Vintage ISB email: Experience from the initial days

I can't help smiling after reading this email I found in my mailbox sent on a yahoogroup. An Akshay Soni forwarded an email from his friend who shared his experience of initial days at ISB, probably from the first batches. The email dates back to Jul 17, 2001.

Note the excitement of the guy on receiving his "high" config laptop. Interestingly, it seems the students in the that batch were handpicked and had the "wow" factor in their profile. It's a little long but I'm sure those who are related to ISB in anyway would treasure it. :-)

Hi There
Sorry about not replying earlier. Have been very busy the last few days. In fact, I have been sleeping only 4 hours a day on an average the last 8 days (i.e. since I joined ISB). & coming from me, that REALLY means that we have had a lot of work to do because I never ever compromise on my sleep ;-) But of course, u already know that.

Well, a brief recap of what happened over the past few days:

Our apartments were not ready on time so we were put up at the Taj Krishna (which is a Taj Luxury hotel, not a Taj Business or a Taj Value hotel). I registered on the 26th of June in the morning & was given two big bags containing books, course materials & case studies. I also got an ISB mug, an ISB pen, an ISB T-shirt, an umbrella (??!!), a planner & of course, my LAPTOP!! Man, I love my laptop. Its an IBM ThinkPad with a 800 MHz P-III, 128 Mb RAM, 10 GB hdd, 1.44 fdd, a 24x CD-ROM & a 15" TFT LCD which is equivalent to a 19" desktop monitor. It also has an inbuilt 56 KBPS modem and an Ethernet card. I don't need the modem except when I need to send out faxes. I have a data port in my room, which allows me to access the net from my room using our Local Area Network. I'll be getting a wireless card in the next two days which will allow me to surf the net even when I am on the lawns outside my apartment. I wouldn't need any cables to connect the laptop to the network!! Impressed? Well, I am :-)

Ok, well, after registration we had lunch at the hotel & then I went around meeting people and generally chilling out. There was nothing to do that day so I just went through the contents of the bags that ISB had given us & got scared out of my wits. I mean, the course material was really scary. & to top the whole thing off, I came to know that we would be having a course entitled "Take Charge" DURING our orientation week. The course was taken by Prof Dominic Houlder who had come all the way from London Business School for this. & to compound our agony, this course involved 5 case studies, two written assignments, one oral assignments & was to be graded. Matlab fail/pass ka funda bhi tha!! Anyway, the day passed uneventfully with the only thing exciting happening was that I got to meet some really gr8 people in my batch. Would u believe it, we have the Ms. India '97 semi-finalist who is a mech. engineer, was the University gold medallist of her batch, & then helped setup the production line of Tata Indica, was appointed the line-incharge at the Indica plant at pune & was the ONLY female on Telco's shop floor. We also have a member of the Indian Golf team; an army wallah who commanded the UN Peace Keeping forces in Somalia, fought in Sri Lanka as part of the IPKF, fought the kargil war & was awarded the Veer Chakra for it; We also have the Nivea Ms.Photogenic' 99 who incidentally happens to be in my study grp (the whole class is divided into two sections of 65 each which are further sub-divided into study grps of 5 each). & the best part is that since Ms Nivea & I are positioned next to each other in the class (we have fixed class settings), we also end up being partners in the class discussions where sometimes the class id divided into pairs!! ;-) & hey, Ms Nivea is not a dumb bimbo. Be4 ISB, she worked at Arthur Anderson, Merrill Lynch, KPMG & has a GMAT score of 710.

Day II (June 27):
I met Dean Sumantra Ghosal, Ex-Dean Don Jacobs of Kellogg B-School & Dean Deepak Jain (also of Kellogg B-School) in the space of 30 mins. I was really thrilled. I mean meeting people like these is a gr8 learning experience in itself. Anyway, there was nothing on in the morning so I just lounged around after talking the above three. We had our orientation in the afternoon. We were introduced to the diff people who would be responsible for our welfare, student affairs, placement etc. We were also formally introduced to the dean & the various profs. We then had a photo shoot of the whole batch along with the deans & the faculty & it was this very photo which was published in the Economic Times dated 4th July. We came back to the hotel after this coz we were supposed to prepare for a case study the next day. There was a formal dinner that night at the Taj Residency.

Day III (June 28):
Had our first class in the morning at the ISB campus. The Prof was Dominic Houlder (I've already mentioned this earlier) & the guy was absolutely phenomenal. I mean, the kind of energy & enthu that he radiated would put people 30 yrs his juniors to shame!! Anyway, the class lasted for 3 & a half hours & time just flew. Had gr8 fun that day. We had lunch on campus that day & the food was something!! After lunch we had a tree plating ceremony on campus & by around 3:30 we were back at the hotel. That evening we had "The talent night" at the disco of Taj Krishna. We were divided into teams according to our housing blocks on campus & we were supposed to perform something that reflected on the ISB ethos for about 10 mins or so. Everybody really freaked out that night especially since the disco was booked by ISB for the whole night & after dinner, everyone let their hair down & danced till around 11:00-12:00. Then junta suddenly realized that we hadn't started out on the case for the next day so there was almost a mass exodus from the disco. In less then 10 mins, everybody was with their study group preparing for the next day.

Day IV (June 29):
We had classes at the ICRISAT. I dunno the exact full form but that’s an UN funded agricultural institute. The campus was really beautiful but we hardly had any time to walk around be4 we were herded into an auditorium where we had another gr8 session with Prof Dominic. We then broke up for lunch which was followed by a Treasure hunt (??!!). This was not just any other hunt. The ICRISAT campus is Huge & the clues were scattered all over the campus. so we were given bicycles to ride on. I must have ridden almost 6 kms that day. But at least our team (teams were the study grps) had the satisfaction of coming in first!! :-) After the treasure hunt, all of us got together for tea & snacks & then the radio jockey got out his guitar & started to croon with all of us chipping in. We came back to the hotel by around 8:00pm, freshened up & were down again for dinner. Dinner was followed by another round of discussions with my study grp for Case Study # III which was to be discussed the next day. We broke up at about 2:30 am & went back to our rooms.

Day V (June 30):
The day started pretty early coz I was up at 5:00 in the morning. I had to go through the case again & also had to complete the first written assignment which was due today. Thankfully, the class was to be held at the hotel itself, so that gave me an additional time of 45 mins (the time it took to travel from the hotel to ISB). I barely managed to complete the assignment, get a printout, grab a light breakfast & reach the class on time. The case discussion was superb as usual. We broke up early coz we had to start working on a simulation program where we are supposed to be running an airline company. Based on the decisions that we take (such as %age spend on mktg., airfare, service quality, recruitment, number of aircraft purchased) the performance & share price of the company would be affected. Even the competitors would react according to the decisions that we take. So it was a very exciting & realistic experience. The final objective was of course to maximize the share price at the end of 32 quarters. Our group managed to get the price to around $365 from the original $1.25 while the group that won pushed it to $1283. This activity took quite a long time & lasted till 2:45 p.m. I just had time to go back to my room, put my stuff back & come down in time for the first Dean's Forum which started at 3:00 p.m. The whole faculty along with all the admin people were there & we had some really inspiring moments with the deans. This was followed by a dinner at the ISB campus which was hosted by the ISB Executive board. It was here that I got to meet & talk one-on one with people like Rajat Gupta (MD, McKinsey), Girish Reddy (Head of Goldman Sachs' London office), Rajinder Pawar (NIIT founder) & Anand Mahindra. Man, were these guys good!! & they were so damn humble & down-to-earth that u just couldn't help feeling that they deserved all that they have achieved. Anyway, we also got to look at our apartments-to-be for the first time that evening & it was an awesome experience. These apartments are truly world-class; the student housing Village II is divided into 10 blocks of which 8 blocks have 4-bedroom apartments & 2 have studio apartments. There are huge & beautifully manicured lawns all around the housing village but the coup-de-grace are the 4 beautiful pools between the various blocks. The external lighting around the place really lights up the whole village. There is also one huge tower bang in the middle of the housing village. After dinner, we came back to the hotel at around 11:00 p.m. Now since there were no classes the next day (thank god for that), we had two options - we could either crash & catch up on our sleep or freak out. & guess what?? We actually chose the second option against our better instincts & 7 of us (incl. 2 girls) got together in Vicky's room & had a ball. Vicky & mkg played the guitar while the rest of us crooned along. There was a lot of leg-pulling & general masti happening. This continued till around 4:30 am when one of us had the bright idea to take a stroll down to the swimming pool. & since it was such a wild idea, all of us decided that we just had to do it. So down we trooped & continued with the singing & masti at poolside. We finally wrapped up at around 5:30 am & then went back to our rooms.

Day VI (July 01):
This was the big day guys. The day when ISB was to be normally "opened" (not "inaugurated" - the inauguration is sometime in Nov-Dec). Well, after the wild night, I woke up at around 10:30, missed breakfast & had to make do with the silly biscuits that room-service typically provides. Anyway, went down to lunch at around 12:00 p.m. where over lunch we had a talk by a female named Ms Lata Krishnan, co-founder of SMART modular technologies. She talked to us about her experiences as an entrepreneur, the starting up of the company & the problems that she faced when she started out in the silicon valley. Immediately after lunch, we moved on to the ISB campus where Chandrababu Naidu officially opened ISB. That guy is to be seen to be believed. I mean he's even simpler that he appears on TV or in print. He spoke eloquently about his vision for Hyderabad & how he had managed to convince the ISB board to choose Hyderabad as the venue. After Naidu left, we had a santoor recital by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma which went on for about an hour. & hey, when Naidu was introduced by Rajat Gupta, he (Rajat Gupta) also announced the appointment of Pramath Sinha as the first dean of ISB. This announcement was greeted by a standing ovation by the student community (since we had come to know this guy so well over the past few months when he had been interacting with us in his capacity as the CEO of ISB). Pramath was really moved by the response & he actually had to brush off a few tears. Anyway, after the santoor recital, all of us got Pramath over outside tha hall & told him that as the founding batch, we will be setting some traditions. The first & foremost of which will be that ISB would be the only B-school where all the students would call the dean by his first name (instead of dean Sinha as he would have been called elsewhere). & then what followed was truly mind-boggling!! We actually lifted Pramath onto our shoulders & then proceeded to give him bumps as our way to congratulate him for his appointment. We are now the ONLY B-school batch in the world to have shouldered the dean!! & while the tradition of calling the dean by his first name would continue long after we have passed here, I don't think there would be another batch which would get the chance to actually give bumps to the dean. man, we got some "bragging rights". After we were finished with this, all of us came back to the hotel at around 6:30 p.m. We then had to get set or the BIG DINNER that night which was to be hosted by Chandrababu Naidu. We walked into the hall by around 8:00 p.m. & Naidu came in bang on time at 8:15. Then as he was being led to the center table by Rajat Gupta, he stopped & walked towards the students. He then proceeded to shake hands with each of us, talked to us personally about our backgrounds, about why we chose ISB & stuff & only after he had met all 130 of us, did he go to the center table. & hey, I was the second student he talked to!! I actually got a whole 5 minutes to talk one-on-one with him!! That has to be among the most memorable experiences in my life. Well, after dinner, it was back to ground realities for us & all of us got together with our study group to study & analyze the case study for the next day. These ISB guys really consider it a personal affront to their egos if we have even a free minute!!

Day VII (July 02):
Had classes as usual the whole day & then half of the junta moved out the hotel that night except for the junta who were supposed to shack up in A & J blocks. & since I am an A blockwalla, I was among those who stayed back at the hotel. There were 32 of us that night & we all went out to Pizza Hut for dinner that night. Freaked out totally there, came back & went back to our books for, what else but, another case study. I also had to complete the second assignment of the "Take Charge" course which was to write an eulogy that ur best friend would say for u on ur funeral!! Believe me, corny as this assignment sounds, it really was one hell of an experience trying to complete it. I don't think that I've ever thought abt my value system ever before more than I did that night. But I did manage to complete my assignment & turned in at around 3:00 am.

Day VIII (July 03):
Moved into my apartment this morning after classes. Today was also the day when our orientation wek came to an end. Lounged around during the afternoon, unpacked & settled in. & then in the night we had another of our "crooning & guitaring" sessions but this time the venue was on the lawns just beside one of the pools. One thing about the ISB campus is that there is a great cool breeze blowing across the campus all through the day & night. & it was the same case that night. The reflection of the moon in the pool, the gentle breeze, the waves rippling across the surface of the pool & around 30 of us sitting there just crooning along was some way to spend the night!! Anyway, the session just broke up around 45 mins back & here I am writing this mail at 2:30 in the night. So I guess I'll just end here & turn in

How to use SWOT analysis in MBA Application

You are applying to a B-school for an MBA. You know you fit the school and have done enough research. When you start writing your essays, you are expected to write about yourself and you don't know why it is taking so much time just to write about yourself. Introspection, "a conscious mental and usually purposive process relaying on thinking/reasoning/examination of one's own thoughts and feelings" is probably you have to do and find it very difficult to express your own self.

SWOT analysis is something which can come in handy for a situation, personality or organization analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Although extensively used in marketing reports, one can use it to analyze a personality in a methodical manner.

Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors while opportunities and threats are potential external factors. Strengths can serve as a foundation for building a competitive advantage, and weaknesses may hinder it. By understanding these four aspects of yourself, you can better leverage your strengths, work upon your weaknesses, capitalize on golden opportunities, and deter potentially devastating threats. Thus with a successful analysis, you become clear in expressing yourself and thereby improving yourself.

Your Strengths can be:

  • Your academic record
  • GMAT Score
  • Quality work-ex
  • A unique leadership experience
  • A unique hobby
  • A unique skill
  • Community participation
  • Knowledge of a foreign language
  • An initiative taken at workplace to solve a complex problem
  • Enthusiasm, energy, imagination. Your qualities.
  • ... the list can go on. Just spend some time and make an exhaustive list.
Your weaknesses can be:
  • Poor undergrad grades
  • Low GMAT Score
  • Less work-experience (how was the quality?)
  • No managerial/leadership role (bad can you justify your abilities?)
  • A bad habit (procrastination, laziness, poor communication skills?)
  • No international work-ex.
Now when an internal analysis is done, we'll see how your strengths can be used to grab possible opportunities and how your weaknesses can be possible threats so that you can work on them before it is too late.

Some of the opportunities can be:
  • A perfect fit for XYZ school based on your experience (Your marketing stint in the IT company fits with your post MBA goals of marketing, etc.)
  • Your GMAT score is above the average GMAT score of the school.
  • Your international experience was considerable.
  • Increase in no. of seats this year. ;)
  • just research the school and fit yourself in, building up on your strengths.
In a similar fashion, corresponding to the weaknesses, threats can be identified:
  • average GMAT score is increased this year
  • More number of people have community involvement.
  • Many people have international work-ex which you do not.
  • You are part of a large applicant pool.
A SWOT analysis template is available which can be used. Remember that SWOT analysis is just one method which can be used for building up on significant achievements in your life and building a story. Apart from MBA application, it can also be used for within the company appraisals, although I have provided examples targeting MBA Application.

Hope this helps in bringing out your true self and writing a genuine application. Although I do invite other ideas from the readers which I might have missed out on.

How not to screw up an excellent B-School Application

Have you ever wondered why "that" guy was selected and you weren't although you clearly had a better profile and background than him. When you two stood together you were the obvious choice for the B-school. But remember, the admissions committee is not stupid. "That" guy might have been more expressive in his essays than you had. He has efficiently utilized the word limit provided to highlight his achievements creatively, however little those achievements had been.

Here are some points regarding essays that I have figured what might screw up your chances of admission, in spite of having an excellent record.

  • Do not lose focus. After you have written your essay, find out how many words you can edit out. Be brief, focus on the essay topic and stick to the word limit. There is absolutely no need to rephrase your resume.
  • Do not use industry jargon. Using industry jargon to describe the work to do is probably the worst thing to do with your application. Not everyone can understand your ABCD... Just include enough detail about your responsibilities to frame the story and then focus on yourself. Too much jargon only clutters the space provided.
  • Do not make lame excuses. First of all, there is no need to write about an embarrassing failure that you committed and whine about it. If an incident is important in shaping your career, do mention it, take responsibility of your mistake and write about what you learnt. This also holds true for your bad grades and low GMAT score.
  • Do not restate facts about the school. You need not state, "The schools has most of the guest faculty from top 5 US B-school". Don't you think the admissions committee know it already?
  • Do not forget to show your research on the school. All the business schools provide the best they can, or at least show that they are the best, be it average GMAT score, diversity, etc. But there are unique offering by every top school. Mentioning the specifics in the application shows that you are keen on joining their program.
  • Do not use lame phrases. Expressions like "thinking outside the box" tends to turn off the readers. Do not use such phrases.
  • Watch your voice. Avoid using passive voice and avoid being too informal. Use a tone which you would normally use in an interview. The overall voice does reflect your personality.
  • Do not forget to get the application reviewed. Getting your essays reviewed by a third person gives you another picture and provides you with a reflection of how it actually represents you. Get it reviewed by at least 3-4 experienced people and avoid reviews by friends or relatives. Their reviews might be biased.

MBA Application Do's and Don'ts

The MBA admission essays are your chance to demonstrate your unique qualifications for and commitment to a career in business by discussing those experiences, people, and events that influenced your decision to enter the field.

That's a lot to accomplish. The key to success lies in focusing in each essay on a few illustrative incidents as opposed to giving a superficial overview. Remember: Detail, specificity, and concrete examples will make your answers distinctive and interesting. Generalities and platitudes that could apply to every other business school applicant will bore. If you use the latter, you'll just blend into the crowd.

Following "Ten Do's and Don'ts for Your MBA Application Essay" will help you write compelling, focused essays that will transform you from a collection of numbers and classes into an interesting human being.

Ten Do's and Don'ts for Your MBA Application Essay

The Do's for Your MBA Essay

  1. Unite your essay and give it direction with a theme or thesis. The thesis is the main point you want to communicate. Make sure it answers the question.
  2. Before you begin writing, choose what you want to discuss and the order in which you want to discuss it.
  3. Use concrete examples from your life experience to support your thesis and distinguish yourself from other applicants.
  4. Write about what interests you, excites you. That's what the admissions staff wants to read.
  5. Start your essay with an attention-grabbing lead--an anecdote, quote, question, or engaging description of a scene.
  6. End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and restates your thesis.
  7. Revise your essay at least three times.
  8. In addition to your editing, ask someone else to critique your personal statement for you.
  9. Proofread your essays by reading them out loud or reading it into a tape recorder and playing back the tape.
  10. Write clearly, succinctly.


  1. Don't include information that doesn't support your thesis.
  2. Don't start your essay with "I was born in...," or "My parents came from..."
  3. Don't write an autobiography, itinerary, or résumé in prose.
  4. Don't try to be a clown (but gentle humor is OK).
  5. Don't be afraid to start over if the essay just isn't working or doesn't answer the essay question.
  6. Don't try to impress your reader with your vocabulary.
  7. Don't rely exclusively on your computer to check your spelling.
  8. Don't provide a collection of generic statements and platitudes.
  9. Don't give mealy-mouthed, weak excuses for your GPA or test scores.
  10. Don't make things up.
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Make sure you develop a theme and maintain a tone of the overall application. Research well, be organized and just write about yourself. I'm sure it'll be easy.