• 01 Jan

What it takes to be an elite Indian MBA

The Indian Institutes of Management (“IIMs”) are the premier management education institutes in India. The IIM building program was initiated by India’s first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, so that India could have a cadre of global-level managers.

The prospects of landing a job in an MNC, significantly higher salaries than post-graduates in other fields and an option to switch career track is what drives students to pursue an MBA from an IIM.

Getting into an IIM is no cakewalk. Out of roughly 200,000 (yes, two hundred thousand) candidates who took the entry exams in 2014, the test for getting admission in an IIM, only about 3,300 got selected (~ 1.7%).

These entry exams are punishingly hard. It requires months of preparation to understand the nuances of problem-solving in a timely manner, to have a focused approach towards finding a solution and also letting go of your own insecurities.

You need to brush up not only your analytical skills but also your mental stamina. The cost of preparation varies as per the individual. Those who are blessed with a higher aptitude probably shell out a few thousand Rupees on a test-series ($100). For others, the hit might go near $2,000.

Why all that expense and effort? It’s because once you enter the realm of those chosen few, you get to experience a totally different life.

Life in an IIM

No matter how much you read about the grueling schedules, the never-ending deadlines, the midnight tests, you only get a true feel of the scenario once you experience it yourself.

The first trimester is always the hardest. You get to learn how to delegate and divide work, how to manage deadlines, how to work together while keeping personal feelings aside, how to squeeze out half an hour for sports, how to get your sleep in short naps and go through your day with less than 4 hours in your bag and how to survive on mess food.

But keeping all these tough things aside, it is a wonderful feeling to be in an IIM, to be in an elite institution among the brightest minds, to learn new things, to see a whole new level of competition, to listen to ideas that you wouldn’t believe in, ideas that would simply astound you and to organize events, workshops, festivals and sports collectively.

All this hard-work and life-changing experiences reward you with a handsome placement at the end of your two year curriculum.

Career options

Having a degree in management from an IIM and an already-established alumni network helps a lot in getting meaty offers during the placement season. In finance, some go into investment banking (JPM, GS, MS), those who are quick with numbers are offered trading roles (GS, Barclays, Deutsche), some go into corporate banking in MNCs and those who are more focused on analytics go into research (equity, credit, structured etc.).

There are some great names there but in research, there are not many companies which offer a meaningful role. The firms already have models in place so the analyst has to plug in numbers, do some basic background check and submit the report in a pre-decided format.

This is not the case at Frontline. Here the emphasis is always on learning new skills, improving your analytical ability, delving deeper into an issue, pointing out the not-so-obvious stuff and making observations and comments that not many in the market are doing.

Frontline does not follow a typical hand-holding, spoon-feeding approach to training. It does have veterans who help a new analyst in understanding the nuances of the trade but always, the emphasis is on letting him/her evolve. Regular feedback at each and every stage of the delivery process helps a new analyst hone his/her skills.

It is an excellent place to be challenged and to grow. If an IIM meets that challenge, then we get a substantial career trajectory, at home or abroad.