IIFT Interview Experience 2018 – Soman Pochhali
Location – Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Delhi
23rd February 2018, Morning Slot
Xth – 93.10%
XIIth – 90.00%
UG – 66.24%
Electronics and Communication Engineering graduate from Galgotias College of Engineering and Technology, Greater Noida
IIFT Percentile – 99.04
WAT Topic – Leaders who refuse to listen will eventually be surrounded by people who say nothing.
Wrote a generalised article, gave examples of Napoleon and Hitler and how they lost important battles because they refused to listen to their Generals. Gave recent examples of Cyrus Mistry and Vishal Sikka.
GD Topic – Is India becoming a refugee hub?
Each candidate was given 1 minute to speak and after that, the floor was open for discussion. I spoke about how India is already a refugee hub, about Parsi and Beth Israel refugees in medieval India. Also spoke about Tibetan refugees, Pakistani Hindus, Bangladeshi immigrants and most recently Rohingyas. Gave points as to what should be done to restrict the flow of immigrants, about security threats among other things. Entered the GD four times during open discussion. I must add it was one of the most cordial GDs I’ve ever been a part of.
There were three panellists, all male. Will address them as P1, P2 and P3
I entered and greeted them all. I stood beside the chair while waiting for permission to be seated.
P1: Please sit.
Me: Thank you, sir.
P1: So, you’re Soman. What is the meaning of your name?
Me: Sir it means the Lunar God.
P1: Nice. So, Soman, I see here that you graduated in 2017. What have you been doing since then? Because I see you don’t have any work experience.
Me: Sir I was reading, writing, completing online modules of the companies I was placed in and simultaneously preparing for CAT and other exams.
P1: Okay so which companies were you placed in and which one did you choose?
Me: I was placed in Infosys, Wipro and Cognizant. I chose Cognizant because it has a no bond culture, and as I wanted to pursue my MBA, it aligned with my needs.
P2: So you were determined to do an MBA?
Me(Smiling): Yes sir.
P2: But don’t you think work experience would have added to your profile? Why MBA now and not after work experience?
Me: I most definitely agree that work experience gives an advantage but I was interested in a marketing profile. And after speaking to my seniors I realised that for a marketing profile one doesn’t need work experience as such, infact firms usually prefer freshers in such cases.
P1: Soman I see you’re from Durgapur, West Bengal.
Me: Yes sir.
P1: How many years have you lived there?
Me: Never sir, my father was in the Air Force so I’ve lived in various cities but not West Bengal.
P1: So you must not be knowing much about Durgapur?
Me: Sir I know it was the second planned city in India after Chandigarh. It is a steel township and it has mainly developed because of Durgapur Steel Plant (DSP) under SAIL.
P1: Do you know other steel townships like Durgapur?
Me: No sir, I am not aware of any.
P1: So, where have you lived. From your form, I can see you did your schooling from Agra and graduation from Greater Noida.
Me: Sir I was born in Agra, after that Chandigarh, then Nagpur, then again Agra and currently Greater Noida.
P1: So just North and Central India.
Me: Yes sir.
P1: What was the major difference that you found in Central and North India?
Me: Sir as a kid the only major difference I could observe was the climate. Agra and Chandigarh were temperate compared to Nagpur which used to be hot almost throughout the year. I remember my school uniform changing during winters in Agra and Chandigarh but it remained same in Nagpur.
P1: Soman, suppose you’re heading an FMCG firm. How do you plan on introducing a new product in the market? Just give me a basic idea as you wouldn’t be knowing marketing terms.
Me: Sir I know the basic marketing concepts. I will start with market research, knowing about people’s preferences, existing competition and all. After that buying out shelf spaces in leading stores. Also as this is a digital age, therefore, social media marketing, especially advertisements on YouTube…
*cut me off*
P1: Fine I get your idea.
P3: Soman you read, so I will be asking you names of authors of three books. If you can name all three of them I will be impressed.
Me: Sure sir.
P3: Turning Points?
Me: Sorry sir but I am not aware of this.
P3: Ignited Minds?
Me: Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.
P3: Do you know any other books that he has written?
Me: I know Wings on Fire is a semi-autobiographical account of his life, other than that I am not sure of the titles.
P3: Transforming Dreams into Actions?
Me: (thought it was APJ Abdul Kalam but refrained from saying as I wasn’t sure) I am not aware sir.
P3: That’s also by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.
Me(Smiling): Right sir.
(It turned out all the three books were written by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam)
P1: What are your expectations from the marketing course that you wish to pursue?
Me: Sir the profiles offered are something that I am most interested in. Mr. SK Roongta is one of the famous alumni of IIFT and he was a marketing major. He transformed SAIL from a loss making PSU to the world’s second highest profit making steel firm during his tenure. So I know the pedagogy provided here is good.
P2: What other calls do you have?
Me: MDI and New IIMs.
P2: What are you looking for in the colleges you’ve mentioned?
Me: Sir I know what I am looking for in IIFT, I saw the syllabus being taught at here and liked some of the subjects like International Marketing and Strategy, International Finance, India and World Economics etc. I believe in this globalised world a marketing specialisation with an international perspective and exposure will definitely give me an edge over a regular marketing course and that’s why I am preferring IIFT.
P2: You seem to have done your groundwork.
Me(confidently): Yes sir.
P2: What adversity do you think you’ll face the most while pursuing your MBA?
Me: Sir whatever adversity I face I am sure I will be able to overcome it.
P2: No, no, you’re not listening to the question properly. Tell me a specific adversity that you’ll face when pursuing your MBA?
Me: Sir I have stage fear. And as I am targeting a marketing profile, I’ll have to give regular presentations and interact with clients, something I am not very good at. Though I have controlled it to a great extent by participating in various debate competitions, and I have a certificate from Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs for the same, but the fear still remains. That might cause a hindrance in my journey but I am sure I will be in a much better position after two years than I am right now.
P1: Okay Soman, you can leave. Thank you.
Me: Thank you, sir.
I thought my WAT was above average and GD was excellent.
I didn’t think my interview went well, mainly because all prospective candidates are asked about trade-related questions and my interview lasted hardly for 8 minutes. I had studied heavily about WTO, BRICS, SAARC, BIMSTEC, BBIN, G20, ASEAN, NAFTA, SAFTA, TPP etc. and was not asked even a single question from it. No questions from the CV form we had filled earlier or any current affairs either. All in all, I wasn’t satisfied with my interview.
The results were declared recently and I found my name on the shortlist for IIFT Delhi campus.
It’s now that I realise they are not looking for candidates who know about trade; they need people who are clear about their objectives, and if you can articulate that well then you have bright chances of getting through. Another thing that I feel tilted the scales in my favour was that I had researched the institute pretty well, and that included their mission statement, courses and electives, alumni, student bodies, events organised etc. Also, it is very important to be calm and keep smiling, that always gives the interviewer a good reason to select you.
Therefore, go to an interview without any expectations, but know as much as possible that can be asked, politely say that you’re not aware if you don’t know something rather than taking a shot in the dark. At the end of the day, it is an interview. Show the institute why they need you and why you deserve it.