- A venture to guide ISB Aspirants

Recently, I had a chance to interact with some of the ISB alumni who have started a venture called I feel that is a very good initiative, coming from someone who has gone through the process, and more so, gone through the ISB journey. There are many applicants who are clueless regarding how to best project our personal story to the admissions committee. I feel that for admissions, more than a thorough understanding of the admission process, it is important to understand the MBA program and what the school has to offer. This is where initiatives like come into the picture to provide accurate and targeted information.

Delving into the history of how, why and by whom was started, I found that, was born with an aim to guide aspirants (both, fresh and re-applicants) through the admission process of the Indian School of Business (ISB). The founders, all alumni of ISB, have diverse industry experience and have worked in close coordination with ISB Admissions committee in past.

The admission process of ISB might appear daunting and overwhelming for fresh applicants and may not be clearly understood by the re-applicant pool. It is believed that only the best make it to best b-schools like ISB. But a lot of brilliant aspirants, for the lack of personalized guidance or unclear understanding of admission process, fail every year to project themselves well to the admissions committee. Quite undeniably, in many such cases, professional admission guidance can make the winning difference. thinkISB provide that guidance to ISB Aspirants.

For more information, feel free to reach them at

PHONE: 9010917222 / 9010918222

ISB Application 2009-10 Essay Analysis

The Admissions for the One Year PGP for the class of 2011 is now open. The application portal is also LIVE. Here is the link for the same.

The application deadlines are:

Cycle 1 Application Deadline September 15, 2009
Cycle 2 Application Deadline December 1, 2009

I had written a note on previous years’ Essays:
* Essay Analysis for Class of 2009
* Essay Analysis for Class of 2010

I did a simple analysis of this year’ essays and provided a personal opinion on the same. Take this just as my personal opinion and ISB has no official connection with the same.

Essay 1: Give 3 reasons as to why you should be selected to the class of 2011. These reasons should ideally differentiate you from the applicant pool and should be backed with some data. (300 words max)

According to me, this is the most simple and at the same time, the most important question of all. You simply have to differentiate yourself but remember: You do not have to be an overachiever to differentiate yourself. You do not have to do something away from the normal to achieve differentiation. Just sit back, reflect on what you have done and you will find the answers. Here are some tips to find the answer:

1. Just imagine that all people from your industry or company are put in a room together. ISB has to pick one person of them. What selling points do you have?
2. Jot down everything that you have done since graduation, be it extra-curriculars, achievements at work, involvement in social clubs, etc.
3. Use post-its: Write one bullet point about yourself on one post-it each. This point need not be an achievement, but can be rather normal (to you). Spread them out. Now make three boxes marked “Personal”, “Professional” and “Community”. You can make different boxes, according to your needs. Now classify each post-it to a box so that you have 3 clusters in front of you. In each box, start removing the least important post-it. Repeat this activity for each box until you are left with only one post-it in each box. Here is your answer.

Some general pointer on the purpose behind this question

The batch strength of ISB is 560 and every B-school wants each student to bring something worthwhile to the community that he/she can contribute. Consider the fact that learning in an MBA environment is not limited to classroom. Peer learning forms an important part of education here. To achieve this, a B-school must ensure that its batch is diverse enough that each person contributes as much to in-class discussions as to outside classroom interactions. These diversity factors can be in terms of international work experience, excellent academics, good leadership initiatives, start-up experience, and so on.

Structure of the essay

In my opinion, do not give any introduction or ending summary. Just come straight to the point, considering 300 word limit. If you really want, just give a one-liner introduction mentioning the three factors that you are going to talk about. This introduction is important if you are blending the three points in the essay and not separately listing them out under different headings. There is no one right approach. Just write it with your heart and make it either a story like essay or 3 points under 3 headings. Both are fine. The important thing to remember here is to be precise.

Essay 2: Describe a challenging assignment you have handled (at work or outside) to date. What were the challenges and how did you handle them. What were the personal learnings you derived from this assignment. (300 words max)

Challenges contribute significantly in developing professional and personal maturity. Answer this essay with a story to describe a challenge that helped you gain a mature approach towards life and work. Just pick one story, keep it simple and short and focus more on the learning part. This is a great opportunity to highlight your resilience and ability to learn from even the most difficult circumstances. Basically, you have to highlight how you grew either because of the experience or in spite of it.

A suggested structure to this response can be

* Story – Describe the initial challenge
* Comment on your thoughts and actions in response. If applicable, comment in internal thoughts as well as external reactions to display the nature of the challenge

It is not necessary to have overcome the challenge. You may still be in the process or have failed to overcome it completely. But the positive change did that bring in you is more important. Remember that your thoughts and response to the challenge should display maturity, and a common theme of sincerity towards improvement should come out.

Essay 3: Briefly assess your career progression till date along with your assessment of your future career goals. Discuss how your career goals will be met by the ISB’s one year program. (300 words max)

This is a very simple factual question. But the challenge here is put your story and future plans in 300 words. This exercise will take a lot of time and effort. In my opinion, the steps to structure this essay are:

* Jot down everything you have done till now in your professional life
* Answer a why to every decision that you took
* This should result in a chronological story with reasons for every step
* You have to tailor some things to show not that your decision was a consequence BUT because of your original plan, you took a decision. Basically, your decisions should be a consequence of your master plan
* Finally justify how an MBA fits into the overall plan regarding the next steps
* Now when everything is in place, put everything together. Make an attempt to bring out an interesting story that answers the reason of all your decisions and brings certain qualities evidently. Make sure that those qualities are coming out clearly and the user should not have to struggle to find those out.
* If space allows, you may also add a line or two about how an MBA from ISB specifically will help you. This answer will require some amount of research from your side regarding what ISB offers and how it fits into your expectations from an MBA program.

All the best for your application.

MBA Journal Writers for has posted requirements for MBA Journal writers. This is a good opportunity for people who want to become part of the team that will share their MBA experience with the rest of the world. They need people who are, or will join, the class entering 2009-10.

For one, I know for sure that there are many good writers out there who are anyway sharing their MBA journey through their personal blogs. This will be a good platform for MBA writers to come in the mainstream. This will also be terrific for any reader who would want to read about MBA experience of various B-schools, all at one place. Sad to see, there is no journal from ISB. So let me see if I get motivated enough to contribute (read: get time out of my busy schedule here at ISB).

Best of Blogging - Best MBA Advice

The Clear Admit Best of Blogging 2008-09 results were declared 6 days ago. Too bad I could not make it to the top 10 Applicants blog for the Clear Admit Best of Blogging 2008-09. But I'm honored to receive a mention in the Best MBA Advice Category. The judges, including Clear Admit staff and other bloggers included celebrity judges Dawna Clarke, Director of Admissions at the Tuck School of Business, Eric Bahn of Beat The GMAT, and Brad Garrison (a.k.a. Hella).

As I said earlier, this is a motivation for me to write more on the topic.

Thank you Clear Admit.

Nominated for Best of Blogging 2008-09

April has been a month of surprises and events for me. I joined the Indian School of Business (ISB) on 11th April and began my MBA. As many have heard, an MBA can be too hectic. So I wanted to enjoy my share of free time before starting the stressful year. I traveled to Goa and got tanned on the beaches. Then I went further down in Kerala (God's Own Country) and visit the tea estates of Munnar and the back waters in Alleppey. It was indeed a holiday well spent and got me ready for the MBA.

2 days ago when I got my laptop back from the local IT guys from ISB, after they made sure that my laptop is ready to use here, I got another pleasant surprise. I have been nominated by Clear Admit for their Best of Blogging Awards 2008-09. I feel honored and motivated at the same time to update my blog more often.

For those who do not know, Clear Admit is an admissions consulting company that also have an MBA Admissions Blog that helps share information by other applicants and current students. In addition, they also keep updated on various activities happening in B-schools all over the world.

I really feel elated and proud. This goes out to all my readers who are my real motivation. I wish to keep updating my blog on application process and life at ISB.

Last day at ISB - Graduation Day '09

Today, 4th of April, 2009, was the Graduation Day at the Indian School of Business (ISB) for the class of 2009. Today also marked my last day at ISB as a spouse. Today, my wife, became an MBA, an ISM alumnus and my senior.

Today the campus was abuzz with high activity. Families have arrived on campus to attend the Graduation Day, people are busy packing their stuff as most would be leaving ISB in a day or two. Coming back to the G-day.

The Chief Guest of the evening was Arun Sarin, ex-CEO of Vodafone. The other distinguished guests were Rajat Gupta, chairman ISB and ex-McKinsey head and Dipak Jain, dean, Kellogg School of Management. The evening started with a speech by Ajit Rangnekar, current dean of ISB. He talked about what ISB has achieved in the 8 years of its existence, what ISB is all about and what ISB plans to achieve in the short and long term.

His speech was followed by the guest of honor, Arun Sarin. He talked at length about what leaders are, the importance of integrity in business, and what a dream job should be. Considering the gloomy placement scenario this year, he did motivate by asking the students to follow their dream and not just run after 'any' job. He also mentioned that luck is definitely a factor in your life. While everybody knew that they will get a job soon, it was good to hear it from someone and of course, a boost is required.

After Arun Sarin, came Rajat Gupta. Although he too talked about the same motivational thought leadership stuff, but he accompanied that with his story. Let me share it with you. He went to Harvard Business School right after undergrad from IIT. But the year he graduated was in the middle of an economic slowdown, so jobs for student visa holders were less. Since he was there with 0 experience, hardly any company offered him any interview. He heard from McKinsey, did 2 interviews with them but then was turned down because he had no experience. After a while, at a chat with one of his profs, he came to know that his prof was the McKinsey interviewer's past colleague. On knowing that Rajat did not get an offer, the prof wrote to McKinsey, asking them to interview Rajat, recommending him and thus Rajat secured a job with McKinsey. Rest everybody knows. It was quite motivational.

This was followed by the awards/certificate distribution ceremony.

At the end, Kellogg dean Dipak Jain came to speak. He also serves on the board of ISB. I must say his speech was the stealer of the night. I have never heard such an influential speaker in my life who can grab the attention of audience of all ages. He impressed not just me, not just hte students, but everyone sitting there including the parents. That man, is so humble that you will never feel small. He will connect with you and make you feel empowered. He shared with us stories of life and that was what made us connect with him. While talking about the economic recession, he also touched upon the luck aspect but accompanied with an analogy.

He said life is like a game of playing cards. You can get very bad cards every time they are dealt. But, if you know how to play them, you cna be a winner. A person with very good cards can also lose. So just know how to play your cards and you will do well in life. Moreover, talking about the mood of students which was obviously not very good, considering the placements, he gave another hit.

He said humans should follow the refrigerator principle in life. If things are kept cool, they stay fresh for a longer period of time.

Isnt that the ultimate mood booster? With that the ceremony came to an end and everybody had photo sessions and a sumptuous dinner.

It was not over yet. A late night party continues and is going on as I write. This party is required my everyone to say the final goodbyes. Tomorrow, I am also leaving the campus and will return when there will all be new faces to make new friends. I will go now to say my goodbye to the friends I have made over the year. ISB is just not a good school by itself; it is made good by its people, who are amazing. I am sure the next batch, my classmates are amazing too.

It is 1 am and I am off to the party now.

Don Loper publishes his entire HBS Application

There is this guy called Joshua Steimle who applied to Harvard Business School (HBS) and got rejected without even an interview call. While MBA applications are considered private and personal by most people, this guy took a bold step and published his entire application in pdf form to the public for comment. I must say that's a very bold step and in all my sanity, I would never do that. But if you read his applications and then the comments section, you will get many different points of view and will develop a fresh perspective on leadership and management.

Here he publishes his application. Although he does a preliminary analysis himself before opening the application to the public, there are more aspects for improvement than he ever imagined. An interesting read. Go here for his entire pdf application.

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What to do during your MBA

As the placement and recruiting season is on at ISB and other B-schools, I am seeing people not getting their dream offers and getting depressed. Considering the current economic scenario, where companies are just being cautious and while most of them are just on a hiring freeze, I think this was expected. While going through some old archives on my computer, I found this advice useful (found somewhere on the internet, forgot the link) that I believe every B-school student should read before entering B-school and get themselves ready.

As You Begin….

Write down your goals: What are the top 3-5 things you want to accomplish during your B-School run? Review these goals regularly – hang them on your wall or keep it in your planner.

Get organized: If you do not already have one, get yourself a Palm Pilot, Treo, or paper-based system (Franklin Planner) to keep track of your (1) schedule, (2) rolodex, and (3) to do list. The rolodex is especially important – as you meet people (classmates, interviewers, professors, alumni), enter them in so you have record. Entering their names also will enhance your ability to remember them – repetition is the mother of skill.

Keep your resume up to date at all times! There is no official “resume season” – you could be asked for it at anytime, and failure to present one may preclude you from a great opportunity. Before you get knee-deep in classes, add your last experience to your resume if you haven’t already.

It’s all about Networking….

Get good at small talk: The best way to engage someone in small talk is to (1) remember their name when they tell you and (2) ask them questions. I always have four questions ready to go for anyone I meet:
– What is your name?
– Where are you from?
– Where do you/have you worked?
– Where are you living? (on campus/off campus)
Any of these four questions can lead you to “Level 2” questions: For example – “where are you from” leads to things like “I’ve never been there – what is it like?” or “did you like living there?” or “sounds like paradise on earth – do you want to return there?” etc.

Meet, Greet, and Meet Some More: Meet as many people as you can. Even if you do not regularly socialize with them, you will be surprised how your former classmates will welcome an email from you 10 years down the road, even if they barely remember you.

Keep Your Guard Up: One of the things I learned from my 1st year Negotiation class is that there are two broad sets of negotiators: Givers (“Pie Makers”) and Takers (“Zero Summers”). Givers are people with loads of integrity and are willing to work with you to create a bigger pie before negotiating on how to divvy it up. Zero Summers are in it for themselves; their sole purpose is to take as much as they can off the table. When a giver negotiates with another giver, there is huge potential for mutual benefit, but when a giver negotiates with a taker, the giver gets royally hosed every time. If you are, by nature, a giver, be very wary of the takers. (I typically assume someone is a taker until they prove they are giver.)

Don’t Become a Social Outcast: You are going to meet plenty of people who are just plain intimidating (Perhaps, you will recognize these people by the fact that they are going to pull up in Mercedes/BMW’s, talk about the CEOs they play golf with, and come from esteemed families/social circles). But there are plenty of people there who DO have things in common with you. Also, your social circles will develop over time, so don’t get freaked out if by the end of September, you have not found a group to hang out with.

Watch the Gossip: This probably won’t be an issue for you, but there will be plenty of opportunities (usually around beers) to make fun of people based on their classroom comments or other social gaffes. Try not to participate – it has a habit of coming back around, and you never know when you will have to work with that person on a team project.

Sometimes You Gotta Force Yourself: If you find yourself not feeling like going to a meeting, extracurricular, company brief, or social function, go anyway. I can’t tell you how many times I have dreaded going to one of these functions only to have learned something important or to have met someone that helped me down the road.

Today’s Professors are Tomorrow’s Colleagues: Meet your professors, get to know them. They value you – you keep them young and energized. Down the road, you will want to network with them. I did a horrible job of this.

The Classroom….

Go to Class: Not sure how classroom participation works at Berkeley, but at HBS it was a significant portion of the grade. Regardless, go to class – you will learn more that way. And don’t show up late – it is unprofessional and you will look bad – very bad. If it came down to being late or not going at all, I chose not going at all.

Recognize that you bring value to the table: Don’t be intimidated (as I was) by the I-bankers and Management Consultants. They will have really good, strategic work experience. But you have an equally relevant base of knowledge and experience. You have the advantage of having worked in an operational role, and knowing what works day to day amongst people who make the strategy happen. More importantly, not many have your experience in web marketing. Use these as your base.

Learn the jargon: You will find that the consultants and I-bankers will come in with a certain level of business savvy that you do not have (and I did not have going in to HBS). These people have operated at a more strategic level than you; learn from them. Listen how they talk and write down phrases you hear that sound good. Also write down phrases that sound equally ridiculous – you may be able to start a game of Business Bingo or even write a B-School comedy.

Have fun learning new stuff: You are paying a lot of money for this – focus less on grades, and more on learning.

Leverage other people’s knowledge: Form a study group with people with diverse backgrounds. Aside from the learning aspects, it is a good way to socialize.

Get the Wall Street Journal: Read it everyday, even if only for 15 minutes over coffee – it is the best way to get educated on business, and gives you tidbits to contribute to conversations in and out of class.

The Future….

View yourself as your own business: You officially work for YOU Inc. You are your own business. Figure out what things interest you (e.g. web marketing), and become THE expert on it. Then find opportunities (not necessarily “jobs”) where you can leverage your expertise. There will be times in the upcoming years where these opportunities will take the form of a job. Other times, these opportunities may take the form of a consulting/freelance role. Ultimately, these opportunities lead to the development of new skills and expertise, which open up a whole new set of opportunities.

Don’t settle for a job: Figure out something that interests you and go from there. I was interested in technology, I researched a couple of industries, and decided to go into telecom; I did not waste my time learning about other “hot industries” like Financial Services. Perhaps I could have made more money, but it did not interest me and I would not have been successful because I did not have the interest.

Don’t wait ‘til “interview season” to look for an opportunity: Devote time each week to learning about industries/companies/opportunities you are interested in. Get yourself a small notebook to jot down statistics or quotes that you can use in interviews, cover letters, and conversations. This is all part of the building expertise theme – you need to come across as an expert and part of that is industry knowledge.

Watch Your Burn Rate (a.k.a. Beware of Clothing Companies): In keeping with the “view yourself as your own business” theme, the #1 reason why startups fail is they run out of cash. So don’t let YOU Inc run out of cash. Rest assured, Hickey Freeman will try to sell you a $1500 suit, claiming that “you need this suit to be successful in your interviews.” Unless you are headed to Wall Street, a tailored $300-$400 suit will do you fine. The more general idea behind this is don’t do anything that unnecessarily raises your burn rate. Doing so will raise the amount you have to borrow and puts you in a deeper hole.

Organize Your Finances: Consider getting Quicken – it is a good time to get your finances organized. Also, keep good paper records around your school loans. We bought a plastic, portable file box with 2-3 accordion files to go inside – one was for our School Loans and the others were for bills, etc. Just don’t do anything to screw up your credit rating. You will need it later.

Debt Fears: Don’t worry about your debt – you will find a way to pay it off. We emerged from B-School/L-School with over $100K of debt; we paid it off, and we don’t exactly have Wall Street power jobs. (In fairness, they kinda do have big important jobs)