Venue: NMIMS, Mumbai
Like most of the MBA aspirants, I too was a bit nervous when it came to cracking GD/PI and making it past the final hurdle. My profile, back then, did not quite look that impressive. However, it still was quite unique in its own way. To begin, I had an unconventional background of graduating in Apparel Production (Fashion Technology) from NIFT Kolkata. Then I travelled all the way to Egypt for completing my graduation project and later joining on job. But this is where the issue begins as I had to leave my job in 5.5 months owing to family issues and now had a break exceeding 10 months before the PI. In brief this is how my profile looked:
Class X: 93.5%
Class XII: 81%
Grad Project: Implementing 5S in Apparel factory (Location: Egypt, Tenure: 4 months)
Work ex: 5.5 months in Egypt. (Role – Marketing Merchant handling Macys, Walmart)
- Awarded “Best in Academics” by School Trustee Board in 2003
- Qualified till second round National Science Olympiad and AIR 58 in National Cyber Olympiad,2003
- Scored SGPA 10/10 in Final semester for my graduation project
- Started Ideasmakemarket.com ( It was barely 2 months old back then, but already had 25-30 authors)
- Training in SAP SD
NMAT Score: 223
Yes, back in those days NMIMS used to conduct GD and not CD (Case Discussion). We were given two topics and had to choose 1.
The topics given were:
- Honesty is a curse in today’s India
- Facebook is destroying social customs in India
Now, by default, I am not the initiator in a GD but I work as a team player + Innovator in a GD. It is important that any individual participating in a GD should know his/her area of strength (I will write about this soon in a follow-up article). The group consisted of 12 people with 8 supporting topic 2, 1 supporting topic 2 and 3 remaining silent. I added my bit saying “Yes Raj( name changed) has a very valid point. This topic is indeed an issue that faces us today.” It was a simple sentence but brought out the fact that I can accept others to lead and support them as a true team player. Raj scored points for initiation. I scored for supporting. Most of those supporting nodded in agreement. The one who opposed the topic ended up scoring negative as he not only opposed the team thinking but also could not defend his position. The group discussion went as per my plan and three of us (me, Raj and Aditya – Yup, he was my batchmate in NM) contributed majorly in making it successful with a general consensus against the motion. Instead we re-coined the topic as “Facebook is redefining the social customs in India”. I was reasonably happy and knew I had done my part. The fact that some of my fellow participants congratulated me after the GD was over, justified my feeling.[sociallocker]
This was the scary part for me as on one hand I did not have a high experience, while at the other end I had to justify the long break of 10 months. Anyways, I told myself that I cannot change the past so there was no point thinking about it.
NMIMS Personal Interviews consist of 3 member panels. The panel members generally consist of 2 faculty members /1 senior alumnus or 1 faculty member/ 2 senior alumni. In my case, it was the former as I later on happened to study under both the faculties in NMIMS.
And now the interview:
Me : Sir, may I come in?
Panelist 2: Yes, welcome Abhirup. Please take your seat.
I wish all of them.
Panelist 1: Middle-aged female professor- had a quick glance at my SOP and marks and started playing with her mobile (iPhone). [p.s. They normally do it for stress testing to see how you react to someone who is not paying attention to you]
Panelist 2: Extremely friendly but slightly aged male professor- welcomes me to the interview room and asks me to be comfortable. Always maintains a smiling face.
Panelist 3: A lot younger person, closely observing my marks and SOP – He occasionally looks at me and nods his head.
Panelist 2: So Abhirup, what does Abhirup mean?
Me: Sir, it means giving a new form.
Panelist 3: So what do you give new form to?
Me: (pause a bit)… I try to look at things in a different way and create the best possible solution from what I have…
Panelist 3: Give an example…
Me: Sir while starting the portal Ideasmakemarket.com, I realized that there were many business blogs and bloggers, but there was no single platform to connect them all. I tried to connect them through my site and now have 25+ authors in less than 2 months. I did not create anything new, just identified a gap and tried to solve it.
Panelist 3 smiles, starts looking back at my CV. Panelist 1 continues to play with her iPhone.
Panelist 2: Tell us something about your family background.
Me: I give details of my family
Panelist 2: What do you love about Kolkata?
Me: Food… sir, the street food is just amazing… egg rolls, sweets… and above all home made food.
Panelist 2: I did not quite like the sweets when I was in Calcutta. I think it is not that good.
Me: Sir, I understand. Perhaps since you were new to the city, you might have missed on the best places to try. Maybe, next time try at Tiwari Brothers and Gangurams.
Panelist 2: Perhaps (Panelist 3 smiles, Panelist 1 continues to play with her iPhone)
Panelist 3: So you were in Egypt, what do you feel about them?
Me: They are fantastic and most helpful people that I have met. They love living life to the fullest. One important fact that I learned while in Egypt was that, no matter from where we come from we are all the same. Some of my best friends till date, have been Egyptians.
Panelist 3: So what do you think about the Arab Spring and turmoil in Egypt?
I told them my views regarding the same. Back in those days, this was a burning issue.
Panelist 1 continued to just keep using her phone.
Panelist 2: Tell us something about your work experience in Egypt
Me: Sir my experience was in two parts : During the first four months I worked in implementation of 5S in stores and cutting section of the company. In the second part, I worked as a marketing merchandiser handling accounts for Macys and Walmart for my employer
Panelist 3: What exactly is 5S? Can you explain how you went about?
Me: Explained him the underlying principle of 5S as a lean manufacturing tool and how the entire project was carried out.
Panelist 2: So what do you think was your biggest hurdle?
Me: I guess the language, as Egyptians only speak Arabic.
Panelist 2: So did you overcome it?
Me: Yes, I tried my best and can speak 60-70% Arabic, though I can’t read or write. Egyptian Arabic is a bit different as it has many words from French. On the whole, if one understands Hindi, he can easily learn many Arabic words owing to the origin of Hindi from Arabic and Sanskrit.
Panelist 3: Any other language you know?
Me: Apart from English and Arabic, I can speak French, Bengali and Punjabi
Panelist 1- for a change has now stopped playing with her phone and observing me and going through the SOP.
Panelist 3: What are the other nationalities you have worked with in Egypt? And which according to you are best ones to work with?
Me: I have been lucky to work and learn from several nationalities in Egypt. These include Egyptians, Srilankans,Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Filipinos , Turkish, British, Tunisian and Americans. Of these , the Turkish people in my view are very different as they value time a lot. In fact they will not hesitate to move out of a deal if you delay, even if it causes them a financial loss. Much of my personality today is shaped by these interactions. On a personal note, I made some great friends among the Pakistani and Egyptian people I worked alongside.
Panelist 1- (Finally the first question) – You mentioned about Walmart and Macys earlier, what exactly was your role?
Me: Mam, I worked as a marketing merchandiser where I was involved in sourcing operations and pricing with the vendors and the buyers. It involved all the activities right from sourcing to shipping the goods, planning the merchandise calendar, pitching to new buyers, price negotiations and ensuring proper communication with the clients.
Panelist 1- Explain to me the merchandise calendar
Me: Explained her the same
Panelist 1: If you are to start your apparel retail chain, would you focus on private labels or known brands?
Me: I would focus on brands at the start but slowly will work on the product mix and increase the proportion of private labels. I will essentially look for a proportion of 80-20 in the long run, whereby 80% of my sales should come from private labels.
Panelist 1: Why private labels? Can you explain the pricing logic?
Me: I explained them the same. My prior experience in the domain helped me a great deal in explaining the rationale behind my choice over supply chain, timing, control and margins. At the end of the answer, Panelist 1 looked happy and nodded to panelist 2 and 3
Panelist 2: You graduated in production, worked in marketing, started a website, speak many languages, what next?
Me: An MBA from Narsee Monjee (Smiling)
Panelist 1, 2 and 3 smile.
Panelist 3: Abhirup, where do you see yourself 5 years down the line?
Me: Running successfully my own brand management firm and running an NGO for child education.
Panelist 3: Why the NGO?
Me: I think any individual should look at giving back to the society and helping those who need the most.
Panelist 2: All right, we are done. It was nice having you here. Wish you the very best.
I shake hands, thank them and go out of the room.
Yes, I got through and completed my MBA in Finance, cleared CFA Level 1 and FRM part 1, learned a lot from my friends and Mumbai and enjoyed some of the best moments in my life. More importantly, fell in love with Finance and Economics in the two years, a relation that continues till date.[/sociallocker]