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Life after CAT: 'It was the right thing for me'

Last updated on: November 9, 2011 12:41 IST

Life after CAT: 'It was the right thing for me'

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Divya Nair

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.

Today, the first IITian to graduate out of Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad (MICA), Anshul Sushil is now Vice President of a start up in Gurgaon. Here he tells us how the then pen and paper Common Admission Test gave an altogether different meaning to his life. Read on.

Anshul Sushil is a perfect epitome for those who believe in following their dreams and making them work.

An engineering graduate from IT-BHU, Anshul defied all notions and went on to pursue his post graduation in management thus becoming the first IIT-ian to study at MICA.

Today, at the age of 30, he is the Vice President (Marketing) of a start up e-commerce portal based in Gurgaon. It was only three months ago that he left his salaried job at HCL to join the start up, to support the cause of entrepreneurial IITians who were involved with the portal.

Here, he reminisces his journey from preparing for the pen and paper Common Admission Test way back in 2003, to what made him choose MICA after engineering and what defines success for him.

Reader invite: Do you think appearing for CAT has made a difference to your life? Write to us at getahead@rediff.co.in with 'Life After CAT' as the subject line and let us know your story. We will publish the best entries right here on rediff.com!


Image: Anshul Sushil

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'I was in the wrong place'

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Anshul was in his third year of metallurgical engineering at Institute of Technology-BHU (Banaras Hindu University) when he realised that he did not want to continue in engineering. He wanted to study management because he realised that's where his skills lie.

"While I was studying engineering, I was appointed the Cultural Secretary (CS). It was considered one of the oddest things to do for an engineer -- to be involved with cultural affairs, among all things. Back then, I did not know that this responsibility was going to alter my career decision in a major way.

Being the CS was a new experience for me, but I was naturally good at it -- right from managing events to advertising and marketing, I was getting things working in the right direction. That's when one of my seniors who noticed me told me that I was in the wrong place (studying engineering) and that I should probably think of pursuing a career in marketing or advertising instead. Trust me, it's not an easy decision for an engineering graduate to consider making a choice like that. I am sure most of my peers would agree to that.

Although I wasn't sure if that was the right decision for me at that given point of time, I had made up my mind to appear for CAT and give it a shot," says Anshul.

In 2003, Anshul appeared for the Common Admission Test. Besides the IIMs, he aimed for NITIE, since he was an engineer and later, MICA, as he did not want to rule out the option of pursuing masters either in communication or marketing.



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'I timed my mock tests to exactly the same time I had to take the actual exam'

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Those were the days when CAT was a pen and paper exam and MICA was among the schools that accepted CAT scores for admission. I scored about 94 percentile in CAT in my first attempt. I personally believe that CAT is relatively easier to crack for engineers.

Being an engineer, I found Quant and Data Interpretation to be easier. The Verbal Ability section did require some additional training, as I was not very comfortable with English," he says.

Speaking about his strategy, Anshul Sushil says that mock tests did the trick for him.

"Also, a special strategy I used was I timed my mock tests to exactly the same time I had to take the actual exam. Like, for example, my CAT exam was scheduled from 10 am to 12 noon. So, whenever I would practice mock tests, I would solve the LR section between 10 am to 10.30 am.

Similarly, between 10.30 am and 11 am I would solve Quant and 11 and 12 for Verbal, exactly the way I intended to solve my actual exam. This helped me a lot because during the actual CAT, as I was mentally conditioned to the exam timings over the months of preparation. I realised that I could solve problems way better than others.

Also, those days, the internet bug had not hit us hard. We had to make do with personal notes. We would make small notes and carry them along with us and revised them whenever we found the time.

To improve my vocabulary, I had made a small book of 3000 words and I would read about five words every day. That may not be possible today. Today's generation of students are techno savvy. Besides the convenience of Internet and WiFi enabled mobile phones, they can download exam preparation material on their mobile phones -- from formulae to words and also previous year's papers.

Learning has become convenient for today's aspirants. Back then, we remember carrying loads of books and test papers home to solve the exam, which is not be the case any more.

But, I have also realised that no matter what the pattern is, the formula for success in CAT remains the same -- you must not be emotional while solving a problem. If you cannot solve a given problem in less than 30 seconds, you must move to the next question and come back to this later if you have the time. As much as easy it is to say, this is where most of them end up losing their valuable time."

 Anshul Sushil's tips for aspirants

  • Plan and time your preparation well. Treat every paper like the actual exam. Understand your strong and weak areas and strategise accordingly. Solve the easy ones first, take the tough ones later.
  • Take as many mock tests as possible. Practice is the only way you can prepare for CAT.
  • Besides CAT, do keep an active plan B and C. Give entrance exams for other b-schools as well -- may be SNAP, IIFT, XAT depending on which of the b-schools offer your intended course of study.
  • If you are planning to study abroad also give equal importance to GRE and similar entrance exams exclusive to your short-listed colleges.


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Life at MICA

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Joining Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad was one of the most defining moments of my life -- it not only changed the way I saw marketing and communication, it helped me grow as an individual. But the decision wasn't easy for me.

I had to decide what I wanted while I was still in my third year of college. I was soon going to be an engineer. I had three options before me -- to take up a job, to pursue higher education abroad or choose a B-school in India. I come from a middle class family where every career decision I made would matter a lot in the long run.

I spoke to as many people as I could so that I could get various opinions. While I was speaking to a few seniors at MICA to get more details of the course, I realised that no IITian had been to MICA. So, I was initially worried if I was on the right track. Plus I had opted MICA as I did not get any calls from the IIMs.

Looking back, I think it was the right thing for me. I wanted to study brand management and very soon, I realised that MICA is the best place for it.

For instance, I was in touch with a friend of mine, who was studying at IIM-Ahmedabad.

Since both of us were keen on pursuing brand management, we would discuss case studies of various brands and what was taught to us at our respective schools. When I discussed with him what I was taught at MICA, he was impressed -- the way brand management was taught to us was superior to what was taught at IIMs and he agreed to that. That's when I realised that my decision about the course and school was just the right thing to do."


Image: Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad

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'Always go for a b-school which offers good course content'

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Anshul Sushil's guide to choosing a good b-school

It is very important that you bear the following in mind while choosing the school that is appropriate for you.

Course content: First and foremost, you need to figure out your intended area of specialisation. This will help you shortlist colleges accordingly. Always go for a b-school which offers good course content (curriculum).

Brand of B-school: By brand, I mean, one must evaluate the prestige of the college. Prestige also should not be mistaken with rankings. Prestige is to do with market presence -- the activities they are involved in, opinion among experts in the industry, web and media presence etc.

Quality of faculty: Choose a school which has a good mix of experienced and guest faculty members. This will ensure that you have a good balance of knowledge-based and activity-based learning.

Placement record: Choose a college which has good placement record. This does not imply that you must fall for the traditional 100 per cent placement. Talk to seniors; find out what the actual placement figures are. Find out what firms hire students from these schools. Check the profiles of the hiring firms. Your seniors will be kind enough to tell you these figures and help you take an informed decision. Take into consideration all of the above before you shortlist the right b-school for you.



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'There is absolutely no dearth of companies willing to hire freshers'

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In 2005, Anshul chose to major in Brand management and Communication from MICA. Since he did not have any work experience, he was placed with a brand cum design consultancy in Mumbai.

After a year, Anshul decided to move back to Delhi. That's how he joined HCL.

"When I joined HCL, the company was in the process of diversifying itself from being a technology major into allied applications and that required a great deal of brand management. I was fortunate to have chosen HCL at the right point of my career.

In the five years that I spent there I could put to use everything I had learnt at MICA. I was responsible for all marketing and brand management activities of HCL -- from direct marketing to television, print and new media advertising. The whole experience has helped me get closer to both consumers and clients. My strategy was simple -- feel their pulse and be the medium of communication.

About success

While I am saying this, let me also add that there were also times when I felt that I was offered a raw deal compared to my peers who graduated from IIMs and other leading business schools. Some of them had prior work experience; others had the IIM brand going for them. There were also those from lesser known b-schools who shared the same emotion. But I chose to work hard and concentrate on improving my performance.

Today, I am 30, I have more than six years of work experience and I am the vice president of a start up. Since I am here, I can proudly tell you a fact -- placement packages after graduation are mere numbers that most people mistake for success. Through hard work and determination, you can balance these figures in your life. So do not let figures determine success for you.

Lastly, and most importantly, there is a very popular notion that one needs to work at least for a year after graduation so that their chances of getting into a good b-school is strengthened. There are also those who believe that the chances of performing better after post graduation are in favour of candidates with work experience. This may not necessarily true if you were to take me as an example.

I never faced a problem during admission or placement. May be with a few years of work experience, I may have managed to get a better job profile, but going by the market trends, I can tell you that there is absolutely no dearth of companies that are willing to hire candidates who are just-out-of-college provided you have the skills they are looking for in you. You just need to make the best use of what is given to you."

Reader invite: Do you think appearing for CAT has made a difference to your life? Write to us at getahead@rediff.co.in with 'Life After CAT' as the subject line and let us know your story. We will publish the best entries right here on rediff.com!



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