The Most Comprehensive IIM Interview Experience – Ganesh Mahidhar, IIM Ahmedabad
Transcript of the actual interview.
Date and time: 03 March 2018, 08:15am
Location: Taj Krishna Hotel, Hyderabad
X-10CGPA, XII-95.3, B.Tech, Mechanical Engineering (Hons), IIT Hyderabad- 86.2%
AWT: The Kannada Development Authority recently protested against the conducting of a Staff Selection Commission recruitment exam in Karnataka and Kerala to fill the posts of clerks, assistants and data entry operators as the exam was conducted only in English and Hindi. The KDA felt that it would put the local aspirants at a disadvantage as they wouldn’t be able to attempt it in their mother tongue. SSC countered by saying that the jobs being central government based, would be subject to transfer to other states, where they would be at a disadvantage. The conducting of a language test before moving to other states is not feasible. Hence candidates should know Hindi to attempt the test.
Q. What is the claim?
Q. What is the reasoning provided?
Q. Is the reasoning strong or weak? Why?
I did a good job of it, by analyzing the argument and finding the fault that aspirants from Hindi states would face the same problems when they come to non-Hindi speaking states, while retaining the advantage in the exam. Hence, it is a weak support.
There were seven panels and around 6-7 people per panel. I was the first in my panel. The panel seemed to consist of one alumnus and one professor by their ages. Let the professor be P and the alumnus be A. My answers shall be represented with the letter G.
The alumnus came out and asked me to enter after closing the door behind me. P was reading my AWT as I came inside. They asked me to take a seat and the interview started.
You can watch the re-enactment of the following video here –
P: So you work at BPCL. Where do you work?
G: Yes sir, I work at the Kochi Refinery of BPCL in the maintenance department.
P: So what units do you take care of? What kind of equipment do you handle?
G: ( At this point, I understood that P had more than a passing idea about how maintenance works and that I would have to weigh my words before I spoke them.)
Sir. We have an area concept and I work in area 1. As a part of the area, we have the second largest crude unit, the fluidized catalytic cracking unit and an isomerization unit. I am in charge of rotating equipment along with 15 technicians who work in the field to solve problems in any rotating equipment.
P: So what do these rotating equipment generally consist of?
G: For the most part, these equipment consist of pumps. There are also turbines and compressors. So yes, pumps, turbines and compressors.
P: So Ganesh, is BPCL a profitable company?
G: (smiling) Yes, sir.
P: Lots of profits, eh? So which of the Public Sector Oil companies have the best profits?
G: That would be IOCL sir. Indian Oil.
P: Oh. And why is that so?
G: It is majorly due to their vast distribution network sir. They own close to 46% of all the retail outlets in India.
P: Oh. Is that so? So tell me, there seems to be awfully little to do in this industry. The prices are fixed by the government. Are they fixed by the government?
G: They used to be fixed by the government sir, but now they are free to fix their pricing on a daily basis based on their costs and the current market petrol and Diesel rate. Each of the companies is allowed to place their own rates.
P: So is there a price war between these companies?
G: No sir. For the most part, all of these work together. The difference in pricing is less than 1 rupee per liter.
P: So is there a committee that determines the price of petrol?
G: Sir, there is a committee that determines the targets for each of the three companies each month. They also determine the price range. (Blunder. The price is determined by each company’s costs, as I’ve read. I have no clue if the professor knew what the right answer was. I was confident in saying this though.)
P: Oh. So are there any private competitors in this market?
G: yes sir. The major competitor is Reliance. There is also Essar and Shell. Shell does not have a great presence in India, but it does exist.
P: So how do they price their products?
G: Sir, their products are a little higher than the market price. They price it around 2 rupees higher than the other three companies.
P: Why do people still buy at their centres then?
G: Sir, the kind of service that they provide at their retail outlets is better than the service that you would receive at the government outlets. They have lady DSMs, a more service-oriented experience to give a premium feel.
P: Don’t you think you can implement the same in government companies.
G: Sir, initiatives such as Pure for Sure are present in government companies like BPCL. For instance, BPCL has a 20 point checklist including cleanliness, service to customers, ensuring zero before filling, etc. But since these employees are majorly employees on contract, the service does not mostly carry on to the customers.
P: So you are a mechanical engineer. What is honors?
G: The honors program at IIT Hyderabad involves two M.Tech level courses in the fifth and sixth semester and a project in the seventh and eighth semester, which is usually a research project.
A: So your publication is from that?
G: No sir. It is from an earlier work I did in my second-year summer and through my third year.
A: So what was that about?
G: There is this material called GFRP- Glass Fiber Reinforced Plastic with high strength by weight ratio. These panels are generally used in aircraft wings and ship hulls. We were trying to determine the effect of stiffening on these panels and their compressive strength.
P: Okay, coming back, you’re a mechanical engineer. So I always had a doubt. How did these steam engines work?
G: Sir, I’m not exactly aware, but I’d guess that they worked with the help of a piston arrangement in a chamber. The fluid, in this case steam, expands and there is a reciprocating motion that is generated in the engine.
P: Okay. So how is this used to drive wheels, to convert reciprocating motion to rotating motion?
G: Sir, using a crank arrangement.
P: Okay. So now tell me, how does a turbine work? Does it also have a reciprocating motion?
G: Sir, in the case of a Gas Turbine, there is an arrangement with multiple cylinders, where the combustion takes place.
P: But in the case of a steam engine, you don’t need all that right?
G: Yes sir, in a steam engine, we wouldn’t require a cylinder arrangement. The energy of the steam is directly transferred to kinetic energy.
P: So why use all this crank arrangement? Why not use a turbine to run a steam engine directly?
G: Sir, turbines are high-speed machines that provide high thrust. It requires a huge amount of steam energy to make a turbine rotate at such high speed. Hence, they are primarily used for applications where high thrust or high speed is required.
P: High thrust? But all these are used to produce power in power plants. Why do they require high thrust there?
G: Sir, I was referring to the example of Jet Engines. There the exhaust gases propel the flight forward providing thrust. But in general, it is used for high-speed applications where the rotor is required to rotate at a high rpm.
P: Okay. But high speed is good, right. We get faster trains. Tell me finally, can we use a turbine or not?
G: Yes sir, technically, we can, but our infrastructure does not support such high speed.
P: Okay. So if I were to give you a function f(x), assume it is continuous differentiable and all that and I ask you to find the length of the curve, how would you do it? You can use paper.
G: (I’ve never ever been able to solve any math question in any interview before, and froze for a moment. Then I decided I had to think aloud and try to get at least an approach.) *Drawing a random shape* So, first I’ll divide the curve into small pieces. Now, to find the length of each of these small pieces, let’s say this is x1 and that is x2 *pointing at two points* – oh. So that would be whole root(dx^2+dy^2). Then by integrating this-
P: Correct. *Looks at A*
A: So what do you do in your free time?
G: (Finally!) So ever since I was a child, I have been an avid reader. I have majorly read fiction over the years, but I’ve tried to move to non-fiction recently.
A: So you’re majorly an indoors person?
G: Not really sir. I do go out to the occasional movie every week or so and enjoy spending time with my friends. But if I have nothing to do, reading is my go to hobby.
A: Oh. So what is the latest movie you’ve watched?
G: (At the pain of being honest, I sounded the most stupid I’ve ever sounded in my life.) Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety.
A: So you watch a lot of Hindi movies?
G: Not really sir. It was the preference of the person who was going with me.
A: So what were the books you recently read?
G: I completed reading the Origin by Dan Brown yesterday. I am also reading Jane Eyre simultaneously. I also completed my annual rereading of Harry Potter.
A: Annual rereading? You read all the books?
G: Yes sir. All seven books.
A: So how long have you been doing this?
G: Ever since I was 13 or 12 years old.
A: Do you still have to read the books? Or do you have it all in your memory?
G: Not really, sir. I still do have to read it.
A: Who’s your favourite character from Harry Potter?
G: Luna Lovegood, sir.
A: And why is that so?
G: Because first of all, she was an interesting and a very independent person. Irrespective of what people thought about her, she never backed down. People humiliated her, and yet she spoke her mind. That shows her strength of character. She also valued her friends a lot. This can be seen by her room decorations.
A: So what do you want to do after MBA?
G: when I was at IIT Hyderabad, I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. I founded the literary society at IIT Hyderabad, was also involved in the Entrepreneurship Cell at IIT Hyderabad. So I think I gained an inclination to brainstorm for solutions. That, combined with the knowledge I gained as a part of the oil and gas industry, makes me want to get to a role where I can brainstorm for solutions to large scale problems. Maybe in the oil and gas industry, but I would be open to options, based on the exposure that I gain in an MBA.
A: So you’re sure you will do an MBA this year?
G: I would definitely do an MBA if I get it this year. If not, it would probably be postponed, but doing an MBA is definitely on the charts sir.
P: So this Entrepreneurship cell, is it connected to the T Hub?
G: We have had people coming from the T Hub and the Indus Entrepreneurs regularly, but we didn’t have an official relation.
P: But IIITH does?
G: Yes sir. T Hub is practically located in IIITH
A: So what other calls do you have?
G: B, C and K, sir.
A: So what would you choose between A, B and C?
G: Ahmedabad sir.
A: Why so?
G: Because of the reputation that it enjoys in India and the rich history that it has. Bangalore would be nearer home but Ahmedabad, with all its merits would be my first choice.
A: ISB would be the closest home. Why not ISB?
G: I believe that the opportunity to learn would be much higher over a two year period as opposed to a one year course. I also haven’t given my GMAT.
P: Okay Ganesh. Thank you for attending our interview process. All the best. Take a candy.
G: Thank you, sir.
The interview was pleasant enough. I had no idea of the mistake I made until after I left the interview.