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How career counselling helped me get into ISB despite poor academics

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

Career counselling reviews | Success storyThis 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 was really professional and the best thing about him was that he never promised any magical answers to my questions. I signed up for Career MAP (their career counseling service).

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.

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Email. Or follow on Linkedin, Facebook.

26 thoughts on “How career counselling helped me get into ISB despite poor academics”

  1. Hi MG,

    I am a female of 35+ years age with 13+ years work experience in Construction sector. At present I am working as a General Manager in one of the biggest private companies of India. I am an IIT Graduate. Career is becoming stagnant , and not getting the role I am looking for, because I don’t have any degree in Finance or of Core Management. I want to Do MBA, GMAT score is 710. I dont want to do any Online program and don’t have patience for evening classes. I am interested in 1 year program from IIMA or ISB . Please advise, is it advisable or can I get admission there or I am too old.

    • Sonia,

      The question in your case is not whether I will get admissions; if you play things right, schools should definitely be willing to take you. The question is, is it right for you to go there. You may consider IIMs but ideally, given the career you are already in, you should aim higher. Check out specialized programs such as Sloan Fellows/Stan MSx which are designed for senior professionals such as yourself and accept GMAT.

    • MG I don’t have stellar acads:
      post grad:80
      But i have a gmat score of 730 and been working with a company in Private equity and have cleared CFA level 1 and 2 do i stand a chance at ISB.

      • At a very high level, I don’t see why not! Devil of course is in the detail – do share a more detailed version of the profile such as resume, career plans etc with us, and we can evaluate further.

  2. Hi sir, I am Alok. First of all let me tell you about my background. I have completed my graduation in English literature. I was preparing myself for govt. exams but due to some family reasons I was not able to complete the preparation. Left that in between and joined a BPO as an executive. Worked for 2 years as a customer service advisor and now I am working with another multinational BPS company in a technical process. As I had a bit technical knowledge and 2years of BPO experience so I got selected as a Technical Support Solution Executive. I have a good communication skill in English and good experience in customer service as well but, I am not satisfied with the salary provided by the company. Now I have a little confusion what should I do. I was thinking to pursue MBA to get a better value in the corporate world but not getting the confidence that will it be convenient or not. So, I would like to request you if you suggest me some ways what I should follow?

  3. Hello

    I have done my engineering in computer science and am currently working as a application developer in JP Morgan Chase. My total work experience is 3 years and my current salary is 11.5 lakh per annum. I’m confused if I should apply for MBA now or wait for 2 more years before applying. I see the average CTC of ISB is 19 lakh which means fixed salary would be around 15 lakh. Would it be really benefecial for me to do an MBA considering that I’m already earning 12. Please guide me , as to what my future course of action should be.
    To summarize , following are my questions
    Q1) Should I do MBA(please don’t say it depends on your interest, because I really don’t have any clear plan in mind)
    Q2) If I should ,then when.(with how many years of work ex.)
    Q3) If I don’t wanna settle outside India, Does it make sense to apply in colleges abroad?

    Thanks for the help.

    • Akshay,

      If you don’t have a clear plan in mind, then think about it – is it worth punting lakhs/crores into something that you may not even find was worth it?? Pick up a copy of Sameer’s book ( and see for yourself that MBA is not all goody goody. It does many things for you but it is also not a magic wand. So make sure you have set your expectations right and have done the research well.

      What I can say is that from purely a qualification perspective, you can definitely aim this year. Apart from the pure financial aspects, also consider the job quality as well as career trajectory in say a 5-7 year window. If you love your current job and see a good salary trajectory, then doing MBA is definitely not imperative.

      In general, Indian MBA brands work better in India and offer a much better RoI.

  4. Hi,
    I have 4.5 years of experience in an IT company(MNC). I left my job because job was too monotonous. Currently I am pursuing MBA in operations. I am getting offer from a small manufacturing company which is offering decent package. I am confused whether I should go for small company or big brands. If I work for small company then would it be difficult for me to switch to big companies later??

    • Sweety,

      The brand usually matters however the work content is most important. If you are getting similar profile at both types of firms, go for the big brand. It does get tough to break into bigger brands; right after college is most ideal.

  5. Hi Manish

    My profile is 6 years Geology, Oil and Gas.
    2 years training and communication institute
    Extracurricular: Novel published on the politicization of education system( higher education), a college love story.

    Enlisted in Goodreads , 4 stars out of 5.
    NGO (2 years) work in NIOS and Missionaries of Charity (10 years)

    10th class: 94%
    12 th Class: 92%
    College Ugrad:80% Geology
    IIT KGP Post Grad: 8.66/10 Geology

    Wish to change industries from Oil to consulting/marketing/general management
    Please can you suggest the range of GMAT score for application to IIM A,B,C , XLRI, ISB

  6. Hi sir,
    i am 22 year old, female. done my engineering got campus selection in one of prestigious IT firm. so far acquired 1.5 yrs experience. Presently on US based project (on Java), this job is not challenging and its routine.
    shall i ask the management to allocate some other project or switch to some other job/firm?.
    shall i do some software course like Big data, Cloud Computing or Cyber security which lead to better job prospects i suppose.
    Some times i am thinking, once i complete 2+ yrs work experience appear for IELTS and GMAT and go for MBA. but i found that MBA (2years) is every expensive from foreign universities.
    on the other hand my parents want me to continue with present job, as you gain experience new projects will come automatically have some patience. Also they have a suitable match and asking to get married and settle. but not forcing me to drop the idea of higher studies.
    i am not happy with present situation and also in confusion how to take forward my carrier. I need your advise.
    Thanks and regards.

    • Naseema,

      There is definite merit in trying to change and asking for it – you should try it; if the company values you, they would do it.

      Before thinking of skill augmentation though, consider your interests as well as aptitude. That should dictate your course/program choice and not just herd mentality. Feel free to reach out to us for more help.

  7. Hi MG

    I am having an experience of 6.5 years in IT particularly in Enterprise Resource Planning in the Human Capital domain and interested to persue my EMBA from ISB.I am having average academic records like 80% in my 10th ,12th and Btech and have worked in companies like Oracle and Deloitte. do you any chance of me getting into ISB.

    Will appreciate if you can share yout insight.

      • Hello Mr Gupta,

        I am a 30 year old M.Tech guy working for a niche Ship Classification Society after completing my Post Grad from an IIT, for the last 5 years.
        10 : 90%
        12 : 90%
        UG: 8.01/10
        PG: 8.0/10

        Volunteer Experience for the last 6 years in a multinational NGO.
        Trained Singer. Maintains a healthy blog on Contemporary Issues.
        Thinking of doing an MBA (preferably a 1 year) but totally on the fences (Confidence Issues)
        Have not given GMAT yet.
        1. Do you think that I can viably shift from a purely technical job as what I am doing presently to more generalist management job after an MBA (say from ISB)?
        2. Have I shot myself on the foot by doing an M.Tech in relation to MBA admissions?
        3. Could I viably change job domains (which I want to) from Engineering to Marketing/Strategy?

        Thank you in advance for your time.


  8. Hello,

    I am a PhD graduate ( age 31) working for IPR law firm for 3 years (current salary – 10 lacs). I am considering admission in ISB for session 2018 or 2019. I wish to continue to make career in IPR firm or pharma companies as manager (product manager, sales manager or IPR division head). Is it right for me pursue MBA from ISB??..and what growth i can expect for ISB in term of ROI??

  9. Hello Mr Gupta.

    I am a diplomat (IFS) who has been in service for 10 years. I now wish to switch over to corporate sector and thus seeking an MBA from a decent school.

    Problem is, that I have an extremely low 2nd Division in my Bachelors. I had little to no aptitude in my major and struggled with a then undiagnosed learning disability.

    Today I have a wealth of experience, some great recommendations but a totally butchered UGPA.

    Some people have low overall GPA, but high major GPA. I don’t have that luxury.
    Some people go on to obtain drastically high marks after freshman year. I unfortunately don’t fall in that category as well. Though I did improve in my final year, it was nothing monumental. I went from disastrous to meh.

    Final nail in the coffin : I am from Humanities field. B schools will take my candidature even more negatively seeing as to how I messed up an ” easy” major.

    Granted I was studying at a University with a brutal grading curve, but that’s just a lazy excuse for my incompetence.

    Since my BA, I have completed my Masters with Merit and have also completed an LLB with distinction. All useless though. As nothing but first degree will be counted.

    Though many of my colleagues already applied for MPP after a few years, I was hesitant due to my abysmal college record.

    Now I really want to go for an MBA from a quality B School, but am afraid no one will take me with my disastrous UG record.

    There’s not one day gone by that I don’t regret my underperformance at college, and have done my best to distance myself and grow as a person and achieve to the best of my capacity.

    Do you think I will be able to make myself a competitive applicant? Or have I shot myself of any chance??

  10. How does every single person with an admit make their life sound like a story just waiting to be published? Are there normal people who get admitted to MBA colleges (read ISB)? Instead of being inspired, I feel really stupid or useless most of the times. My life seems like a black and white movie in front of their ‘Zero ban gaya Hero’ stories. I m not discrediting anyone. Kudos! to everyone who made it, but I wonder how does a normal average Indian get into an MBA college. Are we not allowed to have aspirations?

    • Excellent query. Let me share some perspectives.

      By design, the top bschools filter out ‘average’ applicants and accept those who show potential. Without this filter, ISB, INSEAD, Kellogg etc wouldn’t be where they are.

      All the success stories we publish are written by ‘normal’ folks who had aspirations. What worked for them is that they identified their strengths and learnt how to package their life story to make it interesting. That (story-telling) skill reflects in their blogs too and brings it to life.

      Please don’t get discouraged by their stories. I’m sure your movie isn’t as black and white as you think.

      Sometimes an external perspective can help applicants realise what makes them special. It doesn’t have to be an admissions consultant. It can be a colleague, friend or relative, who can help.

      Changing your handle from WhoCares to IdoCare would be a great first step in repackaging yourself and changing the way the world views you.

      Hang on to those aspirations, buddy!

  11. Hey Sameer & MG,

    I have been following your articles for quite some time now and they have proved very helpful in clearing a lot of the questions I had regarding pursuing an MBA from the top b-schools. It would be really great if you can just give me a quick review of my profile so that I can go ahead and signup for your program. I want to know if b-schools would find my profile relevant & valuable. Here’s how it goes:
    1) Scored 81 % in 10th grade and 68% in the 12th Grade.
    2) Graduated with a B.E(Mechanical Engg.) with 61.27% marks from the University of Pune.
    3) I have 2 years of work experience.

    Even though I graduated as an engineer, I chose not to take up an engineering job and instead took up a job in the education industry. For the last two years I have been working with a school management company in Mumbai that runs schools across Maharashtra. I have been working as a part of the core academic team in which I have been teaching, writing academic content (textbooks, curriculum design), running various programs in the main school, managing and training teachers, etc. But that’s not all. I have also been running the organization’s social media channels, creating content for it, making strategies and helping create a brand out of it. My work often involves coordinating between the organization’s business team and the academic team. I have directly worked with the company’s top management, people who have MBAs from INSEAD, Duke and Kellogg school of Management. I have pursued various projects under them in different areas of business.

    I want to get into management consulting post an MBA. I think my experience in teaching and running projects would really help.

    What would your opinion be on my profile? Can I make the cut to good b-schools? Should I even bother trying?

    • Mayank, your work sounds pretty interesting and diverse actually. While the transition from a pure teaching role is tough into corporate, the other facets of it will help. It will be important to plan things methodically here on for next couple of years to build a solid candidature.


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