With over 2 years of work experience, Ruturaj faced the typical dilemma of pursuing a CAT MBA in India (with a retail management specialization) or looking for greener pastures abroad (as the background scenery in his picture philosophically depicts).
Why the confusion? Well, he was just a little more experienced than the average student in a 2-year MBA program in India, and he was a little less experienced than the regular international MBA applicant who takes up the GMAT route. Add to it the confusion about the MBA specialization and the post MBA career goals. He explains what he chose and why.
I am Ruturaj Kulkarni, currently working in the domain consulting field. I do consulting for retail clients. I have completed my MBA in Retail Management and joined one of the most respected IT organizations. This was my dream job role. I like and enjoy the work, which I am currently doing. It is very easy to get into the intended job role if we plan and work hard towards achieving it. I will unfold my journey from engineering to current job. The purpose is to share my experience and learning throughout this journey so that you will get some pointers or insights from it. Here I start.
IBM had recruited me during the sixth semester of my engineering with decent salary compensation package. However, there was little apprehension and slight confusion between joining the organization and going for an MBA after completing my graduation. The reasons, I thought of pursuing MBA studies were, because it seemed lucrative, suited my overall personal abilities & more than that, it was considered as highly prestigious. (Do you folks feel the same? :-))
Nevertheless, the firmness in my decision came in the last year of my engineering as I was exposed to organizing a national level symposium for my college with apex level responsibilities. During that period, I learnt how important it is to have a management/administration degree & work experience before I enter into MBA College or job after MBA. As my engineering specialization was in information technology (IT), I confirmed my decision to join an IT organization and thought of getting some good (?) experience and an exposure to business.
Yeah! It was ‘IT’ life – lucrative, exhausting, filled with lots of opportunities and obviously beyond coding and testing, somewhat political & diplomatic and mechanical.
Yes, my joining day…the best experience…a new phase of life. I was surprised by the treatment we had received. I hoped that rest of the things would be just like this :-) But there was more in store.
It started like any typical IT career. I got busy with coding, testing, maintenance kind of work after my training. I also had some great learning from my first overseas tour – though it was short term. The introspection pertaining to career was continuously going on. I understood that the technical field is not for me and this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life in spite of being an IT engineer.
I started getting involved into additional activities as an alternative learning in line with my interests such as conducting campus interviews along with our HR team etc. Gradually, thoughts started getting accumulated in my mind that it was the right time after 2 years of work experience, to get admitted into B-school.
Unfortunately, I was unable to secure a good score in both CAT and MH-CET in my first attempt. So, my plan to get into a good, or rather the best, B-school did not fructify like many other aspirants. It was a feeling of great disappointment. It was difficult to convince myself to re-appear for the exams next year. Nevertheless, I had to do it. I appeared for the exams & before the results were out, I was not confident of getting a good score (do not know why, but felt that frantically).
In the mean time, I started looking for GMAT as an alternative to avoid another round of preparation. Moreover, I decided that I would not be appearing for those exams, if I failed to get good B-School.
I found MBA Crystal Ball & Sameer Kamat who guided & briefed me about GMAT related stuff and MBA scenario of B-School education in India. We had a long & fruitful discussion.
Then, I started thinking about GMAT & doing an MBA abroad. I had a feeling that my profile was very much similar to that of other IT experienced applicants. Just that, I had some achievements in academics and work experience that could have differentiated me. Ultimately, I needed a strong GMAT score. I even kicked off the process of gathering the required material and contacting people who were pursuing an MBA abroad.
During that period, MH-CET result was announced. I got decent score that fetched me a call from K J SIMSR for Retail Management (RM). But, but, but…RM???
Many relatives and friends provided their opinion on this matter. “Are you not getting any other specialization? There is no scope for such specializations. Why are you taking up RM? It is fruitless. You have to wait and try for the next time again and get finance or marketing or operation…they are the best…they will suit you…”
The decision had to be taken so early? Anyway, I had to do it.
I was of the firm view that I wanted to do an MBA in some specialization (I had never thought about the one) so I thought, why not think about RM now? Moreover, I did not want to miss the chance of pursuing MBA studies only because I had been offered so called non-preferred specialization.
I only had 27 days before I appeared for the interview. The decision had to be quick. I started investigating and exploring about the course details, talked with the second year RM students, alumni & college professors, some people who used to work in my organization’s retail vertical etc.
In the college, there were decent placements, not great but good salaries. I assessed and analyzed all the information to reach the conclusion. I decided to go ahead with RM, as this industry seemed to have a great potential for the growth in the future not only for itself but also for the allied sectors like IT, consulting, infrastructure, real estate etc.
I loved that & thought that there are bright prospects of getting a lucrative job after my MBA even without going abroad. This caused me to scrap my plan of appearing for the GMAT and pursuing an MBA abroad.
During the same period, a lot had been talked about the Single-Brand & Multi-Brand FDI in Retail in India. The entire exploration & knowledge helped me crack the interview and develop interest towards this domain – Retail.
Yippee! I was back to college life :-) However, no more salary credited SMS on the month end :-(
It started on a good note. Slowly, I was getting accustomed to the new environment, life, conferences, parties etc. We had around 60% of students from our batch joining in directly from their graduation colleges (Commerce, Bio-Sciences, Arts, Engineering backgrounds), 20% from their family run businesses (mostly unorganized retail businesses; experience ranged from 18 months to 30 months) & the rest with corporate work experience (ranged from 10 months to 36 months) in Banking, IT, Manufacturing, Retail & Telecommunication.
I was on the higher side from work experience perspective and felt that I could have great deal of peer learning in the class. Moreover, it happened too. Another thing was that I was in Mumbai – the economic capital of India & the city that never sleeps. Being here was an advantage. This was because it helped me improve many aspects of my personality by offering tremendous opportunities and facilitated networking activities.
After couple of months, I realized that I got what I aimed for. But, what was next? What kind of job, I would secure after MBA, what profile I would be working in, what could be the probable salary, what were my interests etc. I had never thought of such things before. That was a new headache, but something serious to think about and finalize on.
Analyzing the interests and identifying what I would like to do for next 3-5 years: Dilemma again? Yes & No.
Digging out what I wanted to do, was a great learning exercise in itself. I had not figured it out easily, because sometimes, I felt I was being delusional about my abilities and interests. I had to do a real, unbiased and a year-long exercise to understand what I wished to do in my next job. Also I needed to consider the available opportunities through the college placement process.
Domain consulting was my radar and I wanted to do this in an IT organization. The reason was, I did not wish to scrap my 3 years of IT experience prior to MBA and wanted to be in the field of Retail.
Accordingly, I prepared myself and got into my current job profile. I had been in touch with Sameer during my MBA and he recommended reading his book – ‘Beyond the MBA Hype‘. Reading this book helped me tremendously to conduct self-assessment and unfolded new insights. I shall recommend it for anybody who is looking for clarity in their goals whether you are looking for an MBA or not.
Deciding which track to hold on to & which one to let go, has to be decided at the right time. Believe me, every situation taught me something good as well as something better and tested my patience like hell. It seemed both easy and difficult at the same point of time. You might have experienced paradoxical situations.
And, the only solution my experience suggests and recommends, is this:
– Think, understand what you want to do, what you are willing to do for that, what could be alternatives in case original plan does not work, what you will enjoy doing the most.
– Approaching the RIGHT people will help you get the right perspective & correct information, which you then will need to, understand, analyze & eventually take the decisions from.
– If we look beyond the traditional spectacles, we can succeed; provided that we are ready to take up the risk associated with it.
In summary, I would like to share my intentions behind writing this story:
1. MBA students should not look at the MBA as a money generating machine or an alternative to change their frustrating job.
2. MBA students must think about assessing and choosing appropriate specialization(s) and should not hurriedly choose whatever they will be forced or suggested to choose.
3. A vision towards the post-MBA career is required to be initiated beforehand, as I’ve personally experienced the need of that & interacted with many aspirants who had not done that.
In short, I want to re-emphasis on the right thought-process before students get into B-School which may be in India or abroad.
Always remember, it is fun and satisfying when you do what you like the most. While doing that you can certainly keep earning more knowledge, respect and money. Are you ready then? Good Luck. Yes! You can do it. If you need any help, please feel free to post your queries below.
Thanks Sameer for all your inputs/advices and providing me this opportunity.
If anyone can manage a career change in India at a fraction of the cost and risk of going for an MBA abroad, that’s one heck of a deal. Ruturaj has already demonstrated that he’s a shrewd businessman. MBA Crystal Ball hopes he gets all his greenery (scenic and commercial) right here, without having to take the next flight out.