Pursue MBA for a cause or to learn: Sindhu Ranjan

With a whopping percentile of 99.48, Sindhu Ranjan, a student of the Civil Engineering Department (Batch 2017-2021) has aced the coveted CAT examination. After years of hard work, he has finally got admission to Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management (IIT Bombay), one of the best B-schools in India. Sarjana had the opportunity to have a tête-à-tête with the trailblazer. He shares with us his learnings and awe-inspiring journey to become the institute CAT topper.

What was your first reaction when you learned about the CAT results and you being the institute topper?

At first, I didn’t know that I was the institute topper. When I got the result my first reaction was, “How did I get it?!” I thought it was wrong. There must be some fault with the website displaying the result. I was sure about 98 percentile but I never expected 99 percentile because this year, the cut-off went very high.

After seeing the results, I went to my grandparents. Everyone was elated and finally, after few minutes, the feeling sank in. I was in shock. I wasn’t crying but I wasn’t laughing either. It was a once in a lifetime moment.

While most of the students are still lost among career choices in their fresher and sophomore years, how were you convinced that you would be going for CAT? Would you like to suggest something to our readers who are still lost in the fog of indecisiveness?

The decision of going for CAT was not all of a sudden. Around six years ago I was pretty convinced that I wanted to get into business. Although my family has a business background, the one constant advice that they gave me was, “Get a job, have a regular income and enjoy your life.” But for me, the thought of a permanent job is very hectic and not at all exciting. I believe that working for a company that is consistently and constantly expanding and developing at a faster pace broadens your horizon.

I would like to share with you a concept of ‘Degrowth’. It says that any economy reaches an apogee after which the path is always downhill. I learned that India hasn’t yet reached that apogee and is, therefore, following a path of rapid development, unlike those countries which are developed and are now facing stagnation. This means that opportunities in India are in much abundance as our country has more prospects for growth.

To those who are still not sure about what to do, I would say that never adopt somebody else’s perspective. You should be aware of your interests and capabilities and choose accordingly. Blindly following a path suggested by somebody else might land you at a place where you won’t be able to perform optimally. In my case, I didn’t want to be bound to a nine-to-five schedule. I wanted every hour of my life to be that of learning and development.

When did you start preparing for the CAT exam? What was your overall preparation strategy?    

It was in my second year that I had gained enough maturity to analyse and choose the best option for me. Various coaching institutes used to organize mock CAT examinations for college students which gave me the idea that I might have an aptitude for this. That is when I decided that I will take a shot at the CAT exam.

For preparation, I preferred group study. In BIT you will find a lot of people doing the same thing. So, it was easy for me to form a small group of CAT enthusiasts and work with them. We used to share questions and also different ways of solving the same question. It all depends on perspective; somebody might come up with a more efficient way to solve a question. That is exactly why group study is most beneficial. For myself, I knew that I would be able to manage the LRDI (Logical Reasoning & Data Interpretation) and QA (Quantitative Aptitude) sections of the paper but VARC (Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension) would be difficult. So, I prepared accordingly, to boost my strong points and work just enough on the weaker parts.

Sir, now that you’ve mentioned VARC and considering how daunting it is for most of us, can you please suggest a reading routine for the aspirants?

In my opinion for VARC, the last three months before the examination are very crucial. This is the time when you are going to retain whatever you learn. Reading books by contemporary authors, or articles about current affairs is very helpful. The booklets provided by coaching institutes are also of immense usefulness in the process of learning and understanding and forming a better strategy.

I was not very sure about my VARC section so I prepared enough to achieve the cut-off. I focused more on those parts of the paper where I could achieve excellent marks thereby increasing my chances of a higher percentile.

Sir, do you think that it is beneficial to enrol in a course offered by the coaching centres for CAT preparation? Would you like to give some tips to the students doing self-preparation?

It depends on how well you can gauge yourself. If you are confident that you can do it on your own then you should do it. If you do the questions of the last 15 years, you’ll have an idea of what is going to come next year and according to that, you can decide whether to join coaching or not. They are good. If you want to join a coaching institute, go for the bigger ones. The mock tests provided by them are of better quality. If you are confident that you don’t need coaching, then preparing on your own can be very time-saving. YouTube is one of the best sources for preparation and you can find a lot of material over there. Also being in BIT you will have plenty of time. This is the charm about BIT that you can do whatever you want to do here in four years.

What role did Mock tests play in your success? How many mocks did you attempt before the exam?

I would like to impress upon the fact that mocks and previous years’ questions are most helpful. If you are not taking mock examinations, you are not preparing at all. CAT is the most unpredictable of all examinations, although you can still be prepared for whatever is going to come. While preparing I made sure to take 10-15 mocks every month. As the examination date was approaching, I was taking at least 25 mocks each month. Mocks are very important because they teach you time management. It will save you from the last moment of panic during the actual exam.

The syllabus of the CAT examination doesn’t have anything in common with the regular B. Tech syllabus. How were you able to manage preparation along with your academics and club activities?

I was very much indulged in extracurricular activities. I was a part of two to three clubs and was also involved in the activities of the Training and Placement Cell of our college. This never came in the way of my academics. Anybody who is pursuing engineering is well aware that studying the night before the examination is practically enough. But, I would never advise you to do so. (laughs)

 I was never a stellar achiever. But I do believe in maintaining a balance between all things. I utilized my free time judiciously for CAT preparation. Even the lockdown gave me a lot of free time. My academics never bothered me. But I was very focused on doing my projects because in Civil engineering you learn more from practicals than from books.

Upon receiving such stellar results, we are sure you must have received interview calls from various esteemed institutions across the country. Our readers will be pleased to know your preparation strategies for the interviews.

Many coaching institutes prepare you for interviews. I took an online course through a coaching group based in Mumbai. My high CAT scores earned me a scholarship there. They took my mock interviews and gave me valuable tips.

Can you please share with us an insight on the interview process and the types of questions asked?

The questions are primarily personality-based. They want to check how ethical you are. Most of the questions they ask will judge your managerial acumen. They will ask some questions that are intended to know how you perform under pressure. You cannot give in at that point. Even if you don’t know the answer you should say something with a pretext of doubt. They will gauge your adaptability by analyzing if you are comfortable with them and their questions.

You might be asked a vast array of questions. They might ask about your short-term and long-term goals. You should be prepared for anything and everything. They want to check your mentality. One thing to keep in mind is that those institutes are giving their logo to you, i.e., branding you, and they will be keen to know what good are you going to make of your MBA degree.

Now that you have belled the CAT, where are you devoting your time? What are plans for the future?

Currently I am doing my final year project in Civil Engineering. I am also planning to go for CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) LEVEL 1 after all things are settled. So, for a short-term goal I have to get admission to a good college, the best I can get at that moment and the second would be doing CFA for perhaps four to five months. For my midterm goal, I would say I want to go and have good experience in a good company for two to three years and for my long-term goals, I want to set up my own business and do well there. I also want to do some type of NGO work and will go ahead with that as well.

What message would you like to give to next year CAT candidates? One crucial piece of advice you would like them to follow and wish you had known before.

Going for CAT is a great thing but not everyone can do it at once. Be sure of what you want to do. If you want to do CAT, then do it anyway. Give your one hundred percent. Go for mock tests as much as you can. And, apply to all colleges. It’s not that only IIMs are the best. Some colleges like SPJIMR (S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research), MDI (Management Development Institute) Gurgaon are also among the best for MBA that accept CAT scores. Apply to these colleges too. I did not know about these colleges. This is something I regret. If only someone had advised me, I would have applied there as well as these are some of the best premium institutes in India.

Another thing I would say is don’t do CAT for a job. If you are doing an MBA for a job, you are simply wasting two years of your life. You will definitely get a good package but then you can also get a better life in PSUs. If you are doing an MBA, do it for a cause or to learn. Because MBA can teach you everything you want to learn. So, do CAT with a motive. And, learn as much as you can and implement it in your lives.

Thank you, Sir, that was indeed an enlightening experience we had with the CAT topper and we are sure our readers will be much benefited by your words of wisdom. Once again, congratulations and all the best for your future endeavours.

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