Many applicants want to know – what’s the value of an Indian MBA abroad? Is it possible to get a job abroad after an MBA from India. While it’s not easy, there are folks who manage to get placed internationally. We published one such story earlier: ISB international placement.
Here’s another the story of someone who made the big cross-country transition, with the little disclaimer.
Not everyone will manage to do what Ketan did – which incidentally includes escaping the jaws of death as an over-curious toddler who wasn’t content playing with toy trains.
But for the few who do, the rewards can be fantastic – and tax-free, if you’re lucky.
I was obsessed with trains as a child. I grew up in a large joint family, housed close to railway tracks. It was a daily ritual for my cousin to take me to the tracks so that I could wave at passing trains.
One fine day, unable to find my cousin, the 4-year-old me ventured to the tracks alone, sat in the middle of the tracks and waved at an oncoming train.
Thankfully, a neighbor found me and took me home. Even as a child, I was furiously independent (even if it meant certain death).
Always a “good” kid raised by an Indian tiger mom, I had my academics and extracurriculars (public speaking being my favorite) pat down, all the way to university.
After three years of pursuing economics at the University of Delhi, I joined McKinsey’s knowledge network as a junior analyst, in their financial institutions service line.
Pursuing an MBA was always a matter of when, not if. The “when” precipitated after a series of “aha” moments at work.
While I was learning a lot and from the best, I realized I was at a serious disadvantage without an MBA. The opportunity for growth seemed finite.
I had first learnt about the Indian School of Business (ISB) in 2008, while I was still at university. I met an alumnus at a conference in Switzerland. From him, I got a glimpse of ISB. This glimpse carried over into my MBA applications.
After scoring 740 in my GMAT, my eyes were set on two target schools: ISB and Carnegie Mellon Tepper. I wanted to give both my applications the same attention.
The drivers behind my target business school choices were the curriculum, environment, opportunities available, school culture, professional network and of course, ROI.
After detailed conversations with students and alumni, I learnt that at ISB I’ll get more opportunities than I could handle and that I must pick and choose smartly since the PGP is only a year-long.
At the culmination of my application process, I got shortlisted for interviews by both – Tepper and ISB.
ISB’s interview was in person, conducted by three members of the admissions department including the then head of admissions. The interview cut across work experience, essays, personality, and professional goals.
Tepper’s interview was over the phone, by a member of the admissions department. The interview was mostly behavioral.
After what seemed like an eternity (2-4 very long weeks), I got acceptance emails from both schools!
I was so ecstatic at being accepted at ISB that I didn’t even realize the INR 5 lac merit scholarship till I read the email for the third time!
The scholarship improved the ROI implications and I chose ISB for my MBA program.
In April 2012, I arrived in Hyderabad, and was soon smacked across the face by ISB’s whirlwind. Everyone was signing up for elections, clubs, networking like professionals, getting A’s and partying – simultaneously. I, on the other hand, couldn’t keep up.
It took a lot of deep breaths and remembering my initial research to get a grip on myself. I had to channel my energies into pursuits that made sense for ME and MY goals; not every avenue contributed meaningfully to my future.
My classmates were an eclectic lot. They had unfamiliar personal and professional journeys.
Being one of the younger and less experienced candidates, I sometimes struggled to comprehend their views and ideas but always kept an open mind. Learning about and from them while sitting in the Atrium, was the best part of ISB.
I had barely managed to stay calm during the core terms that along came placements in the elective term, alongside classes, assignments, study groups, clubs, events, speaker sessions. Thankfully, the alumni and career center helped us with profile positioning and resume reviews.
Ours was the first class that was split across the Hyderabad and Mohali campus of ISB. The day one placements were planned at the Mohali campus and the school did everything in its power to make the process seamless.
I got shortlisted for one group discussion but got rejected. Instead of beating myself up, I boarded a bus back to Delhi. I spent the next couple of days partying with friends and playing Sia’s Titanium on loop to shake off my rejection.
I realized quickly that everyone’s anxiety during placements feeds off each other’s and magnifies. Once you elevate yourself from the anxiety (which is easier said than done), you tend to do better. I am proof of that.
On day 1.5 of placements (which was reserved for some international roles), I applied for a consulting role in Kuwait via campus placements. I had no idea about life in Kuwait nor expectations of a shortlist, let alone an offer.
I managed to get one though. I viewed the offer as a door to a different life and accepted.
My employer was gracious and supportive through the slightly convoluted visa paperwork. In May 2013, I moved to Kuwait, soon after graduating ISB.
Let us fast forward seven years, a shift from consulting to industry, a merger, and COVID-19.
Despite poor risk calibration as a child who waved at an oncoming train, I am currently the Director of Risk Management at one of the largest investment firms in the GCC. As the sounding board for all risk matters in the organization, I work closely with the firm’s leadership, and the Board Risk Committee.
Ironically, risk management career is an unpredictable discipline, which is the best part of my work. Some days I negotiate operational procedures, on other days I strategize with our senior executives on optimizing our risk capital allocations.
Kuwait has been a wonderful and generous towards me; offering a great quality of life and a tax-free paycheck. The Arab culture has strong familial and social traditions that pleasantly seep into the workplace.
The work culture is people-centric and the work-life balance, healthy, giving me ample time and resources for travelling, clay modelling, furniture painting, cooking, and helping MBA applicants :-)
What really helped me thrive in the unfamiliar terrain of Kuwait was the rigor that ISB gave me. I think this is common for many graduates of the top Indian business schools.
The curriculum and approach of Indian b-schools is quite rigorous, forcing you to be constantly on your toes and push yourself, leading to what I think is a robust work ethic in the classical sense.
Given India’s social fabric, even at an Indian b-school such as ISB you get exposed to sub-cultures, traditions, perspectives, religions, lifestyles that can be incredibly divergent.
If you take this view of diversity, you will be more than able to thrive in a foreign culture.
Don’t underestimate the diversity that can be found at an Indian b-school; it can be an incredibly valuable advantage.
In fact, during my placement interview I was asked a question on how I would adjust to a foreign culture. This view of diversity I developed at ISB was deeply appreciated by the interviewers.
ISB gave me the confidence to roll with the punches and build meaningful relationships with people, regardless of their culture, religion, and discipline. Life after MBA has been unexpectedly wonderful, and I am grateful to ISB for that.
If you are thinking of applying for an MBA, remember that in the long term, a well-utilized MBA will give you a robust launch pad, which solves 40%-50% of the problem; the remainder comes from you constantly learning, un-learning and re-learning.
Onward and Upward!
Ketan Kapoor, PRM, FRM,
Class of 2013
Indian School of Business