Business schools are expensive. The cost of the most coveted two-year Post Graduate Programme (PGP) course at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, currently stands at Rs 22 lakh ($31,900). IIM Bangalore and IIM Calcutta cost marginally less. And the course fees at IIMs also go up almost every year in line with inflation. Compared with private institutions, though, this is positively cheap. Course fees for Indian School of Business’ (ISB) one-year PGP offering, for example, costs over 1.5X the fees of IIMA.

But even as these fees continue their stratospheric rise, there is no dearth of applicants. In 2018, the Common Admission Test (CAT)—the premier pan-India entrance exam conducted by IIMs—saw 241,000 registrations. All vying for around 4,300 seats.

Why this craze? Because branding matters. An MBA degree is an ace. An MBA degree from the top B-schools is the ace of spades. And if you have IIT+IIM in your CV, the world is your oyster. Not only does it virtually guarantee you a job, but it also assures you a fat salary to boot. And social capital, of course.

So in February, as the final few students from these hallowed institutions received their final placement offers, three types of headlines appeared in most news dailies:

  • 100% placement at <INSERT NAME>
  • Average salary rises by XY%
  • XY candidate scores highest package of XX lakh per annum

That’s the draw.

Add to that the ungodly amounts of societal pressure to go down this path and you get a perennial conveyor belt of desperate candidates.

Cheaper education loans complete this unholy trinity. If you have a selection letter from one of the IIMs, ISB or one of the other top B-schools, chances are that you could get an education loan without even putting up collateral. It’s a safe bet for banks, given the stellar placement record at these institutes and the salaries that these graduates make.

That’s the clincher.

As a student though, once you have taken a loan, you’re now part of a vicious cycle. You want the best jobs at the best companies. Nothing else matters. As such, it’s no longer about the courses that interest you but the ones that allow for the highest grades. After all, you have loan repayments hanging over you like a sword of Damocles. Every single student in a batch—by extension, every management student—wants the same thing, making it a zero-sum game.

Companies know this situation well and exploit it to the fullest during placements.


Pradip Kumar Saha

Pradip has been a journalist for close to 12 years. In his previous stint at financial newspaper Mint, which lasted over a decade, he switched to reporting from desk and wrote on a variety of subjects, including sports, food, whiskies and all things luxury. Born and raised in Patna, Pradip has a diploma in journalism from Indian Institute of Mass Communication. He is interested in good stories across beats. When not pursuing a story, he divides his time between food, tea, whisky, watches, Ghalib and Gulzar, in no particular order. At The Ken he writes weekend features and also covers companies like Uber, OYO, Zomato and Delhivery.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.