Please tell us about yourself?
Reminds me of the time seniors used to ask, “Eh, freshie, put intro.”
Nick-Name: Samaadhi. Name: Arjun N Bharadwaj. Department: Electrical Engineering, Batch of 2012. Hostel: Jamuna. I graduated from IIM Ahmedabad in 2014.
What were the major activities you were involved in?
I was mostly seen among the lit and quizzing crowd on campus. I used to quiz regularly. During Shaastra and Saarang, I generally used to be part of the newsletter team, a most agreeable coordship, for I could take potshots at cores and secretaries without fear of retribution.
I don’t know about interesting, but definitely the most memorable event was Jamuna beating Godav by 2 points to come second in LitSoc in the last quiz of the season. I was one of the finalists. I think it was the first time Jamuna ever made a mark in LitSoc. I think this was in 2008-2009.
Tell us about the institution you are currently part of. How is the infrastructure, the facilities and the general atmosphere?
I studied at IIM Ahmedabad. Fundamentally, there is a huge difference between the atmosphere at IITs and IIMs. In IITs, most of the B.Tech students are either in or just out of their teens and their world-view is quite limited. Engineering is the time when people form their views on everything under the sun. As it is stretched to four or five years, there is lot of time to explore options in various fields and in general, relax. By the very act of choosing IIMs, you have more or less, though not necessarily, sold your soul to the corporate world. Your focus is much more narrow and is more towards networking and building contacts to help you in the corporate world. Unlike IITs, people know what they have come to IIMs for and strive hard to achieve that goal.
Life and Academics in IIMA is much more intense than it was in IITM. The sheer rigor of academics can overwhelm a person, who is not used to hard work. A deadline of midnight means exactly that. One minute late and you get a big zero in that assignment. The officials here treat you like adults who can make choices on their own and that implies you are free to do whatever you wish during your free time. The number of extracurricular activities that one could indulge in IIMA is much more than in IITM.
According to you, what are the redeeming qualities of the institution? How has the experience been so far?
You get to meet people from different backgrounds. Even though most of them are engineers, they are still from different institutes, they have worked in diverse fields and everyone brings something unique to the classroom discussion. As with IITM, there were some professors who leave you in awe because of the insights they deliver. However, unlike IITM where professors actually lecture for an hour, students do most of the talking in the class, while the professor just moderates the discussion. First year in IIMA was one of the most definitely the most hectic year I have faced till now. At any point of time you will be juggling two or three assignments and reports or preparing for one of the innumerable surprise quizzes. You are always on your toes. One minute you will be doing an accounting problem. Next minute, you will be wondering how to turnaround business of an FMCG company. You won’t realize the time passing by at all, unless you are in a boring class, that is. Second year is much more relaxed and you can dabble in subjects that you are interested in.
How much exposure do you have with different industries?
Most of the professors at IIMA work as part-time consultants to big industries and they bring the insights they garner from there to the class. IIMA follows a case-based teaching system, that is, we take a particular company at a particular point of time and discuss the problems it is facing and how best the company can tackle the problem. After we discuss the problems plaguing the company, we can actually look at what they did and whether it worked or not. In this way, we are exposed to different industries, and at the end of two years one will have a working knowledge of basically every industry.
What inspired you to take an MBA? Did you have a desire to do one before you joined for bachelors or was the interest cultivated in you during your time at IIT?
Serendipity. I had not thought of doing an MBA at all. I had applied for CAT classes because everyone in my hostel wing was. The first time I seriously thought of joining IIMA was after I got the admit offer.
What are the pros of taking an MBA from your point of view?
Well the first and the most noticeable difference is that you become a glib person. MBA forces you to be an extrovert and by the sheer number of presentations that you make in front of the entire class, you more or less forget what stage fright is. The alumni base of IIMs is much more cultivated than IITs, and that is a big plus in boosting your career ten years down the line. IITs are much more oriented towards academics and not much towards the real world. At the end of the day, good technology can’t sell by itself. Lot of good technologies has failed because of bad business sense. An MBA theoretically will help you to overcome these shortcomings.
Did you have back up options?
I had a PPO from Deutsche Bank, Mumbai.
How difficult is the recruitment procedure?
Like placements at any other institute, except that it is much more organized. If you are from IIT or BITS, it is an added advantage. You are expected to do a two-month internship at the end of first year in IIM.
What significance does a person’s CGPA hold in the admission procedure?
CGPA is counted while calculating your composite score for admission to IIMA. While your CAT score may have more weightage, higher CGPA is always an advantage, if not in admission, definitely during recruitment.
When do you think an aspirant should start preparing and how should he go about doing it?
I did not really prepare for CAT. I registered for coaching classes and hardly attended any. I prepared sincerely for GRE and that helped me in sailing through the vocabulary part in CAT. The mathematics part is actually quite simple and just requires some practice. I just scraped through to get admit from IIMA. Personally, I think with the amount of calculations that we do on a day to day basis in engineering, three to four months would suffice to master the mathematics part of it. The vocabulary part depends on the individual and his comfort level with English.
Can you tell us about the position of responsibilities you might have taken up during your time in IIT Madras?
Couple of coordships in Shaastra and Saarang – Quizzes, Newsletter, Ignobel Prize etc. etc.
How relevant are positions of responsibility?
With respect to recruitment, being in positions of responsibility is always an added advantage. It gives out a signal that the person is dependable and can get things done.
What interns did you do and how helpful do you think they were?
I interned with Qualcomm at the end of my 3rd year. I interned with Deutsche Bank, Mumbai at the end of my 4th year. In IIMA, I interned with HSBC, Hong Kong. The DB internship was quite helpful as I became familiar with financial jargon, which helped me a lot in IIMA. HSBC was my first experience working outside the country.
What do you think are the differences between the premier business schools in India and abroad?
Well two things mainly. It costs nearly 1 crore doing an MBA abroad compared to 17 odd lakhs that you shell out here. So your returns from doing an Indian MBA is significantly higher and you won’t spend the next ten years trying to pay back the loan. However, I believe that foreign MBAs can offer much better exposure. There will be people from different countries and fields unlike IIMs where most of the people are engineers and are Indians. This diversity could be useful when your job takes you around the world. Also, IIMs are not as well known as IITs abroad (speaking from my limited interactions with people in Hong Kong) as most of the IIM graduates have stayed back in the country to pursue a career here.
What are the challenges faced by someone taking up this career path and how rewarding is it?
Considering that I am just plunging into the corporate world right now, I have no clue.
Did you have a mentor? Would you be interested in being one during your lesuire time?
I have had lot of mentors for varied aspects of insti-life. For Quizzing, for academics, for internships, for coordships. I can’t point to just one.
Plenty of students would love having someone they could approach for queries. Would that be convenient?
Sure, why not?