7 Things That Tell You The Other Side Of The MBA ‘Coin’

This article (or story, as InsideIIM would call it) is for all those who have decided to do an MBA after reading all those awesome stories on InsideIIM and other websites. The awesome stories are more than enough in number that I need not add one myself. Instead, I want to show you the other side of the MBA ‘coin’, the side that is usually hidden from sight by the ‘awesome’ side of the coin. However, this is NOT to discourage you to join MBA. This post is also NOT a complaint or a rant or a judgement of what is right or what is wrong (this is subjective). Maybe many of my MBA peers might not like this article. However, some things in life are bitter but inevitable. Like medicines, for instance. And this post too. The aspirants must know the whole picture of what they are getting into. Here goes:

1. Fish market everywhere 

You thought you would escape fish market situations once you clear the GD round of the b-school selection? Or you were relieved when the IIMs and some other b-schools got rid of GDs? Not so fast my fine friend. The real fish market starts once your MBA program starts. You will have group projects as part of the internal evaluation in most subjects. And wherever group related things go, the fish market follows. People take ages arguing over their project ideas, with no one willing to admit that the other’s idea is better than theirs. Is that all? No! There is chaos in some GDs conducted during placements too! Everyone is very busy trying to silence the others so that they get selected. In fact, they are so busy that they forget there is a risk of the company’s panel deciding not to select even a single candidate from that particular fish market group! Or maybe those candidates just don’t care. Whatever may be the reason, you must try as much as possible not to let it bother you. In case of projects, if your idea gets shot down without any reason, then there is a chance your group members will belatedly realise that your idea was indeed better and they were foolish not to have at least listened to you. It happened to me once when a group member admitted that my idea was probably better than what we had ended up doing. In case of placement GDs, just hang in there and wait for a GD that is more peaceful, then do well in that. Or some companies have a direct interview instead of a GD. Do well there.

2. Free riders go scot free, others don’t

I have no embarrassment in admitting on this public forum that I might have goofed up one project a bit. I did NOT free ride, but my work was not up to the mark. But the group members spewed venom at me for it. However, in another project group that I was a part of, one guy indulged in free riding. When we confronted him, he said he would make it up by buying us all lunch. He was rich enough to do that in quite an expensive cafe. And hey presto! He was forgiven and treated by the group members as if he was the star of the project! If such a thing happens to you, you have two choices: confront your group members and give them a piece of your mind, or you can just ignore it. You did not free ride after all. You learnt something by doing your part of the work, even if it was not up to the mark. FYI, I sat down and did my part once again, this time making sure it was satisfactory.

3. SVNT category

You must have heard of the GEM category right? About how they are the most unlucky candidates during IIM admissions. The worst profile that you could belong to. You might as well kiss your IIM dream goodbye if you are GEM. Well, after joining a b-school, it is not GEM, but it is being in the SVNT category that might challenge you. It stands for ‘South-Indian Vegetarian Non-smoker Teetotaller’. Self-explanatory, isn’t it? If you belong to this category, you stand a very high chance of being branded an outcast by the ubercool drinkers, smokers, hindi-speakers and chicken-eaters. What do you do if you happen to be that unlucky person? Mingle with other SVNT people, or learn to be alone. Remember the true purpose you have come to MBA for. Good placements, knowledge, cool degree whatever those reasons may be. I am equally comfortable being in the company of others, as well as being alone. It helps sometimes. However, I am not judging anybody. I have just mentioned a challenge and the solution to that challenge.

4. Forced free-riding

There are some project teams that force one of the members to be a free rider. Even when that member does not want to free ride and is genuinely interested in contributing to the project. But the other members secretly collaborate and complete the project, then announce that project is over. Meanwhile, the left-out member is waiting in vain for hours to find out what his/her assigned work is, only to realise that the others have already completed the work! That member has lost out on a learning opportunity and the team has lost out on a possibly valuable input that team member could have contributed to making the project better. If you happen to be that unlucky member, then do not fret. Read up about the project topic on your own and get the knowledge.

5. Placement committee

The internet is full of many posts cursing placement committees, but they barely provide suggestions on how to tackle the problem. I would say that the problems mentioned indeed exist. However, if you feel frustrated about this, writing anonymous articles, FB posts and B-Leak confessions will not solve the real problem. The real solution is to summon courage to come out from behind the veil of anonymity and confront the problem head-on. Stand your ground. Make a hue and cry demanding impartiality and transparency in the process. However, that might not be a very good idea if it distracts you from studies. A better solution would be to spread the word so that b-school aspirants are aware of the realities and have time to brace themselves before they join the program.

6. Dream companies only for the lucky few

From what I understand by reading many people’s experiences, where you work does not matter but what work you did matters. So never fret if you got into XYZ company while your peers have got into BCG, JP Morgan or Marico. Instead, work hard and shine at XYZ such that you make a dramatic impact at the workplace. Then apply to your dream company after working for a few years. Many of these dream companies also hire laterals, so you may get an interview shortlist. It is difficult to get a shortlist in campus placements because the sheer number of applicants forces the companies to filter them to a manageable number. How can they do that? The most visible solution is probably 10th, 12th, undergrad marks. I suspect this is where many applicants lose out on shortlists for many companies. But the real shortlist criteria? Maybe only the companies know that, or maybe the companies and placecom know that. I do not know which one is the truth. However, when you apply as lateral, there are chances of having a smaller pool of applicants as compared to campus placements. So in my opinion, shortlist chances are higher.

7. Farcical selection process in clubs and committees

Many students are keen to be a part of various clubs on campus. For this, they have to apply to the clubs of their interest and go through the selection process conducted by the seniors in the form of interviews, GDs etc. But there are flaws in the process. The interviews are farcical, with the seniors telling you that teetotallers cannot succeed in this committee. Sometimes they are deliberately hostile to you and are not even interested in having a proper interview. That hostility is not even a test to check your calmness under pressure. It is outright distaste towards some people. I have seen some questionable selections where I felt the people selected did not have the desired skills for the committee. However, I have also seen some right people getting selected, so it is not completely bad. The point is, do not bother if you are not in any committee. Focus on getting good grades, getting knowledge (especially practical part), trying to get corporate projects and winning case study competitions. They are equally valuable, if not more.

That’s it on the dark side of MBA. Hopefully, I haven’t scared off anyone aspirant! But once again I tell you, it is better for aspirants to know beforehand what they are getting into, rather than getting a sudden jolt. You would anyway have multiple jolts in the form of projects, exams, competitions that you do not need anymore. The key to enjoying your time in the program is to not get bogged down by these problems and look for solutions to tackle them instead. I suspect the same problems exist in any institute, whether an IIM or a non-IIM. Cheers and all the best to aspirants of 2018-20 batch!

Nipunn Vepakomma

I am a student of NMIMS Mumbai batch of 2017-19. I intend to specialise in marketing. My interests other than marketing are lawn tennis, modeling, dramatics and singing. I am also intrigued by the subject of business ethics after studying it during the MBA program.

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