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MBA after CA: From IIM, ISB or abroad after 8 years of work experience

After realising that short-term courses cannot deliver the same bang for their buck, an increasing number of chartered accountants like Srinivas Venkataraman are discovering and appreciating the benefits of an MBA after CA.

We’ve helped many CAs get into MBA programs abroad and in India. You’ll find some of their success stories at the end of this article.

Once the decision to pursue a business management degree has been made, the next big question to tackle is this.

Which is a better option after CA – MBA from IIM or ISB or abroad?

The answer to that depends on where you are in your career and your long-term goals.
(Read IIM MBA vs MBA abroad)

Srini, a CA and tax consultant, started his career with a Big 4 accounting firm and started planning for an MBA after 8 years of work experience.

He was fortunate to get admits from 4 top business schools in India and abroad – including 2 IIMs (IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Bangalore), ISB and ESADE (Spain).

He explains how he got into such an enviable position and how he made his final choice.

MBA after CA from IIM vs ISB vs abroad

by Srinivas Venkataraman

I am a Tam-Bram guy, married to a Bengali woman, love cricket and worship Rahul Dravid. I am also a die-hard Rajinikanth devotee.

My father’s transferrable job meant that we travel across the country from Tamil Nadu, to Kerala, to Gujarat and finally to Mumbai. I have travelled so much that I had studied in more than 6 schools by the time I completed my 10th Class.

I am a Chartered Accountant by profession, a natural career choice for a commerce background student. I started my career in Taxation with Ernst & Young (EY) as an Indirect Tax Consultant.

I then moved to a boutique Professional Accounting Firm where I headed the Tax vertical. I recently shifted to Godrej Properties Limited, an industry role, where I headed the entire tax function for one of the geographical zones of the company.

Over the years I have helped clients optimize their taxes, manage their regulatory compliances, transition into a new tax regime and helped them with tax litigation matters.

I had a euphoric moment when I represented my client in the Tax Tribunal and won the litigation worth INR 8 crores.

The ever-changing tax laws, demonetization, shift to a new regime of taxation under GST, meant I had to be on my toes updating myself with the latest developments.

The financial consulting role provided me great exposure in client delivery since I had clients across industry spectrum – ranging from Pharma to Hospitality to Infrastructure and to Real Estate entities.

After getting over 8 years of work experience in this domain, I felt the need to broaden my skill-set further to take on other aspects of business consulting beyond finance and taxation. I initially explored options in my own profession with niche certifications.

However, I quickly realized that I needed to pursue something concrete and meaningful to achieve my goal. After thorough research, an MBA degree from a renowned institute appeared the most suitable path to tread.

I finally decided in March 2021, to pursue an MBA degree. Little did I know that this was going to be a year-long pursuit before I get into the target b-school.

And so, the game began!

GMAT Preparation

Quick Tip – One good thing about the GMAT is that the scores are valid for 5 years. Hence, I would recommend potential applicants to get done with it much earlier, so you can work on other aspects of the application. Plus, GMAT is all about strategy than long hours of prep.

I had grown 8 years from my last academic pursuit. I had to go through GMAT, the first step.

I enrolled for an online learning module and commenced my GMAT prep. I realized I had lost touch with my studying self, at least with respect to competitive exams.

I spent 3 months preparing, along with my work and appeared for the test.

The Gods were not with me, I guess.

The online test was filled with technical glitches. I ended up writing the test for almost 5 hours and scored 670. Not a great score, if I had to crack the top b-schools.

I assumed that the technical glitches were the reason for my low score, so I re-appeared for the exam in the next available slot. Boom 640! – another bummer.

I then realized it was my strategy that was wrong all the way. I corrected my approach through a different online prep course and this time I was feeling confident of breaking the 700 barrier.

I finally scored 720. 

Sometimes late realizations cost you 3 attempts at GMAT and the bank balance was lighter by INR 60,000.

And I thought, now that I have a good GMAT score, it is a cakewalk from here on. That’s when I was in for a shock.

The application process is a journey by itself and that GMAT was the easiest part.

The biggest decision an applicant needs to take is to choose the right business School that is aligned with his / her goals and resources.

I can’t place more emphasis on the research one needs to do about the prospective business schools. The concept of ‘FIT’ for a business school is very real.

The parameters for ‘FIT’ could range from fees of the course to the location of the B School, to the size of the cohort, to the weather conditions, to the average GMAT score, to the post MBA career prospects or to the ease of travelling with your partner.

Based on the above, one can shortlist a reasonable list of b-schools and categorize them based on achievability. I guess this is where the good admission consultants can be of great help.

Admission Consultants

I had my own personal reasons to believe that hiring an admission consultant is best for my case as this was my last shot at doing an MBA.

And I didn’t want to leave it to chance or guidance from friends and alumnus alone for the extremely crucial MBA essays.

However, over the MBA application process I realized, hiring an Admission Consultant could be the best decision one can take for b-school applications.

The admission consultants are a bunch of professionals who have been there and done that to start with.

However, what separates them from the regular alumni of the b-schools and friends and family, is that the MBA consultants have the relevant knowledge, resource, and experience in bringing the diverse perspectives about the b-school and the essays. Also, they are actively updated about the whole process.

You would realize that such attributes help you immensely as you travel the journey of MBA essays, brainstorming sessions, and essays edits. This is something your friends and family may not be able to do.

Once the decision of hiring an application consultant is made, the next step is to select the right MBA admissions consulting team.

Quick tip – Always recommend a team that can personalize or customize the whole process for you, and not a one that has a set template to follow. You need someone to ride along with you in the process and not someone who does stuff on your behalf.

I knew Sameer Kamat, founder of MBA Crystal Ball, from my consulting days (I am not sure if he even remembers 😉). I spoke to him once about the prospects of MBA degree and found the discussion and his honest insights very helpful.

However, as a prudent Indian guy, I still did my independent research on the best admission consultants in the market. I found out that among various consultants, MCB had a small team and catered to a very limited set of applicants.

This was their strength as they could focus more on the applicant and improve the odds. I had made up my mind to go with MCB.

A smaller team meant that MCB could refuse your request for services if they find that they aren’t suited to your requirements or vice versa.

I was already nervous about getting a rejection from MBA Crystal Ball.

I dropped a mail to their team, and I got a response from a guy named Manish Gupta, the Chief Consulting Officer of MCB.

Linkedin is a beautiful place to stalk people and I fulfilled the honors of stalking MG, an ISB Grad, Ex-McKinsey, IITian.

I had even more reasons to feel I would get rejected from MCB, leave alone the b-school. I was wrong. MG would not do that to you.

I guess the whole journey of admission consultancy was better thanks to the start MG gave. I had mail conversations (that’s the only way you can reach him) of over 40 mail trails.

He would happily understand in detail about my goals, my target schools, GMAT prep and promptly reply to every query you post irrespective of the intellectual quotient of the query. He was straight-forward and brutally honest in his responses.

Please do not expect sugar-coated answers, you would be in for a huge disappointment. Luckily for me, they agreed to help me in the process.

I enrolled for the 4 School Program as I had target Schools spread across UK, Europe and India for the 1 year MBA Programs.

I was connected to Vibhav Agarwal and thus began the icing on the cake in the MBA journey.

In the first customary phone call, I hear a majestic voice at the other end. The first conversation was all about getting to know me as a person and my goals and reasons for MBA.

The conversation was breezy and he made sure I calmed down and I understand the whole process of the MBA application process.

MBA Application Process

Once we decided the target Schools to work with, the essay drafting begun. The best part about working with MCB was that they let you pen down the essay.

They will not share you a readymade essay template, as they believe every candidate is different.

Once you share the first draft of your response to the essay questions, be prepared to receive brutally honest feedback on the essay.

Vibhav made sure that I understand the perspective behind every essay question and the expectation of the business school.

My initial drafts were completely distorted and had no structure. Vibhav would ensure we ponder upon the responses, dig further deep into the answers and then bring a whole new perspective.

He also insisted that I connect with the alumnus of the target b-schools to get their insights. In hindsight, I believe that was one of the best aspects about the process.

The insights you can get from the recent alumni are very much valuable for two reasons –

  1. It helps in your essays;
  2. It helps in getting to know the culture of the b-school to gauge whether you fit into the school.

The final essays were poles apart from the initial drafts I shared.

The initial b-schools we applied to did not see through and we had ESADE and ISB as the two remaining Schools to work on. I and Vibhav ensured that we put more efforts to the remaining schools.

He left no stone unturned in getting the best essays for ESADE and ISB. I still remember telling Vibhav about a success story of a candidate he worked with and hoped I would get to be one too.

Fortunately, I was assured that I was in a better position in this journey.

The effort resulted in shortlist for interviews from ESADE and ISB.

I leveraged the essay experience on these 4 b-schools while applying to IIM-A, IIM-B and IESE. I received shortlist from all the B Schools.

MBA Interview preparation

I had also signed up for the MBA Interview Prep service as I had received interview invites from Eurpean and Indian business schools school. I was connected with Maitabi Banerjee from the MCB team.

We had a mock interview, where Vibhav and Maitabi had great insights to share about my responses, voice modulation, and approach to interview questions.

The whole experience of interview prep was a revelation and the feedback were absolutely spot on. It was an enricing experience to say the least, as I was well prepared for the actual interviews.

I had interviews with IIM-A, IIM-B, ISB, ESADE and IESE. The interview with European business schools were more conversational and friendly as compared to the Indian b-school interviews, which were more grueling.

The interviews lasted for almost 45 mins. The questions hovered around the standard interview questions regarding my motivation to pursue MBA and my leadership skills.

I was watlisted at IIM-A and IIM-B, which eventually converted to an admit and I also received successful admission to ESADE and ISB.

MBA after CA from IIM vs ISB vs abroad: Which is better

After comparing the 4 MBA programs (IIMA vs IIMB vs ISB vs ESADE), I finally chose ISB. Here are the reasons.

ISB is the best business school in India. The reputation, and legacy of the b-School is truly world class and the curriculum was clearly aligned with my career goals.

ISB is truly an international school as it has renowned faculty from the top b-schools in the world. Further, the curriculum is focused on the consulting sector, directly aligned to my goals.

Above all, the present geo-political uncertainties and restrictions on travel and visa for partners meant that ISB was the best business school choice for me. I hope the experience would be really transformational.

Of course, your choice may differ based on your preferences and the ‘FIT’ factor that I mentioned earlier.

Closing thoughts

My journey started in March 2021 and I received the admit letter from ISB in February 2022. I attempted GMAT thrice to achieve my target score.

I had some of the best people to interact and work with in MCB and also got a chance to interact with alumnus from various B Schools. The whole journey was a roller coaster ride alongside my pressing work schedule.

As I sit today anticipating my First day at ISB, I am thankful to the MBA Crystal Ball consulting team and excited for the things in store for me going ahead.

Srinivas Venkataraman

Also read:
MBA in Germany after 30 for Chartered Accountant
Do MBA programs consider Chartered Accountant (CA) articleship as work experience?
Despite a 580 GMAT, this CA got scholarship and multiple MBA admits

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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 Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

4 thoughts on “MBA after CA: From IIM, ISB or abroad after 8 years of work experience”

  1. Hi manish ,
    My son is A level and would like to pursue his undergraduate studies in Business with technology in 2024 . Currently , he is running Finance club in school , participating in external business case study competition in UAE and enrolled in Wharton competition . He is also playing cricket at professional level and currently in UAE national camp . I would like to know which top business school for UG programme he should target in US , UK or other country . His elder brother is in junior year in UCLA , Economics .

    • @Rupam, for UG, we help on the applications part, once you have identified the target programs. Given the range of options out there, we think that the candidate is in the best position to do the independent research rather than rely on consultants (who mostly use a standard list of programs to make recommendations).

  2. I want to start preparing for GMAT alongside my busy work schedule. Please suggest which is the best e-learning course I can refer to.


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