Why MBA: Why Arvind discarded his MBA plans

Why MBA indeed? When the question pops up during MBA essays, we blindly assume the only valid response is a passionately launched spiel on how an MBA degree will ‘widen your horizons’, ‘open up new doors’ and execute a whole lot of clichéd and hackneyed phrases.

When Arvind Ganti was faced with the question, it triggered an introspective journey that culminated in an unusual decision. If you are in a similar dilemma, you might find Arvind’s story interesting.

Why I discarded my MBA plans

by Arvind Ganti

Why MBA dilemma for Indian IT Male Engineer ArvindOver 5 years ago, I joined Pagalguy during my engineering, I was one of those many guys, who started GRE and CAT preparation, reading Norman Lewis, Barron’s list & joining TIME. 365 days & 2 exams later, I ended up with a 90 percentile in CAT and scored a shocking score in GRE.

Stunned and disgusted with what happened, I discarded my plans of doing a Masters in the US (in hindsight, my best decision so far). I was still not sure about applying to MBA business schools, but nevertheless applied to one, SP Jain, which anyway rejected me (no surprises there!!).

So, with no higher studies plan, I had no choice but to work, a feeling which my brain and heart were not comfortable with, as I actually sucked at programming and IT technical roles ( I am a IT major btw ). But keeping up with general trend, I ended up having a job offer at one of the usual suspects IT firms.

So, with the future secured with a job offer (last step before attaining modern Indian nirvana of being “settuld”), I decided to experiment in my life and ended up joining a leading student organization’s global traineeship program.

Six months down the line, I was in central Portugal. Experimental that I was, I lived for half a year in Portugal doing a traineeship with a small IT firm. Those 6 months, started what I called, a journey of a life time. It turned out be the most unforgettable time of my life. I learnt everything on my own from paying bills to cooking food, from tasting new exotic Portuguese cuisine to meeting people from many countries.

Now this was all a new experience for a guy who spent all his life in Hyderabad and couple of other cities of India. What it gave me was a window of opportunity to experience new cultures. The night-long discussions on a wide range topics from Salazar and Carnation Revolution to Gandhi, from India-Portugal Goa Connection to General European and Portugal Culture, has helped me get hooked to International Culture and Societies,

Still I had desired and continued to dream about an MBA at this time. I had already carried out my research on top schools in Europe and US, and soon I became acquainted with the International MBA game. After my stint in Portugal, I came in contact with European MBA students studying in a top 10 MBA school, which, not only was useful, but also convinced me that I should attend a Top 10 MBA program and was thinking of the $64,000 question. How?

I relocated to Central Europe, working for a Fortune 50 firm and here is where, it all began for me. As usual I made an MBA plan of working for some years with the firm, get a blue chip international work experience and try for an MBA a few seasons down the line. I thought I was ahead in the game.

All I needed was a good GMAT score and good MBA essays to get in, thus I was under the impression my MBA journey was on track. 24 months, 3 backpack trips, 30+ countries and 2 life changing experiences later, everything turned upside down. So what went wrong?

Nothing actually! Thanks to my travels, my brain exploded with new ideas, beliefs and thoughts. What started as an honest intention to improve profile by traveling the world, infected me with a bug called travelosis and one fine day, I found myself selected for an International Expedition to Antarctica.

This turned my life in a complete tangential manner. The Antarctica experience was something never imagined before, the sight of the first iceberg, the first penguin, the first collapse of an ice shelf 500 meters away from my zodiac, the feel of the southern ocean when I plunged into water whose temperature recorded -2 degrees as I accomplished the craziest thing done ever in my life. It changed the way I live, think and perceive things.

The trip brought me in contact with some of the most remarkable people I have come across in my life. From lawyers in Hanoi to the rich Sheikhs of UAE to young Yale, MIT and Oxford grads, it was an experience which brought all of us together in a quest to understand the harsh Antarctic environment.

Spending time understanding how societies connect and share a relationship at regional, national, inter and intra continental inspired me to think and make a career in understanding international society and affairs. I was beginning to think, will an MBA help me to really understand what I desire and aspire for.

Suddenly, the years built upon MBA dreams were beginning to look weaker and for the first time, I was unsure as to why am I thinking about an MBA. And the final answer came few months later…

Six months after the Antarctica sojourn, I found myself on Arctic Island of Svalbard, off the North Pole. Unlike Antarctica, Arctic was populated with people; there is active exploration of world’s resources, as I call it the second great game of the north.

This experience was life changing in that I was one of people who could actually compare both the Polar Regions. The whole experience was instrumental in shaping a desire to understand the relationship and thus emerged my passion to learn international affairs.

Coming back to India, after a 3-year stint, I asked myself the question I asked 6 months earlier. Why MBA? I could not answer the question; I realized an MBA will not help me understand the answers I am looking for. I realized, an MBA as a degree is something which I dreamed I wanted but realized that it is not what I want in life.

I realized I no longer have a longing for it as I see no meaning as to what I will do with it. Thus the grand dream which started in Oct 2005 finally came to an end in 2010 as I kicked my MBA plans out of the bucket.

Now, sitting at outpost of a place where China embraces the free market economy and celebrating my 25th year of existence on a Chinese New Year week, after living in 4 countries, travelling 35 countries and regions across 4 continents, working across 3 industries for 2 fortune 50 firms across 2 continents, I ask the question…Why MBA?

– Arvind

Arvind lives in Hong Kong and is now focusing on the next steps in his career. If you have questions for him about this post (including penguins & polar bears) or about living/working in Europe/Asia or about back-packing or you prefer high-brow discussions on International Relations, Global Foreign Policy and India’s role in international relations and a whole lot of high-funda things you’d cover in a regular MBA program, drop him an email (silentcacophony dot ubiquitous at gmail dot com).

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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin
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  1. Someoneuknow says:

    i guess u didnt mention ur competitor and fellow who discarded his MBA plans as well. silent is cacophonic but not ubiquitous.

  2. Pranjali says:

    wow.. your journey is the stuff that potboilers are made of.. zipping across so many countries… for a moment i thought i wasn’t reading an Indian’s post ( no offence to any Indians, Mera Bharaat Mahaan) but your roads to success are the paths less travelled..
    P.S : Your e-mail Id rocks !!

  3. Rishi says:

    how did you manage your finances?

    • Arvind says:

      Hi Rishi ,

      Backpack travel is fairly easier than the general perception in terms of finances. It just requires little more research than usual vacation getaway
      In my case, Being under 26 there are many discounts in train travels and other touristic places ( for example , in summer Austria rail travel was free in whole country for 2 months for 50 bucks summer ticket , thus going to vienna as example was 0 as against 60 Euros u pay for 1 return trip, tourist discounts : louvre/uffizi gallery entry was free on one weekday and 20% discount respectively ) . Add to that low cost airlines, living in backpack hostels, special deals , train travel pass etc , you do it atleast 30%-40% cheaper than usual hotelstay-group tour routes . But yes all this means u need to meticulous in preparation .

      Regarding Antarctica , i recieved scholarship which funded 60% of costs and rest was my savings.. Artic was purely backpacker trip albeit expensive one than normal., financed by my savings .
      if you are looking at anyspecific , drop me a mail and i will respond to it


  4. Daljeet Singh says:

    Hi Arvind,

    How do you get selected to an antarctic expedition?

    Would love to be a part of something like that.


  5. SP says:

    A lazy Friday afternoon and a few beers (and DSL) led me to this particular post. Kudos to you for choosing to not join in with the other lemmings and do your own thing! And to this website for hosting your post and showing some of the eager MBA-wannabes that there’s a road less travelled…and perhaps, more enlightening.


  6. Swong says:

    I think you are the same person who was interserted in ISB MBA just acouple of months back. Why this change of mind, I mean No to YES???

  7. Arvind says:

    Hi Swong , I dont know who you are ,, but yes . i actually had another life changing experience during the last 12 months which has given me new perspectives and ideas and answered the questions which i previously could not answer.

  8. Rahul says:

    Too good! :)
    So it all started with the – “leading student organization’s global traineeship program”.

    On a serious note – could you throw some light on this please?.

    Maybe it could help someone who’s already infected by travelosis; also pretty much in the same dilemma about MBA – to start on a life-changing experience.

  9. Sushmitha says:

    Hi Arvind,

    How were you able to find opportunities to go to Portugal and Antarctica ? Any particular sites or blogs that helped you ?

    Also can you mention the bare minimum amount that was needed for your Europe tour ?

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