WALKING THE FINE LINE BETWEEN ACADEMICS AND EXTRA-CURRICULARS: An Interview with Karthik Kumar (IIM - B)
Management studies provide some of the most lucrative careers, but creating one's path towards success isn't as easy as it seems. Here is what Karthik Kumar, a CEG alumnus of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (2011 – 2015 Batch) has to say about his experience at cracking the CAT and earning an admission into the Indian Institute of Management – Bengaluru.
Guindy Times: What made you choose IIM-B after pursuing your EEE in Anna University?
Karthik Kumar: I was not particular about which University I studied in, but was determined to make a career in the Management. For my Bachelors degree, I wanted to secure a seat in Anna University to get exposed to a plethora of extra-curricular activities. I came to know that CEG had several clubs that would provide the right environment for honing my soft skills. I was not too particular about the Department and was satisfied with EEE. However, it was in my second year when I realized that the technical line did not match my aptitude. It was then that I decided to get into Management.
GT: In what way has CEG assisted you in cherry-picking your path to IIM-B?
It is widely known that the rich history behind CEG precedes its fame. The college was instrumental in shaping up my career in Management. I owe it to the clubs for giving me an opportunity to discover my ability as an organiser and a Manager. As the saying goes, “Entrepreneurship involves Management but it is not necessary for good Managers to be entrepreneurs.”
GT: In the midst of your EEE studies, was preparation for the CAT a tightrope walk for you?
KK: I wrote the CAT exam in my final year of college. I wasn't very serious with the exam preparation as I was involved in several extra-curricular activities. Moreover, there was a sense of relaxation as I had already been recruited by a company called 'LatentView' in my placement interview. Despite the odds, I managed to get a 91 percentile score.
To be honest, it is no Herculean task to score 90 percentile in CAT as the engineering background provides a foundation in technical knowledge, mathematics, data communication and verbal ability. I got calls from IIM-Indore and IIM-Kozhikode after my final year exams. That was when I joined 'LatentView' which happened to be a great platform for my career in Managament. I thought it would be an asset to prepare for the CAT with the business experience at the company, but the hectic work schedule put things into a different perspective.
GT: How instrumental was your career in LatentView in your entry to the prestigious IIM-B?
KK: At 'LatentView', we give analytical solutions for a number of businesses in the world. I was working for one of the e-commerce websites, which gives offers and discounts on purchases. It was my job to determine whether these offers were beneficial and helping the company become more successful. We have to access data and statistics from the site, analyse it and come up with proper recommendations to modify the campaign accordingly.
Initially, I was struggling due to my engineering background, clueless about running a business. With help from my team members, I learnt quite a lot about handling the business. Apart from all your technical skills, there is one more factor to qualify for CAT - the quality of your work experience.
GT: What were your main reasons for choosing IIM-B?
KK: Apart from new IIMs, I got calls from IIM-Bangalore, Lucknow, and Kozhikode. Among these three, the Bangalore campus is rated to top the list. It was also conveniently closer to my city.
Also, I had been to Bangalore campus once as part of 'Kurukshetra', marketing and inviting direct entries for our events. I still vividly remember the experience back then.
We went to the campus at 4.00 AM and were given accommodation in a room. I expected everyone to be asleep at that time of the day but to my surprise there was meeting going on right in the next room - around five to six people were discussing Flipkart business models! That really motivated me to join the Institute. That was the time I got my CAT results and felt that I could have put more effort to be a part of this campus. Nevertheless, the environment and the way of working truly motivated me.
GT: What have you the enjoyed the most in CEG?
KK: My best moments in CEG were in the CEG Tech Forum, where I was the Student Director. It was a great experience. We were a team of forty-odd members working together. We had intense discussions on several new strategies, weighing the pros and cons and then deciding on a fitting conclusion. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.
GT: Could you brief us on your day to day schedule for your CAT exam preparation?
KK: I did not prepare much for the CAT exams. I would just revise formulae occasionally. A student who is preparing must be aware of current affairs and have good writing skills.
GT: If you could point out the one decision that has changed your life and its perspective, what would it be?
KK: I was holding many posts in CEG: the Student Director of CTF, Treasurer of The Guindy Times, Vice President in my Department’s symposium, senior volunteer in YRC, and Chief Editor of CSAU. So I faced a situation halfway through the 4th year, where I had to select either placement procedures or club activities. However,I made a decision not to compromise on either and managed to achieve both.
GT: The ability to work in teams is emerging as a fundamental criterion for success in today’s cross-functional organisations. What do you think about it?
KK: It is impossible for a person to completely finish a task even if he is a person who thinks outside the box. So working in teams does play a major role and I would also say it is always better to think before we act to avoid misunderstandings.
GT: There’s a famous quote - "The most difficult task is not getting into IIM, it is coming out of it”. What continually motivates you to put forth your best effort?
KK: I do accept that the quote is true, based on my interactions with Seniors. However, I am confident that the same motivation that made me manage my final year in CEG will help me achieve this as well.
GT: What are your words of wisdom for your juniors writing the CAT exams this year?
KK: I believe that basic knowledge in logical thinking and data interpretation is sufficient to pass the exam with flying colours. Secondly, it is not about the preparation, rather about the practice. My advice is to take practice tests to improve verbal and logical thinking skills.
For the interviewers from GT, this was definitely a wonderful opportunity to interact with a friendly alumnus and be inspired to pursue their dreams.The Guindy Times thanks Karthik Kumar for taking valuable time off his busy schedule for this interview and wishes him the very best of luck in his future endeavors.