IIM Bangalore Personal Interview ExperiencesRahul Singh
- IIM Bangalore, 16th March ’16, New Kenilworth Hotel, Kolkata
Two panelists: P1 and P2.
First 15 minutes:
P1 asked lots of questions on Physics, which I answered. We then had a brief discussion on Bengali food and books. Everything was perfect till this point.
Last 5 minutes:
P2: So why do you want to leave all your science-y stuff and come here to learn how to sell toothpaste?
Me: I don’t plan to go into marketing, sir. I want to gain a basic knowledge of the various aspects of running a business. I want to build my own company, and once it’s set up, I would like to handle some of the technical aspects.
P2: What sort of company?
Me: *described my idea and plan of action in detail*
P2: You seem to have everything figured out. What do you need an MBA for? Go ahead and build your startup right now.
Me: Sir, at the moment I don’t have a deep enough understanding of how businesses and markets work. I think an MBA will teach me the basics… *interrupted*
P2: Do you think we teach entrepreneurship here?
Me: Not exactly, sir, but the course content is very relevant to someone who wants to start a business. IIMB also has the NSR cell that helps entrepreneurs… *interrupted*
P2: Name some of the startups in India.
Me: Flipkart, Paytm, Ola Cabs… *interrupted*
P2: Do you know anything about the founders of these companies?
Me: I know their names sir. Sachin Bansal founded… *interrupted*
P2: How many of them have MBAs?
Me: None of them do, I think. They are all engineers.
P2: Do you think they had sufficient knowledge about how to run businesses?
Me: I’m not sure sir… they might have got other people to handle the business while they tackled the coding part.
P2: Exactly. They handled the “technical” part.
P1: We’re done. Have a nice day.
- It seemed from P2’s expressions that he wanted me to counter him and was disappointed when I couldn’t.
- I didn’t have enough presence of mind to evade the obvious trap. The panelist probably knew I would name companies like Flipkart, Paytm, etc. I should’ve named companies founded by IIM grads instead, like Quikr and Naukri dot com.
- Just wanting to be an entrepreneur isn’t a good enough reason to do an MBA. We must also be aware of how our MBA will help the startup. On a normal day, I can list many reasons why an entrepreneur with an MBA might be more successful, but somehow I didn’t think of mentioning these during the interview. Maybe the pressure got to me.
- When I said I want to handle technical aspects, I might have given a wrong impression. I should’ve clarified that I’m interested in subjects like Operations and Supply Chain, which I am hoping to learn in an MBA program.
- This interview was a good learning experience. The subsequent interviews went along the same lines and I was able to hold my ground.
Prologue: Amidst a normal work schedule that my body and mind had got used to in the past two years, working as a Member Technical in D. E. Shaw India, I decided to move on in the direction of pursuing my dream for higher education. In the foresight, back then, I would have almost 3 years work experience by the time I start my endeavor. Thus, I decided to attempt Common Admission Test 2014. I had thought, accompanied a decent education profile of percentages in nineties in Class X, Class XII and Undergraduate studies, an extremely high CAT score will guarantee me a call for interview in the reputed IIMs. I started with my efforts in the direction to succeed in the CAT. Little had I known that my efforts will fall short in the crucial exam, getting me a meagre CAT percentile of 94.44. That was shocking and devastating. But the true surprise came when I still got a call from IIM, Bangalore. More about this prep story later, now moving onto the experience.
Here comes the day,
March 17th 2015.
Time: 9 a.m.
Location : IIM, Bangalore – my first ever rendezvous with the beautiful city.
Around 27 candidates divided into three interview panels.
After the Written Ability Test (will share the experience separately), it was the time for the interview. From the background where I got the call, I was thinking “I’ve got nothing to lose. If anything, I might as well be the last candidate on the list whom they decided to call for interview. It feels good to be here sitting inside the campus, while outside, there goes on such a huge business going on to get people into these walls. This is a privilege. I am fortunate. And privileges are not some things to be worried about, privileges must be enjoyed. Hell yeah!” Interview panel: P1 – Dr. Charan Singh, P2 – Dr. Jishnu Hazra P3 – IIMB Alumni Here you go. As soon as I enter the room, even before sitting in my chair, they ask me about a topic that I had mentioned in my Statement of Purpose related to my job.
P1 : You have mentioned “Difference in view points of trader vs risk manager”, can you elaborate on this?
Me : Sir, this is a presentation that I had given to my team that talks about how the views differ between a trader and a Risk Manager in the world of investment banking and trading. Generically, a trader wants to maximize the profit and returns, thus he is willing to take more and more risk. The job of a Risk Manager is to monitor various exposures and focus on reducing the risk involved. So in some way it’s a tussle between a trader and a Risk Manager, more like a tussle between an optimist and a pessimist.
P1 : But a trader also has to worry about the risk, he may stand to make huge losses if he takes unnecessary risk. Why do you think he will be reckless?
Me : Sir, it’s not about him being reckless but when you see from the perspective of loss that a trader can incur, at most, he’ll be fired but for the firm, that loss can be much more damaging. Thus that’s the exact reason that they have a Risk Manager to monitor various exposures.
P1: But each trader has a capital allocated to him so even if he wants, he cannot wipe out the entire firm’s capital, so why do you think that is even a possibility?
Me: Sir, I agree that there is a specific capital with which a trader is allowed to play with but in reality, in the world of hedge funds, the capital number that you see is the leveraged capital. Thus because of leverage, there exists a possibility that the loss can wipe out much more capital than what has been allocated. Also, I won’t say a trader can wipe out the capital of the entire firm but he can most certainly bring the particular group down. And that is significant damage to the firm. Generally there will be trades that a trader wants to perform and Risk Manager will take a call, depending on various exposures, as to whether to allow that or not.
P1: So you can call Risk Manager as an umbrella trader or a trader who can moderate other traders depending on his view.
Me: Yes, sir. I could say that.
P1: I see that you have mentioned “Idea Generation Workshop” in your SOP. What is an Idea Generation Workshop?
Me: This was an initiative taken by a professor the college to promote innovation in day to day student life. I used to be a coordinator along with him.
P2: How do you promote innovation in day to day life? What was the agenda?
Me: It was a full day workshop where there would be inspirational stories and videos. Some real life stories like how Chik shampoo founder shook the Asia wing of Hindustan Lever Limited and how Goonj the NGO helps people with clothing etc. The basic fundamental that innovation can be taught and can be learned if you have the right attitude. At the end, students would be asked to come up with proposals to some day to day problems that they face. This program was even conducted for the faculty in the institute. Stories of innovation at grass root level have been really inspiring.
P1: Do you think you are creative?
Me: Yes, I think so. I wouldn’t say I am the most creative person in the world but yes.
P3: (Nodding) That’s fine. Do you think a trader should be creative?
Me: I think a trader has to be creative, Sir. As you know, in some places, a trader is called a gambler. To be able to beat the competition, trader has to come up with innovative combination of certain instruments to maximize the returns. Also, a trader must trust his intuition while making certain decisions that might be highly risky.
P3: Who are the people that have inspired you? Who are your idols?
Me: Raghuram Rajan, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and in sports, Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
P3: Have you read any non-fiction books or biographies that have inspired you?
Me: (I haven’t mentioned passionate reading as my hobby anywhere.) Sir, I do not get time to read biographies as such but I read up various articles about any innovative thinking and these people that I have mentioned above. Let’s say Raghu Ram Rajan, he is like a superman in his career. The stories like how he had talked about fat tails in the real estate markets before the Global Meltdown, but that paper was not well received in the world. How he’s worked towards taking measures that have helped Indian economy recover from where it was when he took control.
P1: Tell us what is regular day like.
Me: It’s generally a mix of work, exercise and recreational activities. Regular work and a fixed duration of fitness exercise in the evening daily.
P1: (Interrupting) So, as per your schedule you have time. It’s just that you choose not to spend it on reading books.
Me: Sir, I agree that I have time and it’s the priorities according to which I distribute it on a given day. Given the sitting nature of my job, I have come to understand the importance of staying fit. Historically, I haven’t always enjoyed good health, that’s why the daily fitness regime has helped me in keeping me fit and full of energy that can then be used for work. Looking 10 years into the future, I feel staying fit is absolutely necessary to keep myself motivated. So far as reading is concerned, I devote my daily time in reading various articles on the Internet.
P3: I think that’s reasonable.
P2: You mentioned Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Why not Gavaskar? Gavaskar was a great player considering the quality of bowling attack and conditions back then. He is even greater player than Dhoni.
Me: Sir, I agree that Gavaskar is a legendary player and not to demean him in anyway, I have been a fan of the way MS Dhoni acts as a leader.
P2: (Cutting me in midway) Everyone talks about a person when he is successful. That’s no big deal. People talk about Dhoni because he has been successful, why would that matter?
Me: Sir, I have been a Dhoni fan even in times when he faced massive defeats overseas. It’s his qualities that I really appreciate.
P3: (Interrupting) Which of his qualities interest you?
Me: Sir, his most important quality of staying calm under pressure scenarios. Also the fact of treating victories and defeats equally, developing a process, backing the youngsters in their bad patch… P
1: (Snapping me) Anyone has a good patch and a bad patch. I have a good patch today, tomorrow I will have a bad patch. That applies to anyone.
Me: Sir, he’s supported his young players through their bad patches and given them confidence. As a leader that is very important. Also, even after a defeat, he would talk about the positives from that contest.
P1: That’s the job of a captain, isn’t it? Ganguly will say that after the match, Dravid will. What’s the big deal about it? Me:
Sir, I agree any captain will say that after a match. It’s just that I respect Dhoni because he has acted in that direction. There was a time when we got Ifran Pathan, RP Singh, Laxmipathy Balaji, they shone in their good patches, rocked the international scenario, but when their bad patch hit, we no more see them anywhere. Dhoni supported his players and they are now giving results. The youngsters in the current team have won 6 out of 6 world cup matches on foreign soil.
P1: What is your view on failure? We see your academic profile and it seems you have been a topper throughout and you don’t seem to have experienced any sort of failure. You talked about Raghu Ram Rajan, he was a topper in his life and your academic profile looks kind of similar.
Me: Sir, an academic record doesn’t always show the kind of failures that I have experienced, it has just highlighted my achievements.
P3: What is one failure that you want to quote from your life? Also can you tell us your learnings from that?
Me: An incident of failure that comes to my mind is after the X exam for National Talent Search Examination. After clearing the state level examination, and then the national level examination, I couldn’t make it through the interview. Maybe because of my discrepancies of comfort level with the language or any other lack of knowledge. I come from a small town and almost everyone knows you once you achieve something, and telling the truth, there are many who assume that you are going to be successful always and others somewhere want you to fail. I was a kid who wanted to go for 100/100 and always thought that if you put efforts, you will always get results. The biggest learning for me at that age was that, the result is not in your hands. You might put all your efforts and yet might fall short. There are so many different variables in operation. You should be ready to accept failure. Sometimes, it is good to be detached from the race, and give your best. If you give your best and you deserve it, you will get it. Unnecessary burden of expectations hampers your performance. I have carried that learning all along my life.
P1: What if you don’t make it through to IIMB today? As you said, people will be knowing that you are appearing for this interview and there is that pressure and everything. What will be your reaction if you fail to make it to IIMB?
Me: Sir, I agree IIMB is a great institute and I really want to study here but, I am sorry, if you don’t select me, it won’t mean the end of the world for me. It won’t mean I am incompetent. It is just that I have a different skill-set and your requirements are different and I don’t fit in those. I will try again next year. But it won’t be like I will keep trying blindly, if I feel that IIMB is not my cup of tea, I will evaluate my options and choose what suits me best.
P1: Let’s say if you don’t get IIMB and you get IIM, Trichy. What will you do?
Me: Sir, frankly speaking I don’t have a call from IIM, Trichy.
P1: That’s fine. Let’s assume hypothetically if you had a call from IIM, Trichy and you converted there but not in IIMB, what would you do?
Me: Sir, with the kind of opportunity cost I am putting in, and the place where I am right now, to reach the next level, IIMB is the right place for me. The excellent peer group and the distinguished faculty at the institute, makes it distinctive. I might not be able to derive the same value from IIM, Trichy. Also, I don’t want to come across as a person who wants to do MBA for the sake of it. In the hypothetical scenario, I will evaluate my options and probably might not accept the offer by IIM, Trichy.
P2: Do yo have any questions for us?
Me: What are the recommended finance courses offered at the institute as electives?
P2: You will get enough choices to choose from ‘if’ you get into the institute. There is a lot of variety available.
Me: Thank you so much, Sir.
Epilogue: On April 15, 2015, after waiting eagerly for the results through the times of uncertainty when I oscillated between hope and probability of getting rejected due to CAT score, I got the result as General Merit List W/L 20. This triggered a period of 23 days full of incremented hope, with the knowledge that there still existed a probability of not getting through. But I guess, that period was marked more by relief than anxiety. I had more reasons to be hopeful than ever. Definitely more than the reasons I had on December 27th when CAT results were announced. Finally, on May 8th, I got the email saying “Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have been offered admission…” and it felt really special. More than the interview experience, this is an experience of hope and taking a leap of faith in life.
Interview of IIM Bangalore – PGP 2015-2017
Let me give you a brief introduction of myself for a better perspective- Hailing from Jaipur, Rajasthan. 90+ percentages in 10th,12th. B.Tech in computer science from IIIT-H with an average cgpa, good background of participation in and organization of cultural events. ~3 years of work-ex as a network consulting engineer. First attempt at CAT. Calls from IIM B,L,I,K and new IIMs. IIM Bangalore’s interview was my 7th and last interview of this season (gave SP Jain, XLRI and other IIM interviews before that – the ‘B’est was left for the last I guess! ) and I carried forward the previous interview experiences to this one.
Date – 19th March ; Time – 2 pm ; Venue – IIM Bangalore
I reached the venue at 1 pm. We were assigned panels and made to sit in a queue in front of the interview rooms. After a brief verification of our documents/proofs, we were called in panel-wise for WAT(Written Ability Test).
WAT topic – Safety of women in India can only be brought about by a change in the societal mindset.
We were given a rough sheet attached to the answer sheet and 30 minutes time limit to complete the task. It was advised to use 10 minutes to create a rough outline and 20 minutes to write the essay/note. I created a section wise rough draft (intro, major issues, root cause, measures that can help, conclusion) and completed writing the essay well before 30 minutes were over. Both rough and the answer sheet were collected for evaluation. After the WAT we waited for our turns to be called in for the PI. Some of the candidates were keenly observing how long each person’s interview was lasting for (somehow it is a common belief the longer you last, the more chances you have). After 4 candidates before me, there came my turn to go in.
Panel members : 2 male Professors (P1, P2), 1 male alumnus (P3)
P1 : *smiling* Hi Nikhil, go ahead and tell us about yourself.
Me : *well rehearsed reply* Talked about my school education highlighting academic achievements. Moving onto B.Tech with more emphasis on participation in co-curricular activities and then highlighting the 3 years of work-ex in one of the leading network equipments and services company. Mentioned some of the clients that I handled and being a part of the recruitment team as well.
P1 : *scrolling on his laptop* So, I see you’ve a pretty decent job and you seem to be performing good as well, why do you wish to pursue this course?
Me : (this was nothing but a why MBA question. There is no right or wrong answer for it. Best way is to convince yourself with a good reason first and explain the same to the panel) Told them how I am a person who likes to work in teams and how the nexus between technology and business strategy excites me. Having a good technical know-how and corporate exposure, I wish to make a larger impact on business and this seems to be the perfect time and place to get equipped with the required skills. *replied to this answer while addressing each panel member so that it convinces all of them*
P1 : You mentioned business strategy. What do you think is the business strategy of your current employer?
Me : *thanks to the regular interactions with the leadership team I had a good idea of this* Mentioned how the company has a kind of monopoly in the networking products and how aggressively it tries to maintain that. Market developments are closely monitored and any new prospective technology is adopted by R & D or by acquiring smaller companies/start-ups.
P1 : *excited by the mention of acquisitions & start-ups* Any recent start-up acquisitions by the company?
Me : Told them 2 recent acquisitions and one major acquisition in the past.
P1 : Why do you think they were acquired?
Me : Told how the company wanted to enter into a new domain of services (Data centers , Cloud) and the acquisitions provide a well prepared base for a bigger company to easily flourish into.
P1 : Do you think after an acquisition the smaller company is able to develop as freely as it was developing earlier?
Me : Replied how it is a trade-off for the smaller company to gain from the bigger company’s resources but at the same time restrict it’s own growth towards the goals of the company acquiring it. Many a times smaller company prefer not getting acquired as they can develop into something bigger. Also added that if I would have been running the start-up, I would have not preferred getting acquired because the fact that the bigger company is acquiring proves that my company has some potential. *P1 looked quite impressed with my replies* P1 looked at P2 and so the turn went on to P2.
P2 : *looking very grim* How much knowledge you have about the position of your company in the market and it’s performance? Do you follow it?
Me : Replied with the recent quarterly performances. ( couldn’t recall the exact numbers). Mentioned stock values and explained about recent downfall and how we went back up.
P1 :*chipping in* What is the revenue and net income?
Me : Replied correctly.
P2 : Tell about any 2 major current economic crisis.
Me : Mentioned the fluctuations in global oil prices and the Euro -zone crisis.
P2 : What exactly is happening in the Euro-zone and do you see it affecting Indian economy?
Me : *had read a lot about it so replied patiently and in full detail* Told how countries like Greece have lead to a total breakdown of the euro-zone. Mentioned some amends which can be made to deal with it. Also, told how in the longer run it can affect not only India but other economies as well.
P2 : Do you know about the PIIGS (pronounced as pigs!) nations?
Me : *hearing it as pigs I smiled, was like where did this come from* Told them no, I have no idea. P2 looks at P3 ( the alumnus who was silent all along).
P3 : Do you read business related texts?
Me : Not much. I read about the ongoing trends but not so much of business literature as such. P1, P2 & P3 share a glance and then P1 says : ok Nikhil, that will be all. All the best. I thanked them and made my way out. I come out and the guy who was up next says “Bhai, tum to wapis aane ka naam hi le rahe the. You were there for like 35-40 minutes.” I didn’t realize how time passed away as I was involved in the conversation really well. Also, I later realized that it was me who did most of the talking and explaining to the very few questions posed to me by the panel. Overall, the interview was focused on my work-ex, knowledge about my employer company and my take on the current business strategies. The panelists were very calm, thorough professionals and gave a lot of opportunity to speak. It was more of a conversation than an interview.
Verdict – Converted ! \m/ Takeaways : Be thorough with what you are mentioning in the interview. Panelists pick on things you utter which they find intriguing or relevant. ( that is why it is generally said – YOU drive your interview). Display honesty and maturity in answering any opinion related questions. Take it as a conversation and not as a viva. Hope this helps. All the best to all the IIM aspirants. 🙂