The past week was packed with activity and it was more hectic than one could have asked for. (The "CATatastrophy" series will still continue on my blogpage but with a few interruptions in the form of my interview experiences like this one.)
So the day had finally arrived. 23rd of Feb it was! The venue for the interview was Dadar Catering College, a stone's throw away from the iconic Shivaji Park. I reached there a good 30 min before the scheduled time of quarter to 2. Seeing a tie in my hand, the man at the gate instantly recognized me as a "interview-wala" and let me in. The college looked more like a complex of residential buildings joined together. Each of these had interview sessions of other IIMs simultaneously. Nervous students and their more anxious parents sat in chairs outside; posibly making the mistake of coming to the venue hrs before the process and sweating their palms off.
Following the directions in the placards, I made my way to the 4th floor to the waiting room of IIM-A which housed about 7 candidates including 2 girls. I greeted all of them with a smile and took my seat. Not even did i spend a minute in the room, did I feel the immense sense of competition all around me which I could literally smell & taste. And why not, it is IIM-A after all, voted the best B-school in the country by popular public perception!!
2 of the dudes were deeply engrossed in the "economic times" enough to give you running commentary on the volatility in markets & inflationary sentiments. The girl to my right, not to be outdone, took out a book from her bag and started romancing derivatives & integral calculus. The most nervous guy next to me tried to strike a conversation with me by asking me about Laplace transform & Fourier series equations. I gave him a look as if he had just asked me about Suresh Kalmadi's bank balance.
A big, burly man who could barely make it past the room's entrance, called out our names from the corridor and ticked in his sheet. Maybe they kept him there to intimidate us. We were then summoned into a room with 8 chairs.
We got the first clear view of the people who would evaluate us during the process. P1, was a man probably in his late 40s and with a very accomodating look on his face. P2, a guy in his late 30s, seemed for like a alumnus of the institute, dressed in smart casuals.
After the initial pleasantries, we were asked to keep our certificates/marksheets/profile interview form aside for their verification. We were then given a topic " Networking is more important than academics for success in life." and asked to write on for 10 min on the given sheet of paper.
The 10-min essay writing session started sharp at 1:45 pm (impressed).
I dont think it lasted the exact 10 min.
I made my points crisp,clear and structured it reasonably well although I did sacrifice my hand-writing at times. I tilted towards networking's importance wherein i explained what it is, its evolution over time, what acads can get u to,what networking can get u to, examples about blogs & social networks for brand promotion, etc etc. Our papers were taken away after what seemed like only 5 min. We were then told to sit outside for our turn.
Mine came after a prolonged 2 n half hr wait.
P2 did most of the asking and P1 most of the document verification.
P1: So, what should we call you "Vishwanath" or " Hariharan" ?
Me: sir, "Vishwanath" is my name. (As if it matters, both names aren't the shortest)
Unlike most people whose interviews started with the standard favourtie of the interviewer "Tell me something about yourself", my interviews invariably started with something more simple like "What is your name?".
P1: (smiling & studying my 1st sem graduation marksheet closely) I see you dont seem to be too fond of "Matrices & calculus"
(aargh..D grade in the first sem of engg. I dont know about past-life karma, but past karma of present-life can come to haunt you bad.)
Me: (Smiled and nodded my head in the affirmative with a sheepish "Yes sir")
P2: (Scanning my profile form intently) Vishwanath, just tell us something about your work.
Me: I told them about my journey from the production shop to materials managementin M&M,supplier-related work, quality, cost , delivery, my role & responsibilities in brief, development work in some vehicle projects etc
P1: (whose eyes had lit up when i said Scorpio)So u develop components for Scorpio?
Me: Sir, not just the scorpio but all vehicles which come under the purview of the auto sector.
P1 & P2 nodded.
P2: So,how is M&M doing?
Me: (I spoke abt the varied product range (bike, car, truck etc etc)which M&M had got itself into in place of just the iconic 'jeep' with which it was identified earlier.)
P2: Hmm.. How is M&M's 2-wheeler business doing?
Me: I spoke about it as a brave move. But brave always doesnt mean great move..but still early days
P2: Would u buy/recommend somone to buy a M&M 2-wheeler? why?
Me: (I spoke about the latest news of sales nos dropping in the last quarter, market scene, skepticism to the new entrant and adopting a wait-n-watch policy.)
P2: What is the existing perception about M&M as a company?
Me: I had enough to blurt about. I told them about how M&M as a company is changing from a conservative indian company to a global brand, its JVs with Renault, international trucks & navistar, its acquisition of South korean auto major Ssanyong motors, M&M's entry into new markets like US which are challenging and demanding, projecting a positive image, re-positioning etc etc
P2: Why do u want to leave your present company for an mba?
Me: Told him about how I look to add to my skills with each opportunity, about my growth from just a metallurgist to the auto-engineer and the value-addition i have done in 3 yrs, talked about mba giving me the flexibility to diversify to new areas/sectors and taking up higher responsibilities.
P2: What would u do mba in (specialization)?
ME: Sir, I would want to keep my options open for now (cliched answer)
P2, till then, was still scanning my profile form which was barely 5 pages long and dint need such intense scrutiny. he looked at me with an expresion of "I have heard that b4. Be specific"
Me: If I am asked for preferences, then operations & marketing would be on top of it.
P2 smiled..he had probably heard a lot of finance till then. Finally, someone had saved operations from extinction.
P1: (Who had taken a profound liking to my graduation mark sheets) Which other calls have u got?
Me: Sir, I have got calls from calcutta, lucknow, indore and the 4 new IIMs (have to be honest, no? dont hv a choice, do u?)
P2: What are your hobbies/interests?
Sir: I am passionate about blogging, reading, travel etc
P2: Good, so what do you blog on?
Me: Told them that the blogs are on people, places, events and I keep the subject as relevant and contemporary as possible so that people can enjoy them.
P2: What is the latest on ur blogspace? What is it about?
Me: Spoke about the latest "CATastrophy" series on my page which takes u to CAT2020 with 26 new premier institutes of management, the intensity of competition, the selection criteria etc (they seemed to enjoy it)
P2: What do u read?
Me: Sir, Fiction
P2: Recent fiction novels?
ME: Rattled the names of a few of them and the recent one I had read.
P2: Do u read & follow current affairs?
Me: Yes Sir
P2: So whats the latest news?
Me: Its about Libya. the current situation has escalated to violence.100s are dead and many injured in clashes. Gadaffi is still defiant under international pressure. he has been there for 42 yrs and says he will die a martyr.
P2: Before Libya? in Egypt, the jasmine revolution?
Me: Sir, it started off in Tunisia and then spread to Egypt where Hosni mubarak had to step down eventually.
. Why did Hosni step down after so many days of revolt? he could have held on right?
Me: Sir it was not just the protests. but there was some amount of back-channel diplmacy going on between the US. The US backed him for their interests but they dint want the situation to go out of hand. So he stapped down. (accidentally I said that the americans were fond of him. This attracted a hearty laugh from both of them)
P2: What is the impact of this spreading crisis on india?
Me: I talked about the region being a strategic point for africa, europe, asia and trade & trade routes being affected,the suez canal being an important region with a capacity to transit 3 million oil barrells a day, oil crisis spiralling out of control and more inflation especially for countries like India dependent on arabs for oil.
P1: What are your favourite subjects?
ME: Sir, heat treatment & powder metallurgy
P1 asked me a metallurgy related question which I answered correctly
P2(Again back to current affairs) What is the latest economic news hogging headlines?
Me: Reliance selling stake to BP, budget'11, GDP growth at 8.9%, industry decline a bit etc etc
P2: U say there is economic growth but industry decline..how do u explain the contradiction?
Me: Talked about contributing factors being industry, services & agri sector. While services sector, agri have witnessed growth in each of them , it has been slow in industry.
P1: what is Contribution of agri sector to india's gdp?
P1:What is the % of population in india dependent on agri?
Me: (Guessed).. Sir 40% ! (feeling silly for the bluff)
P1: Are u sure?
Me: Its just a guess Sir
. Any latest bad news in inda?
Other than the scams, the parliament not functioning due to want of JPC.(aargh..how did i miss telangana, godhra..feeling silly)
P2: Parliament not functioning is actually a good thing. (All 3 of us had a laugh about it.)
P1: What is the market share of M&M in vehicle sales in india?
ME: Told them (on my finger tips)
P1: Do u think the last 3-4 yrs for M&M has been stagnant?
(Spoke about decline in production due to low demand from sept 08 till feb09 , then steady growth, said it was largely slow growth if 2007 compared directly to 2010, hence stagnant overall... I could have done better in this , especially the reasoning)
P2: Do u know probability (oops..finally comes the nuclear bomb)
Me: Yes, a little
P2: Explain cummulative distribution something-something curve..(???)
Me: No sir, not heard of it ( wat do u expect from a metallurgist who has forsaken it for the last 5-6 years of my life.)
P2: Basic probability laws?
Me:(thought for some time)The probability of 2 mutually exclusive events occuring does not influence each other , to which he asked for more basic stuff
P2: can probability be negative?
P2: Can probability be zero?
Both look at eahc other saying "We are done", smile at me and say a pleasant 'thank you'. No alpenliebe offered from the cup.
It was chilled out and lasted between 10-15 mins i guess. the panel was cool.
If u dint know anything u cud say that u dint know it.
It was the same for everyone, so I dint read much into it.
Personally, i cud hv reasoned better in some questions but overall it was an ok feeling.
Kept my fingers crossed..the next day, the next biggie - IIM C.
Final Verdict: " Biggest Convert of the season"