MBA for my parents and relatives translates to ‘Manu Badhu Aavdacha’ which means ‘I can do everything’. The hype and fame around that coveted seat at a top B-School in India has dramatically increased in the recent years, CAT 2016 registrations reached a record peak at 2.32 lakh candidates fighting for 4000 seats. XAT 2017, the entrance exam conducted by XLRI for the prestigious seat also recorded one of the highest participants yet. I, too, managed to score an admission into XLRI with dreams in my eyes and caution to the wind, but I was in for a huge shock. The amount of work that you need to put in on a typical day will scare the bejeezus out of you. To put this in a better perspective, what does your typical day at an Institute looks like, some things might be exaggerated here and there but I believe many management graduates will nod their head along and feel nostalgic.
Time is 8:50 AM, you can barely open your eyes after just sleeping the previous night at 4 completing the assignment on Accounting where each question takes you at least 3 hours to solve. When you finally send your completed assignment with a sigh of joy, you look at the next day’s schedule and wonder how on earth you are going to survive the next day. Back to reality, you realize you have a class at 9, adding to it there a pre-read on a case that you completely forgot. These 10 minutes, you will put any superhero to shame. The speed with which you get ready, simultaneously eat breakfast and pack your bag while putting on clothes. You reach just in the nick of time for mandatory attendance with a sigh of relief. As the professor asks someone to give a summary of the previous class, you dive in the case, marveling at your own reading speed. You forget your lost sleep as soon as the class discussion turns exciting when two students start arguing about which is the best strategy. Class participation as it’s commonly known as starts to get ugly as 60 people try to voice their opinion with only 2 clear winners. ‘Ping! Ping! Ping!’ Your phone is can’t handle the deluge of messages getting received on the dozen WhatsApp groups, your committee has suddenly decided to hold an urgent meeting at a common room. You can hear the din outside the room and reality strikes that you have to conduct an event in the next days and work is yet to get started. The number of tasks always remain never-ending with Sponsorships, Room-bookings, Emails, Quiz-masters, online promotions, and so on. Committees form an integral part of the B-School campus with events happening round the year and round the clock. These are the places where you really learn management outside the classroom. Our discussion on optimum Marketing Mix for the event was cut short another lecture. The Classes are 90 minutes long, averages 4 each day and thank god for the breaks in between. Some of them get over in the blink of an eye or it drags itself for eternity.
Surprise Class Quiz!
The dreaded look in the eyes of students should be put in posters for a horror movie. You wish that you had listened to the last lecture but realize that you only have 5 minutes for the quiz. You accurately describe a startup founders share gets diluted after 2 rounds of financing and explain why debt-based financing will make more sense rather than equity based financing. ‘Finance’, a gruesome subject for many engineers requires your blood, sweat and tears, and sometimes even that is not enough. Thank God for the commerce graduates in your class, who will decipher and break down the concepts for you. Mindlessly, you look at the day’s timetable and the ever increasing volume of messages when you receive a rude knock on your shoulder. “We have two hours left to read the case, meet the professor and make a presentation and deliver in class”. Just when you thought you will manage to catch some sleep. We leaf through the Harvard Case which are getting longer & tougher every year and try to make some sense of the exhibits. Time for food which is becoming more a luxury rather than a necessity nowadays makes way for PowerPoint presentation. If it not were for the snacks sent by your mother, you might have died of hunger. Group presentations are the places where you learn to divide and conquer and reach utmost levels of efficiency during the last 30 minutes. It always takes longer than you anticipated but via the magic of PowerPoint SmartArt and templates you pat yourself on the back with the amazing ppt that you just created. The group splits up and prepares their own part while you decide to snatch a nap for some time.
“Jay, Wake up fast, you are late!” Your neighbour wakes you up at the last moment and you land up in class just as the professor is asking your group to present. While the other members give their part you read up the notes, dive into your memory and remember the case and manage to engage the class for 2 minutes. “Marketing” which the common man associates with the mindless advertisement on TV and Newspaper is a lot more. It’s intense, exhaustive, all-consuming but refreshing and quenches your thirst for knowledge at the same time. The professor, an eminent personality, well-revered in marketing circles, has written the course book and can quickly correlate any abstract term (You have dozens of them) with a real life example. Just when you thought you are thrilled for your presentation, an email announces itself which sent shudders down my spine. “Quiz 2 marks for MGE | 4:15” screamed the subject line. You are guaranteed to remember the marks of your batch-mates more than you remember yours when you open up the spreadsheet. It’s the usual, you will have to review the answer paper yourself, compare it and fight for marks. A silver lining you visit the famous Dadus on the way and munch snacks to your heart’s content while gossiping about the latest controversy in the college.
With only 15 minutes left for the next lecture, you hurriedly have snacks with your batch where a bunch of work-ex guys are pulling legs of the fresher’s about how the industry functions. You marvel at the differences in the experiences, cultural, personalities of your fellow batch-mates but they are all the same. Some had their own startup, some had dropped out, and some had worked in a bank for 4 years while some had already done an MBA but wanted more. “Organization Behavior”, one of the most important subjects which is commonly thrown away by graduates. In plain English, it deciphers the inner functioning of a corporation & how you can tweak it to your advantage, group activities are prevalent in these classes. The group (which are always different across classes) has to reach a consensus on the order in which to save 10 people. The animated arguments and the compromises that people make in order to get their way can still astonish you sometime. These discussions which can reach levels of World Wars extends to after class as well.
Every night gives you multiple opportunities where you can choose just one, this choice reflects more about you than any psychometric test that you have given. Should you go for a party? Should you study for the quiz day after tomorrow? Should you attempt a quiz from a rival college? Should you spruce up your resume for the coming placements? Should you take part in a competition floated by a top FMCG? Most of us choose the last option which required creating a video for the brand. You get together with your friends, attempt the quiz anyways, share some light-hearted humor, blast on some music and wonder what little you have done even after 2 hours. A call shatters the peace with a senior summoning you for sports practice for an upcoming tournament. Sports are encouraged across all B-school campuses with several tournaments and cups to occupy your already strenuous calendar. In between you hear an alarm on your phone announcing the birthday of a batchmate. Poor soul! A class birthday celebration is in order with the batchmate getting beaten up with sticks, belts, bamboos, shoes and a mixture of detergent, oil, mud, thick juices, eggs is being thrown upon him. You run in your shorts and just manage to kick him once, wish him and eat the amazing cake to your heart’s content. Just when you thought you are done for the day, a deluge of emails come barging in your inbox. They are the reminders to a consulting company presentation scheduled late at night for 2 hours that you had completely forgotten about. Half drowsy, half-angry, you push yourself to attend the presentation all the while thinking about the next day. Most companies as part of their policies visit B-Schools round the year and have conduct competitions, pre-placement talks in order to gauge interest.
Back to your room! Messy since the past 7 days, you open up the huge marketing textbook, wondering you can do biceps with these, and start reading through a 60 page chapter for the next day’s quiz. You don’t realize at what time you finally feel into a dreamless slumber, was it 3? Was it 4? But still manage to message your neighbor to wake you up and your family back home that you have survived for one more day.