Says Nikhil Sabnis who is currently doing his PGP (Majors in Finance & Marketing) at IIM Bangalore. He has graduated from VJTI & has work experience of 18 months in Accenture before he joined IIM Bangalore.
Can you share a little bit about your experience in your IIM Bangalore days?
The past one and a half year has been like a roller coaster ride. Having cracked CAT and cleared IIMB GD PI, my life was on a high. But, the first week in IIMB itself brought me to ground. This ride had a lot of ups and a lot more downs. Be it the lectures, the quizzes, the cases, the submissions, the project presentations and last but certainly not the least the summer placements. It is like having seen it all in life.
In IIMB, I have actively taken part in many extra-curricular activities. I have been a part of the Sports Council and the Marketing Club. The events conducted over the past one and a half years have also taught me a lot in terms of team work, leadership skills and interactions with peers from other B-Schools, exchanging ideas and working towards a common goal of organizing Fests. Also, I am the Vice-Captain of the IIMB Cricket Team. We play many Inter-IIM Tournaments where we travelled to Kozhikode for B V/s K meet and to Ahmedabad for the Inter-IIM A B C L meet.
At IIMB, there is a lot more you can do apart from the regular academics and I feel you should engage yourself. It helps you develop some different types of skill sets which is possible by taking part in such extra-curricular activities.
Has your perspective towards looking at MBA, entrepreneurship & future prospects changed during these years in IIM Bangalore?
Now when I look back as to what I used to think about my life, my aspirations in life, career goals, I would say there has been a sea of change. The most beautiful thing about this PGP course is that unknowingly it teaches a lot of things about yourself, about life which transforms your personality and your thinking about your own future. You get exposed to so many different types of courses from varied streams of management and sessions of people from the industry that you start developing an opinion about things around you and I feel get streamlined about the career.
What is your biggest learning experience in IIM Bangalore?
How IIMs in general influence your life and provides a value addition to your personality is by exposing you to the best brains in the country. The peers are so strong and competitive that you have to always be on your toes for each and every quiz, assignments, presentations or whatever component of evaluation it may be. This competition is evident at things apart from academics such as placements, case competitions, B-School Fests and also the Inter-IIM Sports fests.
Any challenges you faced during this period which helped you mould your career path?
Challenges are a part and parcel of this two year journey; so many that they cannot be counted on fingers. People come here having cleared CAT and having topped throughout their academic career. Some of them have perhaps never tasted defeat at any stage of their life. For those, this course is a great reality check, where they get to witness the real competition in life.
Also, having come from an IT firm, the summer internship at Citibank gave me a taste of how actually work happens at the top management level, the quality of work expected and the amount of research required before arriving at certain conclusions. I was made to present my recommendations to some of the India Heads of Citibank. This was also a great learning experience as to what is expected at that level, how streamlined a presentation should be and certain other minute aspects.
I feel exposure to such things would surely help anyone in one’s professional life.
Does IIM Bangalore have some facilities set up like E-cell or any similar facilities like that to nurture & grow hidden talent in potential students?
Yes, IIM Bangalore has an entrepreneurship cell called as NSRCEL (NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning). Anyone can approach the NSRCEL with an entrepreneurial idea, there are mentors who would assist in developing the idea, provide assistance in execution, implementation. They provide assistance for two years till the start-up is ready to enter the market on its own. They also provide assistance in getting venture capitalists funding for the start-up.
Also, as a part of the student activities, IIM Bangalore has its own national level Entrepreneurship summit called ‘Eximius’, which is a wholly student run event which runs for 3 days. It attracts guest speakers, seminars and events all from the entrepreneurship domain.
So IIM Bangalore has really prepared you as an individual who can take on responsibilities and challenges you will face in your journey after MBA?
The preparation through this course is on multiple fronts such as personality development, course knowledge, presentation skills, event management skills, etc. At least at IIM Bangalore, the focus throughout is far from just academics. They believe in an overall development of an individual. I can just talk about the development of myself as an individual, how I apply it to my professional life would be seen in a few years’ time.
But, having said that, the confidence, which these two years has developed in me, would surely be a valuable asset in my professional career. To be successful at the top level that’s the most important thing required – confidence in oneself, in one’s team, in the decision one takes.
Can you throw some light on the facts about what you would like to change in IIM Bangalore which will help other students to grow and evolve more rapidly?
I have observed that though students are encouraged to take part in all sorts of activities apart from the regular curriculum, there is quite a lot of focus on grades. Small mistakes tend to get magnified in the grades, because of the kind of competition level in the batch. Much of the focus on grades can be attributed to the importance placed by top recruiters on grades rather than an overall resume.
I feel that there is lot more to this course besides the grades aspect. Some less focus on grades would certainly make the life of students much more enjoyable.
So when you were preparing for CAT, what was your goal at that point of time(Apart from getting into IIMs)? What did you do differently to achieve it?
In my last year of engineering I had decided to pursue an MBA and had attempted CAT. Didn’t clear it in my first attempt and hence I joined Accenture. According to me, IIM was the only option for me, as after graduating from VJTI and then work-ex in Accenture, I felt that doing an MBA from any other institute would be like taking one step back. Hence, I decided that how many ever attempts I take, I just wanted to go into IIMs. Moreover, with the percentiles I secured in each of the failed attempts, I knew that it’s just a matter of one good day which would give me that call from IIMs. So I just stuck to my task and did the basics right, that’s what is the most important while appearing for CAT. Not to get overawed by the occasion, take one question at a time and make quick decisions throughout the duration of the test.
While you were preparing for CAT, how did you manage your time? What tips you can give to the people who are preparing for CAT while they are also on the job?
Time management is an essential part of preparation for CAT, especially for those who are currently working. I made sure that I study for at least 3 hours each day. I used time wherever I could find, maybe while travelling to and from office, compromising a few hours of sleep, or for some time in the office, just do some online stuff. For GDPI, I used to read e-papers, surf net for some online material while in office.
Basically, I feel if one has the urge that come what may I will crack CAT, he will take time out somehow.
Was this your first attempt? If not, did your last attempt help you in any way to get where you always wanted to be?
For me, it was the case of being third time lucky. Definitely, I had done well in the first two attempts (98.85%ile in the first and 98.72%ile in the second) with just missing out. I felt it was just one good day required for me. I just planned to do the basics right, gave a good amount of Mock cats (roughly 30 altogether) and analyses them thoroughly after coming back home.
For GDPI, I charted down what all needs to be done based on my resume and my application. So I had decided to read paper regularly, research on some hot topics, topics from last year, read magazines both politics and business, do my personals properly (background, work-ex, academics), etc. Also, I practiced a lot of essays given to me by the class I had joined.
So, in short, a structured approach throughout the year worked for me.
What are your curricular & extra-curricular achievements?
Talking about some of the positives out of my academics, I had secured a state rank 13 in the Maharashtra State engineering entrance test with a 100/100 in Mathematics and managed to pursue Computers in VJTI. Also, in CAT 2010, I secured 99.34%ile with 99.93%ile in DI and also 99.35%ile in XAT 2011. During School, I had secured 25th rank in the Maharashtra High school Scholarships. For an extraordinary performance in engineering, I received the JRD Tata Scholarship.
In extra-curricular, I like to play cricket where I have represented my school cricket team. I was the Vice-captain of VJTI Cricket Team and also now currently of IIMB Cricket Team. Also, I have represented the Accenture Cricket Team. In cricket, I have won Man of the Series Award in a state level inter-collegiate cricket tournament.
How do you feel about professors, infrastructure & colleagues?
Having come from VJTI, I feel a great difference in infrastructure at IIM Bangalore. We have excellent Wi-fi facilities throughout the campus, an excellent 4 storeyed library, hostel blocks with single occupancy. Also, the administrative staffs here are very cooperative and do whatever they can in helping students out.
It is a very structured course with the entire calendar out on the first day itself. Professors are very knowledgeable, great to listen to them and get little insights as to the applications of these courses in the real world. The pedagogy is a mixture of theory and cases. Lot of learning happens through cases which are pretty relevant in today’s context and have some concept to tell.
What are your plans in next 2 years & 5 years?
I would want to pursue a career in marketing and am looking forward for the placements which would happen in March next year. So having decided marketing as a career, first my aim would be to learn how things function in the professional world. It would help me make an informed decision as to whether to choose sales or marketing.
In the long run, I have an ambition to start my own firm. Though not much ideas as of now, but I would like to utilise the next few years in assessing where and how I can get started.
What did you expect from IIM Bangalore when you joined it? Did your expectations (Academics, infrastructure, faculty, extra-curricular) meet?If not what things you want to change to benefit students more?
Well, the facilities at IIM Bangalore are excellent be it the hostels, library, classrooms, teaching, professors, food. I don’t think I want to change anything.
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