I am an IIM alumnus and what I write below applies to me as well.
If you have an interview call from the IIMs, thank god or whatever supreme power you believe in and get on with it. If you believe that just because you are an IIM grad you are superior allow me to burst your bubble.
The total population of India is 1.2 Billion (120 Crore). Even if I assume 100,000 unique people took the CAT each year over the last 10 years, that still amounts to 1 Million people. Now that is less than 0.1% of the population in the country. It would be foolish to be proud of doing well in an exam which over 10 years not even 0.1% of this country’s people have attempted! You have not even competed with 99.99% of the country’s population. So all your jingoism about we are the best brains in the country etc. should be washed away in your kitchen sink. There are millions of children who were born in the same year as you were born but never got to go to school. Many dropped out after Class IV. Many more dropped out after high school. A miniscule of those graduated from college which is the minimum qualification to even take the CAT. Teach for India has a great presentation on this.
(P.S – Three people have written to me saying comparing CAT takers with whole of India is not fair. Compare with age group only. OK. As per UNICEF 26 Million people are born in India each year. I will take people 3 years older and 3 years younger as the sample that can compete with you. That is 182 Million people and not 1.2 Billion. Your percentage jumps to 0.55% of the sample. Happy?)
Let me add another angle to this. Most people who take the CAT are people who have access to the English language in their formative years. Take away English and you won’t be able to understand a single question. Only 20 Million children in India were in English medium schools in the country as of March 2012 according to NUEPA (National University of Educational Planning and Administration). That is 2% of India’s population. This figure in 2003-04 was less than 8 Million (Less than 1% of India’s population then). If we look at the whole country as per 2001 Census, less than 120 Million (12 Crores) people in this country claim to know English. This is people who treat English as their 1st,2nd or 3rd language. Does knowing English make you a better manager? If the CAT were in vernacular languages, most of you would not have even a 80%ile ranking score. The raw talent of millions in the small towns and villages in this country will blow you away. Our preference to English as a mode of business communication has blocked the progress of millions of our countrymen and women.
You are where you are only because you were born in the right family. The fact that you got the opportunity to go to a school. The fact that you had exposure to the English language. You can’t even claim credit for having chosen this path for yourself. Even Lord Krishna could not choose where his upbringing took place so it is unlikely you were a special child who had figured out career choices as a 3 year old.
Call getters are lucky. Plain lucky. What are you so proud of? The fact that normalization of your SSC/HSC/Grad marks went your way ? Or that you were born in a state where scoring 80% was easier than in other states? Or that the CAT difficulty level normalization across slots favoured your slot? Or that you are a woman and hence you got extra points? Or that you have a certificate that ensures the bar is set lower for your entry? Be honest. The selection criteria favoured you. Deep in your heart you know that equally deserving candidates lost out for no real fault of theirs.
A lot of people I know have ‘spectacular’ academic records because they could memorize stuff better and vomit it in the exam. Evaluation is done in the most improper way across India. Students can get penalized if the paper checker didn’t get his tea on time or if the fan above her wasn’t working in the month of May. Sometimes office boys are asked to check board exam papers. I have personally seen people checking papers in crowded Mumbai local trains. I was once asked to write at least 15 lines per answer even if it didn’t make sense because I was told they measure length before awarding you marks.
So while I respect your consistent academic record, I really don’t see how the ones who didn’t do well in these farcical exams are any less. A lot many of them were learning skills that will end up helping their family or even the nation much more while you spent your childhood memorizing text books from start to end.
Even when people receive their final admits, you know that it is not a 100% fair selection. Personal biases and prejudices of interviewers (who are imperfect people) kick in. Some professors will favour candidates from their state. Some will be biased against the rich. Some will be biased against the poor.
So what’s the point of all this? Am I undermining your hard work over the years? Am I giving an easy escape route (sour grapes) to all those who didn’t work hard and hence failed? No. The purpose of this piece is to remind ourselves that we are fortunate to get this opportunity. Let us know very well that getting admitted in a higher ‘ranked’ institution or bagging a job in a sought after company was equally a matter of chance. The hubris should go. Rather than treating this as an achievement, you are better off treating it as a responsibility. There are deserving people out there who didn’t get the option to graduate from these premier institutions. There is a lot one can do with the help of this platform. One may not always be in a position to give back to the society, community or the nation. The least we can do is be humble.
– Ankit Doshi
The writer is the founder of this website, an IIM grad and most recently a banker. He now runs KiRa9 Edumedia Pvt Ltd. which owns InsideIIM.com. He is consumed by the thought of democratizing access to quality management education.