Counting days, summer placements at IIMB

Day 0

I woke up to a cold weather in Bangalore, awakened by the noises running throughout the hostel corridors. I glanced at my clock, it showed “6:45 a.m.” which is hardcore for a PGP student. All of us were expected to be present at MDC lawn eight in the morning to kick off the summer placement season 2016. I wandered into the odds of me getting placed today. I essentially had zero shortlists for the day except for BNY Mellon, quite a fancy name, don’t you think?1024px-bny_mellon-svg

I was still on the fence with the thought of sacrificing the early morning slumber for the  MDC call. My only hope for the day rested on the infinitesimal probability of getting an extended shortlist. As per seniors, these will be floated around the end of the process and I could potentially get a shot at an interview with the much-coveted consulting firms.

Hope is a powerful force and it just keeps you pushing ahead.

So, with one big breadth I got up and ready, donned the freshly stitched suit and went dashing towards my destination.

The placement cell had made elaborate arrangements at the MDC lawn. It looked like a big fair with multitude of students seated in their respective marked positions, the scene was bought alive by the presence of seniors, moving all around the place and constantly chatting on their walky-talkies. My colleagues seemed anxious but excited at the same time. Many of us have been preparing hard for this occasion and it reflected on their faces.

Soon, the process of interviews started and out came a mix of happy and sad faces. Those who cracked it were pulling out their ties, exhalation on their faces and surrounded by a crowd of buddies congratulating them. Those who lost this battle, buckled up and got ready for their second round as interviews were lined up one after the other. In addition to these two, there was a third group of people who were like me, quite disengaged from the tension of the moment and making merry among themselves. The chances of getting an interview call was going down by the minute. Some of us even had second thoughts about staying at the MDC, and as a result a few left in between.

This sequence repeated till the evening. I found one part of the process very interesting. Those who were placed early were sitting there to support the others.

These guys, the future consultants and VCs; the sharpest minds at IIMB and they had now formed a team to make sure that all of the batch gets placed ASAP.

We were lucky that such a powerful team of people were now backing us up for the days to come.

I reached my room late at night and awaited instructions from the placement committee. But alas, the tiredness of the day put me to an instant sleep.

GD Day

“It’s 6:15, wake up dude.”, shouted my neighbor Nikhil as he knocked hard on my door. Today was going to be the pre-processing day for the companies visiting for placement tomorrow. In a nutshell, the whole day was going to be spent in group tasks and discussions arranged by the firms which you have applied to and have you in their shortlists. I quickly downloaded the list of companies and to my surprise, had 14 such activities planned for today. It was going to be a long day.

I reached the MDC at the designated hour and awaited further instructions from the trackers. This is what followed afterwards:

  1. 1280px-reliance_industries_logo-svg[8:00 AM, Reliance, failed] I entered the room with nine other participants for this session. The discussion was based on a case which presented the Jio story. Essentially, “a firm has setup the infrastructure for their 5G services and want to penetrate the rural school markets using digital education as a driver.” We saw a fierce discussion with participants taking a dig at each other. I was pleasantly surprised by such vigor from the group and was relatively quiet.
  2. 2000px-samsung_logo-svg[9:00 AM, Samsung, failed] This was a repeat of my first GD, with a very generic topic: “Uniform Civil Code”. As expected, there were quite a few enthusiastic speakers. The generic topic didn’t help the process as few members hogged the airtime with their elaborate globing skills. Not much luck in this discussion either.
  3. 640px-procter_and_gamble_logo-svg[10:30 AM, P&G, failed] This was a breath of fresh air. There were three panelists and three candidates in a room. It felt more interactive with ample participation time for all. The panel was actively communicating with all of us. They presented us with a case revolving around “attrition in an organization and how will you solve it in a short time frame.” There were some excellent points raised by my colleagues and we reached a consensus on the solution. This was the first GD of the day which I learned something from; kudos to the P&G team. My losing streak continues, but the other two in the group made it to the next round. All is not lost!
  4. mahindra-logo-f6291b6661-seeklogo-com[1:30 PM, M&M, passed] We eight entered the room with two panelists. This was going to be a chairman GD with a twist. “There were several case scenarios to choose from across various sectors and each scenario had eight characters; one of whom you had to play.” In total, each of us will chair one case and be a member in the seven other cases, playing eight different roles in the process. I had to play roles ranging from an ex-RBI governor, flipkart founder, pro kabaddi league manager, micromax founder, an Olympic coach, a common man, the chief minister of Gujarat and the producer of a big-ticket movie. It was a fun, entertaining and taxing process which also served as a great learning experience. The breadth of topics we brainstormed during that hour was immense and formed some pleasant memories. I passed through this round but eventually did not get a chance to interview with M&M. One of my buddies here also got through and cleared the interviews. Yay! He thanked me later to bring in the fiscal policy discussion when I played the role of Mr. Raghuram Rajan.
  5. aditya_birla_group_logo[3:30 PM, ABG, failed] Another group of 9 people, we were given a case to discuss on. The problem was “to select the best choice of company from a given list for an acquisition into a sector of interest, which in this case was the garment industry”. I don’t know the origin of this behavior but in the GDs of these big conglomerates, candidates try to show their ethical heaviness by bringing out ethics in every possible situation. Anyways, I was brain-dead at this point after my past discussion and contributed little to the discussion. Prior to the discussion, there was also a group task with the members split in teams of two. “It involved crafting origami objects and pitching a business plan associated with it.” Our team quickly split the task and made a lot of puppy dogs, tulips, boats and hearts.
  6. ck_birla_group_logo[4:30 PM, CK Birla, failed] Another generic discussion on the topic –“whether Facebook is good or evil”. Even though I actively contributed to this discussion, couldn’t get noticed.
  7. 08iscbbr_400x400[8:00 PM, Alshaya, failed] Alshaya is a Kuwaiti company with  an international workforce. The panel consisted of a lady of African origin and a gentleman of Saudi origin. The room had been arranged such that we were sitting in a round table fashion. We were given a topic –“Should social network data influence recruitment?” and each of us had to take a stand on the topic and mention it at the start of the GD. After that, we had a discussion spanning around 20 mins on the topic and came to a consensus. I took a minority stand in this and changed my stand on hearing convincing arguments from the proponents of the other view. This could be a reason for my dismissal?
  8. airtel-new-logo-ver[8:30 PM, Airtel, passed] We were presented a case and were to discuss on its solution. The discussion revolved about “relaunch strategy of an already existing deodorant brand”. The discussion saw a few people taking up the role of moderators and delegating the meeting as if they are the chairpersons. I guess, it was the drudgery of the whole day which had forced them into following such tactics to hog the limelight. Anyways, I put forward some concrete arguments and that was it.
  9. 2000px-johnsonandjohnsonlogo-svg[9:00 PM, J&J, passed] This was another fun activity for the day. I was hoping for another boring round of GDs but was in for a pleasant surprise. “Each of us were given few clue cards and a common problem statement”. There were three set of questions and we had to use all the clues to reach to the answers. I was lucky to get relevant cues for the first question, and could solve it as soon as the matching clue was mentioned. The next questions were built on the solutions to the previous ones and we solved them in due time. Finally, we were asked about our solution methodology and what could have been done differently. Kudos to J&J team for keeping it fun!
  10. logo[9:45 PM, Saint Gobain, passed] Another generic GD on the topic “Smart ways for smart cities”. Same old discussion followed by recommendations. One thing bothered me about this was the exceptionally long introduction to the company. I know about it or else won’t be here, we have more GDs to go.
  11. hul-logo-680x382_tcm1255-462595_w680[10:30 PM, HUL, failed] An enthusiastic and witty panel, we were given the topic – “MBA in India just a degree and no skill”. It is ironic that all my fellow grads of this elite institute took a ‘for’ position on this topic and were going about proving that their MBA degrees are worthless. I was the only guy standing on the other side of the fence and fighting for the importance of MBA. Damn!
  12. tatalogoeps[11:00 PM, TAS, failed] At last, the big daddy of GDs. It was a chairman style GD with separate cases for each member of the group. This one went smoothly; I suggested many ideas, most of which were accepted by the chair in their respective cases. I seriously could not understand why I was not selected for the next round. Sigh! Maybe should have put on some ethical drama in my communication mix.
  13. dbs_logo_kasistohomepage_01[12:10 AM, DBS, failed] Again the same old story. I think it was a case or something, too sleepy at this point to remember it and yeah, mostly silent in this one too.

As soon as the process finished, I jolted back to my room grabbing a bite on the way. It was not time to sleep yet, as preference forms were to be floated in an hour and they had to be filled in a half hour window. So, I kept awake till 1:30 AM, filled the form based on my shortlists, set the alarm for 6:30 AM and fell into a slumber hoping to to catch those few sacred hours of sleep.

Day 1

2000px-american_express_logo-svgI had just close my eyes and the alarm started beeping. It was time, judgement day has arrived. I had a few shortlists which I wanted in on. The top three were M&M, Amazon, J&J; not necessarily in this order. It was interesting to see that I got a call from Amex, who knew? Anyways, business as usual as I got ready and jolted to the MDC.

The A-team of our section was getting everything tidy to make it smooth for the rest of us. My mates were sitting in their respective seats and anxiously waiting for the instructions. Soon, my call came and it was for amazon. Let’s go!

td-amazon-smile-logo-01-largeThere were multiple interviews going on for multiple roles at amazon. I went to the designated area and was assigned to an interview room soon after. There were two panelists taking my first round of interviews, which went on for half an hour. After this, I waited for some time and went in for a second round which again went for half an hour. Soon afterwards, I was informed by the volunteers that I have been selected for the program manager intern role. Hooyah! The placement process comes to an end for me. I was elated and rushed down to meet my fellow mates, many of whom were already placed.

The process was over for me but it was far from ending for our batch. The rest of my day was spent moving from person to person, who were still in the process of giving interviews, sharing some fundas and info about the companies to follow, boosting their morale and making sure that they are comfortable.

I saw the true spirit of teamwork on this day with everyone making sure that everyone gets placed. I understand that after a few rounds of unsuccessful interviews, there is a drop in morale for most of us. It is at this point of time that the team pushes you through. When you see someone coming out with a smiling face, the fact that you had helped him a teeny-tiny bit, it makes you feel as if you got placed all over again.

That’s all folks!

 

My IIMB interview : CAT 2015

*Skip to ACT 2 for the interview experience

ACT 1: Prologue

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
― Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo

In 2015, I quit my job in the month of June to get a fresh perspective on life. I had graduated in 2013 with a degree in mechanical engineering and soon after, joined a core company. The following two years just swooshed past me. In the midst of living by myself and work deadlines, the time was just sucked out of my life. The life which we dream as children, to be independent and hard working individuals of the society; didn’t seem so great after all.

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What my core work looked like

Sure, there was a great deal of learning, adventure and excitement in such a venture but I found something missing; it seemed like I am not looking at the big picture. I was foolish enough to think that to change my situation, I have to get out of my current situation first. So, with a pounding heart I called my manager for a meeting and disclosed my intention to leave the company. He was taken aback, this was so sudden and frankly I had no solid reason to quit. But I had made up my mind and said goodbye.

That was the easy part, later I realize that it would have been better to plan an exit strategy; a lesson learned the hard way. First thing I did was to dive in the Indian stock market. It seemed fascinating then and what else I had to do. Hence, for a period of three months I read everything I got my hands on regarding the financial markets and traded actively. I reached a few conclusions from my research (I would like to call it that):

  1. Trading is border-line gambling if you don’t know what you are doing
  2. To make a living with low risk you need loads of capital

Now, there are people who have beaten the odds but they are pretty much countable. So, after all this research I was back to square one. The markets have a simple policy:

“No money, No honey”

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See that royal enfield power!

Next up, I ventured in the field of freelancing. How hard can this be? People are earning six figures via freelancing they say; I can make a small fraction of that (Note to self : Do not make fractional assumptions in the future). The big difference I found between freelancing and working at your office was that your roles and responsibilities explode. In an official work environment, you have a particular job to run and you get pretty good at it. However, in a freelancing work environment you have transformed into a small business entity and will be doing everything from searching for clients, making proposals, negotiating, planning, executing, customer care and finally closing the project. If anyone needs a crash course in business, I seriously advise freelancing once. Suffice to say, it is a good way to progress but then again it takes a lot of time and effort to get the few initial good clients in your club who will stick with your good work and spread the word around. After that, I presume the ride would be joyful (no free lunch here).

freelancer
You get to wear all the caps

Six months have passed in a jiffy since I quit my job and no solid developments yet. I have been gearing up for the CAT exam all along; it could well be the golden ticket. In the month of December, I gave my CAT exam. Fast forward a few months, I had my CAT percentile score: 95.98, not too shabby right? “Wrong”. I was thinking on the lines of maybe I will get admission in some decent college with this score, the top IIMs are out of my league now. One by one all the IIMs started rolling calls for interviews. First comes Kozhikode with “we regret…”, followed by Indore, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Shillong and apparently my CAT score was not good enough to get shortlisted by even the new IIMs. Suddenly, in the middle of all this misery when I had stopped checking status of offers, I receive a mail from IIMB saying “Congratulations …”. Woha! What happened there? Is this a joke? What are the odds?

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I knew from early on that this was a long shot, but an opportunity nonetheless. Now, I must tell you that the form to be filled for application is a big form. They ask for everything you got with proofs. It will include three references from your mentors/ professors/ managers and a detailed statement of purpose (SOP). After filling up all that is needed, I submitted my application and waited for the D-Day. Meanwhile, kept filling other forms cause did I tell you this was a long shot?

ACT 2: The interview

I arrive at Hotel Kenilworth on the morning of D-Day via our dependable local railway transport. All the top IIMs conduct their interview in 5-star hotels, so cool if you visit them the first time. I enter the hallway and find a group of suited fellows, getting their documents verified one by one. After the verification is over, we are seated in a room and given writing pads. It’s time for WAT (Written Ability Test). The topic is handed to you and you get about 20 minutes to put your thoughts on paper. My topic:

“Freedom of art forms should be restricted for maintaining the order of law”

After the WAT, interviews start with multiple panels at work. After chatting for a couple of hours with my friend, my turn arrives. I was the last candidate to be interviewed in that slot.

The panel consisted of three persons. There were two professors one male (M) and one female (F); and one alumni (A), possibly of mechanical background. Everyone has laptops open in front of them where they can access all the data you have filled up in your application, the feedback of you references and the SOP.

F: Hello. Did you interact with the other candidates? The one who left before you?

~ Yes, I did.

F: That was very fast, only been a minute. What did you talk about?

~How did it go and about questions you asked him.

F: Don’t worry. We will not ask the same questions (Laughing). So Abhishek, tell me about yourself?

~Generic response, explained my history

F: So you live in Batanagar?

~ It is my hometown. I have been travelling across India as my father serves in defense forces. Currently stay at Barrackpore.

A: Tell us about your work experience.

~Told, explained my projects and responsibilities.

A: Asked details about projects, my freelance work and internship.

~Explained in detail, A seems satisfied.

M: It is a huge gap you have after quitting your job. What have you been up to?

~Told about freelancing and stock market involvement.

M: How much return did you get? Where did you learn from? What is your take on stock markets?

~Told my returns, explained how I self-studied my way into it and shared my views on the markets.

M: So, if the stock price doesn’t change then we can’t make much money?

~Told about writing options and how most of the money is made in this way. Also added why barrier to entry is high in option writing; being a capital intensive process but has lower risk associated. M seems satisfied.

“In my view, derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal.”

-Warren Buffett

F: What are your hobbies?

~Talked about martial arts and how I trained in Shaolin Temple India.

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Shifu Kanishka in action

F: What can we learn from martial arts that can be applied to the business world?

~ Timing of action and thorough in your attack to take down opponent, lesson learned from sparring sessions.

F: So you will be violent in your business dealings?

~It is all about self-defense and maintaining peace. However, if the occasion arises then I would say offence is the best defense. Elaborated on this point. F seems satisfied.

M: No half-measures (chuckles). So what will you do if you don’t get selected here?

~I have applied to other colleges. However, this is my only IIM call.

M: What if you don’t get selected for MBA this season?

~I will be applying for jobs. Also would be giving my SSB exams for joining Air Force.

M: Suppose you get in both, what will you choose?

~I will join the forces. (Unfortunately, didn’t work out as I was conference out, twice)

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Sukhoi Su-30MKI ~ftw

F: Okay Abhishek, that is all. Do you have any questions for us?

~No.

M: You may leave now.

~Thank you all

ACT 3: Epilogue

The result day approaches and I receive a mail from PGP IIMB saying “Congratulations , …” and I was like “Hell yeah!”. Parents are happy and proud; after accommodating me for a full year at home they seem really satisfied. I have indeed received a great opportunity; will make the most out of it. I will be joining IIMB in June of 2016, one full year since I quit my job.

offer

The fee for this flagship course is exorbitant but students get good deals on loans. At this point, it has become a bit like game of loans. Let’s figure out what the hype is all about.

My background info for future aspirants

Gender: Male

Degree: Mechanical Engineer (IIT Ropar)

Category: General

X/XII/grad: 93/92/89

Work exp: 25 months (core FEA Analysis @TimetoothTechnologies)

CAT 2015: 95.98

PS-A loud shout out to that special someone who kept my spirits up that day all the way till the interview. I wouldn’t be in the same state of mind if it were not for your company.