“I was never a topper in my undergraduate and school days” – B Ramakrishna, 1st Year MBA Topper – XLRI (HR)

Topping the first year of MBA in an elite B school, in the face of fierce competition is one of the rarest of rare achievements. Most of us would agree that it even beats being a 100 percentiler. At least 80-100 people are gunning for top spot and these are 80-100 of the best minds in the country. No doubt topping the first year is such phenomenal achievement that all batchmates, whether grudgingly or otherwise, have immense respect for the topper. It takes great determination, self-control and consistency to do well in all exams, to avoid slipping up at any stage.

InsideIIM takes this opportunity to feature these special achievers on our platform. In our Special Ones series, we are doing interviews with first year toppers of elite B schools to give our readers a chance to understand the effort, the planning, and the sacrifice it takes to achieve something special. We started with Ankit Goel, First Year Topper at IIM Kozhikode. We then interviewed the first year MBA topper from IIFT – Nalin JainNow it is time to move to XLRI Jamshedpur – with B Ramakrishna – first year topper of the HR programme.


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About B Ramakrishna (in his own words) 

“I have always pursued knowledge for the sake of it and I enjoy doing things which challenge me. I have varied types of interests. I like reading literature and writing poetry. I enjoy playing the classical and electric guitar. I love listening to jazz. I like lifting weights. Comparative Mythology and is another obsession. I also like to learn new languages.”

Tell us a bit about your educational background – were you a topper all through your undergraduate and school days? What brought you to an MBA?

I followed the traditional route of getting an engineering degree before joining an Indian software MNC. Although I fared well in academics, I was never a topper during my undergraduate and school days. I worked for more than 3 years with TCS and after a point of time I realized an MBA would be a sound career move. Hence I decided to give the entrance tests and managed to get into XLRI.

Walk us through your academic journey in the first year – How did you pace yourself academically in the first, second and third term?

The most important things for any aspiring manager are time management and consistency. I also am not fond of compromising on sleep and need my 7 hours everyday. So I continued my habit of sleeping by 11pm and getting up by 6am .I realized that the best thing to do would be to be attentive in classes and I prioritize attending classes over everything else. The fact that I was also the class representative helped me align my goals to this objective. Participating and paying attention in classes helped me remember most of the stuff that was taught.  I focused always on learning and not on grades. Following a set of processes aligned to my goals helped in not making the whole experience overwhelming.

Did you encounter situations where you were in a group in which others were not as committed as you were? How did you handle this?

Diffusion of responsibility is fact of life and it happens wherever there is a group of people working. Instead of chastising people for not taking up the work I decided to set examples. There were occasions where I did the entire group work without asking anyone for help. This signaling mechanism helped in everyone contributing in future projects whenever I really needed help.

What were your thoughts and goals when you entered XL? Did you expect to top the program in the first year?

My whole goal was to learn and enjoy the process. There are many different variables that are not under one’s control if one is determined to get the first rank. I focused only on things in my control and anything else was a by-product.

B school life is always buzzing with all kinds of activities and distractions. What did you do to keep focus and what did you do to set up a routine?

I participated in some activities. I play guitar for Bodhi Tree , the XLRI band and played a few shows with the band. I also did work as the class representative. Most of time I would weigh the cost-benefits of getting involved in too many things. It is better to stick to what one is good at rather than spreading oneself too thin. I also went to the gym regularly which helped in attaining the focus required.

Are you a part of some Club/Committee? If yes, then how do you manage your time between your academics and the activities?

As mentioned earlier I was the class representative and it was aligned to my goal of attending classes. I also play guitar and jammed with Bodhi Tree whenever we found time. I did not study everyday but attended classes regularly. This made my job easier before the exam in recalling key topics.


(Promotion : The Smartest in the country take the XAT. Are you one of them. Register now.)


Tell us about your summer internship.

I interned with Accenture in Bangalore. I had an interesting project and found the culture at Accenture to be very supportive. It was a good exposure to how the HR function operates. As a result of my work I was awarded a pre-placement offer.

What was your reaction upon knowing that you had topped the first year? How did you celebrate it?

I honestly did not think too much of it and continued as usual.

What is your advice to a student entering a B school, in the first term? How can they achieve their academic goals? Apart from academics, what should they focus on?

It all depends on what one wants out of the experience. There are avenues to express all sides of a student’s personality. So the best thing to do is enjoy the process and not force things upon oneself. The best results come when there is enjoyment in the process. As far as academics is concerned, time management and consistency are key.

If you could distill the necessary qualities for success into one, two or three unique attributes, what would those attributes be?

This question is too difficult. However I think consistency and ability to reflect on things would be very important. Reflecting on things can help in optimizing the methods used.

If you could go back in time and you had to live the first year differently, what would you do?

I live by Nietzsche’s idea of eternal recurrence. So I would not change anything.

What are your future career plans.

Although there are a few areas that I am interested in, it is really a case of ‘I will decide when the time comes’.

Apart from imbibing academic knowledge, how else has the first year of MBA enriched you? What is the greatest non-academic learning you had at XL?

I will take the liberty to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson here. “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore it if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world”

Usually toppers are regarded as nerdy types, and in the high-stakes environment of a B school, they are subjected to a lot of peer pressure in ways that range from good-natured banter to mockery and bullying. Did you face this? If yes, how did you deal with it?

I did not face anything serious at XLRI. Most of the jibes are light-hearted and its fun to respond to them.

How was your performance in XL admission interviews? Which institutes did you interview with, which ones did you convert, and approximately where did you lie in the      final list of candidates selected for to XL?

I converted HR and did not convert BM. I only interviewed for IIFT and XLRI. I converted IIFT-Delhi and XL-HR. I am not sure about my position in the final list although I was shortlisted for the Aditya Birla Group scholarships which are based on the XAT score and performance in the admission interview.


(Promotion : The Smartest in the country take the XAT. Are you one of them. Register now.)

Read other stories from our  Special Ones series – focusing on 1st year MBA toppers from elite B schools

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