Now that the suspense is over, I can take the wraps off my eight-month-long quest for the IIMs, and announce that I have indeed made it to IIM Kozhikode! Yes, dear reader, the geek is now off to B-school. The “How” and “Why” will follow in two posts soon enough.
For now, here’s an edited version of the GD/PI description I wrote a friend the day after the interview on February 23rd, at Dadar’s Catering College.
The moment I reached the venue, there were a number of other people there, so I simply launched into the group and made friends with most of them – couple were from IMS Pune – so we got along damn well, before too much time we were cracking dumb jokes, doing “de taali” and stuff even before the registration started. Yes. Good start.
Registration: We were divided into three groups of about 9 each, our degree certi and admit card were checked, and led into the GD halls. BTW, here’s where I learnt that you need a work-ex certificate or your first and last salary slips, of which I had neither, so I had to hop around to Dadar the next day once more with them.
GD: There were two guys in my Panel (Panel 2) – one who looked tough, mean, wore an IIMK T-shirt, whom I’ll call “Bhai”, and the other was the typical “straight-out-of-Kerala” smooth-talking Mallu, whom I’ll call “Smooth”. B and S organised us according to our TR numbers in a semicircle. The topic was given to us on a slip of paper, we had a minute to think, and 10 mins to talk. The topic was a pseudo-extract from a newspaper titled the New Indian Express, calling upon the UPA Government to ban strikes in the wake of the AAI strike. Bore topic! Now the good thing was that because we had become such good friends just a few minutes ago, it was difficult to have an acrimonious GD – and I think by now most people have realized that a fishmarket is not in anyone’s interest. So it was pretty well conducted, I started, led the discussion – the only negative point was that once, when someone went on a tangent, I told him so, and led the topic back on track – that could be seen as either positive or negative. On the whole from my POV, the GD went off damn well.
Interview – I was 4th in my panel. The same two guys, Bhai and Smooth, conducted the PI. Typical interview for all three panels lasted for between 12 and 15 minutes. Most freshers were being quizzed on academics, and work ex guys on technical questions related to their jobs. Not encouraging. I had not read up on any subject at all, and didn’t know much about my project to carry myself through an interview. Every interview started with “So, XXX, introduce yourself”. To which the only reply I had prepared was “Sir, I’m born and brought up in Mumbai. So are my parents. I studied also in Mumbai. I hope now to study in Kerala. <Hopeful grin>”.
When I went in, Smooth took over and asked me “So, Rahul, do you blog?” Wow! That was the absolute *best* start that I could have ever expected. What followed was a wonderful discussion of IBM’s blogging policy, the blogosphere inside IBM, how we can use blogs as a PR weapon against MS, Sun, Novell – and I took them through Robert Scoble of MS, Nat Friedman of Novell, Bryan Cantrill of Sun, then the Gaurav Sabnis-Rashmi Bansal-IIPM controversy, my own Businessworld article concerns, linking blogging v/s strikes as a way of registering protest, and finally Smooth asked “So after this interview, if I wrote nasty things about you and this interview on my blog, could you sue me?” So I said sure, of course, I could sue you for libel… but I would much rather use my blog to counter you and say nasty things about you too! So all three of us had a hearty laugh at that! In fact, everyone before me was saying that Bhai was rude, curt, but with me both were very jovial and casual – it was more of a “mil baithenge teen yaar – Bhai, Smooth aur Rahul”. Really.
Then Bhai took me through IBM’s ISL and Global Services difference, asked me if I was good at Maths – to which I said an emphatic No. Then we went through a discussion of continuous functions, defined functions, maxima, minima – which I handled well. Then a discussion of distance between 2 points in an n-dimensional space. Rather than give formulae and stuff (which I was shaky at), I explained the concept rather well, and they nodded in approval multiple times. There was just a little hitch where I mistook a continuous function for a defined function (or the other way round). So Smooth asked me if they selected me, would I accept being put through a Mathematics Preparatory Course? So I said “After all this mess, I can hardly say no!” Again laughter all round, and Bhai said “No no, don’t worry!”.
Finally they looked at my certis, and said “Ok, Rahul! Do you have any questions for us?” So I asked them how IIMK was attempting to distinguish itself from the rest of the IIMs – because, I said, “We tend to stay in the shadow of the big 3” (Note the “we”!). So he talked about K’s attempts to build a brand, and said that age was the one factor why we were still counted as *inferior*. I mentioned that my call letter had “IIMK – The Second Generation IIM” written on it. Bhai roared with laughter and actually said this: “Bullshit! Those are the stupid policies of the Government of India! Not us! They put that on the envelope! Who can tell those people what makes sense and what does not! We have better things to say!” So there ended the interview – on a very casual, friendly note!! :-)
The folks outside asked me if anything was wrong – because the interview had lasted for about 35 minutes, as opposed to 12-15 minutes on an average.
Hmm – in retrospect – nothing was wrong, for the result on 12th April confirmed what I’d been expecting all along – I’m off to IIMK!!