up capacity from 120 to 560 in about eight years and everyone said we will dilute quality. But we were absolutely convinced that there is no shortage of talent in this country and nor is there a shortage of demand,” says Rangnekar. He adds that ISB’s placements have been consistently getting better each year except for a setback in 2009 when the job market went bad. “But even then we managed to place a large number of students – the only problem was that it took us three months longer than usual,” he says.

ISB has also created a vibrant executive education market in India. It is already the biggest provider of executive education in India. “Now we are saying that there is an enormous opportunity to provide high-quality education for seriously good people in India. And many top institutions – our own partner institutions – are coming to India to provide executive education,” says Rangnekar.

As far as research is concerned, a recent study by London Business School professors Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam shows that in the period of 2001-2010, ISB professors have done more research than any other institution in India. “When you look at it, ISB really started getting its faculty only from 2004. Young full-time faculty typically takes 2-4 years before they are able to publish. So in my opinion, 2001-2010 represents approximately one-third of our capacity for research – but even that makes us better than others,” says Rangnekar. “We have blown the myth that if you are based in India, you cannot publish in top tier journals.” Today ISB faculty has produced in at least one top-tier journal in each area like marketing, strategy or finance.

Perhaps the biggest affirmation of ISB’s reputation came when it finally broke into the Financial Times ranking at No 20 in 2008 (it ranked at No 13 in the 2011 rankings). “Most people could never even imagine that in our seventh or eighth year we would get into the Top 20 rankings,” says Rangnekar. “I think we did everything we could do but we were enormously helped by the fact that the Indian economy itself went through the roof.”

Going forward, Rangnekar wants to provide a much greater emphasis on leadership and values-based education – not just ethics, but responsibility. “Basically, how do we incorporate ethical decision-making into everything students do? And while we have a few ideas, I don’t think we have found solutions to it. My only solace is that nobody else has found it. We would love to be pioneers in that,” he says.

“As a school, our desire is to benchmark ourselves against the top five schools globally – the Kelloggs, Whartons, Harvards, and so on. That’s our aspiration,” says Rangnekar.