Applying to a one year MBA in India: Do’s, Don’ts & other lessons

PGPEX admit Abhishek Kumar Gupta shares the key lessons he picked up on the way to IIM Calcutta (IIM C). To pursue an MBA or not? IIM or ISB? To hire an admission consultant or not? Read on and let Abhishek solve these doubts for you. 
Abhishek Kumar Gupta IIM C PGPEX admit: Application Do's & Don'ts essay writing answers strategy best one year mba in India PGPX ISB EPGP 1 yr executive MBABy Abhishek Kumar Gupta

Exactly one month is left before I join the one year MBA (PGPEX) at IIM Calcutta (IIM C). After scoring a 660 on the GMAT, I feel lucky to have secured a seat.

I applied to IIM Ahmedabad (IIM A), IIM Bangalore (IIM B) and IIM Calcutta (IIM C) and converted IIM C. As far as my application to IIM A is concerned I feel I messed up the essays. The application to IIM A was my first ever MBA application and the process had a steep learning curve.

I got shortlisted at both IIM B and IIM C, but messed up the IIM B interview because of limited awareness of how to approach a stress interview. I ended up taking a rigid stand on certain issues which didn’t go down to well with the interview panel.

But after these experiences, I was better prepared for the IIM C interview.

I made sure that I focus on the unique aspects of my candidature and spent time on communicating the diverse experiences I had had over the span of my career: I had spent five years in Strategy and Operations Consulting and 1.5 years in an NGO. My undergraduate degree from IIT Bombay was another differentiating factor.

Thankfully I am in and now I am excited to go back to college. I plan to use this one year study break to give a jump to my career and to move towards a leadership role.

Managing the MBA application process alongside a full time job is taxing on aspirants – there are multiple decisions to be made and a whole bunch of activities to be completed. I found a lot of information on the net and got some sound advice from friends who had completed an MBA and senior colleagues.

With an aim to assist professionals who are planning on a one year full time MBA in India, I am penning down my thoughts about MBA prep and the application process.

Below are the key confusions I experienced and the lessons I picked on the way:

MBA. Should you pursue it?

The answer to this depends on an individual’s profile and career aspirations. For the first five years in my career I was against pursuing an MBA. I was already into a strategy and operations consulting profile and planned on learning more on the job.

I had had a sharp career trajectory and gained a couple of quick promotions and started managing a team of five people. I thoroughly enjoyed the field of business and consulting. However, when I tried to make a job switch, I found it difficult to get a corporate strategy or Executive Assistant (EA) profile that I aspired to.

Without an MBA it was almost impossible to get these roles.

My mentors suggested that a strong theoretical business foundation is necessary for a long career in business. I aspire to become the top executive of a large company. This guided my next steps and I decided to pursue an MBA to polish my business skills, bag the roles that I aspired to and set my journey towards a leadership profile in motion.

One year full time MBA, two year full time PGDM/ PGP or part time MBA (Executive MBA)?

Each of the options has their unique pros and cons.

The two year full time PGDM/ PGP course is relevant to people who have up to 2 years of work experience post under-graduation. Companies offer entry level position or one level higher to these graduates. The classroom has mix of people who are freshers and people with limited work experience. Also the second year of the program is quite chilled out. I did not find it very useful since I had 7 years of work experience.

The one year full time MBA is meant for people with substantial work experience (a basic criterion for all MBA programmes worldwide). I found this residential program with 800+ contact hours (just 150 hours short of 2 year program) optimal to provide me with the academic and managerial rigor that I needed. Plus I am a person who very strongly believes in mentorship and learning from other’s experience – the PGPEX Class with 10+ years of average work experience would provide this in plenty.

Part-time MBA (Executive MBA) – I felt this programme lacked the rigor required to transform a person. The executive programmes in India also pose certain challenges when it comes to placements. Many corporates in India prefer full time MBA grads.

To go for GMAT coaching or not?

When I started preparing for the GMAT, I was overconfident that I will be able to manage on my own and therefore I did not take any coaching. Math was my strength, however, I regret not taking English classes. My English score did not improve much in 2 months time given the fact that I had an average schooling. I used Manhattan study material and found them quite helpful.

MBA from abroad or from India?

Though I chose an MBA program in India, I vouch for an MBA from abroad. An MBA abroad is the best bet for people who want to work outside India at least for some time. I believe an MBA abroad gives unparalleled exposure and a global outlook, something that corporates cherish – after all every company wants to go global.

In my case, I couldn’t afford the huge financial burden of studies abroad. In the next couple of years I don’t think the job scenario in developed markets is going to improve significantly. Plus I believed that emerging markets like India are going to provide much higher growth opportunities. Therefore I refrained from applying to B-schools abroad.

I suggest that people who can bear the cost or (who are single :P) should definitely explore the globe.

Hire an MBA application consultant or not?

While I did not hire any consultant, I know several people who did, especially for targeting specific foreign B-schools with lengthy applications or in cases where heavy modifications are required in the essays.

In my case my wife was very actively involved in the whole process. She helped me in brainstorming ideas, reviewing drafts and challenged my thought process and even helped me in preparing for interviews. A sounding board is a must: this can be a capable close friend, colleague or family member. In case you don’t have someone you can trust to provide you inputs, going for a consultant is not a bad idea.

IIMs or ISB?

I planned to apply to ISB in Round 2. However I got the result from IIM C a couple of days before the ISB deadline and decided not to apply. Overall I feel IIM C has a better Return on Investment and offered a better brand.

A quick comparison to help aspirants decide between the two B-schools:

  • Excellent faculty.
  • Small batch size means more one-on-one learning.
  • Oldest college/ great alumni network both within and outside India.
  • I would be amongst the youngest in the batch which would mean greater learning from peers
  • IIT background would stand out in the small one year MBA batch at IIM C
  • Two weeks learning in a B-school in UK or Germany
  • Designated as ‘flagship’ program at insitute
  • Excellent PR specially among corporates
  • Dedicated placement team
  • One year MBA has not been designated as the flagship program
  • Huge batch size of 800 spread across 2 campuses makes placements for all students a challenge
  • Alumni network limited in India/ limited in numbers and has not reached to the level of decision makers because the college is relatively new.
  • My 7 years of work experience make me very old in the batch which could make placement an issue since corporates typically recruit candidates for junior/lower to mid level positions.
  • Several IITians. Standing out would be difficult.
  • Fee differential – the fee at ISB is almost double that of IIM C


What next?

I am now waiting eagerly to press the life transforming ‘reset button’ by diving headlong into academics, networking with alumni and global leaders, polishing soft skills, pursuing hobbies and leadership initiatives, and of course that dream job.

Contributing Blogger Abhishek Kumar Gupta (AKG in short ) is an MBA (PGPEX) candidate at IIM Calcutta (Class of 2015). Abhishek graduated from IIT Bombay in 2007 and after working in strategy & operations consulting and with an NGO (TechnoServe) over the last 7 years, he now aspires to lead Indian businesses to global success. He has traveled extensively to the Middle East on work. He is an avid reader, sports enthusiast, flutist and guitarist, educational blogger and an entrepreneurship fan. He can be reached at [email protected]

Disclaimer – The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Oneyearmba.co.in


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