How I Made It To IIM Calcutta – A Journey Of Ups And Downs

The story begins in 2015.

I had a great experience working as a sponsorship team member during the cultural and technical festivals in my undergraduate college. My work involved making cold calls and sending mails to potentials sponsors for raising funds for the festivals. Thought it sounds like a simple sales job, it taught me a lot. I learnt about team work, coordination, making plans and executing them in time and handling pressure and difficult situations. I also got creative when it came to “selling” the festivals and would often try to come up with unique plans to raise as much money as I could. My team and the juniors would also work really hard to make the festivals successful.

It was solely this experience which got me placed in a renowned data analytics company, where client management is of paramount importance. I was tested on my abilities of crunching numbers quickly, making decisions in a limited time-frame and handling difficult situations involving sponsors/clients.

Now, here is where the picture of studying and learning management comes in. My time as a “rain-maker” in college and a consultant with the analytics firm, added to my aspirations of becoming an efficient manager and an impactful decision-maker, eventually. The soft skills I gained during the experiences would help me become a better version of myself in the long run. But, to become a good manager and to see my long-term plans to completion, I needed a formal education in management ( not saying that it is the only requirement ).

I started building my profile accordingly. I did not have a good CGPA at college and was an “engineer”, with no background in economics, commerce or accounting. I decided to write CAT 2016, with 6 months of preparation while interning at one of the largest technology companies of the world. I scored 98.91% and got an interview call from FMS Delhi.

In 2017, after being rejected by FMS Delhi, I joined the data analytics firm as a consultant and started going through the rigours of the corporate life. My work in the firm broadened my perspective – I learnt about the nuances of consulting, while gaining technical and working knowledge of the world of marketing and branding. I also tried my hand at the ever-evolving field of machine learning and data science.

I loved my role at the firm and I got ample support from my manager and the client partners. I also listened to the stories of the people at my firm, their career paths and aspirations. That is when I firmly decided to go for an MBA degree and I started preparing for CAT 2018, while working for long hours, handling client delivery and developing skills at the company.

Balancing work, multiple All-India mocks and regular preparation was really tough. I had set my sights on IIM Calcutta and FMS Delhi, as I knew my academic background would not get me a call from IIM Ahmedabad or IIM Bangalore. For me, it was either IIM Calcutta or FMS Delhi, nothing else. While preparing for CAT 2018, keeping in mind the uncertainty involved in the exam and the interview processes, I also created a back-up plan, so that if things do not go my way, I am not left marooned. I had a 3-step plan

  1. Get a good CAT percentile.
  2. Get interview calls from IIM-C and FMS.
  3. Convert them.

Fast-forward to 5th January 2019.

I scored 99.67% and got an interview call from IIM Calcutta. I could tick one of the boxes in my 3-step plan. I could also tick off half of the second box. I started preparing for the interviews rigorously- went for workshops and mock interviews and read newspapers voraciously. I also prepared myself for any tough questions which could come up during the interview. I also “dreamt” of what it would feel like to sit beside one of the lakes at IIM-C or what it would feel like to study in one of the LTs at the red building of dreams.

I ticked off the remaining half of the second box on 27th February, when I was shortlisted by FMS Delhi for their GD/PI process.

In the months of February, March and April, I appeared for interview processes of 5 colleges- IIM Kozhikode, SPJIMR, IIM Calcutta, IIM Lucknow and FMS Delhi, in that chronological order.

On 12th April, the first list of IIM Calcutta was declared. I was wait-listed. I could not feel anything for the next 2 hours and decided to give my best for FMS Delhi interview, which was on 18th April.

On 18th April, I was done with the interview process at FMS Delhi. I heaved a sigh of relief and rushed to Dilli Haat to binge on fried chicken momos at the Sikkim stall. I was eating those momos almost after a decade; I had not felt so satisfied and content with everything ever.

On 7th May, the wait-list for IIM Calcutta moved a bit and I was in. I felt the same way as I had felt after eating those delicious momos after a decade. I ticked off the third and final box of my 3-step plan.

You would observe that there is no particular preparation strategy mentioned which could corroborate the title of the story. I did not do so because I firmly believe that each and every person has a unique story and a unique set of incidents and situations which led him/her to achieve/lose what he/she did. I also had my lows during the phase, like many countless others. I also had big dreams, like my fellow aspirants. I also tasted abject failure during the All-India mocks, like my fellow aspirants. I also questioned my abilities, like everyone else.

My selection or rejection would not make me see myself in a different light. Nor does it mean that others must look at me in a different light, whether I fail or succeed.

How I made it to Joka– by dreaming big. That is how I would conclude my story.

Raahul Saxena

I am an analytics consultant by profession. The bug of marketing bit me when I was a rain-maker for my college festivals and the challenges in consulting captured my imagination at work. For leisure, I read books and listen to music, be it grunge, rock, metal, progressive rock or blues. Currently waiting to start my term at IIM Calcutta and for the new album release by Tool after 13 long years.

Comments

25 comments

Raahul Saxena

10th and 12th were fine, Shreeya. 90 plus in both. But in graduation, where I did instrumentation engineering, I got 7 CGPA, which reduced my AR score for IIM A and also couldn’t get shortlisted for IIM B.

Shubham Bharat

My acads are 90+ in 10th , 80+ in 12th and 71.43% in Engineering.
Are IIMA and IIMB off for me?

Raahul Saxena

Actually nothing is off, bro. Give your best on CAT. For me, I needed 99.9 plus in CAT to get a call from A or B. So, plan accordingly. Nothing is impossible

Raahul Saxena

Any gap in your academic profile, or unjustified, can reduce your chances of getting into any college. If you do have backlogs, be ready to face questions and justify the same very properly. Having backlogs doesn’t mean you can’t get into a college.

Gargi Kurtkoti

Thank you for the guidance

Sai vivek

Exactly the kind of story I want to hear bro! I’m in a similar situation too , presently in 3rd year and my CGPA won’t cross 7 but 10,12 are above 90 do I have a shot at top 3 and how can we properly justify for poor academics because I wasted time and didn’t do anything to justify it , I’d really appreciate your suggestion

Raahul Saxena

Hi Vivek, look for things which can stand out in your profile and do have an idea of the kind of answer you would give if asked to justify your acads. It can be about extra curricular activities, hobbies etc.
weave a story and sell it.

Nehal2719

Can you put more light on your preparation for CAT? Did you join any coaching? Or opt for the online course? Or some crash course like stuff??
I’m in 3rd year currently, would be great if you share your routine for the preparation!
Thanks in advance!

Raahul Saxena

Hi Nehal. Would give you a glimpse into my preparation. I was working, so I focused on preparing during the weekends. I had taken material from TIME (correspondence course) and had enrolled for IMS All-India test series. I prepared in the morning before going for work, and then in the night after work. I started in January. I enrolled for 2 mock series- AIMCAT and SIMCAT. 2 mocks per weekend for around 8 months.

shailendra tiwari

Thanks for sharing
I have 90+,80+,75 academic in 10,12, graduation respectively and 2 year of work experience. what may score needed for iima, iimb, iimc
can I get call at 99%ile

Raahul Saxena

Aim for the sky bro. Don’t think about what calls you may get. Just focus on your preparation for CAT and nail CAT. You will get good calls as per your profile. So just bell the CAT and work hard. Hope this helps

shivanisharaf15

Hey Rahul..truly inspiring…am also targeting CAT 19…only concern is I have 85/76/6.5..so aiming a top percentile to offset it

Raahul Saxena

Dream big and work accordingly. What’s done in 10th,12th and your grad is something beyond your control now. So focus on the present and build your future. All the best

AmandaWoodword

The Thinking, Fast and Slow book implies there is no simple answer to this inherent flaw in our thinking. I’m guessing the fact that our intuitive brain can learn and acquire skill/expertise means there are ways to overcome at least some of the flaws. But it takes a great deal of effort, and, as the book points out, there may be some situations where it is much better to rely on computations/algorithms devised based on scientific evidence rather than attempt to overcome our flawed intuitive thinking.