Today, we have with us Ravish Chhabra, a recent MBA graduate from SIBM Bengaluru, where he was the Joint Coordinator of the Placement Committee. He has also won various national level competitions across B-Schools in India. He is a sports enthusiast, a footloose traveler, and extremely zealous about health & nutrition.
He has a rich experience of working with organizations like ITC Limited, Tupperware, Korn Ferry, Titan Company Ltd, OYO, and TCS which has helped him gain valuable insights into different functions and industries.
In this interview, Ravish discusses how he prepared for his summer internship and ultimately cracked a PPO at an FMCG giant and stories beyond. Let’s begin our conversation:
When did you decide you wanted to pursue an MBA?
Post completing schooling from an army school, I pursued BBA so that I could assist my father in his business, but one particular day I realized I wanted to live a life of real significance one that really made the difference, hence I decided to move on, (If not now, then when?) made me take the role of Subject matter expert at TCS. However, after some time I felt this is not something I see myself doing decades later, I soon started preparing for entrance exams alongside TCS. After converting SIBM Bengaluru, I never felt in the dilemma of dropping a year, I always believed it’s all about the drive, ambition, and your curiosity to learn, grow and move ahead with the best foot forward. In hindsight, all I can say it was the best decision ever
SIBM Bengaluru is a much sought after B-school. How would you describe your MBA experience at SIBM?
Honestly, the day I joined SIBM, I was very grateful to be around people who had star-studded profiles, while many of them were merit scholars during their graduation, I realized if I take an inch, they take a yard, hence I tried being a part of every possible event and competition that took place on campus, knowing that these 2 years will be the time I’ll be adding something to my profile, after that it is just adding the months of experience. From winning various competitions to writing research papers, from being a Placecom member to handling a Placecom team, from being a member of the Student leadership council and the marketing club to pursuing projects with some top MNCs, from volunteering to being a part of organizing teams of various cultural and management events at the campus. With so much to do and such little time at hand, these 2 years turned out to be the most exciting and enriching tenure of my life.
Summer internships are an integral part of the B-school journey. How was your summer internship selection process like at ITC?
The process comprised a total of 6 rounds. First, there was a CV based shortlist, after that the shortlisted candidates were asked to appear for an aptitude test. Almost half of the applicants got eliminated in this round. The candidates who cleared the Aptitude test were called for a Psychometric test followed by a group discussion. The Group discussion topic was related to industry-specific.
Then, there were 2 rounds of interviews after the group discussion ended. The Interview revolved around my CV and some situational based questions. I vividly remember one of the panelists asked me, ‘Since you do not smoke, why do you want to join ITC’ my answer which apparently impressed the interviewer. All in all, it all boils down whether they believe in your story or not!
Tell us about your experience and your day to day work as a Sales and Marketing intern.
The much-awaited internship started with the orientation process followed by a meeting with the project guide about the project scope and the timeline for achieving the objectives. Soon after I was asked to hit the pavement and meet face to face with different stakeholders of ITC to understand the sales and Distribution channel of different categories.
Now, Sales is one field wherein you have to have your A-game every day. So, a day started at 9 A.M. at the distributors' point from where I started conducting in-depth interviews with the distributors, retailers and the consumers and by the time I used to reach the office by 6 pm, my project guide and all the managers used to leave and hence it was not an easy task to engage with the project guide and get comprehensive feedback. Hence, we settled on the daily EOD project progress updates until the end of the Internship. For almost 2 months, I was always the last one to leave the office working on the project along with some college deliverables.
Midway during the Internship, I had a review with the Project guide wherein I presented the competitive landscape with the market share & potential, along with channel mapping, thereafter I was asked to make a scalable model which could be run during the pilot test. Towards the latter half of my Internship, I spent most of my time analyzing the results of the pilot test conducted.
Summing it up, those 8 weeks were like no other, every day there was a new challenge which will remain an unforgettable experience for me!
What are some of the challenges that you faced while working on your project and how did you tackle them?
Since my manager was not in the office, by the time I reached the office, it was very difficult to get feedback and work with full dedication when no one was there to see you put effort into the project. Hence, I decided to send the observations and challenges by EOD every day and a short email highlighting progress on the project by week’s end. I learned that when you regularly communicate with another person, you reach a new level of understanding that almost runs by nuance.
After the first week ended, I realized the reality is entirely different from what is taught in the classrooms. FMCG Sales may look glamorous, but the reality is entirely different when you actually visit the market, 9 out of 10 times you will face rejections and yet the next day you will have to start with a Creased shirt, crumpled thoughts, wrinkled memories, and an ironed out smile.
What are the top 3 things that helped you during the internship to bag the coveted PPO?
While conducting the primary research on institutional buyers during the initial weeks, I realized closing a deal usually takes time and hence the small talk with the buyers was very important, and eventually, it not only helped me get the sale during the pilot test, but also the referral. Hence, never go for the sale, always go for the referral.
You may come up with the best possible solution to a given problem but if your suggestions are not scalable and do not have a business impact in terms of revenue, it simply won’t fetch you a PPO, so I worked long, hard and smart during my pilot test to show results in my final presentation.
Lastly, you need butt power, do not stand until the work is done, what you do Friday after 5 pm and before Monday 7 am matters the most. Nothing gets unnoticed. Eventually, all the hard culminated into a PPO.
You seem to have excelled in B-School competitions as well. How did you navigate through them?
The very first thing is making up your mind to participate, once you get past that, it’s easy. I remember once I got placed at the beginning of the placement season, I started participating at competitions held at my campus for the thrill of it, soon after winning at my campus, I decided to participate at other B-schools, I realized competitions offers an amazing chance to learn from your teammates but also to meet and interact with student teams from around the top management institutes going through the same experience. Along with networking it also gives you a genuine taste of real-life problems faced by the companies.
What are the other activities that you have pursued at college? Briefly walk us through them and how they have shaped you.
In the 1st year, I had an approach to apply to everything under the sun and then working on the details later, like being a part of every event or competition happening on campus or outside, but later I realized I have to forego some activities in order to pursue an activity with high returns. Hence with time, I got more selective. I was better able to prioritize things that will help shape my career. For example, Live projects in different Industries gave me a lot of perspective in terms of how to apply classroom learning in a real-life environment compared to doing courses.
Also, being a part of the Placements team, I got an opportunity to interact on a daily basis with senior leaders of the industry like Business heads, CXOs which taught me to be prepared for rejections and also led a holistic development in the field of Leadership, negotiation and decision making.
What is your advice for the incoming batch on how to make the most of these 2 years?
Whatever you are learning in the classroom might not be relevant in the next 20 years, so be open to new experiences, more uncomfortable things you do, tougher you will become. Choosing electives that you might not be comfortable with, try visiting a foreign school on an exchange, or contribute to a club or committee.
MBA puts you in a classroom with people from diverse backgrounds. It’s very important to learn from everyone, the person sitting beside you or the one who laughs at you, just be yourself and genuinely make good friends, reach out to your alumni you never know who may turn out to be your boss someday. Down the lane, your friendship will pay off.
You May Also Be Interested In Reading: