How a poor student with big dreams got into India’s best business school

While working with Upendra Kumar, we realised how privileged we are and how much we take those privileges for granted.

Unlike many city-bred kids who study in comfy, air-conditioned classrooms, Upendra’s education happened under a tree since his village lacked a proper school. He relied on mother nature to shield him from the harsh sun and rain while studying.

He still considers himself lucky, as 8 out of his 10 friends didn’t even go to school.

In the small village in Bihar that he grew up in, basic necessities like healthcare were non-existent.

The poor student from a cash-strapped family knew there was only one way he could change the status quo – through the power of education!

At the ripe old age of 18, he built a school for his village. But his own graduation plans fell through the cracks, due to lack of funds.

Eventually, he completed his education and built an international career for himself. He now rubs shoulders with the top brass of many leading companies.

But his thirst for education wasn’t quenched yet. That’s when he came to us.

Years later, the little kid with big dreams heads back to the classroom (at India’s best business school) to take care of some unfinished business.

Here’s his moving story!


From poor family to best MBA ISB

From being a poor student to getting into a top MBA

My journey from a small village in Bihar to ISB

by Upendra Kumar

 
From poor student to ISB I come from a poor farming family in a small village in Bihar.

I did most of my schooling sitting under trees, as the only school building in my village was badly damaged.

Only 20% children from the village used to go to school in my time. I decided to do my bit to improve this scenario, by opening a school once I gave my 12th standard exam.

Today, I am very proud to say that 90% children in my village are enrolled in this school.

My village never had a hospital and it was my dream to become a doctor. Alas, even after trying for 4 years, success in medical entrance exams remained elusive.

Due to financial issues in my family, I couldn’t continue my graduation and had to immediately find a job.

I completed a short course in computer hardware & networking and started working as an IT trainer in a small firm.

Over the years, I kept learning, raising my hand for challenging assignments and completing trainings on the latest technologies.

This has helped me evolve into a cloud solutions architect and has given me opportunities to work with many MNCs like ATOS, Wipro, S&P Global etc. including work stints in Europe.

While achieving professional success was satisfying, completing my graduation was an unfulfilled dream. Later, I completed B.tech in Computer Science in distance learning mode.

My job profile needs me to interact regularly with people in the top management – like VPs, CTOs, CIOs and CEOs.

Working with them inspires me every day to become a good leader. And that is how the thought of doing an MBA from one of the best B-Schools in India was seeded.

After a lot of research, I zeroed in on ISB PGPpro. Its weekend classes and the opportunity to be part of a highly talented cohort made it very attractive.

I started attending ISB PGPpro information sessions. These sessions gave me a better understanding about the overall admission process, quality of education etc. I also got to hear from ISB alumni about their experiences of PGPpro.

However, given my unconventional academic background with gaps in education, I knew it was going to be challenging to secure an admit.

Also, I was nervous about the whole application process and was carrying a lot of fears and misconceptions. But I was determined to get into ISB.

Honestly, I had absolutely no idea how to go about the application process.

The idea of writing an essay of up to 400 words covering every important aspect of my life, and in the most appropriate language was too daunting for me.

Taking help from a friend even if he or she is knowledgeable can never replace a professional consultant who has a hang of the whole process and who has worked with several candidates before.

I reached out to many consultants and selected MBA Crystal Ball after reading many of their candidates’ MBA success stories from the best schools all over the world.

I signed up for their one school application package and mock interview package. The quality of their inputs and service was way beyond my expectations.

I came across other cheaper MBA consultants who were offering such packages at half the price of MCB’s.

I still selected MCB because I didn’t want to compromise on quality for cost and didn’t want to risk losing one year if the application didn’t turn out as expected.

MCB has an expert team of consultants and they are truly committed to the candidates’ success. They put in their 100% efforts to help candidates succeed.

I worked with Avinash Kaparekar from the MCB admissions consulting team. I found Avinash to be extremely dedicated and committed.

I signed up just 2 weeks before the application deadline and it was going to be challenging for him to prepare a solid application within such a short time span.

But he was patient. We started with a brainstorming discussion in which I described all my details like education, professional achievements and so on. Avinash provided me with ideas regarding essay structure and content etc.

Starting with a more than 800 words for the first draft, over multiple edits from Avinash, we completed the application in time with highly impactful essays.

Post submission, I was very nervous but Avinash was confident about my chances. That put me at ease.

After two weeks, I got the email that I was waiting for. I had been shortlisted for an interview. I just had a week to prepare for the interview.

Through 2 practice interviews, Avinash guided me very nicely and covered every aspect about interviews.

My interview went well and after a couple of weeks, I received the much-awaited admission offer.

I couldn’t believe myself that I had made it. Avinash transformed me from 40% to 100% in a very very short time frame.

I was only looking at Indian schools and part time courses. I talked to quite a few ISB PGPpro alumni before taking a decision.

I was excited after hearing from them about the quality of education and the opportunity to be among the best fellow professionals that PGPpro provides.

My interview went on for 40 odd minutes. The interviewers probed me about my professional and education background, why I chose to apply to ISB, how much research I had done about PGPpro etc.

I was asked about my plan B in case I wasn’t selected. They also tried to test my leadership skills with questions like what will you do if you were made CIO/CEO in your current job.

Unlike full-time MBA, executive programs don’t offer scholarships. On the positive side, my salary continues to come in every month even when I am studying. So I am using an education loan to pay the fees.

I was always looking to enhance leadership skills and PGPpro will help me with that. My next career goal is to be a technology leader and eventually run my own startup.

COVID has brought in a new work culture and everything is going virtual. MBA will help me deal and plan better for uncertainties.

I would like to tell everyone that if I can do it, you can too.

I come from a small village. My parents aren’t highly educated. I have gaps in my education. And I don’t have a strong financial background.

What I do have, is a very strong desire to grow in life and that has helped me achieve great results.

My message to fellow MBA aspirants is that irrespective of your background, you should have a clarity on two aspects –

  1. Why you wish to go for an MBA degree.
  2. What you wish to achieve from it.

These two points should be very clear to you.

I would like to sign off by thanking team MCB and Avinash for helping me achieve my dream!
 


Like Upendra, if you believe in the power of education, don’t let the hurdles discourage you. They’re there to test your will and to make you stronger.

Also read:
From middle-class family to one of the world’s best business schools
From lower middle class family to top MBA in USA with scholarship
How to get MBA scholarships

Top image for representation only: Credit Patrika


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MG (Manish Gupta)
About MG (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 Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

6 thoughts on “How a poor student with big dreams got into India’s best business school”

  1. This story will inspire so many. Thank you for sharing this story. Those who are on the verge of giving up really needs to hear this❤

    Reply
  2. Could not relate more than that. I will also fullfill my MBA dreams next Year. Love from Gaya (Bihar). We all are proud of you.

    Reply
  3. enough punch to kick start Monday highly motivated!!! worth wait I must say !! Kudos Upendra and Sameer and team – u know what actually u did – let people dream that they can achieve their dreams by proving it …I m sure one day u will hv a write up on ur blog saying he/she got inspired with this story and persuaded their dream of education and an MBA who knows perhaps abroad in Ivy Leagues….gear up guys u gonna hv tons of people come running to u to fulfil their dreams….gud luck team and gud luck to Upendra for his MBA

    Reply
  4. Hearty Congratulations Upendra for your success and wish you many more. Kudos to team MBACrystalBall and Avinash for your passion and consistency.

    Reply

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