IIM Ahmedabad Interview Experience – Utkarsh Goklani
The Orchid, Mumbai (7th Feb, 2016)
Profile: Xth: 93.4%; XIIth: 91%; Grad: 8.36; Work experience of 34 months at Credit Suisse, Powai; CAT: 99.62 (first attempt)
AWT/WAT topic (30 minutes): IIM-A has a different WAT format compared to others. It tends to test one’s analytical capabilities compared to the normal WAT format of commenting on a recent happening. We had been given a long statement on how tourism leads to corruption of societal values/morals etc., and that it should be restricted to certain parts of the year. We had to give our own analysis, support and weaken the argument, consider the assumptions made and think what other data points could help us support/weaken the argument.
PI Duration: 20–25 minutes
I was the first in my panel and as it was my first ever IIM interview, I was trying to compose myself to at least not make a fool of myself. Amidst all these musings, I was called in. There were two panellists -let’s say P1 and P2.
P1: So your specialisations seem very interesting. Elaborate.
I: I had expected this question because well my form read M.Sc. (Hons.) Economics along with BE (Hons.) in Chemical Engineering from BITS Pilani. Believe me, I did my fellow BITSians a lot of favour by explaining this degree in intricate detail with all its supposed niceties.
P1: So, basically you entered as an Economist (since it was my first degree) and left as a Chemical Engineer.
I: *taking this as a hint to save any further blushes* No Sir, I left as an Economist too.
P1 (Machiavellian smile): So, you would be comfortable answering Economics questions then, right?
I: Yes Sir!
P1: Let me ask you something about your work profile. Since you work in the Research Department (I worked as a Macroeconomics Research Analyst in Private Banking Division), don’t you think Research should be a private entity and not be influenced by the views of other departments?
I: *CFA Ethics readings finally coming to some use* Elaborated on the existence of a ‘Chinese wall’ between all the relevant departments and how the Legal and Compliance Department takes care of resolving all potential conflicts of interest.
P1 (seemed unimpressed): Ok, tell me something about your work profile.
I: I tried to provide a structure to my answer by segmenting my work into three buckets – Credit Suisse Research Publications, Client Presentations and commentary on major global macro events. While I was elaborating on one of the scenario analysis projects that I had worked on…
P1: Ahh oil prices, tell me your views on why the oil prices are falling like a house of cards?
I: *as it was related to my field of work, had some smart-sounding views on it* Talked about supply-demand mismatch, OPEC’s denial to cut output to prevent market share, Shale, Iran’s potential entry after P5+1 talks, Russia’s record outputs to save their beleaguered economy, record Cushing inventory levels, how lifting of US crude export ban has led to narrowing of WTI-Brent differential blah blah.
P1: Oh yeah, “record levels”. How high are the current levels compared to the historical averages?
I: Told about the current levels, wasn’t sure about the historical averages.
P1 (poker face): But these are things that everyone knows. Since you are working as an “Economist” (he emphasised on the word to probably reassert my “knowledge” or the sheer lack of it). Tell me something else, give me some other reason.
I: Blurted something about a conspiracy theory about how at Crimea invasion time, it was postulated that US and Saudi were in cahoots to bring down the oil prices to adversely affect the Russian economy.
P1: As an Analyst, do you give “conspiracy theories” to your clients? Give me another reason.
I: *hesitantly* I postulated that Saudi might be trying to capture the market share of smaller OPEC members (Venezuela, Nigeria) since their marginal costs of production are relatively higher.
P1 (smiling mischievously): Ok, then why are their marginal costs of production higher compared to Saudi?
I: *tried to remember something from my Chemical refining courses, well but you know how that works out* Sir, I am not sure.
P1: The results of a recently concluded survey suggest that 95% of successful business leaders are evil and not honest in their dealings. Since you are an analyst, what is your opinion on the survey? Also, what are your personal views regarding this?
I: Talked about the possible lack of representative sampling in the survey, sampling bias and tried to defend a counter position to the survey results. About my personal opinion, I talked about how ethics are an intrinsic feature of business. They cannot be separated if one has a long-term plan of a successful business for the simple reason that business relationships are primarily trust-driven. It’s imperative to maintain strong bonds with all possible stakeholders without forgoing the core set of values that the company stands for.
P1: You like the Batman series?
I (taken aback): Yes Sir, I do.
P1: I personally feel the Joker’s character makes more sense than Batman’s. He keeps the society ticking.
I: Talked about how silence might seem boring but it’s still better than chaos, something which Joker strongly propagated.
*P1 looks at P2 and offers him a go at this punching bag*
P2: So do you travel? What are your views about tourism and the WAT topic we gave you?
I: Defended Tourism with all my might, did acknowledge the other side, but mostly talked about how wonderful Tourism is.
P2: You have mentioned “spurious correlation” in your WAT. Since you must have read Statistics and are working, I am pretty sure you know it better than us. So can you explain which component of time series drives it?
*Now I already knew I had committed a grave error by mentioning this term in my AWT and was worried that it might turn up in the interview. Lo and behold!*
I (with utmost sincerity): Gave an example of what it is.
P2: I know that you know what it is. What drives it?
I: Umm, I am not sure Sir!
P2 (sinister smile): Cyclicality maybe? Seasonality?
I: Yes yes sir, seasonality.
P2 (laughs): Ok, what else?
P2: You said about Economics, right?
I: Yes sir.
P2: Ok, what is the New Keynesian Phillips Curve?
I (utterly confused): Sir, New Keynesian Phillips Curve? Yes, well, yes, can I get a piece of paper?
*starts drawing the conventional Phillips curve like a boss and talks about Keynes and tries desperately to relate them somehow*
P2 (sternly): Do you know or do you not know?
I: Sir, I am afraid I don’t.
*I realised that there was no point trying to guess an answer if unsure.*
P2: Ok, I have been hearing about the Expectations’ Economy these days quite a lot. What is your take on this?
I: Talked about the importance of macro expectations for businesses in corporate finance, talked about how important inflation expectations are for the RBI and businesses alike, how sentiments and participants’ expectations drive markets.
*P2 looks at P1, meanwhile I eye the candy*
P1: We are done.
I: Ok sirs. May I leave now?
P1 & P2 (in unison): Yes, you may!
*Thanking them, I leave the room having failed on the “toffee index” of selection.*
Verdict: Currently a PGP-1 student.
Note: Although it might seem like a trivial choice for some, choosing between A, B and C was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make. Contrary to most opinions, I was not completely inclined towards A. However, having talked to a few seniors and a couple of industry experts, I realised that probably A made more sense due to the industry reputation and strong alumni base. Having said that, I would strongly advise someone taking this decision to also consider the teaching methodologies at all the institutes before making the final decision (A’s pedagogy is majorly case-based). The reason I am focusing so strongly on the last point is that after being here, I have realised that everyone has a different learning method and there is no one-size-fits-all method and case-based pedagogy might not suit everyone.
PS: This answer is a reproduction (with minor modifications) of the original answer: