Shirin Bansal doesn’t shy away from expressing his views online. In fact, it is this very trait that got him a job with one of the hottest online startups in India.
But there was still a lot going on in his mind due to which he felt it would help to take up formal career counselling and untangle some of those mental knots.
As always, Shirin isn’t shying away from sharing this success story either. He got into ISB Hyderabad despite poor academics. If you are a non-engineer and think only engineers can get into the top MBA colleges, we hope you find this helpful.
How a non-engineer with low percentage in college got into ISB
Career counselling helped me find my calling
by Shirin Bansal
This story isn’t about me. This is a story about a tiny spark aspiring to turn into a huge flame. Ever since my childhood, this inner spark has motivated me to create an impact in this world. I still remember keeping portraits of change-makers like Albert Einstein, Isaac newton, Bhagat Singh, Gandhi and others.
With such ambitions, I prepared for IIT-JEE and failed miserably. With no option to pursue engineering from a decent college, I managed to get into Bachelors of Business Economics at Delhi University. During my college days, I had realized that my love for technology can be a great tool to fuel my lingering spark. I was exploring different ideas to start up an online venture.
During this time, I also created websites for college fests. But during the same time, I was feeling disillusioned about my course and performing miserably in my exams. The reason was not my choice of subject but the way our education system works. Most of the lectures were usually just ceremonial where professors used to teach because they had to and students used to attend because they had to. I ended up getting only 48% in my overall graduation.
But despite the low percentage in college, I guess this spark inside me never gave up. During those college days, I did get a chance to start up a venture where I partnered with my classmates to create an online platform where businesses near the campus could promote themselves to students.
It was 2011 when startup culture was still in its infancy in India. We received an overwhelming response from the market and we literally had revenue from the first day itself.
Unfortunately, we killed the venture not because it was not growing but we were fighting for how much stake each one will have! We still regret our silliness and our stupidity. But this experience boosted my confidence in pursuing my interest in the online domain.
After my college, I joined an e-commerce company selling refurbished electronics. Here my role was in the domain of product management. During my tenure, I proposed multiple features for the platform and worked on the implementation of the same. My next job was at Zomato as assistant product manager. I got this job out of a Quora answer I wrote against a question asked by the company’s CEO. It was an unbelievable opportunity as I really adored the company.
But due to some problems back at home, I left that job and joined my family business. Here my parents were constructing a hostel project which I later converted into a budget hotel and I have been managing the same hotel since then.
My hotel business was doing well but I was not content. I wanted to move back to the online domain. Hence, I tried another online venture related to event discovery. But it was not a wise decision to nurture two new businesses at the same time. I couldn’t devote much time to the online business and I also felt a lack of a good network to get talented people on board.
Finally, I shut down the online business as my hotel business involved much more financial risk. Frustrated with this failure, I started exploring what I really wanted to do. My heart was not there in the hotel business.The spark inside me was dying.
My search for a good career counsellor
I started looking for professional help as I wanted someone to think rationally on my behalf. A lot was at stake and I couldn’t afford to take any decision based on sentiments. I got to know about MCB through Quora. People had reviewed them positively. I contacted Sameer Kamat who connected me with Manish Gupta (MG).
Manish had a structured approach to the whole process. He advised me a career path which involved preparing for GMAT and applying to MBA schools. An MBA degree made sense as it would help me in strengthening my network and fill the gap between my skills and my ambitions.
Pleasantly surprised by my GMAT score
After my interaction with Manish, I started preparing for GMAT. One of the key mistakes that I did was that I kept delaying my exam dates which left me very less time for my applications. I advise everyone who is preparing for GMAT to schedule their exams as early as possible.
To be honest, my preparation was not at all intense and I was struggling in the end. I was not expecting to even cross the 700 mark but I was pleasantly surprised when I got the 710 score on my GMAT exam. I think what worked in my favor was my strategy to focus on mock tests.
My 700 plus score ignited my hopes to get into a good college. I didn’t want to take any chances and I reached out to Manish and MCB again for assistance.
MBA Application Journey
I signed up for their Brainstorming + Basic Essay editing package For ISB.
This time Manish connected me with Vibhav for this application process. Although I was apprehensive in the beginning but Vibhav was phenomenal. He was from the technology product domain and he had also studied at ISB.
During my brainstorming sessions and other interactions with him, I actually realized what I wanted to do in long term. Since the beginning, this level of clarity was what I was looking for. Adding this level of focus in my essays was something I couldn’t have done on my own.
Apart from ISB, I planned to apply to Nanyang and NUS. As I wanted to come back to India post my MBA, I didn’t look at schools outside Asia. Although there was one exception – the Tech MBA at Cornell because the course revolves around product management and starting up.
MBA Interview Experience
Before I could apply to other schools, I got the interview invite from ISB. It was this moment where I started feeling that I really have a shot. I contacted Manish and Vibhav again and signed up for the mock interview service.
Vibhav prepared me for the tough questions and after going through the mock interviews, my confidence level had grown exponentially. I also reached out to current ISB students who are also from the family business background and their insights helped me a lot.
The interview with ISB was a unique experience. There were two interviewers, probably alumni. They really made me feel relaxed. They first asked me to tell them about myself. Then they gave me an acquisition scenario and asked me to list down important factors. Basically, they wanted me to think on my feet. Vibhav had already told me this would happen and I was prepared.
Then finally they asked my about my post-MBA goals and I told them I wanted to leverage my experience in hospitality and technology industry to start up a Hotel-tech company. Overall, it was a very smooth interview and my only fear was that if I became more relaxed than required.
My interview was in mid-Feb and results were scheduled in the starting week of march. It was a long and grueling wait. Finally, the D-day arrived/ I was refreshing my mailbox all morning, waiting for an email titled ‘Congratulations’ and it finally arrived after noon. I was admitted to the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. No words can do justice to the heavenly emotions I felt during that moment. It was finally happening.
Remember the spark? It was not there anymore instead there was a flame burning inside me now!
Lessons from my experience
If I look back and analyze what really worked in my favor, then most important factor was all the initiatives I took irrespective of failure or success. Despite hurdles such as poor academics, I think ISB really valued my efforts in my past.
Secondly, I had a sense of clarity on why I wanted to do an MBA and my post-MBA goals.
Lastly, during this journey, I was indulged in meditation (here’s an ISB reapplicant who found meditation useful) which really helped in keeping myself positive. You can’t win a battle if you think you can’t.
My advice to everyone is that we can’t get gratification just based on the money we are minting. There will be hard times and no one can escape them but if you really love your work, you will persist. It’s never too late to introspect and get into the right domain. Find your niche and indulge into something that you will love doing for the rest of your life.
Here’s another success story where an ISB reapplicant used career counselling for MBA admissions.