‘Difficult Roads Often Lead To Beautiful Destinations’ – Surabhi Sharma – Best50 – Class Of 2017

“Imagine your life as a river that stays on its course despite encountering several obstacles and challenges, and continues until the ocean is reached.”

This belief inculcated in me by my parents has been a guiding principle of my life and has played a pivotal role in my journey so far.

My early academic years were spent imbibing the virtues of patience, discipline and humility. Being a consistent academic achiever, I topped my school in class 10th. This was my first big achievement which made me realise the true meaning of the quote that my class teacher had written in my class IX report card “success comes to those who persevere” and I went on to top Gurgaon in Class 12th examination. While acing at studies, I maintained a balance through extra- curricular activities. I was the deputy head girl of my school and had an inclination towards sports, pursuing which, I won the district level badminton championship at the junior level.

It is rightly said “big results require big ambitions” and certainly my desire to join my dream institution, Shri Ram College of Commerce deserved all the hard work. Following my interest in economics and commerce, I pursued my graduation in Economics. SRCC opened a wide range of opportunities to help me become an all-round performer and I was awarded with the Mitsubishi UFJ Scholarship in my batch. In the second year, I got my first exposure to the corporate world when I won the national level competition called ‘Budget Ace’ organised by Financial Express and got an opportunity to intern with EY.

After graduation, I worked as a consultant in EXL Service for 13 months wherein I worked in teams to provide risk advisory, accounting and financial reporting assistance through Sarbanes Oxley requirements to clients in US and Japan.

My desire to complete my education and enter into academics again to understand the nuances at the job better led me to a few months of introspection, when after matching my strengths and weaknesses; I decided to take a shot at CAT. However, my mini-experiment landed me into IIM Indore and I emerged as one of the top 20 participants at the time of admission. I was the National Finalist in the coveted ABG Scholarship. After interning with Deloitte S&O, I was awarded a Pre-Placement Offer for my contribution to the projects and teams during the stint. One of the substantial parts of my experience at IIM Indore has been the responsibility shouldered as a part of the Placement Committee wherein we worked to place a 2-year batch of over 1000 participants. I am currently in the Zonal Finals of the RBI Policy Challenge, representing team IIM Indore. Also, recently, I have started working with an organisation called ‘MentorYes’- a platform to connect mentors with students to help them resolve their queries, in the capacity of a mentor.

As I stand at the threshold of another milestone in my life and prepare to enter the professional world, I look back and realize how optimism, adaptability, constant endeavor to stretch my boundaries and willingness to take that leap of faith to go beyond my comfort zone taught me the strength of focus and determination which my parents summarized in that singe sentence.

 

What is the biggest risk that you have taken so far and why?

One of the risks that I took as a student was when I chose ‘Commerce’ as my area of study after class 10th board. Having been an excellent student my whole life, it was expected by my seniors, teachers and parents that I would follow the path that most of my friends chose- the ‘Science’ stream. However, I pondered over the suggestion of my elders and discussed it at length to make a well-informed decision. After considering my interest, I decided to go for ‘Commerce’. This was a risk for me as I had taken this decision in spite of being suggested otherwise by elders. I knew that there was no going back and it will lay an entirely different career path for me. When I look back, I consider this risk as the best decision of my life as I enjoyed my academics more than ever and went on to obtain rank 1 in Gurgaon in Class 12th Board examination. Further, I think that the clarity that I had during class 10th helped me realise my inclination towards business management. Considering that I am pursuing MBA from one of the top Management schools in India and have been awarded a Pre-Placement Offer by Deloitte S&O Consulting, I don’t think I could have taken a better decision.

 

If you had a magic wand, what is the one problem in India that you would magically wish away? Explain why.

If I had a magic wand, I would want to do away with the intolerance that exists in our society. Being a secular and democratic country, our country deserves much better than fighting over issues that infuse the feeling of animosity against our own fellow citizens. I remember the fondness with which we recited the National Pledge in school “India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters…”, what aches to see is the intolerance and disrespect we have for the same brothers and sisters. There exists intolerance for different race, caste, gender and what not. It is disheartening to see when we question the nationality of people from North-East or when we stand against our countrymen because they are of different religion or when we stereotype women. If this wasn’t enough, there is intolerance over the choice of food, moral policing or sexual orientation, to name a few. We have our own conventions which discourages us from accepting the changing norms of the ever changing world. It is our failure, as citizens, in discouraging this intolerance that leads to ever increasing crime rate in our country so much so that we are ready to slaughter people, if need be.

 

How would you explain the “The Credit Crisis of 2008” to a 12-year-old?

2008 witnessed an event that shook the economies (countries) across the world and is an example of how closely interwoven these seemingly distant economies actually are, especially when we talk about the financial world. Like all catastrophes, the foundation of this crisis was laid way back in past and the build-up of mistakes led to the collapse of the financial system in 2008. US Government, like all governments, thought of people’s welfare and passed laws to make it easier for poor people to acquire loans to buy homes by providing a guarantee to return the loan amount by keeping those very homes as ‘collateral’. Considering that the risk involved in this was very high because it is probable that people with uncertain income might not be able to repay the interest (cost of borrowing) and the principal amount. Hence, they were given the name of ‘subprime’ loans. Since these loans were on an implicit guarantee by US Federal Government, the risk of losing money was reduced substantially. Hence, banks came up with an idea to generate financial instruments out of these loans and trade them in the market and hence, bundled the loans. Therefore, it was a kind of financial engineering and accumulation of high-risk securities in the US which ultimately led to the collapse of the system due to increase in interest rates. When rates increase, the cost that borrower pays increases and since loans were given to poor, low-income group people, they started defaulting, that is, did not pay for loans on time. However, some of the credit also needs to be given to the financial institutions which did not do a thorough due diligence in the hope of earning higher and higher profits. Proper training was not given to the employees who only chased their sales target for loans. When defaults increased, house prices fell and insurance companies also collapsed. Hence, this timeline of events led to a collapse that shook the world as the stock markets crashed.

Simply, let’s understand this by an example- let us assume that price of a candy is INR 10 and it increases 2 rupees every month steadily. Now, a kid thought of making money by buying candies today and selling later and hence getting profit out of it- brilliant idea!! Seeing this, other kids also started doing the same practice but the problem is that they do not have cash with them (Oops!)

For cash, they approach a bank. Bank wants 4 rupees monthly as interest (cost of borrowing money) for every 10 rupees lent and needs some candies as guarantee (obviously, what if you run away with bank’s money). But the bank is a bit greedy and in order to lure more kids to get loans, it reduces the interest rate to 1 rupee per month for every 10 rupees (kids are super happy!).

Now, suddenly the banks increased the interest and price of candies stopped rising and hence, kids are unable to pay back the loan. Moreover, the price of candies by that time is so high that no one wants to buy them. In this situation, kids are unable to return the bank’s money and the bank wants to get back their money by selling the candies that were kept as a guarantee. But no one wants to buy them due to its high price. In this situation, the bank is out of cash crashes. Now kids who have their money in the bank, start panicking and run to the bank to withdraw their money. The panic spreads to the whole US economy and then the world.

2008 crisis happened similar to the above hypothesis except there were houses instead of candies and the whole banking industry collapsed which had an impact on the whole world.

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