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A Farmer-turned-MBA student who plans to

use his IIM-C degree to change the seasons

on the fields
by Lajwanti D'Souza on 10 October 2011
in Agri-business, IIM-Calcutta, Unusual MBA students, Why MBA

If you think farming is all about ploughing the field clad in a dhoti and eating packed lunch
under a tree, think again. Hariharan V is one such farmer who is pursuing an MBA degree at the
Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIM-C). From a small village in the southern part of
Tamil Nadu, this 25-year old is at IIM-C because he is alarmed by the way the business of

agriculture the foundation of Indias economy actually works. He finds it bothersome that
middlemen and market fluctuations play a bigger role in the life of an ordinary farmer than
annual seasons and weather tantrums. After completing his engineering in 2007 followed by a
short stint with a software firm, Hariharan realised that there was nothing better than the farming
business in India and thus is pursuing an MBA to exhilarate the agro-industry.
Hariharan and his family own some nine acres of land in Tamil Nadu. Of this, 5 acres is used to
grow vegetables and the rest yields flowers. Vegetables being the traditional produce, it is only
lately that Harihaan and his family dived into flower farming. Last year (2010-11) the family
made about Rs 5,50,000 in profit.
Why MBA?
Ever since Hariharan decided to pursue an MBA degree, he has been fielding the question Why
MBA? Everybody expected him to simply toe the family line. But the young farmer had other
plans. Farming it would be, he was sure, but with business knowledge thrown in good measure.
An MBA will help me understand the business dynamics, complexities involved and actual
opportunities the industry can provide. The knowledge, ideas gathered and interaction with
students, professors, alumni and industry people will broaden my spectrum using which I will be
able to integrate farming with business ideas, is the answer he gives everyone.
Dirtied his hands before
Hariharans restless mind never stops thinking about how to change things in the farming
business. Ever since he began helping his father in the fields years ago, he has had the yearning
to do things differently and to be able to reap more profits in a sustainable way. I saw a huge
potential in agriculture as the demand for food was increasing throughout the world and the
prices of agricultural commodities were also increasing and sustaining for longer periods all
this made me give the the whole process a thought, the MBA student says.
For years together, Hariharan and his family concentrated on growing vegetables such as tomato,
brinjal, onion and lady-finger. But we faced severe losses due to improper planning and market
fluctuations. There were other factors which crippled the day-to-day operations and it took me
time to get used to these realities, recalls Hariharan.
In a bid to figure out the source of the problems, Hariharan did some detailed research and study
of the subject. He describes his research,
I carefully observed the markets, the factors affecting them and then selected the crops,
adjusting the timing of the cycle to ensure a nominal price for the produce. I then improved the
net output and reduced the input cost using quality ideas, judicious use of fertilizers and organic
manure and implementation of technology to optimise water usage, reduce manual labour and
improve the quality of the produce. I realised that conventional farming was not sustainable and
started practising sustainable agricultural practices and also made efforts to move towards
organic farming without a decrease in the quantity of the output. My strategy was to have a
constant source of income throughout the year, so I decided to cultivate flowers as their price

was stable and the profit margin was also high. This gave me the leverage to take risks on
vegetables which were prone to high market fluctuations and I learned in due course that if
planned and timed properly the returns could be manifold. However the variables involved were
too many and the data available to take informed decisions too low.
Hariharan realised that if proper guidance and support was given to farmers, one could expect a
total turnaround of Indias agricultural scene. This will also attract young talent towards farming
which in turn will give rise to new ideas, he adds. He says that agriculture poses a plethora of
opportunities and this is the best time to capitalise on it, and that can only be done with the
support of the government and entrepreneurs. The presence of middlemen in the farming
processes of our country is the main reason why farmers get much less than is due to them.
Hariharan also believes that the marketing of agri-produce needs to be increased heavily. When
asked whether cash crops were the way to go for farmers to get rich, Hariharan replied that cash
crops were profitable for farmers and more would shift towards them as the demand for fodder
and alternative fuel increases. But assisting farmers with quality inputs, data, developing hybrid
varieties which suit local conditions to improve the productivity and profitability of the
traditional crops is something that needs to be done on an urgent basis and to the entire spectrum
of farming, whether big or small, he says.
So if the solutions are already known, then Why MBA?
I want to turn the sector organised from the unorganised fashion in which it functions
presently, says Hariharan. I do not want agriculture to stagnate at a particular level. Farming is
prospering and so are the subsidiary industries. With the help of an MBA I will be able to
contribute to the farming community as a whole.
Does he give farming tips to classmates
Years of toiling on the field (literally) is helping Hariharan in his classroom. Now that he has
learnt to solve problems on the field he takes the same endowment to class. Admits Hariharan,
I am able differentiate the way in which I worked and how the successful organisations work
and from it I am learning new ways to approach things in a systematic way.
About his classmates, many of whom may have never stepped on a fertile field, he admits that
most students do not have the slightest clue about farming. Or about the problems faced by
farmers, not even the opportunities agriculture provides. I try to educate them on the current
farming scenario in India and to some extent globally.
Why not an MBA in agri-mangement?
No, Hariharan is quick to answer. My learnings would have been restricted to a particular
field and my knowledge about business in other sectors would have been curtailed. I wanted to
learn management as a whole, and to be able to apply what I have learnt on the field to practical
business problems.

While Hariharan attends classes at IIM-C, his family still works on the fields in his hometown.
After graduation, Hariharan hopes to join them not only as a farmer but also as someone who
can change the family fortunes who can help reap not only vegetables and flowers but also
profits and that too in a systematic and methodical fashion.

Why a Buddhist priest from Japan is

studying MBA at ISB, Hyderabad
by Vasundhara Vyas on 20 October 2010
in Buddhist priest, ISB Hyderabad, Keisuke Matsumoto, Unusual reasons to do MBA, Why

Corporations and temples have a lot in common, believes Keisuke Matsumoto, a student at the
Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad.
A participant in the PGP batch of 2010-11, Keisuke spent the last seven years as a Buddhist
priest at the Komyoji Temple in Tokyo. He plans to use his MBA education to upgrade the way
Buddhist temples work.
The only thing that differs between a corporation and a temple is the objective. For corporations
it is profit and for temples it is the happiness of its followers, he says.
Keisuke is a graduate from the University of Tokyo, with an honours in Philosophy. Soon after
his graduation, Keisuke like any other youngster started to evaluate the various options he had.
Joining the corporate world, becoming an academician and several other options were on my

list. But I finally decided to devote myself to the Japanese tradition and philosophy, Keisuke
Like in India, the Japanese also have families that run temples for generation after generation. I
do not belong to a temple family, but I found my inner calling and followed it. My family too
supported me in this decision, he says. Keisuke belongs to the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism.
The journey from the university classrooms to the life that he had to lead to become a priest was
tough for Keisuke.
To become a Japanese Buddhist priest, I spent close to six months in the headquarter temple at
Kyoto, leading a very strict and disciplined life. After that I was working in my temple in Tokyo
and lived with the head priests family, Keisuke says. Keisuke conducted ceremonies and gave
Dharma teachings independently to the members of the temples.

But why an MBA, I ask. The young priest answers, Temples need management too. He
continues, Seven years of working in the temple taught me that simply attracting people to the
temple is not enough. In this modern age, I wanted to explore the real role that temples could
have for people. I needed to understand, what should temples offer to people. I needed to acquire
good management skills to lead the temple.
As a young priest working in the temple by choice, Keisuke dedicated a lot of time making
young people come to the temple. My temple in Tokyo is situated in the heart of the city,
surrounded by numerous corporate offices. I used to often see many young men and women pass
by. Like youth in India, even the Japanese think that temples are conservative places and do not
usually not appeal to them, he says.
As my first initiative, I launched the Young Buddhist Association with the help of my college
friends and as one of our first activities, we hosted a music concert in the premises of the temple.
Then I started noticing youth even more, observing what they do and what they enjoy. Spending
time in cafes was another thing that they enjoyed, so we launched a cafe in the temple. We asked
young people to just come and spend time there. Even with a small menu of drinks and desserts,
all on the house, the place was a hit. In return we asked the visitors to donate money to the
temple, Keisuke recalls.
So, why India for management education? Keisuke says, US is the first destination that comes
to mind when its about management education, but I chose India because it is the land where
Buddhism was born. Also, the Asian countries are soon going up the ladder and I did not want to
miss the action.
The interview that Keisuke had at ISB was not a long one, but he recalls that it was all about
religion and the activities he did when in the temple. The interview lasted a little over 20

After joining ISB, he has even conducted some sessions for his colleagues at ISB, talking about
his work. Keisuke, lives on campus with his wife and two-year old son Koga, an alternative
name of the River Ganga from ancient Buddhist scriptures. While I am here, I also take every
possible opportunity to understand Hinduism and travel extensively in term breaks, he says.
Though Keisuke dresses like any other student on campus in jeans and t-shirts he still finds
time to devote to his daily chanting and other religious rituals. The only time he dressed in his
tradition temple clothes was at the end of their orientation week, where the batch had to put up a
programme. He is majoring in Marketing and Strategy, both of which he feels, he would need for
managing his temple better.
Everything that I hear in class or discuss with the study group, I try to put in the context of the
temple. My purpose to be here is to understand all that is happening in the corporate world, so
that religion can be made contextual. Religion and corporations may be conflicting ideas, but
since Buddhism does not allow conflict, my teammates and I have healthy arguments. All of
them come with considerable amount of work experience, laughs the young priest.

After graduating from ISB Hyderabad, Keisuke would like to work in a larger perspective by
joining the temple management of the headquarter temple in Kyoto and managing the assets of
the temple better.
He also plans to design a training module for priests at his temple so that that they know whats
going on in the modern world beyond the boundaries of their religious training.

A detailed guide to writing the Why MBA,

Why Columbia & Why now type of essays
by Guest Writer on 06 July 2010
in Essays, GMAT, international MBA, Statement of purpose, Why MBA
Contributed By: Jeremy Shinewald

(Credit: m.gifford)

Virtually all top business schools with some notable exceptions ask applicants for a
personal statement in which candidates discuss their goals and ambitions as they pertain to the
MBA degree and often, to the target schools particular program. As you approach this essay, be
sure that you place appropriate emphasis on the personal aspect of what you plan to write,
because you will need to take ownership of and truly tell your story in a way that is not only
clear and compelling, but that also reveals your personality and individuality. You cannot afford
to be generic or vague when stating your goals or the reasons why you want to attend a certain
school. Instead, you must write with purpose and conviction to impress upon the admissions
committee that you have maturity and vision and will see your goals through.
In practically all personal statements, you must discuss your past (work experience), present
(need for an MBA and the schools ability to facilitate your academic and professional
objectives) and future (career goals) with insight and focus. However, note that we actually
recommend a past, future, present sequence for this essay, because in this case, the most logical
approach is to first give context and background about yourself, next describe your goals and
then explain why you need the particular schools resources to achieve those goals. Convincingly
explaining why a schools resources are required to help you achieve your goals would be quite
challenging if you have not first stated what those goals are.
Past: Context and Work Experience
In recent years, top MBA programs have been de-emphasizing work history to some degree in
the personal statement. Most schools personal statement essay questions used to read a lot like
this: Discuss your work history. Why do you need an MBA to achieve your goals? Why do you
want an MBA from our program? In conversations with admissions officers, I have come to
understand that many felt that the resume, recommendations, other essays and interview provide
sufficient information about a candidates background and that a work history was increasingly
unnecessary. Still, some personal statement questions follow this traditional approach, as is the
case with Kellogg:
Northwestern University (Kellogg): Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on
your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at Kellogg. (600word limit; 20092010 essay question)
Meanwhile, others such as those for Columbia Business School and the University of
Michigan (Ross) do not explicitly ask you to discuss past experiences, but providing some
basic context for your goals is still important.
Columbia Business School: What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will
Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (Recommended 750-word limit; 2009
2010 essay question)
University of Michigan (Ross): Briefly describe your short-term and long-term career goals.
Why is an MBA the best choice at this point in your career? What and/or who influenced your
decision to apply to Ross? (500-word maximum; 20092010 essay question)

If a school explicitly asks you to discuss your career progress to date, do not take this as an
opportunity to offer every accomplishment on your resume. Some candidates make the mistake
of writing about their work experience for 75% of their personal statements, even though they
are also submitting a resume with their application. This wastes precious essay space by
repeating facts the admissions committee already has elsewhere. We recommend limiting your
discussion of your career history to approximately 40% of the essay length and including brief,
but strong, examples of success to represent an accomplished career.
When no explicit request is made for information about your past, you should still include some
brief background to make your present and future goals relevant. For example, a statement such
as My long-term goal is to become director of marketing for a major league sports franchise
becomes much more reasonable and the stated goal seems more attainable when the
candidate also offers information about his/her past experience in sports management. Context
connects the past and the future. With questions like Columbias and Rosss, candidates should
limit their career history to 50125 words or approximately 10%15% of the total allowed
word count of context, so the career goals are clearly plausible and connect to a broader story.
Admissions committees are much more interested in understanding the decisions you have made
and the processes through which you have grown than reading a summary of your past work
experiences. Indeed, the presentation of your career progress in your essay should show
professional milestones and momentum toward your future career goals. Your career history in
this context is not meant to be a full review of your professional past, but rather a story that leads
the reader to understand and admire your future goals.
If you are a career changer, as many MBA candidates are, your work history may not seem to
link as definitively with your stated goals, at least in comparison with someone who plans to
continue working within the same industry or job function after business school. However, you
still need to show growth and accomplishment and highlight capabilities and knowledge.
Emphasize the aspects of your career to date that are most relevant to your future goals, either
because they have served as good preparation for your new intended career, or because they have
given you some transferable skills that will be relevant to that career.
Future: Career Goals
Your career goals should have a logical connection (if not a professional connection) to your
professional history. The general idea is quite simple:
past experience + present MBA = future professional goals.
Short-Term Goals
Your short-term career goals need to show very clear direction and purpose. Simply writing
When I graduate I want to go into marketing or With my MBA, I will enter the field of
consulting is not enough. What kind of marketing (i.e., consumer products, business to business,
etc.)? What knowledge do you have of consulting, and why will you excel? Remember, this is
not a statement of dreams, but a statement of purpose, so you need to provide far greater depth.

As you develop your short-term goals, you must consider the specific role they will play in
enabling you to attain your long-term goals. You should demonstrate why you will excel in
pursuing your goals and, ideally, show insight into why the market might even need you.
Consider the following example:
Given my background as a wine journalist, I am well aware of the traditional aspects of the
wine-making industry and recognize that many vintners are slow to adapt to modern
manufacturing and marketing techniques. With my MBA from Shinewald University, I will have
the specific entrepreneurial and operational skills necessary to develop a small vineyard and
nurture it so that it realizes its full potential. I see myself in my first position after earning my
MBA as the general manager of an antiquated vineyard in the ABC region, implementing
operational efficiencies, accessing capital for growth and marketing a superior product
nationally and even internationally.
In this example, the writer connects his/her experience as a wine journalist to his/her future as a
general manager at a vineyard. He/she identifies a specific role to play and even illustrates the
logic behind this role, which is essentially some vineyards desperately need professional
management talent. The reader is therefore left with a clear understanding of where this
applicant is going, why this applicant will succeed and even why this applicant is needed in this
Avoid Generic Statements
Declaring I want to be a banker or I want to be a consultant without any further clarification
simply is not sufficient you must explain as specifically as possible what you envision
yourself doing after business school. For example, within the consulting industry, you will find
many different types of consultants: marketing consultants, operational consultants, strategy
consultants, technology consultants, small business consultants even admissions consultants!
Thus, stating merely that you want to be a consultant will reveal that you have not done your
homework and do not really understand your field of interest or your possible place within it.
In contrast, consider this short-term goal statement:
After graduating from Tuck, I intend to join either the Performance Improvement Group at
Bain and Company, specializing in turnaround strategy, or the Operations Group at BCG,
focusing on Rigorous Program Improvement.
Although this sentence is out of context, no one who reads it could credibly argue that the writer
does not have a clear sense of purpose or knowledge of the consulting field.
In short, the admissions committee needs to see conviction and passion for a path; no business
school that requests a goal statement is going to accept applicants who are unfocused with regard
to why they want an MBA. However, conviction does not need to mean rigidity. Spend some
time thinking through your goals very carefully. If you are not able to pinpoint an exact choice
or if you can envision more than one feasible route to your goal under certain
circumstances, offering alternatives for your short-term goals can be acceptable. (Note, of

course, that alternate paths still need to involve a logical connection from past to present to
future.) Consider the following example of offering alternative goals:
In the long term, I would like to head a nonprofit organization that focuses on offering career
guidance to inner city high school students. I see two possible paths for achieving this goal. In
the short term, I could work at a nonprofit with a similar mission, such as the Youngest
Professionals Organization, working my way up and gaining concrete experience in managing a
nonprofit. Or I could take a slightly different angle, working at Honesty Corporation, which
targets its products to inner city youth, to gain a better understanding of that population before
moving from the business sector to the nonprofit one.
Someone reading this statement should clearly see that the applicant is indeed quite serious about
his/her long-term goals so much so that he/she can envision at least two feasible routes toward
them. Again, admissions committees want to understand that you are resolved about your future
plans and view earning your MBA as a vital step in the right direction. Sometimes, maintaining
perspective and offering a second possible path can reinforce that determination.
Long-Term Goals
When proposing your long-term goal to the admissions committee, first keep in mind that you
will need to demonstrate a cause and effect relationship between it and your short-term goal.
Note also that long-term goals can be less specific than short-term goals they essentially
represent an ideal aspiration. While specificity is recommended for statements of short-term
goals, admissions committees understand that no one can truly predict the future, so your longterm goals almost by necessity need to be less detailed. However, they should still clearly denote
an intended and attainable career trajectory, as shown in the following example (which continues
from the one offered in the Short-Term Goals section):
In the long term, I would build on the success of this endeavor and would source and acquire
multiple vineyards in need of modernization. Ultimately, I see my role in the firm as one of a
portfolio manager, actively managing several vineyards and making decisions about capital
allocation while leveraging operational and marketing efficiencies.
Avoid Unconnected Long- and Short-Term Goals
As stated, you must be sure to demonstrate a cause and effect relationship between your shortand long-term goals. While your goals can and should be whatever you desire for yourself
(admissions committees do not have a right goal in mind that they expect from candidates) and
may even seem quite disconnected from each other at first glance, this is fine as long as a causal
connection exists and is shown between your short-term goals and your long-term goals.
After all, your long-term goals are based on the assumption that your stated short-term goals will
be reached; the positions you will hold later in your career will be facilitated by those you hold
For example, a statement such as In the short term, I want to be in marketing and in the long
term, I want to become a banker would present a significantly disjointed transition one that

would likely perplex an admissions officer or career services advisor who reads it. Most shortand-long-term goals can connect in some way. Equity research can be a foundation for
consulting, for example, and marketing can be a basis for entrepreneurship. Generally, the goals
themselves are not that relevant the rationale behind these goals is what is vital. If the goals
are well connected, they will be real.
Moreover, given that these are your personal goals and part of your vision for your career and
life, you most likely already know how they connect for you. The key is clearly communicating
for the admissions reader how the transition you envision from your earlier role to your later one
will play out in your post-MBA years.
Avoid Disingenuous Goal Statements
Rather than expressing their sincere desires, some candidates make up goals they think the
admissions committee wants to hear. These applicants tend to believe that the school is seeking
only certain types of candidates who plan to pursue specific industries and positions, so they
must fit this mold to gain acceptance to the MBA program. Not only is this untrue, but trying to
guess what an admissions committee wants to hear and deliver it is also a recipe for failure. The
end result is uninformed goals that lack context and sincerity. And considering that all parts of a
candidates application package should support the same career vision including ones
interview with the school, if applicable presenting false goals here can jeopardize the
applicants entire candidacy.
Expressing what you truly feel and want to pursue is key. No amount of sophisticated language
can make up for a lack of passion. Remember that admissions readers see thousands of essays
every yearthey are extremely experienced and can therefore tell when a candidate is being
sincere and when he/she is just trying to say the right thing. Besides, writing the truth is not
just more effective, it is much easier.
Present: Why Our MBA?
Perhaps above all else, schools want to hear very compelling reasons for each candidates need
for their particular programs MBA. Even when a school asks the generic question Why do you
need an MBA to reach your goals? it is in fact also indirectly asking you, Why do you need
your MBA from our school? and How will you use our resources to achieve your goals?
A common mistake among applicants when responding to this question is to simply flatter the
school: Ross is remarkable because of its wealth of entrepreneurial resources. I am excited to
join a community of aggressive and exciting innovators. This sentence is entirely generic; the
writer has not offered any insight into his/her reasoning or into how he/she will use particular
Ross resources.
Instead, infuse your arguments with school-specific information. For example, this same
candidate would be more effective by writing the following:
I am interested in modernizing the antiquated wine industry but recognize that no rulebook or
simple theorem exists for doing so. Thus, I am compelled by Rosss action-based learning

approach, particularly its Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP) course. During this sevenweek hands-on experience on-site at a company, I expect to face live challenges and deliver
targeted solutions, with the help of peers and advisors, meeting the high-level expectations of a
major firmthe ideal training ground for facing a host of management problems in the
inefficient wine industry.
In this example, the individual does not simply compliment the schools positive qualities but
explains how Rosss unique characteristics and offerings meet his/her specific needs by
inference, no other school can fulfill these needs, because no other school offers the MAP. While
you may not always be able to pinpoint aspects of a program that are entirely unique to that
school, the key is to show a connection between the schools resources and offerings and your
individual interests and requirements to make the association very clear and personal. Doing
so will show the admissions committee that you have done your homework and understand how
the full complement of that schools resources come together to create a unique and fitting
As a rule of thumb, if you can answer the following three questions about the school in some
detail, you will present yourself as sufficiently knowledgeable:
1. What specific/unique academic programs or classes appeal to you and will help you reach
your goals?
2. How will you both contribute to and benefit from the schools nonacademic offerings?
3. What elements of the schools atmosphere, the nature of its students or the general sense you
get about the school through visits or conversations with students/alumni make it attractive to
Two to Three Themes
In longer essays (7501,000 words), candidates must discuss two or three key themes and give
detailed explanations of exactly how they will use the schools resources to achieve their goals.
For example, he/she cannot simply state: Columbia is an excellent choice for me because of its
wealth of entrepreneurial programs. I also look forward to international programs at this most
international of schools. Furthermore, CBS excels in finance and marketing. The idea is not to
generate a list, but rather to develop a well-thought-out argument. This is similar to stating your
case to a jury: prove to the admissions committee that by taking advantage of its schools specific
programs in your areas of need, you will achieve your goals, and suggest that taking these
specific programs is the best (or only) way for you to achieve those goals. For example, a
candidate might choose to dedicate a paragraph to CBSs entrepreneurial resources:
One of the most appealing aspects of Columbia is that entrepreneurship is not just taught but
experienced through a wealth of hands-on resources. Through the Entrepreneurial Sounding
Board, I will have a vital avenue available to test my ideas and gain frank feedback from serial
entrepreneurs, which will allow me to refine my ideas and prevent mistakes. Equally important, I
would aspire to enter the Entrepreneurial Greenhouse.

Personal Fit
Showing your academic and career fit with a certain program is vitally important, but so is
showing your personal fit. If you have visited the school or spoken with some of its alumni,
students, professors or admissions staff, mentioning these personal connections can be quite
helpful. Your knowledge of the school will seem more substantial, and your interest will be seen
as sincere. Note how the candidate mentions several firsthand experiences with the school in the
following example:
I was deeply impressed by my visit to the Shinewald School of Business. From Professor
Amanda Smiths clever explanation of the AOL case in her Acquisition Finance course to the
energy of students Tom Brown and Jill Johnson, who all but dragged me across the street to have
coffee and share their insights, I was amazed at the dynamic feel that permeated my brief
Shinewald experience. I look forward to being a part of such an outgoing community.
Your Contribution
Often a school will ask applicants to explain what they will bring to the greater MBA program if
they are admitted as students. In this case, applicants can refer to such possible contributions as
expected participation or leadership in a particular club; past work experiences, which can enrich
classroom discussions; an international background, which can bring a global perspective to
teams or coursework; or even personal characteristics like enthusiasm or humor, which may
facilitate bonding between classmates. Be careful to not just present a list of clubs, for example,
but to truly personalize your proposed involvement in specific student organizations or events
and in the schools broader community. Even when a school does not explicitly ask what you can
contribute, if space permits, you should still discuss what you could bring to the community, both
in class and beyond, if this has not been accomplished implicitly elsewhere in the essay. Here is
one example of how to address ones contributions:
Outside the classroom, I am excited to get involved in the Operations Club, particularly the Six
Sigma Challenge, given my interest in innovating within the wine industry. Needless to say,
perhaps, I also look forward to joining and taking a leadership role in the Wine Tasting Club,
where I could use my connections to vintners in the region to expand the clubs touring program
and its connections with recruiters.
Why Now?
An important element of personal statement essays that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is the
why now aspect. Candidates understandably focus on detailing their career progress to date,
outlining their goals and/ or conveying why they are interested in a particular MBA program and
either forget or forego any explanation of why they are choosing to pursue an MBA at this
particular time. If a school specifically asks why you feel now is the right time to earn your
MBA, do not gloss over or sacrifice this information. Do not assume that it is not as important as
the other elements of your candidacy that you wish to express the school asked about timing,
and an important rule in writing any application essay is Answer the question. Be sure to take the

time necessary to develop a clear, fitting answer to this portion of the personal statement, when

About the author: Jeremy Shinewald is the Founder/President of MBAMission, an admissions

consulting service based out of New York. He is an alumnus of the Darden Graduate School of
Business, University of Virginia.

There is too much fuss over the MBA

degree author Rashmi Bansal
by Lajwanti D'Souza on 21 June 2010
in Authors, entrepreneurship, IIMA alumnus, Rashmi Bansal, Why MBA
Considering that Rashmi

Bansal is a product of Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, she ought to be the
last person to pen a book on people who have made it big without an MBA degree. She in fact
upholds the view that an MBA is in fact just an embellishment and many successful people have
made it big without one. But thats exactly why she wrote the book Connect the Dots, she says.
There is just too much importance given to the MBA degree. There are all sorts of success
stories of people who have not done an MBA so why so much of fuss for the degree, she asks.

That said, her second book is in stark contradiction to her previous one (Stay Hungry, Stay
Foolish). While the first celebrated the ability of MBAs to be successful entrepreneurs, the
second suggests that one need not have an MBA in order to start and run a successful business.
Lajwanti Dsouza speaks to Rashmi Bansal and understand the author behind the book.
Your first book celebrates the MBA as a route to entrepreneurship while the second says
that one need not have an MBA to be an entrepreneur. How do you explain the
The earlier book was commissioned by IIMA and was naturally an effort to highlight those who
have become successful after graduating from a b-school. That book was meant to be on
successful MBAs, so it was. But my new book is what I have personally realised and felt
strongly about and that is that you do not need an MBA to be successful. There are lots of
success stories of those who have made it without an MBA. The MBA-hype has to be grounded.
So you think that the MBA degree is over-hyped?
Yes, there is an obsession with the degree. As if one cannot do anything without the degree. My
book says that there are lots of ways of making it big in this world. The MBA is no ticket to
success. People are missing out on varied experiences in this world. Lots of young people have
just one goal MBA. They dont realise that by doing other things and experimenting and taking
different steps, one can also make it big. You have to have different experiences in your life
before you embark on that one thing. Yes, you need to have that one quality to stand out in the
crowd for people to support you. People only look at what an external factor or another person
can do for you. We dont go deep into what we can do for ourselves. When I was once on an
interview panel at a b-school, a bus conductors son came for the interview. I was sure he would
never be able to afford the fees but he said his father had advised him to do the MBA while he
was still working for which he could take a loan from the provident fund. I didnt think that the
boy needed to do an MBA. His communication and English skills were also poor. But if we said
a no to him, he would pay money and do it elsewhere. We discussed rural management with
him, though I dont remember what happened finally. This boy is typical of so many people who
has a typical mindset about MBA.
Did you find a similar feeling among the 20 entrepreneurs you spoke to in your new book?
Yes, they have all at some time decided to give themselves a push. Whether it is Kunwer
Sachdev of Su-kam, Chetan Mani of the Reva Electric Car or Sunita Ramnathka of Fem Care
Pharma. They are simple people who have thought big and taken giant steps to achieve what they
have. They did not run after a degree as if it were the last thing in the world to do. They have
lived different experiences and done many things to get where they are. This is what is missing
in many young people who think that getting into a b-school, especially an IIM is the last of the
trials. And after the degree, life is made.
How much time did you spend with each of the entrepreneurs featured in your book?

I spent from a couple of hours, to a day or two depending on the situation and the person. For
some, I made factory visits besides just speaking to the person. For those located out of Mumbai,
I did what I could do in the given time. It is not possible to make several trips out of Mumbai.
But that is what you have been criticised for. That you do not spend enough time with the
people you write about in the book. Do you think in a couple of hours, you can get the
essence of the persons efforts?
I know people say that about my books but I dont want to research a person to death. I am not
writing a biography on the person. I didnt speak to the families of the people either. I ask
questions to the people I write about and they speak and more than often, they keep speaking, so
they say what comes naturally to them. For the earlier book I wrote (Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish) I
was given three months to finish my research and I thought then that it was too short a time
frame. But I did finish it in three months and that was actually enough time. Thats when I
realised that one can speak to a person for a few hours and get what one wants. They tell me
what they think is important for my subject and if I dont get what I want, I ask more. But as
long as I have got what I need to put in the book, the time taken with the person does not matter.
I record all what they say and then transcribe it. So what I write down may not even be all of
what they have said.
How did you shortlist on the 20 people? Why not more or less?
There were some more people I spoke to but since I did not get what I wanted, I did not include
them. Some stories were not impressive. It is not easy getting first generation entrepreneurs.
There are those who have changed their business from that of the familys but to get those who
have ventured out on their own and are first in the family to get into entrepreneurship are few.
Did the economic recession affect your work?
Yes it did. People did not want to talk to me. They were not sure of what to speak about their
companies at that stage. Some did not get back at all. Some I could not get through to, and had to
be content speaking to their assistants. Some I could not get hold of their personal emails. It was
a tough year for many and some even said they would rather write an autobiography than be
featured in my book.
What is in it for an average reader in your book?
The individual stories are the connecting point. People like to find similarities in the stories they
read and their lives. Even if the person in the book has a father who went to a particular school
and the readers father also went to the same school, the reader forms a connection. Life stories
become inspiring for readers. Readers like to read and form parallels with their own lives.
Doing business in India, ethics and success dont necessarily go hand-in-hand. Was that a
concern while choosing companies?

Yes, I looked for ethical stories. (But at the same time) I am not doing investigative journalism in
my book. I am writing about the persons experiences on his way to where he or she has reached.
Bharat Vikas Group does facilities management for the Rashtrapati Bhavan and Parliament
House so it makes sense to speak to Bharat Vikas than any other company that does facilities
management. I may not be 100% right in all my cases but I try to speak to those who are
ethically right. The size of the company is of no relevance to me. My theme is (on the personal
experiences of) non-MBAs and not a study on top companies.
How did you go about shortlisting the people you wanted to talk to?
First, I looked for those who got into business without an MBA and did well. The next level of
search was for those people who took the pains to get into a specific business or venture. Like R
Sriram (Crossword Bookstores) wanted to be part of a bookstore only. He did not want to enter
any other business. There is a difference. If everybody makes plastic buckets and you open
another company making plastic buckets, its not a big deal. But if you make different types of
plastic buckets or buckets of another material, then it is something.
Why are your books so urban in nature? Why are there no rural entrepreneurs in your
My readers are urban so naturally I write on urban people. Since my job was to get first
generation of successful entrepreneurs, I didnt think I would find many of them in rural India. I
am only trying to write about people ahead of their time. And I didnt get enough interesting
people in smaller towns. I did got to Patna for my work, though.
Have you been able to find out a stereotype among the people you spoke to? Do all
successful entrepreneurs have similar growth charts?
Not at all. They are all unique. At the surface level, they are all up there but their stories are
different. Their backgrounds are different so their paths are different too. What I did find was
that all the people I spoke to wanted to do things differently. All bright people are not destined to
open big companies. But some take bold steps to realise their potential.
Why are there so few women in the book?
I did not get enough women. In India, women entrepreneurs is a different concept. For every
successful man, there is a lady who can be given credit for his success. But who is there for a
woman? Maybe her maid servant. In India, it is taken for granted that the woman has to look
after the house and the children, no matter what post she holds at her workplace. Society makes
her responsible for all functions in her house to the point that if there is a slip-up somewhere, she
is made to feel guilty about it. The man has no such pressures. He can walk in and out of his
office and home and squarely look at his career path. He may not even be aware of which class
his children are in. But can you expect an Indian woman to take ten years of her life and only
concentrate on her career? It might work only if she is unmarried or in some cases, does not have
children. But otherwise, it is asking too much and there are few cases of such type to speak
about. Also an MBA for a woman might actually be a good idea. Post-college, if she does an

MBA, at least she can put off marriage for a few years, broaden her horizon and think of
different careers.
Planning the next book? What is it about?
Yes, it is going to be on social entrepreneurs. Should be done by early next year.
Going by the book, do you say your own MBA was a waste?
Not at all. I enjoyed doing MBA. At IIMA, we were treated like adults. You know, one of the
first exams we appeared for, we were allowed to go for a walk, to the restroom or even check our
books while we sat for the exams. There was no supervision like there is in schools or other
colleges. Of course, since the emphasis was little on theory, there was hardly anything that we
could copy. And since there was so much freedom, people never felt like copying. Today it is
different, theory forms such a large part of the study. There is so much emphasis on what is in the
books. If teachers are not participative today, there will be little learned by students. As it is
students hardly open their mouths in the first year. I did my MBA only because while I was a
journalist, I was promised that I would head a youth section supplement in the paper. That was
eventually denied to me because I was too young and thats when I felt a degree would have
helped me get that assignment, thats when I thought of the MBA. Also the newspaper where I
worked, there were two IIM interns who brainwashed me into joining an IIM which is why I
finally did it.
What does your daughter think about your books?
My daughter is small but she comes for my book events. She does not think highly of my books.
She also thinks I am not cued in enough into music and I dont know as much as I should.
Children are the best reality check one can have.