My Journey En Route: B School

Way back in school, my high aggregate in every examination was attributed to me being conventionally “meritorious”. The Indian middle-class myopic approach made one and all overlook the fact that it was the languages and other non-sciencey (at the risk of sounding neological) subjects like geography and at best, life science, that secured me such a high aggregate, while I struggled to cross the benchmark of 90 in Mathematics. As a result, taking up pure science — the infamous PCM combination — in my plus-two seemed like a natural progression. That was an age when I myself was naive, indecisive, confused, and heavily reliant on my parents — who, in turn, were reliant on their know-it-all friends and relatives — to decide what would be best for me. Duh, right?

Needless to say, my grades came crashing down 11th onwards. The best bet at that moment was to get into the top-most engineering college available as per my rank, irrespective of a stream preference, in order to secure the chances of a decent job in the near future. And so, I became an electronics and instrumentation engineer who got placed in the leading MNC of the country during the last semester of her graduation.

The feeling of suffocation started half a year into my job. While my colleagues vociferously forged interpersonal relationships and seemed to pick up the nitty-gritty of the newfangled SAP technology in a jiffy, I­ —the social recluse — had a hard time fitting in. My bubble of “work hard and smart and it shall get paid off” got popped soon enough and I found myself questioning whether it was really worth the month-end “your account has been credited with” text message. It was during this tumultuous phase that someone sat me down and made me realise that being in a creative lull is what was causing me the agony. Ever since childhood, I’d been fascinated by the way brands marketed themselves: the endorsements and the catchy quirky taglines. It took me a couple more days to set course for my MBA journey, and then I was on it.

My job entailed erratically patterned rotatory shifts, with no privileges of weekends or holidays. I had to be present at office at 6 am for morning shifts and at other times, I had to pull all-nighters. So, availing structured coaching classes was not a luxury that I could afford. Hence, I chose to go for the good old Arun Sharma CAT books. My miserable quantitative aptitude made me decide to focus more on it than the verbal ability and logical reasoning sections, which I was naturally slightly good at. I would try to cram in a couple hours of study before and after my office shifts, and the week-offs started seeing me prioritizing my books over laundry. More often than not, I’d be too mentally exhausted to assimilate what I was reading, but the desperation to get out of the rut kept me going.

I did not even aim to make it into the IIMs, so I didn’t bother much about that thought. I focussed mainly on two options: the colleges under the Symbiosis International University, and MICA. For the latter, qualifying CAT was necessary; and hence, I sat for it. Needless to say, I felt my performance to be quite average after it ended. SNAP, for the SIU umbrella, felt slightly better.

The first result to be published was of CAT and I was taken aback seeing I’d secured 89.41 percentile. Amusingly, the VARC score of 99.68 percentile had dragged up my aggregate percentile, as always. I could safely assume I would qualify for MICA.

Despite peers goading me to apply to several decent b-schools that would accept me with my CAT score, I knew I would not be able to get too many leaves approved to appear for the interviews anyway, and chose to bank solely on the originally targeted options.

SNAP score was the next to get published, and that showed a 91.28 percentile. SIBM Pune and SCMHRD shortlists were ruled out, but I received calls from all the other colleges I’d applied to: SIIB, SIBM-B, SIMC, SIMS, SCIT and SIBM-H. I was shortlisted for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship programme at SIBM Pune, but I chose to not appear for it.

Then began the haul. The day my PI at SIBM-B was scheduled was just a day after my process at SIMC Pune. So there I was, flying out from Bangalore after office, arriving at 3 in the morning for an 8 am interview, flying back to Bangalore the same night for an 8 am interview yet again the next morning. Each college had its GEPIWAT (Group Exercise, Personal Interaction, Written Ability Test) process extremely well-structured. Out of all the 7 interviews I attended under the SIU umbrella, SIMC, SIMS and SIBM-H were the only ones who opted for a group exercise over a conventional group discussion. At SIMS, each of us in the group was given a picture and then we had to present a skit compiling all the images and weaving a story. The other two colleges had activities that tested our coordination, team-building, and leadership skills.

The PIs saw a plethora of questions being hurled at me, lots of cross-questioning of my intentions, and the permanent fixture of the question: “Why an MBA when you already have a well-paying corporate job?” Being seasoned in handling stress tests, thanks to my risk-entailing job, I could thankfully hold my nerves through each session.

MICA was the last college whose selection process I appeared for. The group exercise was about enacting a street play to promote vernacular education; and the moment it was announced, I knew it was over. I am someone who has always been awkward about things like dancing or role playing, in short, anything for which I’d have to step out of my skin. I have excelled in delivering technical presentations and won accolades in renowned competitions for the same, but acting was just not my forte. As expected, I ended up in the waitlist for that one.

I converted all the Symbiosis colleges and there was a short-lived deliberation whether to go for SIBM-B or the Symbiosis Institute of International Business (SIIB). But a scrutiny of the curriculum assuaged me that SIIB aligned more with my needs.

With the ongoing crisis of the pandemic, imagine my relief and joy when SIIB was one of the first B-schools to promptly commence their academic session online by mid-July, and the experience is flawless and efficient.

I shall end this piece with few self-discovered tips:

  • It seems smarter to start the preparation with the section you are the weakest in. The initial motivation and urge is at the peak, and that helps in strengthening your weak portions quickly and efficiently.
  • There is no need to read the entire paragraph on the VARC section of CAT. If you’re fairly fluent in English, give a cursory reading and directly move onto the questions. Based on each question, find out the keywords in the paragraph and retrieve the answer.
  • I’ve always been an avid reader, and that seemed to help me in the VARC sections of all the examinations. You get to learn a whole host of synonyms, antonyms and the likes from story-books and newspapers.
  • The panelists during the PI do not look for spoon-fed, parroted-off responses when they ask you something. They appreciate ingenuity, honesty, and a sharp humour. Being utterly diplomatic and placating might actually get them irritated because they’ve been through with scores of people trying to pull off the same moves on them.

Although the feat achieved by me is quite meagre, I hope this long read brings about some good to people aspiring to get a go-ahead with their MBA plans.


Shruti Sengupta is Pursuing MBA in International Business from Symbiosis Institute of International Business, Pune (batch of 20-22). She worked as a SAP BASIS Consultant with Tata Consultancy Services for 2.5 years. She loves singing and also reading books in different areas: mythology, history and linguistics. Shruti has been a content writer for an entertainment website and a health and fitness website in the past. Click here to see her Linkedin Profile: Shruthi Sengupta

1 thought on “My Journey En Route: B School”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *