How do you bell the CAT? How do you master the infamous IIM interviews? Which IIM is right for me? There is a whole lot of data on what to do before getting in, however, what should be done ONCE you get in? How to ace the MBA degree and make the best out of it? Should you focus only on academics or do other things matter as well? To answer our questions, we have Yashas Bhat (IIM Kozhikode 2018-20 batch, Member of the IIMK Merit List, CA, CFA, FRM) sharing his story and how he does what he does.
1. Hi Yashas, thank you for agreeing to have a conversation with InsideIIM. Why don’t you tell us about yourself?
It’s my pleasure. I come from Navi Mumbai, spent most of my schooling and college days there. I decided to do commerce after school and ended up pursuing CA. Finance peaked my interest, so followed it up with CFA & FRM. Workwise, I looked to gain exposure in different areas, be it corporate finance, equity research, marketing and consulting. Currently, I am in 2nd year at IIM Kozhikode, trying to make the most of my last year of college life! I use my free time to pursue my hobbies, be it basketball or riding across Southern India. So yeah, that’s me.
2. How did you prioritize what work is to be done? You were clearly multi-tasking and excelling at all of them!
Two things really - nature & nurture! I grew up in an environment which encouraged the pursuit of interests. Right from my mom pursuing her love for yoga to my elder brother following his interests in music with his work, it was natural to look to pursue whatever excited us. But as the saying goes, “One for the kitchen, one for the soul.” I realised over time that having a bit of discipline and a lot of perseverance goes a long way.
Talking about my time at IIM Kozhikode, I actually thought about the things I wanted to work on in my time here. MBA was such an excellent opportunity to work on the things I wanted to achieve, and hence having a clear but flexible plan helped. Equally important is execution though, a little work every day goes a long way! To put it simply, if I want to enjoy my weekends off, I ensure all work is finished beforehand! It’s all about how you utilise your time really. Having said that, I am not too tough on myself if I fail to “complete my to-do list.” It is okay to have a few slow/bad days, but tomorrow is another opportunity to do something new.
3. What is your advice to the first-year students on acing the MBA?
“Storyboard” what you wish to achieve in your 1 / 2 years in an MBA college. While a lot of focus is given to getting that shortlist or acing your grades, there’s just so much more than an MBA college has to offer. I made a list of goals of what I wanted to achieve in my 2 years at IIM K, be it academics, internship, sports, hobbies or even working on my own self. Imagine these 2 years as a chance to experiment with whatever you want without real-world consequences. I never thought I’ll ever pick up biking as a hobby, but having tried it here, I realised that I love it! I reconnected with my love for basketball, even getting the honour of playing for the basketball team here at IIM K. I’ve met some pretty cool people here and got some breathing space to work on my own deficiencies. These things add so much more to one’s MBA experience!
4. What do you think helped you get into BCG? What were your learnings from the 2 months?
Well, a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work! My past experiences and credentials did help me get a shortlist, and then I was fortunate to find a group of crazy, smart and hard-working people to do cases within the one month of case prep! These guys made it fun and everyone was working collectively to get better, which was pretty awesome. Keeping my cool on the day of the interviews helped a lot as I kept a mindset of positivity and gratitude for getting a shot of sitting for the interview.
Working for those 2 months at BCG was a great experience as I got the chance to work with some of the smartest people I’ve met in an environment that is very fast-paced and dynamic. It helped me develop a more structured way of thinking and be a little more concise in my communication - two important life skills!
5. How has the MBA experience improved you? Would you recommend it to others?
MBA gives you a chance to work on whatever you wish to do, be it hobbies, acads, business ideas, make friends, network, anything! I have met some fantastic people and learnt so much from them. I have pretty much gone outside my comfort zone and pursued interests, sometimes even pushing my boundaries in terms of trying to balance acads and outside interests. I have grown a lot from these experiences, it has made me a lot wiser, a lot calmer and a hell lot happier. I would definitely recommend MBA to others if they can look at these 2 years from a much broader lens of academic, professional, extracurricular & personal growth.
6. Any tips for CAT aspirants on how to handle the pressure?
I used to draw comfort from the fact that the only thing I can really control is my efforts. I might as well double down on what I can control than worry about what the other ~2 lac aspirants would do to my chances. I was pretty myopic in my focus and gave my best! After all, things have a way of working out, one way or the other, right?
7. 8,000 km and an Instagram page (@thatvashiguy), how do you manage it? Tell us about some good memories you had
Ah well, when you love something, does it even look like work? A friend and I ended up going for the exquisite Biennale festival at Kochi on the 1st week of January, and there was no stopping after that! I was obsessed with travel - travelling every weekend in term 3. Biking served 2 purposes for me: it became my stress buster, a source of killing monotony while being a creative outlet to indulge myself in photography! It has been 10 months since I started travelling regularly, and it is crazy to think that I’ve covered 8,000 km in over 4 Southern states.
Not travelling in God’s Own Country is a sin really! I have had some amazing experiences during travel, seen wild life, met some really interesting people and got so much more clarity about life. I feel grateful that I got a chance to travel so much! If it was not for IIM K, I would never get an opportunity to indulge in both my passions – photography & travel! From riding alongside elephants, looking at nature at its greenest to meeting digital nomads, travel has fundamentally changed me! Not to say that I used to not carry some work to my trips, if you want to travel that frequently you have to balance that with travel. But hey, who’s to say you cannot have the best of both worlds?
Thanks a lot, Yashas for this lovely interaction. Hoping you ask me to join you on a trip next time :D