From ‘Man In Uniform’ To ‘Man In A Business Suit’ – Sanyam Raheja, 99.35%iler And IIM Rohtak Student

A 19-year-old maverick, for his love of adventures and travelling, decided to take the road less travelled and joined Merchant Navy at the age of 19 and experienced life at sea for the first time. In the first 6 months itself, he circumnavigated the globe twice, visiting and exploring 5 continents and 15 countries in the process. After spending 4 years in Merchant Navy and experiencing a life most yearn for, this guy decided to go for MBA and ends up scoring a whopping 99.35 percentile in CAT. That is Sanyam Raheja for you!

Excerpts from an interview where Sanyam shares his experience of how he sailed through from being a ‘Man in uniform’ to ‘Man in a Business Suit’.

How does it feel to be one of the few non-engineers at an IIM?

Standing out from the pack never hurts. It feels nice being able to contribute to the diversity of the batch. I always try to bring unique perspective to the classroom discussions. Engineering might be one common factor among the majority of the students here but they have all had different kind of experiences and everyone has unique strengths and skills. I’ve never felt out of place and people here are ever ready to hear my stories.


What prompted you to take the plunge and pursue a management degree?

Doing an MBA had always been a part of my long-term plan. Learning in Merchant navy was quite limited and stagnant. Plus staying away from your loved ones isn’t the best feeling in the world. I felt I had been missing out on a lot of things.

I wanted something more challenging. Plus, money wasn’t the key driver for me anymore. I was way past the phase where people think that money equals happiness. At the same time, a lot of people in the family are MBAs, and probably that also influenced my decision. I decided to quit sailing in 2016 and attempt CAT.


Being from a non-engineering background, how was it to prepare for CAT? What was your preparation strategy? (Core strengths and Weaknesses)

While it’s true that engineers have some kind of an advantage in CAT. But the quants part has only basic math, so anyone can practice hard and achieve a good percentile.

I had a mere 47 days to start CAT preparation from scratch. I always had a reading habit so verbal part wasn’t much of a challenge. Math was never an enemy but I still had to practice a lot to get comfortable. After my basics were clear, all I did was to attempt mock tests and then analyse them. That’s all I did in the last 30 days. Practice is the key. I devoted at least 10 hours a day for CAT.


How is your background helping you at IIM Rohtak?

I’ve had a multicultural experience having sailed with people of more than 10 nationalities and having been to more than 30 countries. I’ve held various positions of responsibility and I’ve been in extreme stressful situations where we had to strategize and one wrong decision could have led to a disaster. Thinking on my feet, patience, hard-work and discipline are some of the virtues instilled in me from my experience. In an eight-year stint at sea, I’ve picked up qualities that will help me in various walks of life.


How has your journey at IIM Rohtak been so far? 

While most of the time I’m buried under assignments and committee work, I believe that’s where the fun lies and learning happens. Sleep is a luxury that you can’t always afford here but I’ve adjusted to it. Some subjects were quite alien to me in the beginning but the wonderful teachers here help us generate interest in the subject. Every day here has been a new learning experience and there is always something to look forward to. I’ve made lots of new friends, who I hope will stay with me forever.


What are your expectations after doing an MBA?

I’ve taken up various roles and responsibilities as a sailor. I want to move up the value chain. My long-term plan is to work in the maritime industry. Right out of IIM, I want to gain experience in the operations department of a big multinational before I can make the transition.


Any messages for people from diverse background planning to join a b-school.

First things first. It’s a myth that only Engineers can crack CAT. Doctors, architects, army personnel, fashion designers, you name it, people from diverse backgrounds bell the CAT every year and enter premier business schools. Also, most b-schools value diversity and they give extra points for non-engineers during their admission process.

It’s a level playing field. Anyone who’s interested in the field of business management shouldn’t even think twice before taking the plunge. The culture in IIMs and other premier b-schools is great and a lot of learning takes place here, not only in classrooms but outside the classroom too with everyone being involved in projects, clubs, committees, cultural events, competitions etc.


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