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'Know yourself really well to crack the interview!'

 

This is what Raj Doshi, a first year MBA student at IIM Ahmadabad has to say, as he shares his reasons to pursue an MBA in Finance from IIMA. In conversation with Kalyani Majumdar, Raj talks about his journey so far.

 

Q. Tell us about your academic journey, so far.
I am currently pursuing an MBA in Finance from IIM Ahmadabad. Prior to that, I did a Graduation in B. Com from Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics. Apart from that I have three professional degrees —Chartered Accountancy, ICWAI degree, and one from The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, a UK-based course on financial strategy and risk management. I also have a Diploma in Import and Export management from NLETCC and a Diploma in Cyber Law from Asian School of Cyber Laws.

Q. Was an MBA always on your mind?
One of the major reasons that I wanted to do an MBA was to learn all areas of a business such as operations, marketing and not just finance. All these professional degrees give you knowledge in a particular area. I wanted to understand how a business or an industry functions. And the best way to get that 360 degree view of business was to do an MBA from a top ranking B-school.

Q. Do you have suggestions for MBA aspirants on how to choose their field of specialisation?
Most importantly, you have to find your likings. If you are good at numbers and enjoy evaluating different companies based on numbers, go for an MBA in Finance. If you like socialising and interacting with people, and have good communication skills, then Marketing is good. In my case, considering my background of CA and my other professional degrees, I knew that my inclination was towards Finance.

Q. Why did you choose IIMA as your MBA destination?
There were primarily three reasons. The first was because of the ranking of the institute, in India as well as abroad. Secondly, IIMA has a very strong alumni network that plays a major role. You get ample opportunities to connect with people from different industries. A lot of alumni visit the campus and share their stories, learnings and diverse experiences. Some of them have completed their courses back in the 70s and 80s.
Thirdly, IIMA has the Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE). Since I have a keen interest in entrepreneurship and IIMA has one of the best incubation centres in India, it seemed to be the perfect fit for me.

Q. Were you working before getting into B-School? If yes, then did the experience help you in handling the tests and the personal interviews?
Yes, a major part of my work experience consisted of three years of articleship. I was with PWC India for articleship and then shifted to a mid-size CA firm to get exposure in other fields such as audit, statutory audit and tax audit. After clearing CA, I continued at the same CA firm for a few months. All this helped me handle questions confidently during the PI round.
Of the 30-35 minute-long interview, 10 minutes were dedicated to questions on my work experience. I was asked about the type of projects I’d worked on and industries I’d worked in. They asked me about my articleship experience. One of the interviewers drew an actual model of transaction and asked me how to benchmark the price. So naturally, I believe that having prior work experience helps to tackle interviews.

Q. Did you follow any strategy to crack the CAT?
I decided to give CAT after my CA final results were out, and as such had a short timeframe to prepare. I knew that it gets really difficult to manage work and preparing for CAT at the same time, and so I took some time off from work. I joined IMS to speed up the process of learning and find ways to solve questions faster.
My strategy was to take as many mock tests as possible. In the first 5 or 6 days, I used to take one SimCAT, and increased the frequency by taking a SimCAT every alternate day in the last couple of weeks. That frequency played an important role, as I ended up giving around 35 SimCATs. This was a major factor.
My suggestion to all CAT aspirants is to give as many mock tests as possible, usually around 40 is a good number. Consistently achieving a good test result is a good signal for the number of mocks one should give. At IMS, the user interface gave a great analysis of how much time I took for a question as it definitely helped.
I also had specific milestones in mind, and regularly kept increasing the scores I achieved in the SimCATs. Once I reached a goal, I made a new one. If you score 150 or 160 in a mock, it is usually equivalent to 170-175 in the actual CAT.

Q. How did you prepare yourself on D day for CAT?
Two or three days before the test I had stopped giving SimCATs, because if you don’t score well, your confidence level plummets. In the last couple of days I analysed my last SimCATs; I had a repository of questions that I had answered incorrectly. I revised all the formulae. It is very important to relax and your state of mind needs to be positive in order to feel confident.

Q. What are the important points one must remember before going for a PI?
At IIMA, they evaluate you on four aspects, i.e., leadership qualities, general awareness, academics and extracurricular activities. In terms of leadership, you have to have your own stories and how you dealt with a particular situation. In terms of PI, it is very important to be aware of what’s going on in the economy and current affairs in terms of general awareness. You need to have an in depth knowledge of the topics that you know.
They usually don’t question you on your academics unless you have bad grades. They might test a couple of technical areas. In case you have some professional degrees, you can quickly brush through them. Also, you must have an answer to what your key learnings are through your extracurricular activities. And of course, your opinion really matters! You need to have an opinion and back it up with logical reasoning.
Also, you need to be aware of all the aspects of your resume. You must have clear answers related to your hobbies and the reasons why you have them. For instance, I love trekking; I had mentioned I had gone to Roopkund. They asked me which route I had taken and the names of all the campsites on that route.So unless you have actually done an activity or have a thorough knowledge of something, it is best not to mention it, since you won’t be able to answer it!
It helps if you introspect and prepare yourself for the interview. And yes, for any top B-school, it is very important to know yourself really well. You must know your likings, your passions and why you are choosing a certain career path. It really makes a huge difference if you know yourself well!

Q. What according to you are some of the benefits of studying at IIMA?
You can pursue your hobbies and interests, whether it is entrepreneurship or designing and so on, as you find a group of people with similar interests. It is great networking with people from different backgrounds and work experiences.
Also, the major approach that we adopt in IIMA is the case study approach that I personally find extremely helpful. It has helped me to see other point of views. In the beginning of my MBA, I was always looking at only the financial aspect of everything, but I realised that more than only numbers, qualitative changes also matter.
During the discussions regarding strategies you get a diverse set of opinions. You develop a different mindset to look at a particular situation.

Q. What are your plans after finishing your MBA in Finance?
Two options: Investment banking and consultancy. I am looking forward to be a consultant. Being a consultant is a challenging task as you always have new problems to solve. It is quite dynamic. You have to apply different strategies to different organisations and to different situations. That is one major factor in terms of learning. The other factor is that you get opportunities to interact with people from different industries and thus your experience is diverse. People belong to different backgrounds so you get to learn a lot more.