Topping in any class, batch or similar environment is exceptionally hard. We do not need any convincing to believe that. At some point or the other, we have all aspired to be the best. But what does it take to top, that too on a consistent basis? Are there are some people who are innately toppers or is it about grit?
Who better to talk to than Anish Patil, current IR 1 (Institute Rank 1) at IIM Calcutta? I must mention at this point that he also happens to be my wingie and good friend of old. May I also say in the same breath that my academic performance is far from his? Perhaps I should have taken this interview much earlier! Anyway, here goes:
Niranjan: Hey, man. Had you planned that you would be the IR 1 or was it something that happened along the way?
Anish: I wanted to do well academically. There was no intent to be IR 1. Obviously, I knew that institute ranker is something that is given to top 20 in the batch. That is something I had targeted because I had heard it helps in placements. But as such, I had not targeted any position.
N: How tough is it to continuously maintain an IR 1?
A: I would say that if you look at the day to day effort that is required to be in the top 20% of the batch, it is not very difficult. If you keep up with your class every day and you read the cases, readings for that day and listen in class, 60-70% of the job is done. Make notes, then come back and have a look at them, if possible, at the end of the week. That is, I think, a good formula. It is also not very difficult. The only thing that is difficult is to follow this on a sustained basis.
N: All that being said, consistently being the topmost of the batch must require something even above that, right?
A: So, if you want to consistently be among the top, you would have to first be very clear that some sacrifices will need to be made. And this is something that you have to do across 3 terms. It means that you are probably not into sports or any active PORs in your first year. More importantly, I think that consistency should be maintained across courses across each of the evaluation components. For example, what happens is many a time you do all the hard work but then in a group project you just leave it onto the others in the group. I think it is about taking the initiative, it is about being a little obsessed. I think if you do this, eventually the mathematics adds up.
N: How does it feel to be IR 1 in a college like IIM Calcutta where there is already so much competition?
A: Yeah, so it is a good feeling, a great feeling. It has its benefits, some tangible and some intangible. The feeling of achievement is nice. The tangible benefits being, as the readers must know, placements in B schools depend to a good extent on academic performance.
N: What would be your message to people who are trying to be the top IRs but are unable to?
A: I would say that start from the first day, whichever day you land on the campus or whenever your term begins. Start from the beginning of the course in any term. But more important is to keep the efforts going. So even if you do not come in the top 20 in the first or second term, keep the efforts going. It is possible to be in the top 5 percent, at least on a term-wise basis. You will see that over the period of a year, there is a lot of movement in the list. Just because someone is there in the list in the first term, does not mean he/she will be there in future terms. Of course, at the end of the day some part of it also boils down to luck. Aim to be academically good and you will do well.
N: What other things that have you done at IIM C?
A: In my first year, I did not do much. I was a part of the Finance Club. I was also a member of the Joka Advantage Fund, which is very specific to IIM Calcutta. It is basically a student-managed investment fund. I did one or two competitions, which were not very big, from our annual business summit. Apart from that, it was mostly academics or co-curricular activities.
N: Do you think performing so well academically is about genius or persistence or something else?
A: I think, unlike popular belief, it is not about being the smartest in the batch. Your academic performance is partly an indicator of how intelligent you are but not completely. So I think it is a mixture of hard work and an above average IQ. I would put that as a 35-65 division, with 65 being hard work. Most of what we do here is more about reading, understanding and being able to comprehend, and then being able to apply it to different situations. To my belief, this does not require a high degree of IQ as it does not involve solving some complex problems or some genius level solutions with “ahaa moments”. I think it is more about applying the well-understood frameworks in your situations. So yes, I think it is more about hard work and that is something I think everybody should seek solace from! That it is not about how much of something you are born with. Rather, it is about how much effort you put!
Coming from you, Anish, we will take that at face value!