Interview with Rishub Jhunjhunwala – HKUST Alumnus and Associate Director, Standard Chartered Bank
Those of you who balk at doing a foreign MBA should meet Rishub Jhunjhunwala. This HKUST grad from the batch of 2012 is now Associate Director at Standard Chartered Bank, Mumbai. A dizzyingly fast rise, if you consider that he had just completed the BMS program from Jai Hind college in 2006. He is a great example of what a foreign MBA can do for you. It can open doors that remain locked for local MBA graduates. Of course, it is expensive, and it is not easy to get in, you need top notch credentials, and Rishub’s CFA qualification and would have gone a long way in helping him stand out among the pool of applicants. Not everyone can complete their CFA before even applying to B school, but the broader lesson here is that if you have a career plan and execute accordingly, and if you are willing to spend a little bit extra, the rewards to a foreign MBA from a top B school can be fantastic.
In our third article featuring HKUST, (read the introduction to HKUST here and interview with executive director of the MBA program) we bring to you an interview with Rishub Jhunjhunwala.
- What were the main reasons for choosing HKUST for your MBA?
The key reasons for me to pursue an MBA at HKUST are as follows (not in order of importance):
- Student Body: I think that the HKUST student body is one of the most eclectic across all business schools in Asia. Having had limited international exposure prior to my MBA, I thought it was important for me to expand my myopic vision of the world and expose myself to people from different backgrounds. Hence, I wanted to go to a school that offered me the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life. HKUST offered me just that, my classmates came from countries all over the world (including Azerbaijan) and from different professional backgrounds (including a former Scotland Yard Detective and a Professional Musician) and we all had a great time together.
- Location & Asian Focus: HKUST’s locational advantage and strong Asian focus fit very well with my intention of building a career in Finance in Asia. Being one of the largest financial hubs in Asia, Hong Kong offers immense opportunities to learn and network especially in the field of finance. Also, Hong Kong is a great place to live, it has so much to offer; there is never a dull moment in Hong Kong. HKUST’s curriculum is tailored to the Asian context and offers students specialised courses and case studies that are relevant and useful if you want to build a career in Asia.
- Economics: The cost of doing an MBA at HKUST and the potential benefits made a lot of sense to me. The HKUST MBA cost me half of what an MBA in the US or UK would cost me. Additionally, HKUST offered me an MBA from a reputed school that has been consistently ranked very highly and enjoys a growing franchise value across the world. HKUST’s reputation is not only a function of its ranking, but is also a function of other attributes such as its impressive list of faculty, it’s beautiful campus, its students & alumni body and the opportunities that it offers.
2. In your perspective, what all the necessary and sufficient conditions to get a final call from HKUST?
I don’t there is a specific set of criteria with regards to GMAT score, number of years of work experience, professional background etc. I believe that applicants should be honest in their applications and demonstrate the following:
- Have a clear idea of their goals and a roadmap to achieve the same
- Understand what HKUST can offer and how it can help them achieve their goals
- Leadership and international experience
- How their participation will contribute to the learning of classmates
- Excellence in their current profession
- Unique traits of their personality
- Strong communication & social skills
3. What was the best part of your MBA experience?
I think the best part of the MBA experience for me was interacting with my classmates, professors, alumni and all the people I met as a result of living in Hong Kong. I met people from all around the world and learnt a lot about their cultures, their professions/industries, their aspirations and all sorts of random things. My learning was not just limited to the classroom or formal academic settings but stretched to the most unlikely of places & situations such as an evening drinks session with professors and classmates at the Unibar (on-campus bar), a visit to an oyster sauce factory in Hong Kong, meetings with glass suppliers for a business plan, an equity pitch to a hedge fund manager in Singapore and many such other unique experiences.
4. How did you find Hong Kong as a place to live and work?
I think I can answer this most efficiently in just one word – AMAZING.
5. You did your internship with a private equity fund focussed on investments in Mongolia. How was the experience?
Mongolia is a fascinating country and my experience there was simply great. I interned with a local securities firm in Ulan Bator (the capital city) and spent most of my time helping them with the preliminary study for setting up a Mongolia focussed PE fund. I am grateful to the school’s career services for organizing this unique internship for me that gave me the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary for ~3 months in Ulan Bator. There is a lot of investor interest in the frontier market of Mongolia given the rapid economic expansion it has witnessed as a result of the mining boom. Since the business community in Ulan Bator is still really small, I got the opportunity to interact with a lot of high ranking government officials, lawyers, businessmen, regulators and foreign dignitaries including the president of India (who was on a business trip in Ulan Bator at the time) during my internship. I learnt a lot about the economy of the country, its industries and its culture. Outside of work, I had a memorable time in Mongolia as I had six other classmates from HKUST interning with me. We camped in the country side, hitch hiked our way around the city (no cabs usually available, you just stick your hand out and hope for some random car to stop and take you where you want for a negotiated price) and enjoyed the surprisingly good nightlife the city had to offer.
6. Most Indian students (even the ones with 3 or so years of work experience) balk at doing foreign MBAs because of the following reasons
- Costs of the MBA program
- Complexity of admission process – essays need to be written at the beginning itself – in comparison, the CAT, although tough to crack , offers a relatively straightforward route to MBA. What would your advice be to such candidates?
Indian B-schools are undoubtedly excellent and economically feasible; however, most of them lack international exposure that makes an MBA degree really worth it. So yes, you do pay more for an MBA abroad but I believe you get more out of it as well if you choose wisely. Also, many schools have financial aid programs that help students with tuition and other expenses if need be. You just need to do some work and find out all the options available. In terms of the admission process, while I agree that it can be demanding, I believe you need to be motivated enough to go through the process wholeheartedly it if you really want to do an MBA from your school of choice.
7. How do placements work at HKUST?
Unlike Indian B-Schools, where most of the recruiting happens on campus, at HKUST, like other international B Schools, the responsibility for placements is primarily with the students themselves. There are a few companies that come to campus for hiring MBAs but it is not as much as it is in India. Having said that, the career services does help by organizing company & speaker events and connecting students with the industry, but at the end of the day you have to follow up on your own and generate leads for yourself. One needs to be diligent and creative because anything may work right from shooting out a hundred cold emails to getting job interviews after a tennis match with your prospective boss.
8. How far do you think the CFA has helped you in your career? How has BMS and MCom helped?
I think the CFA has helped me a lot. The CFA curriculum is exhaustive and covers a variety of financial concepts with considerable depth. The CFA helped me grasp concepts taught in class quickly and allowed me to gain exemption from quite a few basic classes in the MBA curriculum which I could replace with more advanced electives. Career wise, the CFA has helped me build credibility with potential employers and contributed meaningfully to business discussions. The BMS (undergraduate) degree helped me build basic business concepts and polished my public presentation skills. The MCom degree honestly was not really helpful, I pursued it primarily to complete sixteen years of education which used to be a pre-requisite for some B schools earlier.
9. And finally, any specific reasons for choosing to work in Mumbai over other options? Was it the profile, the location or a combination of both?
I was born and raised in Mumbai and have spent all my life with my family here, so coming back to Mumbai was always on the cards. I wouldn’t have minded spending a year or so in Hong Kong or Singapore before moving back to Mumbai, but then I got an opportunity with Standard Chartered in Mumbai much before I completed the programme and I had to make a quick decision whether to accept or not. Although I was interviewing for positions in Hong Kong and Singapore and had a few options in the pipeline, I decided to take up the offer in Mumbai since it fit well with my larger life plan and career aspirations.
We thank Rishub Jhunjhunwala for the above interview.
(Correction: The earlier version of this interview stated that Rishub had completed his BMS studies from Sydenham college.)
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Click here to read career perspectives from top B school grads