Feroz Baker was scared of getting into an IIT. He’d realised that IIT meant losing the “most intelligent,” “topper,” labels and competing with some of the best students in the country. But when it came to picking an engineering college of his choice, this (currently IIM C) student decided to let go of the comfortable and safe option of IIST and chose IIT Madras - a place where he would certainly not be the top dog. This attitude of competing with one's' betters and becoming better yourself is what landed Feroz a place on InsideIIM’s Best 30 - one of the most employable graduates from the class of 2021. Check out Feroz’s full story here!
The following is Feroz Baker’s set of responses to a questionnaire floated amongst MBA graduates to determine the top-30 most employable MBA graduates of the Class of 2021. Amongst the massive number of entries and responses being evaluated by the Founders of InsideIIM-Kampus Konversations, Feroz’s story and profile stood out. Here's his own story in his own words.
“I am Feroz Baker, a Malayali from Trivandrum. My hobbies and interests vary widely from time to time, but right now I am trying to lose the lockdown fat that I have accumulated. I also play the guitar and read constantly (finished 100+ books this year). I am driven by a need to be better than me the day before. I realised long ago that this is the only one life that matters and we should make the most use of it when we are on this Earth. I am not so active on social media but you can probably find me at the local gym. I had a small stint as a standup comedian (3 public shows) but had to drop off later on due to academic pressure. I am currently exploring my creative side by trying to involve more in drama and art projects at IIM C.”
Name an instance where you wanted something and went out of your comfort zone to achieve it OR Tell us the biggest risk you have taken so far in your life.
"I am, essentially, not what you call a “risk taker.” I haven’t had many opportunities where I would go out of my way to take the riskier option because I often saw the risk adjusted, expected returns of these to be lower than the safer option. But one instance where I was to choose between a safe path and a difficult albeit exciting path, I chose the latter. Let me elaborate:
After my 12th exams, I had a choice between going for Aerospace Engineering in 2 institutes – IIT Madras, and IIST. IIST was the safer option. 4 years of average level academics where I could prepare for Civil Services while still having a secure job option at ISRO (students from IIST got direct recruitment to ISRO). IIST was the option that I had prepared for in my 2 years of JEE coaching.
I didn’t want to go to an IIT. I told people it was because IIT was just a flashy title but in reality, I was scared of joining an institute where I would not naturally be the top dog. I realised that at IIT I was barely average and this frightened me. But then, I started watching interviews of past IITians focussing on the importance of a challenging and capable peer group. I understood then that, to grow as an individual and a leader in this world, I would need to compete with the best. I should strive to beat those who are better than me instead of cowering and taking the safe option. I chose IIT Madras and to this day I believe it has been one of my most responsible and influential choices. And it is one thing that I am most proud of."
When was the last time someone relied on you? OR What did you do which was purely for someone else - a truly selfless act.
"In my third year of undergrad, I had made it to the quarter-finals of the badminton try-outs. This was the try-outs to go for the Inter-IIT Sports meet and only the semi-finalists would be permitted to attend the meet. In the quarter final match, I was playing against a final year student. This was his last chance to go for the Inter-IIT fest and he had not been able to go the last 2 times. And he seriously wanted to go for this. I had overheard him talking to his friends about how he always loses his chance at the quarter-finals.
When the match started, I realised that I could beat him because he was always getting tricked by my flick shots. He definitely didn’t have a counter for this and kept losing points. But thinking back on the conversation I had overheard, I decided that he should get a chance to go because this is his last opportunity. I still had another year. And so, I stopped using flick shots and gave him a fair battle. In the end he beat me and moved on to the semis. I didn’t tell him what I did and I consider it a truly selfless act."
Tell us about a time when you disagreed with an opinion/idea/decision. What did you do about it?
"In my last year of undergrad, my friends and I decided to launch a department blog for getting more students interested in Aerospace Engineering in general. We were a group of 4 final year students who were totally crazy for anything related to aircrafts and drones. We also had quite a lot of experience in solving business cases and so had a good idea of how to manage content to have a large following. I envisioned high quality long posts with premium images and rich content based on highly scientific papers. The others were of the opinion that it should be a down to earth blog with pictures taken by us or our friends and with a level of sophistication that was light enough for a college educated reader to understand. I felt like this was a huge mistake and saw nothing but shortcomings in their plan of action. But since I was just 1 against the 3 of them, we voted to follow the majority decision. For each article that came out, I saw nothing but missed opportunities for creating something better. This made the whole process bitter. I did not enjoy working with the team anymore.
I then chanced upon a writing in the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It taught me the benefits of having different perspectives. My outlook on our decision flipped. I began to see the advantages of having a wider audience, especially in the beginning of a blog. I apologised to the others for not contributing to the magazine much despite (begrudgingly) agreeing to the decision. I should have taken a check on my personal biases. This situation taught me the importance of stepping out of my own shoes and evaluating a decision from an unbiased perspective. These days I try to give anyone the benefit of doubt no matter how absurd or convoluted their idea might seem in the beginning."
What is the one thing you can claim to have some level of expertise or depth of knowledge in - it could be anything - a subject, a sport, a hobby, a venture, an initiative which has led you to do deep work in that field?
"Graphology. This is the “science” of personality analysis based on a person’s handwriting. I came to know of this for the first time from a scene in the movie Sherlock Holmes: A game of Shadows, where Sherlock, played by RDJ, meets and predicts Moriarity’s traits from a sample of his handwriting. This blew my mind away. I was aware of body language revealing a person’s current mood or psyche but not that something as dynamic as handwriting had common elements across time where a person revealed their deepest selves.
When I searched further on this I came to know of the various styles and schools of thought within graphology. I started consuming all types of content regarding this. In the beginning I was hoping to use this to show off to my friends in class, like all high schoolers tried to. In fact, I still do it to surprise my batchmates at IIM C. But now after scouring through nearly all free content online on graphology, I have come to realise a deep level of respect for the art. The art of predictive behaviour. This has come a long way in influencing my decision to enter the field of marketing, specifically that of consumer behaviour."
If 10 Million Dollars (approximately INR 75 Crores) is given to you to use it any way you deem fit what would you do with this corpus?
"My knee jerk reaction would be to invest in my own start-up idea. But I don’t believe I have the experience necessary to start right now. Therefore, I would like to keep it aside for the future, when I have had some experience working within the marketing industry. Till then I will invest this money in the stock market in medium term safe assets. I would also make sure to keep a portion of it aside for charity (within the norms of Islamic law – 2% of savings to charity). I don’t have as much of an appetite for travelling or trying out luxurious items as most of my colleagues. So, I will not be spending this money wantonly on those."
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