The entrepreneur who trains fellow entrepreneurs for a living
As part of a special series on CAT and MBA we speak with various young MBA graduates who've appeared for the prestigious test and ask them how life changed for them after CAT and MBA.
Amit Grover, appeared for his CAT for the first time back in 2002 and scored a cool 99.19 percentile. What makes his score admirable is that he studied for it while he was working for Infosys. After the gruelling two-year course at IIM Grover then went on to work for two more prominent companies.
Like many IIM grads who are busy turning entrepreneurs, Grover too has ventured out on his own. Yet his enterprise is different. Grover is the founder of India's first institute that trains entrepreneurs!
Amit Grover tells Divya Nair how life after CAT and IIM changed for him.
I am originally from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh. It was only after my schooling I moved to Delhi to pursue engineering from IIT Delhi.
I appeared for CAT in 2002 and scored 99.19 percentile in my first attempt.What makes the score so special is that I prepared for the exam while I was working with Infosys.
What I intend to say is that one need not take a break from work to prepare for CAT. In my case, since I was working and preparing for CAT at the same time, there was no time for taking a coaching program so I had joined a weekend test series.
We were four friends sharing an apartment in Mysore and since all of us wanted to study management, we decided to prepare together. It took us about 6 months of focused effort to crack CAT. Personally, I employed two key strategies:
1. Focus on speed: I tried to attempt as many questions as possible. I had a good accuracy record so I knew that the more I attempt, the better it will be.
2. Focus on my own performance rather than worrying about how other participants will perform: In fact, I also realised that the time duration of CAT is too short to analyse how tough or easy the paper will be for others. So, it is better to concentrate on improving your performance.
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Image: Amit Grover
'Ask yourself why you are pursuing an MBA'
The six months prior to CAT weren't a cakewalk either. There were several challenges like coping with lack of time, job pressures etc. I also made several mistakes in my strategy, which I eventually rectified.
For instance, in the initial days of preparation, I would focus on taking as many mock tests as possible. Soon, I realised that this strategy was not serving its purpose until I could measure and analyse the results as well.
I came up with a solution for this. I set a rule for myself -- I had about five hours in a day. So, I will take a practice test for two hours and spend three hours in checking the results, which worked really well for me.
Besides the CAT, I also applied for other entrance exams like for SP Jain and FMS College but I did not have to indulge in any extra preparation for these exams. I feel that if you are well prepared for CAT, all other exams are a breeze!
A lot of things have changed today among aspirants, especially with respect to the perception of management per se. For current aspirants, I would like to tell them that one needs to be passionate about what they are doing. Ask yourself why you are pursuing an MBA and be clear about it.
These days, I come across many people who are going for MBA just because it is a fashion or because every one else is doing it! Besides, since MBA also involves numbers, facts and readings etc, you must start talking, living and thinking in numbers! Once you imbibe this into your system, your comfort will grow and then CAT and the way ahead will not remain a big challenge.
It was a great feeling when I got to know the results -- I got an interview call for IIM Bangalore and IIM Indore. All my roommates who had appeared for CAT had received respective calls from leading b-schools. So we celebrated by hosting a small party.
Immediately, later, we started preparing for the GD/PI rounds. Together, we did lots of reading, took mock interviews and kept motivating each other. After I got a final admission call from IIM Indore, we also took a trip to the Tirupati Balaji temple!
Image: Amit Grover
'Academic records do not matter'
Life at IIM-Indore
Life has changed in many ways after the CAT exam. After 4 years at IIT and two years at Infosys, I had grown to be mature with my thoughts.
Life at IIM (Indian Institute of Management)-Indore is very disciplined and tough, to say the least. The very foundation of learning is different here.
For instance, from the first day itself, we were provided with books and necessary study material for the rest of the year. We were given case studies to solve for the next day.
Initially I could not understand why they made us solve problems when we weren't taught about it. But we did not have a choice. We had to study all night and solve the case studies in groups. In other colleges, the general rule would be that your teacher will first teach you the concepts, then assign you homework and check it. But it was completely opposite here.
At IIM, you have to first finish your homework, the way you understand it and the professor will later explain you the concepts!
After coming to IIM, I learnt that academic records do not matter in life! What matters is what you did and what you achieved, rather than what you studied or what marks you got!
IIM also helped me participate and organise events. We organised Utsaha (the marketing festival of IIM Indore), which was the most successful Mela organised in the city of Indore that year! Two years at IIM helped me learn that academics should be taken up with a passion to learn, not to merely pass the exams.
Also, it takes lots of energy and passion to be part of a leading b-school. If I were to tell you what difference an IIM makes in your life, it's like comparing a Sachin Tendulkar to a Vinod Kambli!
Choosing the right school
That's also why I would like to add here that it is extremely important that you choose the right school to study MBA.
Remember that a b-school is good only because of its participants -- the people who will be your batch-mates. So, while you do your homework, also find out among your friends and other candidates where they are going.
Other factors that are purely based on individual perception and facts include brand image, placement records, faculty quality, rankings, infrastructure etc. Also, the fees for MBA colleges are very high, so chose a b-school which is reasonable in cost where you can also avail of education loans or scholarships.
At IIMs the main program is General Management so there is no specialisation or a different degree granted. However, most of the electives I took were in sales and marketing (I took only 1 finance course and that was called 'Marketing of Financial Services'). The reason I chose sales and marketing is because I feel that it is the root of every businessmen's action -- either you create or you sell.
Image: Indian Institute of Management-Indore
'Energy and passion are the most important things in life'
Life after MBA
I successfully completed my MBA in 2005. After my MBA, I joined the Pune branch of Asian Paints, and roamed around the beautiful interiors of Maharashtra, including Mahabaleshwar, Satara, Latur etc handling sales and launching new products. During that period, I travelled a lot and met almost 1000 dealers in 10 months!
I was soon promoted to the position of Brand Manager where I was required to handle the consumer services and retailing portfolio at Asian Paints. That's how I came to Mumbai.
After spending two years with Asian Paints, I joined Onida in the Chairman's office and reported to Gulu Mirchandani, who started his venture 30 years ago and is an entrepreneur who I respect immensely.
At Onida, I handled the strategy and new initiatives for three years. I am also a member and volunteer for Mumbai Angels, India's premier group of angel investors. They are also responsible for making early stage investments in start-ups. Here I learned the E of Entrepreneurship and desired to start my own venture, which I eventually did in January, 2010.
My greatest achievement so far has been my entrepreneurial venture -- Nurture Talent Academy , which is India's 1st institute for training entrepreneurs.
Started in January, 2010, it has already conducted 122 workshops across 37 cities and trained over 4300 aspiring entrepreneurs, professionals and students.
Some of my greatest learnings from life that I would like to share with readers are these:
1. Execution is the key -- you have to take action, do things, take ownership and for that there is no shortcut.
2. Create and sell -- if you do not know how to make things or how to sell them, start learning now
3. Passion can overcome challenges. You may not know everything but if you truly believe in it, you can overcome any challenges.
Over the years, I have seen success assume various forms. However, if I were to define success, I would say, every thing you start, you must take it to the finish -- that is success for me. Many people give up hope at 99 percent, but it is the remaining 1 percent that matters the most.
Looking back, life has become more action oriented post CAT. I made great friends, travelled new places, learned new things. It has been an ongoing journey and I am just enjoying the journey at the moment.
Post CAT, I have also grown as a person, in terms of experience and knowledge. Among the things that have remained the same include my basic nature. I still love my family, respect my parents and love my wife and kid.
I have learnt that energy and passion are the most important things in life -- do not lose them and do not waste them.