Meet Sarvesh, Associate Consultant, McKinsey & co. While this is how the professional sphere recognizes him, insti remembers him as the stud from Saras who conquered blue waters and led IIT Madras to a string of victories as Captain of the Institute Aquatics team. He went on to do an MBA at IIM Calcutta. Amarnath from the Chennai 36 team speaks to this soft spoken Insti Blues Bronze.

Amarnath: Being an engineering student from IIT, one can’t help but ask the pertinent question, ‘Why consulting?Sarvesh Rajagopalan’ What made you choose consulting?

Sarvesh: I was a Chemical Engineering student and I was actually good at my courses. While I was definitely interested in them, I realized research or specialization in this stream was not my passion after a couple of research endeavours. I was drawn to consulting mainly due to three reasons. The variety of work being the first. Till now, I have worked on various profiles stretching from banking to automobiles. I’m the sort of guy who gets bored easily and this profile is ideal because it has no boring routine. I would go on to say that the kind of people who wish to join consulting is my second reason for choosing consulting. I love being in the company of people who are equally driven if not more because they are capable of pushing me. Even while I was at insti the group I was part of was comprised of driven people who were always trying to achieve something in different arenas.  Lastly, I just found the lifestyle glamorous. We were all influenced by hearsay and obviously the pay was good too! Of course after a couple of years into this profession I realise that the last reason isn’t too important.

Amarnath: How would you explain consulting to a lay man?

Sarvesh: Let me try elucidating with my job profile. Being an associate consultant, I’m given a particular project to handle. There are numerous projects that are handled by McKinsey and the sector I handled recently was health insurance. I began by understanding the current scenario in the agency. I had to talk to experts to know what sort of analytics I needed and how I should go about them. As I analysed, I extracted data which I converted into models after consulting with marketing teams and recommended the best model after weighing the pros and cons. I can safely say that this is the sort of work most consultants do.

Amarnath: You went on to do an MBA at IIM. Is an MBA necessary to do consulting?

Sarvesh: In the Indian context, to get into a top consulting firm like McKinsey or BCG, a B.Tech is usually not enough. Even in insti, very few people get into top consulting jobs. So, an MBA becomes your launching pad. You need that. Even abroad, where placements are off-campus, companies look for certain schools and a brand name is really important. From a more content perspective, getting a MBA is not like getting a B.Tech. In an MBA, you don’t go in depth. You cover a wide variety of topics and you can choose to specialize. How applicable is an MBA to consulting – sometimes you use stuff you learnt and sometimes you don’t.

Amarnath: In your opinion, what are the skills required to be a consultant?

Sarvesh: Let’s leave smartness aside – all IITians are smart. What is really important in consulting is leadership and a go-getter attitude. You may ask me you’re a very junior guy, how does leadership matter. The way consulting works is that when you’re given a work stream, basically it’s your problem to solve, everyone else is a resource. Your manger, your partner, etc. are all resources but ultimately it’s your problem and ultimately you have to solve it. You need to have an attitude that says I have all this and I need to get this done. You also need to be a go-getter. They should give you any task with the confidence that you’ll get it done. McKinsey looks for people who have achieved something in the past. Doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’ve pushed yourself to achieve something. Lastly, you need to be confident. Even if your content is not up to the mark, you need to be confident. If you’re confident nobody is going to be bothered about the smaller issues.

Amarnath: Any tips for those who will be sitting for McKinsey placements.

Sarvesh: Most people think that consulting is about solving case studies, which is true. 60-70% is based on case studies. But my first tip is to ensure you have the right answers to the HR questions. Question like why you, why consulting, etc. You have only 5-10 minutes to leave a good impression on the interviewer. If he doesn’t like you, you’re on a shaky footing. While cases are important, know your CV thoroughly. Also, what worked for me is that get a group of 3 – get 3 case studies and work on body language, presentation, etc. Third is to not overkill it. One of the mistakes I did was that I was obsessed with it. What happened was that I prepared too much. They asked me slightly off beat question and I got put off. I thought this is how interviews will be run. So don’t do overkill. One month’s preparation is more than enough.

Amarnath: Anything else you would like to tell the students.

Sarvesh: Don’t do an MBA for money. There were 400 people in my batch. Only 40 get into consulting, 40 into banking. Even in the IIMs you need to be in the top 15-20% to get into such a career. People need to be aware of that. Also, IIMs are not as much fun as IITs. I was slightly disillusioned at the start. The experience you get in insti, you’ll never get anywhere else.

Sarvesh Rajagopal graduated in 2009 with a B.Tech in Chemical engineering.