My Interview Experience At IIM Ahmedabad – Nishant Shah’s Story
Branded For Life – How I Became A WIMWian
It has been some 103 days since this happened. The memories, though, remain steadily intact in my mind. The whole encounter lasted for around 12-13 minutes and managed to give me countless sleepless nights for days to come. Only about a month ago, on 13th April, 2016, I finally could enjoy one such night of awakedness.
I never really felt that I would get to share this interview experience, but here I am. This is about how I became a WIMWIan. This is about how I got to realize the true pleasure of witnessing your dream coming true.
30th January, 2016 (A day before the Interview):
This has to be the most anxious day of my career so far. IIMA was going to be my second interview (First was SP Jain, and that infused some confidence) and no matter how much you try to cover all the happenings of your life, you know at the back of your mind that it’s a game of spontaneity, the interview.
Late into the evening, and I was done with the preparation part. After some soul satisfying music and a few good luck calls, I dozed off.
31st January, 2016 (The D-Day):
Venue: KLMDC, Old Campus, IIMA
Time: 8:30 a.m.
Reached the place an hour before the reporting time. Some nervous and random conversations followed and we were all asked to reach a document verification room. Bade good bye to my father who had all the confidence in the world that I would do well.
Panel 4. This panel was going to decide my fate. Whether I could walk through those illustrious corridors and sit on those couches where Raghuram Rajan and Harsha Bhogle would have once sat to contemplate their career options.
Second in my panel. Took my rightful place, wondering why the hell the first in the list hasn’t yet shown up. A lady comes in and calls out Panel 4 people to get ready for the AWT. The first in the list had to go for the interview straightaway after that. I was oblivious to the fact that the first in the list would never show up. The lady, I assume, would have anticipated me to take his place. When this struck me, I hurried to get my things ready. With the lady continuously staring me, I fumbled and couldn’t find my application document for painfully long 20 seconds. And finally when I was ready, that look on her face betrayed her first impressions about me. I just kept calming myself that she wouldn’t be the one taking the interview and I would get away with my carelessness.
Topic: Should Airports in India be named after cities or after the famous personalities.
Duration: 30 minutes
This wasn’t a sort of topic you can’t write a thing about. I had an idea of things that were happening surrounding the issue. Could come up with one example and few logical reasons as to why Airports should be named after cities. However, as I look back, it wasn’t a coherent piece of writing. The conclusion would have seemed abrupt and not a natural extension of all that was written before that. But, I was happy that I could take my stand backed by some arguments.
After this was done, everyone except me could go back for document verification. I stood there outside the room waiting for panellists to come back and call me in. I could see the professor under whom I did an internship at IIMA standing with one of my panellists. How desperately I wished him to replace that lady. But, alas, life is not a wish granting factory and he went into Panel-2. I had some task at my hand now. To invalidate that bad first impression was the priority.
The Personal Interview:
Duration: 12-13 minutes
Two panellists. The same Lady (L) and one Male Professor (P).
They had my application form in front of them, which had my Academic history (Xth, XIIth and Undergrad).
The other significant things in the form were my participation in a Maths Olympiad and the internship at IIMA.
L: So, Nishant, tell me about yourself. Focus more on what you did in Engineering.
Me: (I need to somehow include my hobbies here, or I wouldn’t get a chance afterwards) After a rehearsed introduction where I talk about my family background and accomplishments, I talked about the final year project, Technical internships and introduced my hobby of analysing cricket and reading literature.
L (More interested in Technical things): Explain your final year project in detail, Nishant.
Me: Ma’am, it is a system designed to replace the compressor in the refrigeration cycle. We are working on a Jet ejector system which currently has a low COP and we would try to optimise the design parameters so as to increase the COP to an acceptable level.
L: You are not coming clear. Use this sheet of paper and explain again.
(This is where I screwed up)
(I take a pen and the paper and start writing content in bullet points. Lady stops me in between)
L: If you plan to explain things by writing only, then better speak them out.
(And I realized. The whole purpose of offering me the paper was to have me draw a diagram or something and make it easier for them to understand the flow of process)
(By that time, the paper was already out of my reach. I decided to explain things in the simplest way possible. Luckily, it went well)
L: You did an internship at ONGC. What all did you learn there?
Me: During the course of those 6 weeks, I got an opportunity to see the various machines like the Lathe, Shaper, Planner, actually being operated on large scale processes. I learned the internal parts of a diesel engine and how things are different theoretically and practically. I had an opportunity to visit an oil rig and (Explained them what I had seen there and a bit about the exploration process)
L: Okay. What is the difference between a diesel engine and a petrol engine?
(Trust me; this is the simplest technical question for any Mechanical Engineer)
(Answered more than satisfactorily)
(5 minutes over. Now, the professor decided to get involved. Looked very erudite. Someone who would catch you if you talk shit)
P: You talked about analysing cricket. Analyse Dhoni’s captaincy in India’s 4-1 loss to Australia.
Me: Talked about three things primarily which are 1. Team combination 2. Bowling changes and 3. Field Placements. How the ill combination of all three resulted into India’s drubbing.
(There was some discussion on all three parameters and I guess I could make them believe that I was really passionate about the stated hobby)
P: So, Nishant. You have taken part in some Mathematics Olympiad. You must be good with puzzles. Are you?
Me: Sir, I was dealing with traditional mathematics during that Olympiad and I can be reasonably good with that.
P: Yes, Traditional Mathematics. Mind if I ask you a question on Geometry?
(Yes, sir. I do mind. But, do I have any option here!)
Me: No, sir. You can ask me things on geometry.
P: Al right. Prove that every triangle is an isosceles triangle. (Offers me the same dreaded sheet of paper)
(Completely flabbergasted, what in the world is this?)
Me: Tried different combinations on the paper and tried to manufacture a theory on the spot. (Professor stops me in between)
P: I understand this is a difficult thing to prove. Just give some logic.
Me: Of course, there needs to be some fallacy in the proof somewhere. I cannot think of any logical move right now. (Only good thing was I could maintain an honest countenance throughout. Smiled at times on my mistakes)
P: Okay, leave that. Prove that Zero = one.
(I had seen the solution before somewhere and luckily I could recollect that)
(Proved the equation pretty quickly and highlighted the mathematically incorrect step in the process)
Me: Sir, if you can give me a hint, I would like to go back to the previous question and give it another go.
P: Al right, I would give you one. (Introduced some technical terms and told me to find the proof using them)
[I have studied in Gujarati Medium till 12th and couldn’t place the technical terms in my mind. I really thought I would find a logic somewhere if I could get those words translated in Hindi, if not in Gujarati]
(Told the professor about my study background and requested him to translate the terms. The funny part is, the professor turned out to be a Gujju and translated terms in Gujarati. The horrible part is, I could still not find the proof and was some light-years away from finding a concrete logic)
L: It’s alright, Nishant. You can let it go.
(10 minutes over)
P: Tell me one thing that is going wrong with the Indian Economy.
(The professor taught Economics, which I later found out.)
Me: Plenty of things…(Cut short by the professor)
P: No, I want to know only one thing.
Me: It has to be the lack of Private investment.
(Raghuram Rajan was asked the same question in an interview a week before and he said loopholes in ‘implementation’. I saw that interview. How could I forget that?)
Me: Talked about the four wheels of any Economy: 1. Domestic Consumption 2. Government spending 3. Private Investment and 4. Exports. Explained how domestic consumption and government spending were going all right and exports were down by the virtue of global Economic slowdown. Though we could do better in terms of exports, the primary concern was lack of private investment. Stated various reasons why that was happening (Stalled projects, Unwillingness of banks to pass on rate cuts, etc.).
(While I was explaining, I still can’t remember when I used the word ‘Self-sufficient’. That went bad)
P: What is the difference between Self-sufficient and Self- reliable?
Me: Tried giving a crude sense of words, but I don’t think the professor looked convinced.
(Lady and Professor look at each other and mutually decide to relieve me from the agony and let me go)
L: Okay, Nishant. We’re done. Have a nice day ahead. Thank you.
Me (After a cursory look at the bowl of toffees): Thank you very much Sir, Ma’am. It was pleasure meeting you.
And that was it. No toffees. I was first to come out of an interview room that day at IIMA. Had to wait to see whether everyone else was offered the toffee or not. (Oh, the restless me). Turned out my panel loved toffees so much that they decided to eat them by themselves.
(Fast forward 72 days and some sleepless nights)
Around 3 p.m., 13th April, 2016:
Decided to bunk the 2 o’clock class. The 3 o’clock class, however, was one of those rare interesting classes in the final year. Some 10 minutes into the class, and my phone starts buzzing. I ignored it once, but the same guy kept on calling me. Bangalore results had come in a surprising fashion and I expected nothing less from A. Turned my internet connection on and found my WhatsApp flooding with messages that ‘A is out’. Gosh. Believe me when I say that I must have skipped a heartbeat there. Opened the IIMA website, hands still trembling. I had some realistic hope only because I converted B with similar sort of interview experience. The portal opened. Thanks to the bloody Auto-fill, I was left with only pressing ‘Go’ button. (My hands start trembling again as I write this).
And then it flashed:
“Congratulations! You have been selected for admission to PGP (2016-2018 batch), IIMA. Please indicate your acceptance/non-acceptance of our offer by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Couldn’t believe. Passed my phone to a friend sitting next and asked her to confirm. She did, and I ran out of an ongoing class. Ran through the corridor. Sat on the floor. Called my parents. Don’t know why I couldn’t cry. I was so prepared to.
P.S. On request of some curious souls like the one commenting below:
WIMWI- Well Known Institute of Management in Western India
AWT- Academic Writing test
About the author:
This is Nishant Shah from Ahmedabad. I completed my B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from NIT, Surat. I would be joining IIM Ahmedabad in June for a Post Graduate Programme in Management. I have interned at ONGC and Inductotherm, and dabbled in Financial Markets at Sharekhan. I have spent two months at IIM Ahmedabad under Prof. Vijaya Sherry Chand, working for the Education Innovations Bank. I am passionate about analysing Cricket and find solace in reading literature. You can find me at financefink.
Click here to read Nishant’s first interview experience at S.P. Jain, Mumbai.