- Gaha K
Spain MBA Grad speaks to Nirali Advisory about his experience Studying Abroad!
Undergrad - H.R. College of Commerce and Economics– BCom
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India- CA
Postgrad – IESE Business School, Spain - MBA
Last role / Summer Internship- Management consulting intern at TBM
“If you are somebody who the school admissions committee believes is not going to be easily absorbed in the job market, then they would not grant you admission in the first place, because you could become a liability on their employment report and for a B-school, having 90%+ candidates having jobs within 3 months of graduation is a very important KPI.”
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your Educational and Professional Background? Which college, company, and role did you work in to get you where you are today?
I was born and raised in Mumbai. I attended an SSC school, Don Bosco High school in Matunga. I think somewhere around grade 12, I knew that I would like to pursue Charted Accountancy. But I also needed a graduate degree first and joined H.R. College for B.Com. For Chartered Accountancy, I joined J.K. Shah classes and would spend almost 6 or 7 hours a day for CPT and IPCC tuitions. I completed my 3-year articleship with a leading income-tax practitioner.
Then, I worked for 4 years in Financial Advisory at another firm in Mumbai called M.P Chitale and Company. It was here that I realized that none of the traditional CA streams appealed to me. Usually, CA Accountants are typecast into Tax or Audit routes and having experienced both, I knew that even if I could handle either one of them, it is not something that would keep me happy in the long run.
So, I needed to switch careers and I wanted to do something where I could leverage my other skillsets better, mainly communications, speaking, organization, etc. I wanted something more vibrant than a traditional CA role. So, like most people looking for either a boost in their professional career or looking to change careers, I decided to do an MBA. I was clear that I did not want to do one from India because I was quite fascinated by the idea of spending some time outside India.
I was 26 when I took this decision and as it is, it was too late to give the CAT and pursue an Indian MBA, which people normally do straight out of graduation. In my case, it had been about 5 years since I graduated and I had as much work experience at the time. Of course, I didn’t wish to share a classroom with people much younger to me and with zero work experience. This is because peer learning is a huge component of an MBA, so sharing a classroom with an experienced cohort at an International B-School has its rewards. IESE appealed to me on a lot of levels. I applied and I got in. So yes, that has been the story so far.
But among MBA colleges there is a preference for people who have done something within the realm of management; it helps if you have been a management consultant or a product manager in your ‘past-life’. This is something that these schools love and what they don’t like is something that I did, you know a static role like audit or taxation because you can't really exhibit turnaround stories in these streams, as these roles are quite dry. Schools also have a preference for investment bankers also private equity folks. A part of the reason for this is that even post the MBA, consultants, and bankers are very easily absorbed in the job market and that is something that the schools are very cautious of.
If you are somebody who the school admissions committee believes is not going to be easily absorbed in the job market, then they would not grant you admission in the first place, because you could become a liability on their employment report and for a B-school, having 90%+ candidates having jobs within 3 months of graduation is a very important KPI.
2. What was your undergraduate Major? What prompted you towards it?
The short answer to what did I major in at the undergraduate level is I did BCom. But the more appropriate answer is to say I pursued Chartered Accountancy and that was the goal I had in mind and BCom was more like a formality. Chartered Accountancy students are aware that their CA charter would eventually eclipse the worth of their BCom degree, yet it is important to be a graduate for many reasons, and further studies is one of them.
Till you don’t get your undergraduate degree obviously you cannot apply for further degrees, whether it is your MBA or something else, whether in India or abroad. So, the reason why I pursued Chartered Accountancy is because my father is a super-specialist in his line of work (medicine). I felt like I should also study something that is of equal standing in my line of work or in my stream of education. So, I knew that I wanted to do commerce, so I decided that Chartered Accountancy is the toughest thing in commerce which is why I should do it.
In hindsight, that is no way to take any decision in life. Like I realized later on, traditional CA work is not something that would keep me happy in the long run. So, I think people should take decisions based on what they want to do generally (and how to get there) and not based on what would seem fancy attached to their name. You shouldn’t do a PhD just because people would address you as a “Doctor” and you shouldn’t do Chartered Accountancy simply because your father did something significant back in the day.
3. When and why did you decide to study abroad?
I decided to study abroad and study for an MBA for 2 reasons.
One, I always wanted to live abroad, it is an important experience in one’s life, if one has the option. Some of my friends had that experience during their undergrad and I saw some tangible difference in their personalities once they returned after spending time abroad. I thought that it would be something nice for me. I have always liked that concept and I thought that I too should have a shot at that.
Also, if I were to directly apply for a job overseas, any country for that matter, it would not have been easy. So education seemed like the way to go abroad. An easier way to get a job abroad is to do a local degree. In my case, I thought that the general MBA is the best way forward, considering that I wanted to switch careers and did not have any one particular liking in my head, so as to do a concentrated Masters. I believed that a generalized degree would open more doors and teach me more about the world so that I could defer the decision of what exact line of work to join, until a later date.
4. Did you receive a scholarship? Do you recommend any good /institutions that provide scholarships or financial aid?
No, I did not receive a scholarship. I actually did not apply for a single scholarship because I knew how that would end; because scholarships are difficult to get. For example, for the college of my choice, IESE, scholarships are much rarer, compared to American B-Schools which are better funded with endowments.
Additionally, for male students, it is very difficult. Unless you can demonstrate a very high GMAT score like a 740 or something. But even then, it is not automatically granted, unless you can showcase other reasons too. I believe the situation is different for US colleges and the concept of a scholarship is more engrained in their culture and is more mainstream and they have more donors generally.
But the good news is that female students are eligible to apply for a Forte Scholarship. A lot of my female friends, including many Indians, got it.
So, in my case, I didn’t apply for any because I knew that the prospects were bleak. From what I have heard, the TATA group gives out some scholarships which are for students going abroad but again the size of the scholarship is pretty small, and to get a scholarship from an Indian donor, you really have to demonstrate why you deserve it. So, I think that it's something only exceptional candidates can get. You should have done something really special or you are able to demonstrate that your background is such that going abroad is an impossibility without the scholarship.
5. Is it worth taking a loan to study abroad? How does one measure one’s ROI?
This completely depends on your situation, and your family situation. I believe people should take loans and study abroad only if they have the capacity to pay back the loan even if anticipated plans don’t work out.
A rough ROI and pay-back period can be calculated by comparing MBA expenses and future earnings. I believe all colleges publish their tuition amount and the approximate cost of living in their city. So, you would have a fair idea of how much you would be spending in those 1 or 2 years.
To have an idea of future revenues, you can check your target school’s employment reports. Of course, you have to take everything with a grain of risk and uncertainty, and be prepared for the worst-case scenario as well. But it still helps to perform this exercise.
So, for the sake of example, consulting pays more than any other line of work so you will have a very short payback period and among geographies, if you work in the Middle East, where they don’t have income taxes yet, so your take-home will be more. Additionally, Middle Eastern countries are not as expensive to live in, like say Germany or London. So, you know you can proceed with your own assumptions and calculate your own payback period and it also needs to be said that there is the ROI just captures your financial return. There is also return that goes beyond finances and that is intangible of course.
One more thing worth mentioning is that there are a lot of wealthy candidates who come to the MBA program, and the MBA is obviously a very expensive degree, to begin with. So, even the crowd that it attracts comes from money in a lot of cases. I have a lot of peers, who, unlike me don’t really care about the financial ROI and to them, it is more about self-development and a finishing degree or something they can do at this age and cannot do later after they settle down in life and have more responsibilities. So, they don’t pay as much attention to the finances as much as some of us other candidates do.
But in the end, the decision comes down to you, your goals, your career ambitions, and your financial situation. Studying abroad can be very rewarding, even financially, but it is very important to ask yourself, “Do I have the financial means to absorb this expense even if I do not get a job abroad immediately?” Considering all risk scenarios helps you choose well, so you can make the most of your study-experience without being too anxious about finances. Planning and risk-management are very essential tools, in education and in life.
6. Any particular advice you would like to give for the application process from SOP Writing to Academic GPA to other things which you thought were important that helped you get into that course at that university?
People reading your SOP are human too. Give them something interesting to read! Your authentic story might be the most interesting one; so don’t be shy to ‘be truthful’.
7. Were you satisfied with your choice of university? What is your most and least favourite thing about the university experience?
I am very satisfied with what I gained from the IESE MBA. Of course, the true worth of anything is best assessed in the long-term, and I will have a more informed answer maybe a decade down the line, or even longer. But, in this short term, I am satisfied with the way that the MBA and peer-learning have expanded my horizons.
My favorite part has been the fact that the MBA is 2 years long and has 350 candidates in each cohort. This gives me a big network for the future and also sufficient time to forge personal connections with most of these people. And in the same vein, having a big alumni community is a boon.
8. Any other suggestions or pieces of advice you would like to give students who are starting out the study abroad process?
Do not view your education (degrees) and your career as separate things. Your education is meant to help you in your career. Assess both simultaneously, not separately. Start from the end. ‘What do I want to do in my life (long-term)’? Then move backwards to ‘What do I need to study today in order to get there?’
9. How did a study abroad help you?
It helped me get the experience of living abroad, work in international teams, understand the unique local situation in several countries.
We hope that you have found this interview insightful. Do let us know how in the comments section below!
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