Dr. Shubhra Chakraborty, Marketing Manager at Philips, a Personal Branding Expert, a Linkedin Influencer, Founder and CEO of Poshan and a Keynote speaker at India’s top B-schools, has enjoyed the rare of the feat being National Winner of over 22 business competitions. An alumna of SCMHRD, Dr.Shubhra began her journey as a Physician Doctor and went on to become the National Winner of coveted competitions like Reliance- The Ultimate Pitch, “Entrepreneur of the Year” by IIM Ahmedabad, Red Bricks by IIM Ahmedabad and many more. We talked to her about her journey and this is what she has to say!
Why did you decide to do an MBA after an MBBS? How was it being the only doctor in the batch?
I have been very fortunate that my under graduation was in MBBS. I come from a medical family. My father is a Consultant nephrologist and my mother is a dermatologist. So, I followed into their footsteps and I really cherished my time as a doctor. While working as a doctor, I realized that I have a very good knack for marketing and branding. I also consulted with a couple of startups and I ran marketing campaigns for a lot of initiatives as well. Those campaigns gave a hugely positive result. I had also worked as a consultant with a couple of companies earlier. So, that piqued my interest in the world of business- marketing and branding. That is why after working for a while I decided to go for an MBA in marketing.
I had a wonderful experience in SCHMRD. I got a lot of support from my batchmates. Everyone was there to lend support whenever it was needed. I am really thankful to my engineer friends because of whom I was able to understand some technical subjects. It was difficult for me initially as I came from a very different background. I had to learn about the technical aspects of the business as well along with learning about finance and operations. However, doctors are quick learners and I got a lot of support from my friends and batchmates and will always be grateful to them for all the contributions in my journey!
What was your “secret recipe” behind winning all these competitions?
Honestly, there wasn’t any secret recipe. The one thing that set me apart from others was that I had done a lot of live projects beforehand. When we enter an MBA, we learn a lot of concepts but lack in practical experience.
Business competitions are nothing but actual business cases. Some of them are actually implementable in the real world. I had started my journey of live projects with CEI (Confederation of Empowerment Inititatives) and got firsthand experience in executing projects in the fields of marketing, branding, operations and strategy. So, I got a lot of experience as to how to execute a project. That experience really helped me crack these competitions.
Apart from that, I was extremely focused on winning the competitions. From the very start of my MBA, I had clarity about my goals and how I wanted to approach my MBA. My work experience and internships with CEI gave me clarity about the milestones I wanted to achieve and my focus never strayed from that.
Also, I had wonderful team-mates and without them, none of these would have been possible. I had a great team as they complemented all the areas I lacked in. My blind spots were very well covered by my team-mates.
How did you decide on how to form a team? Did you have a kind of fixed team or did you experiment with different teams across the competitions?
Initially, it was very difficult for me to figure out the “perfect formula” for making a team. I tried a couple of teams to see what would be a good combination of strengths. I always tried to have a well-balanced team covering all the domains like finance, analytics etc.
I will advise everyone to choose their team very carefully- choose the best person for the job. Don’t form a team with someone just because you are comfortable with them or that they are in your committee. Everyone should try out with different teams. Once, you feel you have found the perfect mix, you can settle down with that team. However, do make sure that you have people from different specializations on your team as that adds a lot of value.
Which competitions were most memorable for you? Why?
I cannot list down all those memories I formed with my team-mates. We travelled the whole country and had so many adventures. However, 2 competitions are very close to my heart.
One was being the national winners of Reliance- The Ultimate Pitch. We got to present in front of Mr. Mukesh Ambani himself and that is a memory we will always cherish. It was a long and arduous journey, and we were like the underdogs who actually went on to win the competition.
The 2nd memory is being the national winner of Red Bricks at IIM Ahmedabad. The Question and Answer round there was very hard and went on for 45 minutes and we had judges from KPMG. Then actually winning the competition is a cherished memory for me.
What do you think is more important- focusing on the curriculum or on competitions? How can one balance them?
You can’t do “either-or”. You have to take both of them with you as you get different learnings. If you don’t understand the curriculum, how will you know which principles to apply to a case study. I gave equal importance to both of them but I was a little more inclined towards competitions as I wanted to learn practicality of those concepts. I came from a very different background and I wanted to learn-how to analyze, how to structure and how to implement business solutions.
Do not ignore your curriculum though as your GPA is also important. Companies do put a cutoff on GPA when they come for placements. Smart work is the key to balancing them. You should be clear in your goals as there will be a lot of things wanting your time. You should be able to prioritize as to what you want to gain from your MBA. Analyze what will help you become a better manager, an entrepreneur, a marketer or whatever you want to be. Doing live projects and internships help you learn this art of prioritizing.
Also, I am a deeply spiritual person and Spiritual saadhna and Meditation have been a source of my strength since my childhood. I focused on empowering myself not to enjoy materialistic benefits myself but to empower others. That changes your motivation altogether and when you think of empowering others, you are able to put 300% efforts in completing the same task by becoming Fearless, Egoless and Selfless.
What, according to you, is the importance of corporate competitions in an MBA grad’s life?
First of all, winning corporate competitions gives you a safety net in the form of a PPI and helps you in final placements.
They are a great way to learn practical skills and how are solutions implemented. I would suggest everyone to compete as much as you can. Every competition will teach you something new.
It also helps in developing a vast network across different b-schools. As you visit different colleges, you form contacts everywhere which helps you in your career a lot.
Some say that winning a competition is more about how your presentation looks rather than the content on those slides. What is your opinion about that?
I feel content is more important. It’s obviously fantastic if you have both. That is why it is important to form a well- balanced team so that you can have both but it’s content that will actually make you the winner. You might be able to advance to further rounds if your PPT is very attractive but that alone will not make you the winner. Your content has to be top-notch.
What advice would you like to give to incoming students for their journey in the b-school?
I would advise them to take as many live projects as you can. Do as many internships as you can and gain that practical experience. Start taking up projects even if you are not sure of getting into that domain. It will give you more clarity about that domain.
Do not state the obvious (GAS- globally accepted shit in MBA terminology) in PPTs. That will work in class assignments but not in competitions or your internship reviews.
Do not waste your time in an MBA. Make the most out of these 2 years.
Do not be afraid of failure. When you put a lot of brilliant minds together, the competition becomes very tough and you have to learn to take failure in your stride and never to back- down. Learn to handle failure and criticism and move ahead.
All the best!