Saturday, March 21, 2009

CAT 2008 - The GD/PI Saga

In an unexpected turn of events, I scored 95.12 percentile in CAT 2008 (results were declared on 9 Jan 2009)! With the kind of work at office, I wasn't able to devote any time to prepare for the exam this year, so was surprised when I managed a 20 percentile increase in my score from CAT 2007. So anyway, I applied to two institutes — K J Somaiya and TAPMI, got call letters from both of them. The selection ratio in these institutes, however, is around 1:20 (meaning 1 out of every 20 persons called for the interview process actually gets selected), so can't be certain if I'll make the final cut. Anyway, just thought I'll post my GD/PI experiences at both places (who knows, some aspiring MBA candidate might actually find this post useful) —

K J Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research (SIMSR)

CAT Cutoff Percentile: 93.11 (no sectional cutoffs)
Date: 8 March 2009, 8:00am
Venue: People's Education Society Institute of Technology (PESIT), Bangalore

Reached the venue well before time (by 7am itself), so had to wait outside for half an hour till I was let in. People started trickling in slowly, and by around 8.20, all the 200 or so people who had gathered were directed to the auditorium. Our registration numbers were called out one by one and our documents were verified — the CAT admit card, score card and ID Proof.

Then there was a short presentation about the insititute, followed by a Q&A session with the Director and Placement Coordinator. A lot of people were keen to know how the recession was affecting the salaries/placements this year. To questions about sports and other extracurricular activities conducted by the institute, the Director replied that all extracurricular activities are planned and organised by the students themselves.

Once the Q&A session was over, sheets of paper were distributed to everybody for the next step in the selection process — the Written Ability Test. We had 15 minutes to write a 300 word essay. We were given a choice between two topics — "Has Google replaced the traditional library?" and "Business ethics has become just a fashionable word" (something along these lines, don't remember exactly). Five minutes were up by the time I decided to go with the first topic; I quickly jotted down whatever points came to my mind and submitted the paper.

After all the papers were collected, our names were called out in batches. We were divided into 12 panels (of around 15 members each) and asked to proceed to our allotted rooms for the Group Discussion. The GD was case-based, on e-Governance — had to evaluate if India was ready for it, what challenges it faces etc. Was a good GD; even with 15 people it thankfully did not turn into a fish market.

After the GD round, we were given a 10-minute break to relax. The panelists shifted rooms, and then the Interviews began. Since I was serial #1 in my group, I was the first person to be interviewed. Now I'm really bad at remembering the series of questions I was asked, but this is pretty much how it went —

P (Panel): So Varun, tell me about yourself
A (Answer): Told them about my work, my educational background etc.
P: What exactly is Cloud Computing?
A: Utility-based, scalable infrastructure. Took their official website as an example and explained how a cloud solution would help them optimise resources and save money. [I don't think I was able to make them understand the concept completely though]
P: Could you tell me in brief about your final year project and what differentiated you from the rest that got you got special recognition from Wipro?
A: Explained the whole Magnum Opus initiative and how 30 people out of 1500 people from all over India were inducted into the "Magnum Opus Hall of Fame" for their outstanding contribution to the project.
P: OK Varun, you seem to be technically sound. But can you give me some instances where you took on a leadership role?
A: Told them about the events I organised in college etc.
P: Why do you want to specialise in Marketing? [Justified]
P: From what you've said so far, you seem to be thinking about yourself and your career growth. When Wipro has invested so much in you, don't you think you're betraying the company by leaving?
A: Justified that I can always join back Wipro after finishing the course, I would come back with a better skillset and be a greater asset to them than I am now.
P: What magazines do you read? [told them]
P: But don't you think as an entrepreneur you'd also need to know some basics about finance? Atleast things like reading a balance sheet.
A: I haven't had much exposure to Finance in my academic courses so far, but I stay with a couple of friends who do a lot of trading in the stock market and stuff, so I do keep picking up things from them.
P: OK Varun, was nice talking to you, thank you. You can ask the next person to be ready. We will call him in a short while.
A: OK will tell him. Thank you.

Was a short interview, around 15-20 minutes. Wasn't a stress interview for anyone as far as I know. I was done with the entire process by 12pm.

T A Pai Management Institute (TAPMI)

CAT Cutoff Percentile: 92 (no sectional cutoffs)
Date: 16 March 2009, 8:45am
Venue: TAPMI Campus, Manipal

Reached Manipal a day before the interview. I stayed at Janani Lodge (had initially booked a room at Hotel Lake View over the phone, but after seeing the dingy condition of the place when I got there, I reconsidered). The next day, at the new TAPMI campus, the entire process began at 8:45am. There were lists pasted at the entrance indicating the division of panels and the corresponding rooms for the GD/Interview for each. Alternatively, you could check out your panel details from a computer terminal by entering your TAPMI registration number. There were 8 panels that day with around 20 people in each. First, there was a short presentation about the institute and about the proceedings of the day. Here we came to know that the selection process was trimmed down to just three stages this year — GD, a written ability test and an interview (till last year the selection process consisted of a GD, a written summary of the GD, an extempore round, panel interview and finally an interview with the Director).

After the presentation, we headed to our corresponding venues for the GD round. They divided each panel into two groups. In my group, 4 people did not turn up for the process, so there were just 6 of us. The topic for discussion was "Is Slumdog Millionaire overhyped?". We were given 10 minutes to think and 20 minutes to discuss. Was a good discussion, the moderators even commented that they enjoyed our discussion after it was over.

For the next round, we were given around 15 minutes to write a 300-word essay on "Nothing is ever over until you decide it is". Once this was over, they collected photocopies of all our certificates (academic and extracurricular). Then we were asked to report at the venue for the interview. I was serial #3 in my panel, and #2 was absent, so I was the second person to be interviewed. It was a long interview, so I'll just list the questions asked this time —

P (Panel): So Varun, how's everything going so far?
P: Briefly tell me about yourself.
P: What are your views on George Bush?
P: Do you even read? [my opinion of Bush was for the most part positive, hence this question]
P: Watchmen huh... what's the story about?
P: Swap US and Russia with India and Pakistan. Which would be which and why?
P: Name 3 of your role models in life?
P: Tell me in 3 bullet points why you admire Azim Premji.
P: What's your father? What's his background?
P: [Lots of questions on the Satyam fraud case — Ramalinga Raju's motive to buy Maytas, his 3 failures as a leader, the current bidders, the takeover process, everything]
P: I have some Satyam shares, should I keep them or sell them?
P: How long will it take for share value to return to its original value of Rs. 510?
P: Where do you see the IT sector 5 years from now?
P: You said you're interested in photography right? Can I ask you any question on photography?
P: What are the 2 most important things for you in a photograph? [and some related questions]
P: What are the other calls you got?
P: How did that interview go?
P: How do you think this interview went?
P: Do you have any questions for us?
P: OK Varun, thank you.

The interview was for 30 minutes. I finished the entire process by 12:30pm. Relaxed the rest of the day, had a nice dinner at Saiba (Tiger Circle) and caught the 9:45pm bus back to Bangalore on 16th. Reached home early morning the following day.

So that about wraps up the entire GD/PI saga. If you've read up to this point, you either have an MBA interview coming up yourself (in which case I wish you all the very best!), or you have tremendous patience. Whatever the case is, thanks for reading. You probably need a break now, so go check out some funky Chrome experiments, or some Buffalaxed videos like this one.