MBA Abroad

According to a recent poll by the careers and education group, QS, the company behind the World MBA Tour, there are almost no MBAs who regret having taken the qualification, but a significant proportion do wish that they had approached their studi…

According to a recent poll by the careers and education group, QS, the company behind the World MBA Tour, there are almost no MBAs who regret having taken the qualification, but a significant proportion do wish that they had approached their studies in a different way. One of the most common regrets centres on a lack of planning for the programme and for the wider business school experience.

One respondent to the survey, who took his MBA at Henley Management School in the UK, expressed a view widely held when he said that, I was too busy winding up my previous job to read around those subjects such as finance and accounting, which were going to be relatively new to me. If Id found the time to do more preliminary work, I would have found the first few months a whole lot easier and consequently more productive. In my experience, the earlier you start thinking about and preparing for an MBA, the better.

This call for more preparation is strongly supported by Sujana Patel, a former Team Leader at NDS India (a News Corporation company) in Bangalore, now studying for an MBA at Thunderbird Garvin School of International Management in the US: Its really essential to talk to people who have already gone through the programme you are looking at, she says. It saves any sort of gap in expectations developing. According to Ms Patel, this is particularly important when it comes to understanding the amount of work you will be expected to undertake. It wasnt a problem for me because I had come from a very demanding job, but the teaching style, methodology, new cultural experiences all make it more important to talk to an alumni before hand.

Looking back on their time at business school, many experienced MBAs maintain that they should have thought more about what they were going to do for a job once they had graduated. An MBA is an excellent badge of quality, but, from a career point of view, it has to be used as part of an overall package of skills, experience and academic qualifications, says Mike Holmes of the MBA careers service, TopMBA Careers, and an MBA himself. There are still too many candidates who fail to gear their studies towards the sort of work they want to do when they graduate. Focusing on what the job market is likely to offer at the end of your programme is a very wise investment of time and effort. Sujana Patel agrees: Its always going to be a concern that there could be uncertainty in the job market when you graduate one to two years after beginning your studies. Thats why you have to make plans about where you want to work, with what sort of company and how you are going to make it happen.

However, as Ms Patel points out, researching the school, the programme and the likelihood of finding that dream job on graduating is just part of the picture. What talking to current students and alumni can also do for you is to prepare you for a completely life-changing experience. Leaving work to study again, particularly if you are going to be doing it overseas, can take some adjusting to, so make sure that the school, your fellow students and the environment are exactly right for you. And whatever you do, dont forget to ask about the weather in the country where the school is based its amazing just how much it can affect you when youre far from home!


AreIts nice to see a case in which an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) has been chosen over Stanford University. The choice wasnt between MBA at the two institutes but it is still a tough decision. Every year, a large number of Indians go overseas for MBA programs at foreign universities. It is true that the IIMs barely figure in the top 100 b-schools in the world but India is among the fastest growing economies in the world and graduates of foreign b-schools return to India for work in limited cases. Foreign b-school graduates are coming to India for internships and now we have a case of an IIM being preferred to a premier foreign school like Stanford.

The economic recession has severely affected the US economy and graduates of American b-schools are finding it difficult to get jobs for themselves. India has been relatively less affected by the recession and it has been forecast that emerging economies will recover faster. In this case, the student chose IIM Ahmedabad keeping in mind the growth in Indias management sector. Stanford would have given him the chance to get a place for himself in Silicon Valley but the current situation of the US economy may have influenced his decision.

The recession may tilt the balance towards the IIMs and other top Indian b-schools. It is up to students to recognize the growth opportunities that India provides and to decide whether they wish to study management and work in India.

It is not easy to make difficult decisions such as the one made in this case. A lot of factors need to be considered and evaluated before arriving at a decision. One can only hope that in future the IIMs improve to such an extent that it becomes much easier to choose.


One of the first top business schools gunning to set up an India campus following the expected passage of the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill in the Indian parliament is the Canada-based Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto. Ranked number 10 globally in The Economist's fulltime MBA rankings 2010, Schulich has already started work on a campus in Hyderabad in association with infrastructure company GMR Group (better known as the developer of the modernized Hyderabad and Delhi airports). The Schulich School of Business, Hyderabad plans to start offering a fulltime 2-year MBA starting 2012.

PaGaLGuY met Schulich's Dean Dr Dezso J Horvath in Mumbai in order to understand the school's motivations behind opening an India campus and how foreign b-schools entering India will differentiate themselves from existing Indian b-schools. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

How did the idea of starting Schulich School of Business at Hyderabad come about?

We entered India back in 1991 through exchange programs with the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) at Ahmedabad and Bangalore. Both schools are part of the list of 80 plus exchange partners we have more than 50 countries.

At that time, India was a very quiet place. But that changed soon after. In the same year the Indian government deregulated the corporate environment and India opened up to global competition. Then in 1995, the Canadian government deregulated education, allowing me to increase my presence in other parts of the world. Between 2001 and 2005, we increased our presence in India by opening up an office in Mumbai for offering executive education as well as to recruit and place students for the MBA program back in Toronto. It was around 2006 that I started getting interested in India. I started visiting the Indian human resources ministry to ask why I couldn't start a b-school in India. The minister then told me that the a bill allowing foreign investment in higher education would come within a year. But year upon year passed and the amendment did not take place. We were then told that in the meanwhile we could start a twinning program in India, wherein the first year of a 2-year-MBA would be spent in an Indian school and the second in Toronto. And that is how in January 2010 we launched a dual-campus program with SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai. The second year students of that batch are now in Schulich, Toronto after completing their first year in SP Jain, Mumbai.

While we were doing this, the government started moving ahead on the FDI in Higher Education Bill. The bill was passed by the cabinet and is now pending to be cleared by the parliament. I am confident that it will be passed because a country such as India cannot afford not to have globally competitive educational institutions to aid its growth.

In anticipation of the bill, I started looking for an Indian partner who would help us set up a b-school in India. That's when I was introduced to the GMR Group by the High Commission of Canada to India. After having dinner with the board members of GMR and the heads of its foundation. we made a presentation about Schulich in Hyderabad and 4 to 5 months later, we had a partnership.

We now plan to launch a 2-year MBA program in India at Hyderabad within a couple of years. By that time GMR would have built the campus facility in Hyderabad. And as soon as we can, earliest September 2012, latest September 2013 we will have a full-fledged business school in India delivering both years of the MBA with an intake of 120 students, probably an executive program and a Master in Finance if needed.

Why did you choose India for a second Schulich campus?

We think of ourselves as a global school with a global presence. We currently have offices in more than five cities outside Canada besides having more than 88 alumni chapters in 70 countries. So when we think of expanding outside Canada, India is a natural choice because the country continues to grow into one of the worlds great economic engines and is becoming increasingly attractive to business students from around the world.

As India grows, the number of people who will be needing business education is huge. Demographically, 50% of India's population is under the age of 25. I can't say the same about China, who by 2020 have a problem on their hands because their demographics are set the other way round. The young people there are going to be limited in number and they will have a huge ageing population because of their one-child policy. India on the other hand will face a revolt if it fails to offer quality educational infrastructure for its emerging young people. We think that India will need strong business schools on the way.

How will Schulich School of Business, Hyderabad be different from what is currently on offer in India?

We do not want to repeat what Indian b-schools are doing. In India while ISB Hyderabad is slightly different, other schools such as IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore and the rest pretty much follow a similar structure. All of them are taking in most of their students directly after they finish college. Which means their average age is 21 to 23. All the schools have Indian faculty who are delivering an Indian curriculum. ISB's model has a small difference, but not a lot.

We feel that this will not be the need of the Indian business community in the future. What they will require is more experienced people who can work in the global environment. We plan to come in with our 2-year MBA, which will be for participants between 27 to 30 years of age on an average and 5 to 7 years of work experience. Schulichs MBA program will mirror our program in Toronto. It will have a globally focused curriculum with learning that prepares students to manage in a global environment. It will have faculty from all over the world --- 70% of Schulichs faculty are from outside Canada. It will also be comprised of students from all of the world students who are not only diverse, but who typically are older and have more average years of experience than students in most Indian MBA programs.

Obviously we'll ensure that no more than 40% of the students are international because India needs a strong program here and so Indians will be dominating the class in Hyderabad. I'll also bring in our global network of company linkages developed in Canada which none of the Indian b-schools have ever had. Also, I'm going to place the students not just in India, but all over the world. These will be the differentiating factors.

Given the unstable political environment in India, what gives you the confidence that the FDI in Education amendment will be passed in time for you to start a 2-year program in Hyderabad by your schedule?

We remain hopeful that the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill will be passed but we also realize that we may have to adjust our plans. We have thoroughly prepared and planned for a number of scenarios.

In case the amendment continues to be stalled, what is your plan B? Are you looking at alternative locations in Asia?

Regardless of what happens, we remain committed to providing quality management education in India along the same lines as the Schulich MBA in India that is currently being offered in association the SP Jain Institute of Management & Research in Mumbai.

We are currently not looking at alternative locations for a Schulich campus elsewhere in Asia. Following years of careful analysis, we have identified India as the strategic location for the delivery of an MBA degree. We intend to stay in India.

How will you convince American or European students to come to the Hyderabad campus over the one in Toronto?

One of the key differentiating features of the planned Schulich MBA in Hyderabad is that it will be part of a truly transnational school and will operate as a seamless extension and mirror image of Schulich's Toronto campus, ensuring the same high quality of programs, faculty and students. Any campus that we build in India will not be a separate, standalone school but an extension of the Schulich School of Business. Students will have the opportunity to spend part of the MBA program in Toronto and part of the program in India. In other words, students can enjoy the best of both worlds. While some of the students based in India will come to Toronto in Year 2 of the program, a number of the Toronto-based students will want to come to India, where we will develop some new specializations that wont be available in Toronto.

As for why students from North America, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere would want to study in Hyderabad, there a number of compelling reasons. First of all, Hyderabad is one of the worlds great new economic hubs, with concentrations of large multinationals in the IT, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Secondly, as India continues to grow into one of the worlds great economic engines, it is becoming increasingly attractive to business students from around the world.

Let me share with you a story concerning our School. In 2004, we established our first Satellite Centre in Beijing in order to recruit students to the Schools programs in Toronto and assist Schulich students and alumni with career planning and career opportunities in China, among other functions and activities. Initially, it was only our Chinese graduates who were looking to be placed back in China, but within several years, we noticed that a growing number of Schulich MBA graduates from Canada, Europe and other parts of the world were also interested in pursuing a business career in China, especially with large, well-known multinationals. We believe that same level of interest among our MBA students will exist with respect to careers in India. Our Hyderabad campus will give students the added opportunity of being immersed in the business culture of that city and developing contacts with firms located there.

Very few global corporates run their International or Asian operations from Indian soil. Rather, they run it from Singapore, Hong Kong, China or Dubai. How will you enable global corporate linkages at your Hyderabad school to match with what you have made possible in Toronto?

As with Schulich's Toronto campus, our placement of students from the Hyderabad campus will be both local and global --- it won't be confined to any one region. Our placements will be directed in three main areas. First, with a number of large Indian firms that are globally-oriented (Tata, ICICI, Wipro, etc). Second, with large foreign multinationals that have subsidiary operations in Canada, India and elsewhere around the world (IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Ernst & Young, Merrill Lynch, McKinsey & Co, etc). Third, with corporate firms that are not headquartered in either Toronto or India but which are interested in hiring MBA graduates with a global perspective (Nestle, LOreal, Samsung, etc). Finally, its important to note that we will market our graduates from Toronto and India in exactly the same way.

How much tuition fees will you charge at the Hyderabad campus?

It will be exactly the same as we charge in Toronto, which currently is 60,000 Canadian Dollars.

How will you justify charging the same fees for your Hyderabad campus as your Toronto campus, given that the operating costs in India are lower?

Our fee is based on the fact that we are offering a world-class MBA at both campuses, Toronto and Hyderabad. Most of the faculty expertise as well as the curriculum and program development will come from Toronto so in terms of academic infrastructure, our operating costs will not be cheaper. There is one area, however, where students will experience lower costs, and that is in the area of residence facilities and living costs here in India. But otherwise, it will be the same program with the same costs.

Having said that, in Toronto we have been good at developing scholarship centers. My faculty strongly believes that those who can afford it should pay the fees and those who can't should get scholarships. Last year we gave away 8 million Canadian dollars in scholarships at Toronto. Recognizing that India still has a large number of students who require expensive financing of their education, I am going to reserve a certain amount of the tuition fees to build a large student support fund to be offered as scholarships.

Why did you choose Hyderabad over other Indian cities for a campus?

I have been around India for a long time and I love Mumbai. Mumbai has a great attraction of having so many corporate head offices. But Mumbai is overcrowded and the land is expensive. The Maharashtra government for a while tried to give me land but what was on offer was very small and far away from the actual city. Delhi was not very attractive and Bangalore could have been used because it is a technology center, it too is becoming overcrowded like Mumbai. When we met the GMR Group, they told us that they had an upcoming facility in Hyderabad which would be close to the airport. Hyderabad is an important upcoming economic hub with a strong presence of global technology companies, biotech firms, etc. Downtown Hyderabad is not messy and overpopulated yet. So we chose Hyderabad.

It is believed that foreign schools entering India will poach faculty from existing Indian business schools by offering better compensation. Do you agree?

I don't think that for the planned Schulich MBA in India I can hire faculty from schools such as IIM Bangalore or IIM Ahmedabad, I think that's a misconception. Not even ISB Hyderabad, as they hire a lot of young faculty who otherwise would not get positions in global business schools.

We see all our faculty positions in a global context. 70% of our faculty in Toronto comes from countries other than Canada. I know the IIMs well and there isn't anybody in Ahmedabad or Bangalore who teaches this kind of a global curriculum. Besides, the faculty at IIMs are not heavily research oriented. This to a large extent is because of government regulation. I need to be careful in explaining this to you.

You see, I have been Dean of Schulich for 23 years. In the beginning when I joined, the Canadian education system was as highly regulated as that of India now. Back then I couldn't hire whomever I wanted. so I had to rely on Canadian faculty. I couldn't increase the faculty because the money wasn't there. Fundraising was non-existent. In 1995 the Canadian government deregulated education. Thereafter, I could charge whatever I wanted to and also start fundraising. So that by end-1990s I had enough resources to hire great people, create chairs and build world class facilities.

In b-schools that do not have enough resources to pay their faculty much, the faculty have to do extra consulting or a second or third job to get additional income. I wouldn't like my faculty to do that. I pay my faculty well and let them have more time for research which directly impacts teaching quality. In my belief you are not a legitimate business school if you don't have strong research.


After studying some 1000 teams across companies and countries in a span of ten years, Henrik Bresman, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour at INSEAD has concluded that perfect teams are those that balance internal processes with an external focus. He has labelled these as X-teams. In his book X-Teams: How to Build Teams that Lead, Innovate, and Succeed, co-authored with Deborah Ancona, Harvard Business School Press, 2007, Prof Bresman has explained that X-teams cultivate important leadership functions and change the pathway for an organization. But good teams can also fail when it comes to innovation, this is if they do not keep external factors and conditions in mind, he has warned.

Pagalguy caught up with Prof Bresman at his office in INSEAD, Singapore.

prof bresman from INSEAD research on x teams

Professor Henrik Bresman

Define an X-team?

X-teams are those that balance internal activity with an equal commitment to external activities. Theyre different from traditional teams because they go outside from day one and do so throughout their life cycle. The actual balance between internal and external activity shifts as per work requirements but the external mindset is always there. An X team is also able to recognize the factors outside the team and those out in the world and identify the ones that can be used for its success. The X-team is also good at starting and maintaining bridges with other teams in the company so that the work put in is evident and support is gathered easily.

The X in an X-team underlines the point that an X-team is externally oriented, with members working outside their boundaries as well as inside them. X-teams manage to be both externally and internally focused, pulling in and leveraging ideas, support, and resources from all across the organization and from outside as well.

Give an example of an X-team that you have worked with?

One X-team we studied at Microsoft Corp. had been tasked with developing new software for netgenersthe demographic cohort born after 1982 and thus raised in the digital era. The NetGenteam engaged in extensive scoutingresearching a wide array of products and market trends related to the target segment, and then conducting a deep study of a group of college students charged with creating a business plan. As the students worked on their project, the NetGen team studied videotapes, interviews, and textmessaging transcripts to really understand how the students used technology.As their project rolled out, the NetGen teams ambassadorship activities included working hard to win the support of key outside managers.

Every member of the team mastered a brief pitch making the business case for targeting netgeners as potential customersand then presented it to managers in other parts of the Microsoft organization. To ensure that their work remained appropriately aligned with the companys overall strategy, team members also made frequent presentations to top management. Finally, the NetGen team members engaged in task coordinationactively recruiting the assistance of other Microsoft development groups, such as a group focused on creating photo management tools and a testing unit that could provide critical feedback as the team developed prototype applications.

Any other examples?

At BP, X-teams have created new structures and architectures to improve project management. Working in distributed teams with members throughout the world, they have come up with new ways to contract with suppliers, new ways to evaluate projects, new ways to structure joint ventures, standardize projects and gain value from technology. These teams will now work with top management to implement these ideas, and the process will be repeated year after year. This same process occurred at Merrill Lynch & Co., as X-teams came up with new products that brought debt and equity groups together as never before, while at Hewlett-Packard Co., X-teams created new ways to improve services provided within and outside the company. At Vale, a Brazilian mining company, the program has yielded new ways to go global, while at Newscorp, it has helped information technology (IT) managers find new ways to integrate IT into business strategy.

So do X-teams never fail?

By my earlier definition, an X-team is always in close contact with its external conditions so it is less likely to make the same errors a traditional team would make. You could say traditional teams fall in the trap of making mistakes like coming up with a solution to a problem that no longer exists, or coming up with strategies which customers dont rate as important. These teams are often not on the same level as the management and rarely get their work put to practical use. No matter how talented or committed a team is, it can fail if the external support it needs is slow to come by. An X team is the one which has invested time with the outside world and nurtured the contacts to bring about great results for the company.

That means a successful company is also one that has successful teams?

Ask employees in a company whether teamwork is mandatory for the success of their company and they will agree. Ask whether their company is known for successful team work, and very few will agree. Creating and leveraging effective teams across an organization is an intricate and problematic effort. Our research clearly shows that high-performing companies have stood up to this effort. Such companies have the knack of sustaining layers of high-performing teams which are pushed to take up critical leadership jobs for the company. Such teams are called X-teams which offer distributed leadership. Companies such as Microsoft, BP, Merrill Lynch, Procter & Gamble and Southwest Airlines as examples of companies which have successfully used X-teams because they work hard at building linkages with other groups within their own big company. These companies also demonstrate that X-teams are powerful enough for the top brass to foster a culture of innovation across the board.

What is it that keeps a team going?

Good teams can often fail when it comes to innovation. And this does not mean that there is an issue of talent in the team or that the team cannot work as a group. It happens when the team does not give enough importance to external stakeholders and conditions. Often teams do not see external activity as a part of their central work or path to work. Over the years, managers have been drilled in team-building sessions and training guides/presentations for what goes on inside the team. Due to this, many teams spend a huge amount of time and energy looking inward, asking questions like: can we get the job done with these people? Can we get along? How will we coordinate our efforts? Can we finish the work in time? To deal with this anxiety, team leaders and members try to find areas of agreement, ways to co-ordinate, goals to achieve, and a sense of camaraderie, accomplishment and hope early in the process.

Good internal team functioning is definitely a must for success but it can't be the only thing as the team has to manage across team boundaries. X-teams monitor, market, and manage across the team lines and also build strong bonds and processes within the team.

Has this concept been understood at b-school level?

MITs Sloan School of Management has developed a program to help organizations establish, manage, and leverage such a network of X-teams. The X-team program consists of multiple X-teams created by an organization to work on a problem of strategic importance. Training in X-team leadership and X-team concepts and practices is provided at the Sloan School, along with relevant content training, and then the teams return to their organizations to move through the exploration, exploitation, and exportation phases.

The goal of the program is to distribute leadership across the organization, creating a network of champions for a new organizational future and inventors of a new organizational design. These leaders become partners with top management in shifting organizational practices and culture. To date the program has been very successful.

What is the role of a CEO or the top leader in such organizations

From my research I have found out that most CEOs preside over companies packed with teams whose talents and capacity for greatness are never fully harnessed. When companies grow, they get caught up with issues like co-ordination and control. Growing companies tend to create more intricate procedures, increasingly firm hierarchy, and more silos around functions and tasks. The result is greater compartmentalization, even as critical knowledge simultaneously becomes more advanced and spreads out. In this situation no single person or group can possibly possess all that is needed to integrate the required array of capabilities and pull off successful, consistent innovation.

What do you propose as a solution?

Fierce competition forces organisational life to change in a number of basic ways. Rather than multilevel centralised hierarchies, modern organizational structures have to become loose, spread-out systems with numerous alliances. When companies are faced with critical issues and resources are spread, leadership needs to be distributed across many players, both within and across organizations, up and down the hierarchy wherever information, expertise, vision, new ways of working together, and commitment reside. Sadly, many teams still depend on a model of teamwork that doesn't work very well under duress which is to focus within on its own process, on the problem on hand and on each other as team members. When leadership is distributed, the team and the company cannot afford to look inward. It has to be a two-way view.

Any typical characteristics too look out for in an X-team?

We have identified three distinguishing principles of X-teams compared to traditional teams: external activity, extreme execution, and flexible phases.

External activity means that X-teams constantly seek out information about the customer, the technology, the market, and the competition. To identify successful goals, members go outside the team. X-teams find out the direction of the top management and either link their activities to it or change their direction if need be. X-teams also learn and adjust to other teams in the company.

X-teams practise extreme execution inside the team. They create internal processes which learn from the external environment and adjust to it. Aims are shared and goals are made very clear for every team member. A transparent decision making structure is put into place and team members have respect for and trust in each other.

X-teams also believe in flexible phases. They move well from one phase to another to push a project forward. Traditional teams get caught in information-gathering with one project itself. High performing X-teams, instead move quickly and effectively from information gathering to implementing the plan.

How do teams execute such principles? They sound good on paper?

We have come to call them X-factors. First is extensive ties to useful outsiders who enable teams to go beyond their boundaries, co-ordinate their activities, and adapt over time. Second, expandable tiers allow such teams to structure themselves. Finally, exchangeable membership allows a team to include members who come in and out of the team and rotate leadership. Such new teams perform great jobs for their company.

Is there a way to select an X-team and sustain it?

Creating a suitable environment for X-teams to work harmoniously is the greatest job of a manager. X-teams cannot survive in a traditional command-control atmosphere. Leaders of the company need to put in place a culture that gives importance to honest communication and acknowledges that risk taking and disagreements are necessary elements of innovation. While putting together a team, managers often select people who are good at their jobs. The manager should also be able to include in the team those whose networking skills within a team and more importantly outside a team are good. Our research has shown that team members with deep ties on the technical side, along with ties to upper management, university researchers, and external professional organizations, can help their teams move through the project life cycle efficiently and effectively.

Are X-teams easy to manage and do they work in all conditions?

No, they are not easy to manage since co-ordination between internal and external processes is more difficult. And such teams do not work on all types of tasks. For example, if a team is asked to handle a routine task and operate in a stable organisational environment, then following the X-team principles may not be worth the co-ordination costs. But in the face of challenging and complex problems, in business and beyond, X-teams may just be the best way to get people from diverse backgrounds and varying points of view and levels of knowledge to pool in their collective energy to come up with the most innovative solutions.

Do such teams work well in flat organizations as well?

Its because organisations are working with relatively flat structures, that X-teams have emerged. Now to say that organisations have flattened, that might sound like a fad, but its arguably true and its a response to innovation-driven competition that demands more in terms of a teams ability to absorb knowledge and so on. Though it doesnt mean that X-teams cannot thrive in hierarchical organizations. It probably makes their work more difficult, but maybe it also means theyre needed more in such an organization.

Henrik Bresman has done his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also holds a degree in Economics (MSc) from the Stockholm School of Economics and is presently teaching at INSEAD, where his focus lies on teams and leadership, technological innovation, and change management. His articles have appeared (or is forthcoming) in peer-reviewed academic journals such as Organization Science, Journal of International Business Studies, and MIT Sloan Management Review. His work has been profiled in media outlets such as Time Magazine, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and the Economist. Prior to entering academia, Professor Bresman worked in several roles as a manager, consultant, and entrepreneur. He co-founded a venture capital firm focused on early stage technology businesses.

It has been a week since the London branch of Pune-based Training and Advanced Studies in Management and Communication (TASMAC) group which has b-schools in Kolkata and Bangalore, shut its doors. But the 650 students who studied there are still unsure of what lies ahead in their future. Efforts are on to shift them to some other school in the UK but if that fails, the Indian-origin students will be simply deported back to India and given the choice of continuing their MBA at one of TASMAC's Indian centres.

Before it shut shop on October 6, 2011, TASMAC - London was affiliated to the University of Wales (UOW). Last week, UOW officials met the affected students to work out a solution. Tomas Llewelyn Barrett of the University of Wales confirmed to PaGaLGuY that the university was in talks with its partner institutions to rehabilitate the displaced students. Some of these partner institutions also attended the meeting. Discussions were also being held to decide whether students would have to repay the course fee to the new colleges or whether TASMAC London will refund the amount already paid.

Any solution to save the students' future is obligated to to satisfy the regulations of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) (a body which enforces immigration policies for students and work professionals) which deal with enrollment of international and non-European Union students in UK-based colleges.

Explaining the current status, Sameer Dua, joint managing director, TASMAC India and London, said that the most preferred option was to transfer the affected students to UOW's collaborative centres. "If and when this is done, students will be able to complete their studies under normal academic conditions and graduate with a University of Wales award," he added.

Ironically, in August 2011, TASMAC Pune had received a letter from the British Accreditation Council (a body which grants licenses to private institutes), requesting its London branch to be a part of the very list of colleges that would rehabilitate students displaced due to the shutting down of other private schools. But thanks to a change in immigration rules in 2010, a numbers of school have closed down in the UK. Little did TASMAC know, that its own London branch would be part of the ill-fated list in a few months.

The UKBA's immigration rules differ according to the type of immigration (working, studying) required. Prior to 2010, private educational institutions needed to 'sponsor' their students before enrollment. To be able to do that, the institute had to acquire a Tier 4 licence. TASMAC London fell under this Tier 4 status.

The Royal Court of Justice, London where the UKBA has been sued by the AUKPSC (Photo credit: Ben Sutherland)

However, in March 2010, drastic changes were made to these rules. Besides the Tier 4 license, institutes were asked to additionally apply for the Highly Trusted Sponsor status and undergo inspection by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) --- for which they had to cough up 20,000 with April 2012 as the deadline. Apparently, these fresh regulations were initiated because cases of migrants posing as students (only to enter the UK) had begun to rise.

But the TASMAC (London) story is even more complicated. The changed visa rules cannot be held solely responsible for the state of affairs it is in currently. In the background, TASMAC was in talks with another b-school to acquire the London branch. But the deal did not go through and at the last minute TASMAC was not in a position to cough up the 20,000 to acquire the Highly Trusted Sponsor Status. It had actually gone bankrupt, liquidated the company and surrendered its Tier 4 licence.

Why did TASMAC not inform its students about the state of affairs?

We were in advanced stages of discussions of the deal. Unfortunately, right at the end, the deal fell through and at that point of time (we) had to surrender its licence as it was not a going concern anymore, answered Mr Dua.

Strangely, that TASMAC was in dire straits was not even known to regulating agencies such as the British Accreditation Council (BAC), a non-government body which was accrediting private colleges before the QAA norm was put into force.

Gina Hopkins, chief executive of BAC told PaGaLGuY that she was not aware of what exactly had happened with TASMAC or whether it was in talks of a buy out. Many private institutes may have not have applied for the newly formulated Highly Trusted Sponsor certificate and the corresponding inspection because of 20,000 clause.

Illegal migrants have been a problem in the UK for many years. The country has been concerned about migrants posing as students since a decade. In 2004, many overseas students of London School of Commerce (LSC), a private college that provides MBA and Law courses, were denied a visa by the Home Office, UK on a doubt that they were bogus students. According to the new immigration rules for students, after April 2012, they would not be able to work after completing their course from a private institution.

A few scattered groups are fighting a legal battle on behalf of the 'affected' schools and students. The Association of UK Schools and Colleges, which is a conglomeration of 66 schools is one such group that has taken UKBA to court. Abdul Khan, chairman of the AUKPSC said, We are fighting the UKBA for the working rights of students who are enrolled in private colleges. It is a discriminatory rule and has led to the demand for privates colleges to go down.

If in the next few days, TASMAC's students are absorbed into other b-schools in the UK, it would temporarily close down the discussion surrounding what exactly led to TASMAC's downfall. The larger issue of overseas students' welfare in the UK will however remain.

Ranked 15th in the Financial Times Global MBA rankings, Duke University's The Fuqua School of Business boasts of alumni such as the current Apple CEO Tim Cook, Melinda Gates and closer home, Shivinder Mohan Singh, CEO of Fortis Healthcare. In recent times, the school has slowly been growing its presence in India with the intended endgame of starting a campus here.
In this interview, PaGaLGuY speaks to Dan McCleary, Fuqua's India regional director about the school's Indian activities, applying to the Fuqua MBA for the 2013 admission cycle and the b-school's view on the next-generation GMAT.


Can you explain the nature of your work at Fuqua School of Business?

Sure. I am the regional director for India at Fuqua's residency in New Delhi and that brings me to India every other month. Apart from running the residency, I am also engaged in MBA recruitment and organising information sessions in Indian cities for prospective applicants. In fact, we would be bringing 150 Executive MBA students to Delhi in mid-April.

What do these students do in India as part of their New Delhi phase?

These Executive MBA students are coming from all over the world representing several nationalities. Executive MBA programmes across the world tend to be structured differently. For example in India, executive MBA tends to be almost entirely on campus. In the USA, almost all executive MBA programmes require participants to attend classes only on the weekend. At Fuqua, we have two programmes that are delivered at five international locations --- the Cross Continent MBA and the Global Executive MBA --- including at Dubai, China, Russia apart from New Delhi and the Fuqua campus at Durham, North Carolina in the USA.

After arriving in India, these students would converge on April 13, 2012 at the Fuqua residency in New Delhi. They would first be taking a strategy class and a finance class. They will also take classes on Indian culture and civilisation, how India has evolved to result in today's business context, India's role in global markets and institutions, what bankruptcy means in India versus say Russia, and so on.

Then there will be a mix of speakers coming in from the Indian industry to the residency as well as student visits to companies and organisations. We will have the students understand India in an experiential way by going out on the streets and shooting videos. This is something we do not just in India, but at all of the global residencies of Fuqua.

What insights does India have to offer to someone looking to build a global career?

India is a place that is misunderstood or unappreciated by the rest of the world. In the US for example, there are a number of people who think of India as a 90% BPO economy. They also don't understand how much domestic consumption drives the Indian economy, or how a lot of the infrastructure here is developing around the mobile industry. It is in India that you understand the power of mobile technology as opposed to broadband, which is more prevalent in the US. So the idea is to get a handle on how business is done in India and what are the opportunities.

Are there plans to start an India campus?

We are evaluating acquisition of land and a building for a possible campus. We are waiting for India's parliament to pass the foreign universities bill but until that happens, we would have to be active here in partnership with different universities. For example, our corporate executive education office is run in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad from their campus.

If and when we do start a campus in India, we will not offer an MBA, but rather an MMS degree. Unlike the Fuqua MBA which is for people with work experience, the MMS degree will be for pre-experienced students keeping in mind the demand of the local market here in India.

How has the Fuqua MBA evolved in recent times and how has the admissions process changed in response?

In 2007, Fuqua had got a new dean in Blair Sheppard and under his leadership the school launched a new strategy in 2008 to become a globally distributed b-school. We then opened these residencies in China, Dubai, New Delhi and Russia.

I think it's obvious that these days global business is unavoidable and that the future of business is really going to be global. We chose these five locations for our residencies because we felt that this was where the rules of business were being rewritten.

After we took that leap, we decided to become much smarter about evaluating candidates from these regions. Today we are much more educated about the quality of education of various systems across the world. For example, we now know how in the University of Delhi St Stephens is a lot different from other colleges. Such knowledge has made us much more smarter about evaluating candidates for admissions.

But as we get our message of teaching global strategy and business out, we are attracting a group of people for whom that is important. These people have a better understanding of what makes the Duke University MBA different and they learn that using rankings and descriptions of our school.

In order to demonstrate that they value business in a global context, do applicants need to have worked internationally in order to stand a chance of making it to the Fuqua MBA?

If you're asking if it will work against an applicant that he has worked in only one country, then the answer is no. We value the work they've done in an organisation, in terms of quality and the leadership skills they've shown. India itself is an extremely diverse place. Those working in North India end up having different experiences than those who work in South India and that results in different perspectives. So international work experience is something we value but its not necessary for getting an admit.

What kind of an applicant is best fit to join the Fuqua MBA programme?

What we do in the admissions process is look for someone who wants to make a difference in the world. It could mean going back to India and joining an NGO or having a short-term plan of working in Europe or Dubai and a long-term one of settling in the US. What we're looking for is for applicants to have a vision, something greater than themselves and wanting to be part of organisations that make a difference.

Indian applicants are known to primarily come with work experience in the IT industry. Do they also dominate Fuqua's Indian applicant pool or have you seen this changing?

We've been seeing a broader mix of applicants from India. There are people who have worked in a variety of occupations such as journalism, non-profit or the medical field. There is a higher diversity in applications. As the Indian economy gets more diverse, people are doing a variety of jobs now.

Regardless of what background you come from, what we really look for is if an applicant can craft a story demonstrating how passionate he has been about his career and support it with examples.

For example, we have one first-year student in the MBA programme who has worked in HCL in India. He was able to transition into a strategic role even before applying to b-school. In his essays, we saw a level of business thinking that was very different from that of others with a similar background. So even though HCL was a technology company, the strength of his application was more about his experience.

Do you judge an applicant's stated post-MBA goals with respect to the possibility of achieving them in a bad job market?

We definitely put some weight on how realistic someone's goals are. It shows a level of self-awareness. If an applicant has two years of experience working in IT, and if he doesn't have a great GMAT score, but they write all of their essays focused on the idea of becoming an investment banker on Wall Street, then that's a hard transition. It's hard to achieve even for someone working in the US in commercial banking before their MBA.

There is a common belief that after the recession, top US schools have started preferring younger applicants because they are more easily employable in banking and consulting jobs. Does that belief hold weight?

I wouldn't say that we have made admission adjustments based on demographic trends. The admissions committee really wants to know if an applicant can make that switch to strategic thinking. Feedback from companies tells us that they are looking for people who value teamwork or collaboration. We additionally want people to be able to really maximise the benefit of going away to a b-school. That person is someone who has been in a work environment where he has had the opportunity to go through strategy, marketing, accounting, etc issues. People in India in general tend to apply earlier than those in the United States. So we expect them to have gone though such experiences before they apply.

As for age, we admit people with no experience too, but we admit people with three years of experience also. For example, we've got a woman in the current class with two years experience, in whom we saw the potential to be a great leader. She has proven to be a superstar.

There are also people in their 40s in the class, so we don't look at any sort of a maximum age limit either. We've had people in their late 30s. If you are able to articulate and tell a story that seems compelling and achievable, then you can get in.

The GMAT is changing its format in June 2012, after which applicants will have an additional score. Would you rather that people applied with the existing GMAT format or the new one?

It's okay if they take the GMAT now and apply. We do accept scores of GMAT taken within the last year too. As for the new GMAT, we will work with some of our peer b-schools to understand how to evaluate the new aspects of the Integrated Reasoning section. None of us right now really knows how we're going to be looking at that. So as an applicant if I felt ready to take the GMAT now, I would not wait to take it.

How can international applicants finance their MBA at Fuqua?

Fuqua has a loan scheme for international students called the Coastal Federation Credit Union using which all applicants can get the full loan for their programme costs without a US co-signor. This includes the full cost of tuition as well as living expenses.

This loan is available to everyone. Of course, there might be a process which looks at one's past credit history to ensure that there are no risks. But a US co-signor is not required because Duke University has essentially agreed to assume the risk for this loan.

IMD's campus at Lausanne, Switzerland

The kick-off post in the International MBA FAQ series (the relevance of GMAT scores in MBA applications) received a pretty encouraging response. The enthusiasm to learn more about international MBA programmes was apparent from the comments. So this time we are taking up another topic around which there were quite a few queries: pre-MBA academic performance and its relevance in MBA applications. Two of these came from the readers and one is a logical follow-up to those.

Q1. ajit10 asked: "My acads are 91.7% in X and 91.2% in XII. But, in my BTech I secured only 67% ... I am a fresh graduate..."

Most profile evaluation requests that youll find on discussion forums (check out the Ask a Consultant thread on PaGaLGuY) start off this way. When it comes to MBA applications to most of the top b-schools, your undergrad performance is important but your 10th and 12th standard grades dont matter. To understand why that happens, consider the average profile of applicants to these schools.

On an average, they would have 4 to 5 years of work-experience at the time of matriculation (that is, starting the programme). This means that the 12th and 10th standard marks are at least 7-8 years old and going back to an era when the applicants hyperactive hormonal levels were just reaching equilibrium. That time frame is a lot bigger than the validity of a GMAT score (five years). So stop worrying about your high-school grades, unless youve achieved something (like a state rank) thats really worth talking about. Focus instead on factors that really influence your success in the programme and in your chosen post MBA career.

Q2. rider27 asked: "How much does the academic profile matter in getting into a good b-school? If one has not done well in academics then what are his/her chances of getting into a reputed school?"

Though theres a fair bit of practicality integrated into the course, but still, at its core, an MBA is still an academic degree. Which means you will be spending a lot of time with your head hidden in textbooks. Some topics will have a heavy emphasis on quantitative and statistical work. Others might involve a multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving. This is why admission committees consider academic performance as one of the components in evaluating profiles.

Some top schools specifically list out the pre-requisites on their website. This might be in the form of a cut-off for undergrad scores (first class or equivalent). Others are a little more flexible and prefer looking at the bigger picture before taking a decision. So to answer your question: yes, academic performance does matter and if you have got very low grades (a subjective call), then it can be tough. If its low, but not pathetic (again a subjective call), you can still get away with superlative performance in other areas.

Q3. My academic performance wasnt very good. Can a very high GMAT score exorcise that ghost away? How else do I fix it?

Strictly speaking, a GMAT score is not a replacement of your academic grades and for that reason one cant fill in for the other. But many schools might give you the benefit of doubt if you can get a high GMAT score and show that your quant and verbal skills are top-notch. If youve got bigger challenges to deal with (for example, losing an academic year), you still get a chance to put up a case for yourself using the optional essay.

For instance, if your low grades were due to an illness or you were busy managing a critical event that involved a huge budget, then bring this to the adcoms notice. You might even be able to use it to your advantage by demonstrating how youve gained practical skills that might have been difficult to pick purely from books.

Of course, not all situations are salvageable. So judge the level of damage and try not to push your luck too much with schools that have a higher academic hurdle to jump over.

Are there any other burning questions in your mind that youd like us to address in subsequent posts? Paste them in the comments below.

Author Sameer Kamat is the founder of MBA Crystal Ball, an admissions consulting venture and author of the bestselling MBA book Beyond The MBA Hype where he shares insights and pitfalls that aspirants should be aware of before they embark on their international MBA journey. He completed his MBA from the University of Cambridge in 2005. You can connect with him on Twitter @kamatsameer

Melbourne Business School, Australia

Alright, we now come to the part about financing one's MBA after having focused on the relevance of GMAT, pre-MBA academics and MBA applicant profiles in earlier posts.

Most Indian applicants think that the GMAT registration fee of $250 is high. Then they realise that each MBA application needs an additional application fee. Depending on the number of applications, this can burn a bigger hole in their pockets. But the one expense that takes the cake (perhaps the entire bakery) is the actual MBA tuition fee. And the constantly fluctuating USD:INR exchange rate isnt helping either. A small change in the rate can mean a few lakh rupees up or down in the overall MBA budget. So its important to size up the potential damages first and then plan further. This post covers basic questions that can help you start the process. Well use one puys question to set the tone.

Q1. abhi2911 asked: Can you throw more light on how to finance your MBA?

Before addressing that question, you would need to find out how much financing you are going to need. There are two categories of expenses. In the application phase, youll need to shell out a considerable amount of money some categories are optional (such as GMAT coaching and admissions consulting), while the others arent (such as the GMAT fee, b-school application fee, visa fee, airline tickets). For all of this you are dipping into your personal savings.

For the main MBA program, apart from the tuition fee, you should also factor in the cost of living, books, laptop, local expenses (commuting, socialising, emergency fund). Once youve got an estimated list of expense categories in your Excel worksheet fill up the individual amount cells with what YOU think the expense would be.

Dont strictly go by the numbers mentioned on the school website as these can vary quite a bit for Indians. If your spouse is accompanying you, the cost will be higher. If your personality and track-record predispose you towards spouse-hunting in foreign land, the expenses (dates, expensive gifts) go up further.

Financing this has to be a combination of,

- Personal savings: The wealth youve accumulated from your salary (or inherited from your long-lost-suddenly-discovered, rich uncle).

- Domestic loans: You can borrow from Indian banks (theyll ask for collateral).

- International loans: Many schools have tie-ups with local banks of that country to offer educational loans. Often at interest rates that are much better than those in Indian banks.

- School specific funding options: Tuition waivers, scholarships, part-time work on the campus.

Until a few years ago, the financing scene used to be different. Banks were more than happy to hand out thousands of dollars in education loans purely on the basis of a top b-school admit, without worrying too much about the repayment risk.

Now, since the 2008 recession, theyve become tight-fisted. They expect students to manage a major part of the financing on their own (savings, domestic loans). In schools, where the workload isnt too heavy, students are allowed to work part-time (for up to 20 hours a week) in return for a modest stipend.

Q2. abhi2911 went on: What about those who do not want to do odd jobs to finance their living costs?

In that case, either you should be in a position to pay a higher proportion of the fee from your own pocket or apply to schools where the fee is still within your reach or target schools where your chances of getting scholarships are higher. Several Indian applicants, who have managed their school selection and application strategy well, manage to get MBA scholarships that cover their expenses partially or fully.

Of course, do keep in mind that your primary yardstick to prepare a shortlist of schools should be FIT. Ask yourself if you really need a Harvard or a Stanford to reach your goals? Or will a lower ranked, but good school get you there?

Q3. abhi2911 continued: What is the scenario like, in scholarships and financial aid field?

All b-schools offer scholarships in some form or the other. In the top schools, the really mouth-watering scholarships are also the ones that attract the most brutal competition.

Most of these are merit based, though some are need-based. A few might be linked to specific nationalities, industries or ethnic backgrounds. As an Indian MBA applicant, you belong to an overrepresented applicant pool. Rather than bank on a need-based scholarship, try to differentiate yourself on the basis of talent and merit.

Q3. abhi2911 opens the floodgates: What precautions must one take, while taking an education loan? And what should I do if my family lives in a rented accommodation is there a way I can get collateral-free loan?

Many top schools used to offer collateral-free loans, but these have become more difficult to come by now. Most banks dont want to take the risk with international applicants. But you could check the financing section of each MBA program. They list out the various ways you can fund your MBA. For US-based b-schools, the popular option is to go for co-signor backed loans. That is, someone who you know in the US who can provide the guarantee for your education loan. Which means that if you cant pay the loan back, the bank still knows someone locally who would pay on your behalf.

The most basic precaution is dont borrow any amount thatll give you sleepless nights. Dont burn all your resources (and your personal bridges) just to fund your education. If you are struggling with finances, work for a few years more, get some more disposable income and then re-consider investing in an MBA.

Decide whats import in your list of priorities food, clothing, shelter first. Mental, physical & financial well-being later. And then somewhere down the road comes higher education.

Are there any other burning questions in your mind that youd like us to address in subsequent posts? Write them in the comments below.

Author Sameer Kamat is the founder of MBA Crystal Ball, an admissions consulting venture and author of the bestselling MBA book Beyond The MBA Hype where he shares insights and pitfalls that aspirants should be aware of before they embark on their international MBA journey. He completed his MBA from the University of Cambridge in 2005. You can connect with him on Twitter @kamatsameer

Blake Kernen delivering a lecture at a corporate meet

She is just like any other about-to-become teenager in Morristown, New Jersey, United States. A sixth-grader - her average day is packed with school, a visit to the chess or tennis club, a few hours in the swimming pool and at community work. Some part of the day is also spent in writing books, her blog and a few hours are made available for television and newspaper interviews. Last couple of weeks, she has also had to keep time aside for delivering lectures at b-schools or corporate bunches. One of her last lectures was at the Harvard Business School where she spoke about free enterprise and the moral case for capitalism. Her next lecture is slated for Yale in the coming week.

Blake Kernen described her Harvard visit to PaGaLGuY: Going to Harvard was incredible. The Harvard Business School Chapter of the Adam Smith Society had invited my dad and me to talk about our book. The Harvard students were eager and enthusiastic to talk about capitalism. They inspired me to work even harder at school. They were also incredibly nice.

The book that Blake co-authored with her father (more than a year ago), Joe Kernen, CNBCs Anchor of Squawk Box, is titled Your Teacher Said What!? Trying to Raise a Fifth Grade Capitalist in Obamas America. The idea for the book started with conversations my parents and I had. My dad could see that I was only hearing liberal ideals, from movies, news and in my daily routine. My parents wanted to provide me with a more politically balanced view of America and the world. While writing the book, my dad and I would talk about a certain subject and he would get my take on it, and then we would go from there."

Blake Kernen with her father

According to Blake, the title of the book should have been 'What My Teacher Didnt Say' because that is what the book is really about. "My father was upset that I wasn't being taught anything about free enterprise and the positive contributions of business and that got me even more interested in the subject, to know more. I wanted to make the point that business and commerce is good for society, and a positive in peoples lives, just like peace and love. Its for these thoughts that Blakes blog is called and the name has a huge meaning for her. My dad told me about a recent article he read in the New York Times about business and industry helping to smooth over the longstanding difference between India and Pakistan. That is exactly what is all about.

According to a review of the book available on the internet, the book rightly points out that "instead of developing thinking skills, teachers often provide opinions. Education should prepare children for self-responsibility, not dependency. The reviewer also added however that Kernen falls short at times in defending individual rights, having some common Christian-Conservative views, rather than being a full defender of individualism. However, a very useful, often insightful book.

Blake has always been in awe of her father who she used to see interviewing leading business people on television. That was huge inspiration for me. As a family we talk a lot about earned success and that got me thinking about various issues and forming opinions on them, the sixth-grader said adding by seeing my father, I understood the importance of working hard to achieve something and the satisfaction and happiness that it brings.

Blake actually made her first TV appearance when she was just a couple of months old. Her father took her to the CNBC office for Take Your Daughter to Work Day in April 2000. Since then, she has been on TV numerous times, most recently for the paperback release of her book. I truly enjoy doing interviews, but it is very important to be ready and prepared for them, the young one quips.

Blake with one of her dogs

It's obvious that Blake leads a life that is beyond her years. Does she regret growing up 'too fast'? I do have to know more about the world than my peers. Subjects that a lot of kids my age arent interested in, I have to learn about them. I am thrust into the adult world more than a lot of kids my age because of interviews and appearances," the 12 year-old admits.

She adds however, that she does manage a lot of leisure time. I love playing with my three dogs and my younger brother. I also work at the arboretum in my town where I take care of the animals. Photography is a passion. I also sing, play the guitar, play tennis, and spend time on my iPad. Blakes also into music. She went to the School of Rock for several years, thats where she started playing guitar. My favourite kind of music is alternative rock and pop. I love watching American Idol, she said allaying any fears on whether she was missing out on the simple joys of life. She also told PaGaLGuY that she would like to do an MBA but that is only "when I grow up." As for now she is happy being an 'almost' normal and about-to-become teenager.

Manoj Rana on graduation day

Uttar Pradesh born Manoj Rana is not the predictable computer engineer who ended up doing an MBA. His reasons were slightly different. A dreadful fire in 2005 had rendered both of Manojs hands and his upper extremities severely contracted. Today, after suffering 95% burns, undergoing 54 surgeries, in coma for four months, in the hospital for 3 years, leaving the hospital on a 6-hour pass only to take the GMAT exam, Manoj got his MBA diploma a few days ago.

The feeling is obviously exhilarating.

And all this happened in the US after Manoj went there in 2004 as part of an exchange programme that his engineering college (Galgotia College of Engineering and Technology, Greater Noida) had with Purdue University Calumet, Hammond. Manoj grew up in Noida in a joint family and with 19 cousins and two of his siblings. He was the brightest of the lot and a school topper in the 12th. I wanted to be a doctor but my dad didnt have enough money so I decided to go for computer engineering, Manoj told PaGaLGuY on phone from the US.

The fire

In 2004, Manoj landed in the US as part of the exchange programme where he had to do 38 credit hours as his 90 credit hours were transferred from his college in India. It was only a few days before graduation that the tragedy struck Manoj in the apartment which he shared with a roommate. His apartment was on the 3rd floor. A guy living on the first floor who was having marital problems got his wife drunk, locked his 2 months old daughter in a closet and set the apartment on fire. Manoj and his roommate returned home from a party at 3.00am. The fire started at 4:30am. By the time, my roommate and I woke up; the whole apartment was on fire. We could not jump out as our balcony and windows were on fire. We called 911. The apartment got hotter and smokier every minute. As my roommate fell unconscious, I started running down the stairs and passed out, recalled Manoj.

As the paramedics began taking Manoj to the University of Chicago Burn Unit, Manoj heard one of them say this guy is 95% burned, he doesn't have a chance. At that moment, I thought about my family and how I came to US to get a good education and now I dont have a chance to live. I went unconscious and woke up in University of Chicago Burn Unit after 4 months of induced coma, adds Manoj.

Manoj's parents and his Occupational Therapist
The trial

Thereafter started Manojs tribulation. He had to live in the hospital for 3 years and got his Computer Engineering degree 1 12 years after the fire. When I got around to my sense, I realised I did not have any finger movement in my left hand and only a little bit of finger movement in my right hand. It is the same even today. I only type with one finger. I didnt think working in the computer field was feasible for me. I was not able to live independently and I knew it was going to be difficult to get a job. So I decided to go for an MBA. said Manoj explaining why the MBA after his computer engineering.

Manoj went through surgery every 3 months and an intensive therapy program. Some of the therapy included wearing a face mask for 3 years, pressure garments to my entire body; I wore dynamic splints to my hands, wrists and elbows to increase range of motion, daily dressing changes to my wounds and performed hourly exercises to restore function in all of my joints. I used to study in my extra time while I stayed in the nursing home, said the survivor. Manoj had to re-schedule his GMAT exam thrice because of the surgeries. And every time he had to start all over again as he would lose a month after the surgery.

The pain and therapy used to be intense and pain medicines made him sleepy and groggy. After all this however, Manoj scored a 700 in GMAT and got accepted into Kelley School of Business Evening MBA program in Indianapolis. I wanted to go to a part-time program as I didnt know how much course load I would be able to take. I got my acceptance letter mailed to the hospital as that was my address then.

Giving up
After spending a few months in the hospital, Manoj had begun to give up on life. I was devastated after the incident. I did not want to live. My dad spent every penny on my education and I did not want to be a burden on my family. I even asked for euthanasia. I told my mother to go back to India as I didnt think I was going to make it. But my mom told me that I was not a burden on my family and she would take care of me for my whole life if she had to. My doctors told me that they will do everything they can to help me live independently. The hope of being independent kept me going. I wanted to give my parents a good life and I used it to motivate myself, said Manoj remembering those days.

His roommate perished in the fire and so did other people in the building, he was the only one who survived. Though the memories of the fire do not haunt him, he misses his roommate. I have never been angry at the guy who did it. God will deal with him. I cant live my life being bitter and angry at the guy.

How has the MBA helped?

I have a better realisation of the world around me. I now understand the reasons why things happen in a company, in a community, in a country and in a global economy. Instead of making irrational judgments, I understand the reasons behind the economic events," said Manoj. The MBA graduate is looking out for a job in finance. But his dream job is in investment banking or private equity/venture capital. He is also pursuing his CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) and passed his level I exam in December. However, he has to yet get his green card. He is waiting to get his work authorisations only after which can he start working somewhere.

Giving back

Manoj insists that it is the values that his parents instilled in him and encouragement from his Occupational Therapist Shannon Hendricks which helped him cope with the horrific injury. My parents taught me that we can always find someone who is in worse condition than we are in. Talking about his Occupational Therapist, who he considers his guardian angel, Manoj said that she came into his life at the deepest and darkest pit of his life. When I moved out of the nursing home, I didnt have a place to go. So I lived with Shannons mother for 2 years.

Back then, Manoj had little to go on but already started giving back to the community. He volunteered in the Wishard therapy department between many of his surgeries. I visit the Wishard Burn Unit and talk to other burn patients about my experience. I lecture to occupational therapy students about all the adaptive equipment I use to live independently, informs Manoj. The fighter is also fortunate that technology has made it possible to live life as normally as he can. His car is adapted so that he can drive his car without having to use any finger movement. He uses voice recognition on his laptop for typing purposes. There are several adaptive equipment that he uses to live an independent life.

Manoj Rana before the fire
Cruel that it may sound that Manojs terrible accident in the US was a blessing. There are very few cases of people with 95% burns who survive in India. It was because of the kind of medical treatment that he received and in quick time that made the difference. Besides, medical expenses were all paid for too. The US government has an emergency Medicaid program that allows foreigners with an emergency to get medical treatment. Some of the treatment was paid for by Medicaid and the rest was written off. I want to thank the government of United States for having such a program as it saved my life. Several of my surgeries were on a pro-bono basis, adds Manoj.

The fire survivor is however unhappy with the US with regards to the immigration and visa issues. "After the fire, I got a U visa which is given to victims of violent crime. You get a visa for 4 years and you can stay legally for 4 years. But you cant travel outside the United States. You can file for your green card after holding your U visa for 3 years," laments Manoj. Raio Krishnayya, Executive Director, Center for Victim and Human Rights, has been fighting the immigration battle on Manojs behalf. Raio filed for my green card in August 2010 but I still have not received it. I have not been back to India since the fire, 7 years ago. I can only visit India after I get a green card. I have only seen my mom, my brother, my dad and my aunt. My sister has been denied a tourist visa several times. She even has been denied a student visa twice.

No way back home

The most ironical part of the entire tragedy is that Manoj is not sure when he can come back to India because of his condition. He explains: My sweat glands are all burned. My body doesn't regulate temperature normally. Our body releases the heat through sweat. As I dont sweat normally, the heat gets trapped in my body. It gets very hot in India and I can die because of overheating. Trust me, I want to live in India but my body will not allow me. Also, I am at a higher risk for infection. So I have to be in the US.

Manoj has numerous plans for himself for the future, professionally and personally. But before that he wants to thank all the "doctors who donated their services to me for free. I know everyone is amazed that I survived this horrific injury and got an MBA, but please keep in my mind all the hard work of my parents, my brother, my sister, my occupational therapist, my doctors and all the caregivers. It would not have been possible without them."

Dear puys, especially those who haunt the GMAT and MBA abroad forums , we present to you the ' PaGaLGuY Kickass Guide to MBA Abroad ', a free downloadable eBook which is meant to be a starter guide of sorts for Indians who are considering applying to international b-schools, especially the ones in Europe and the USA.

The eBook is a compendium of articles and interviews centered around one theme: helping you make the transition from being an Indian b-school applicant to being an International b-school applicant.

The 'Kickass Guide to MBA Abroad' eBook idea germinated a couple of months ago in a group email thread by Hari Raghavchari and the follow-ups to it from Sameer Kamat and Arun Jagannathan - all three extremely helpful veterans from the PaGaLGuY's MBA abroad threads - where we decided that while there were umpteen number of general guidebooks explaining the standard process of applying to b-schools in the US and Europe, very few of them looked at the issues from an Indian point of view. Or the fact that before taking the GMAT, most Indians have already spent 2-3 years trying to crack MBA admissions at some of the excellent Indian b-schools, successfully or unsuccessfully.

Subsequently, a large part of this eBook attempts to help you transition your understanding of business education from what it is in India to what it is like abroad. How their approach to graduate education varies, why their admission processes are different, how to differentiate yourself especially if you are an Indian-IT-Male, what to expect when looking for a job after an MBA in the USA or Europe, arranging finances and more.

This is not a step-by-step guide to applying to MBA abroad. It is however a collection of articles, opinions and interviews by people associated with some of the world's top b-schools on getting an MBA abroad from an Indian point of view. Some of these articles have been published on PaGaLGuY years ago, but most of it is new material.

Here is the download link.


Download for free the PDF version | Amazon Kindle version (.mobi)

We hope the eBook helps you. Do give us your feedback, and we will try to improve the eBook on subsequent versions.

Prof Clayton Christensen

How does one best introduce Prof Clayton Christensen? Actually, does one have to!

For one, he is the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, where he teaches Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise to second year students, Two, he is one of world's top experts on ideas concering innovation and growth, his ideas being used extensively in active operations in companies all over the world.

Three, he is the best-seller author of nine books and over a 100 articles. His book The Innovators Dilemma bagged the Global Business Book Award in 1997 and fourteen years later The Economist named it as one of the six most important books about business ever written. In the same year, (according to his own website), in a poll of thousands of executives, consultants and business school professors, Christensen was named as the most influential business thinker in the world.

What is little known about Professor Christensen is that he is a very religious person who worked as a missionary for his church in the Republic of Korea in the 1970s. He still serves the church. Clay, as his friends call him was also a Boy Scouts of America for 25 years as a scoutmaster, cubmaster, den leader, troop and pack committee chairman.

It is not everyday that Prof Christensen gives interviews but PaGaLGuY managed to bag one. The Harvard professor has just released his new book - How Will You Measure Your Life? . Unlike his earlier books, this one is about "experiences that have shaped Prof Christense's life and personal faith and in the church."

What's your new book about?

I have been pleased that people of all ages and stages of life have responded to this book because I wrote it -- with the help of my co-authors James Allworth and Karen Dillon -- at the request of my students. It's written for them and it's the culmination of years of discussions in my classroom. I desperately want them to leave business school with not just plan to have a great career, but also a plan to have a great personal life. I've watched too many people leave business school with great hopes and intentions, only to find themselves deeply disappointed with their lives years down the line. The book shares the theories my students and I have discussed throughout our semester for how to think about making good decisions in both your career and your life to ensure a better chance of leading a truly fulfilling life.

Have innovator's landscapes changed since you first wrote your books Innovator's Dilemma?

The Innovator's Dilemma was published just over 15 years ago, in 1997, and a lot has changed in the world of innovation since then. The biggest change, clearly, has been the advent of the internet. It introduced a huge opportunity for successful disruptive innovations and business models. Now some of the largest and most influential companies in the world Amazon, Google, Facebook, Yahoo! are internet companies. So this is a huge change. And the rise of the internet also illustrates something very important about disruptive innovation: a given technology, per se, is not inherently disruptive or sustaining. Rather, it is the way the technology is used within a business model that makes it disruptive or not. Thus some internet companies have been highly successful because they are disruptive, while other internet companies have been very successful and are sustaining innovations in their industries.

Another huge change, related to the internet, is the rise of mobile telephony and smart phones, enabling even more disruptors and also bringing communications services to hundreds of millions of people who didn't have access to a telephone 10-15 years ago.

One of the latest changes in the innovation landscape which we're still trying to understand is the idea of "open innovation" where companies crowd-source innovation to outside experts, innovators, and entrepreneurs. There's number of terrific scholars researching open innovation right now and trying to understand it better, so I'm excited to see what it can do and how it will affect the world of innovation.

You seem to be having a high regards for managers in companies. You believe they are more focused on their customers and work hard to create returns for shareholders.

I do have a high regard for the practice of management. Management, if practiced well, will have a huge, positive impact on the lives of a company's employees, customers, and shareholders. This is something I have written about in my most recent book, How Will You Measure Your Life . But the key is that management needs to be practiced well, which doesn't happen everywhere. It seems there are always stories in the news about how managers abused their power or acted negligently, which actions ended up hurting many people. But from my personal experience and that of many others, I do believe that good managers can have a tremendous positive impact on those around them.

Why haven't internet companies found the answer to the Innovators Dilemma? Why aren't there longer-lasting enduring internet companies?

First, let me say that a number of internet companies are incredible innovators and have become huge disruptors to all kinds of businesses., for example, has had a very disruptive influence on many brick-and-mortar retailers here in the United States and elsewhere. And companies like Amazon, because they've been disruptive, have performed remarkably well over the past 10-15 years.

It is true that there are a number of internet companies that haven't been disruptive and have struggled to remain competitive. Part of this, I would argue, is because some of these internet companies weren't actually disruptive and didn't provide real value to their customers. Particularly in the early days of the internet, there were many companies whose businesses were purely speculative and didn't end up holding any water. Other industries, such as clothing retail, have helped stall disruption by jumping into the internet early and making it difficult for new disruptive competitors to enter.

How do public companies quit focus on quarterly results and focus on enduring long lasting innovation and changes?

That's a very good question, and certainly a challenging problem for many, many businesses. Really the only way that a company can quit focusing on quarterly results and focus on long-lasting innovation and changes is that they need to change the way they look at future investment opportunities and also change the ways they assess the risks of new venture models. I co-authored an article in the Harvard Business Review with Stephen Kaufman and Willy Shih in 2008 called " Innovation Killers: How Financial Tools Destroy Your Capacity to Do New Things" that describes many of these ideas. In short, businesses need to use a very different set of metrics and tools when evaluating and managing new innovation opportunities than they do when managing their existing portfolio of products on the market.

You had predicted that the iPhone would not meet too much success. Any comments?

The iPhone has met significant success over the past 5 years, and Apple is a rare example of a firm that was able to enter a market with strong incumbents (Samsung, RIM, Nokia, Motorola) and beat those incumbents. In my research on disruptive innovation and technology competition, we found that in almost every single case with sustaining innovations, incumbent firms beat new entrants. When the iPhone was introduced, it was very much a sustaining innovation, not a disruptive innovation. The iPhone was (and Apple products are, generally) targeted at customers at the very top of the market who could pay the high price to afford it. It was not positioned disruptively at the bottom of the market or targeting an entirely new market. So based on the characteristics of the iPhone and the observation derived from a careful study of many industries that with sustaining innovations, entrants rarely beat incumbents, it seemed unlikely that the iPhone would succeed as a sustaining innovation, given the strength of the competitors it was up against.

One of my current areas of research, focusing on "jobs to be done," that was not very developed when I made my prediction back in 2007, sheds some light on why the iPhone was and has been so successful since its launch. In short, our "jobs to be done" theory suggests that consumers don't look to buy products from specific categories but instead want to buy products fulfill a specific "job," or need, that they have. When we, as consumers, have multiple jobs or needs that arise simultaneously (i.e. at the same place and time) in our lives, if there is one product that can fill all of those jobs, that is the product we will choose. In designing the iPhone, Apple was able to identify multiple jobs that arose in consumers lives at the same time, such as listening to music, taking pictures, sending emails and text messages, all while looking intelligent and sophisticated, and figured out how to design a product that would allow customers to fulfill all of those jobs simultaneously. And that's why the iPhone has been so successful.

How is your health treating you?

Thanks for asking. My health is pretty stable these days. For those who don't know, I've had a rough few years health-wise, having suffered a heart attack, cancer and a stroke all in the past 5 years, but I've made a good recovery. My wife, Christine, and our five children take good care of me and makes sure I get the rest I need.

Compared to the US, in India the entrepreneurial spirit is not as energetic among MBA students. Is there something you would like to tell our students?

Having started a number of businesses, I know how difficult and time-consuming starting a business can be, but I also know how incredibly rewarding and fulfilling it can be at the same time. I look at some of the firms I've helped start, such as Ceramics Processing Systems, Innosight, Rose Park Advisors, and Innosight Institute, and I feel such pride at what each of them have been able to achieve. It's really been great, so even though it's difficult, I think it's very worthwhile.

I would also add that there are incredible opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship in India. It's important to know that many of India's biggest successes in business, such as Infosys, and other enterprises like the world-renown Aravind Eye Hospital, were started by entrepreneurs less than 1-2 generations ago. And there are still many opportunities to build and grow successful businesses. As you look around the country, there are clearly many needs in the market, and each of those needs represents a potential opportunity for an aspiring entrepreneur. It might be scary at first, but if you think you have a really good idea for a business, it might be an idea that could change the world.

You have not really touched upon health care in your work, any particular reason.

Healthcare is a significant interest of mine and is an industry with incredible opportunities for innovation on many levels. Back in 2008, I co-authored a book with Jerome Grossman and Jason Hwang called The Innovator's Prescription that discusses the many challenges facing the healthcare industry in the United States and elsewhere, as well as describes potential solutions for these challenges. It's a long book, but I believe it's very worthwhile, and it has won a number of awards for its insights and contributions. Because of the book's success, I've had the opportunity to meet and speak with many government leaders about opportunities to improve their healthcare system here in the U.S. and other countries. The think-tank I helped found, the Innosight Institute, has an entire practice devoted to healthcare policy innovation, and the consulting firm I helped co-found, Innosight, also does a significant amount of work for clients in the healthcare industry.

In India, businesses are often family. Deviation is usually looked upon negatively and as a divergent. Does the innovator's theory work in such businesses?

Whether you are pursuing sustaining or disruptive innovations, to be an innovator means that you need to take a risk and do something different, something better than your competition. Firms that are not willing to take those risks will not be successful innovators and will also be the most likely to be disrupted first. So if you want to be a disruptor or avoid being disrupted, you will have to take a risk and innovate.

Some of the most notable disruptive companies in the world right now are family-oriented and family-grown firms. Wal-Mart, which has caused a huge disruption in the U.S. retail world, and Tata, some of whose various businesses are major disruptors, are both family-grown firms. In other words, being a family-grown firm will not make you more or less likely to be an innovator or take risks. You just have to do it.

Pic: (Flickr)

Yes, you heard it right! Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia, US, in their quest for innovation in higher education, has decided to use insights from the legendary pop star’s life to teach business management to its students. Titled Michael Jackson: The Business of Music, the course is part of the MBA concentration in Sports and Entertainment Management offered by the university. The course will look into MJ’s billion dollar empire – his deals, negotiations, merchandising, real estate and legal practices. The announcement came on August 29, coinciding with the birthday of the late pop star.

But can any discussion on Jackson’s life ever be complete without the numerous controversies the pop icon was embroiled in. Aren’t these very significant factors in the life of a man who the course plans to present as a role model to future managers? PaGaLGuY got in touch with Dr. Charles Moses, dean (acting), School of Business, Clark Atlanta University, through e-mail. “I recently read some mini-biographies of some of the world’s great composers. Many had lives which were enmeshed in controversies of one type or another. We won’t run from the negatives, but we will emphasise Michael Jackson’s achievements in business,” he said, dismissing claims of a negative impact of these controversies on the course and students.

What’s more, the institute claims to have heard from representatives of the Jackson family. Although refusing to divulge the capacity in which they will be associated with the program, Dr. Moses informed, “I heard last week from a representative of one of the Jackson family who will be meeting with me here in Atlanta. We think we will be successful in winning the family’s support for the MBA program.” PaGaLGuY was also told that the course enjoys the support of other US-based musical stars. “We are building formal associations with a variety of artists, one of who is the R&B; artist NeYo,” he added.

While he built a successful business empire, the King of Pop was in debt at the time of his death. So, doesn’t that go against the basic idea of the course? “He was a very good businessman and owned some very, very valuable musical rights (the Beatles and Elvis Presley). Many other famous musical artists were not good at business. The course will incorporate those aspects to teach students about the less romantic parts of a very tough and competitive business. Michael Jackson in debt is a case quite different from that of others. It is a good lesson for budding music and sport impresarios,” answered Dr. Moses.

Although the course will focus on business dealings from a different era, the institute also plans to factor in contemporary business practices. The pedagogy will include case studies (which the institute will develop) and simulations modelled on best practices. The b-school has roped in former entertainment attorney James Walker to teach the course. Apart from him, faculty from the b-school and industry professionals will also teach parts of the course. The course is slated to begin in August 2013 and will cost USD 30000 per year.

As far as MJ fans go, ‘This is it’ for them!

Prof Dan Ariel

Prof Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Behavioral Economics at Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. He is also a visiting professor in MIT’s Program in Media Arts and Sciences. But what Prof Ariely has really earned eminence for, in recent years, are his books on irrational behaviour. Two of his books, namely Predictably Irrational and the Upside of Irationality were New York Timess best sellers. The Fuqua faculty member has written a couple of more books, and all, interrogate the bedrock on which human beings take decisions in their lifetime.

Prof Ariely has incesssantly pushed readers to check time-honoured myths – that humans take decisions based on rational thought - almost a complete lie. This realisation, ironically, dawned when the author was bound to a bed in the burns ward of hospital for three years. What triggered it, were the nurses who used to rip-off his bandages in a jiffy, day after day, because they believed that “it pained less when bandages were pulled away in speed.’

Prof Ariely challenged this deliberation. According to him, people make systematic mistakes and eventually believe they are the truth for want of not knowing the other side.

PaGaLGuY managed to speak to Prof Dan Ariely about his most famous book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions and how its principles relate to today’s managers and MBA students.

Why and when did your interest in Behavioural Economics arise?

Years ago, I was injured very badly in an accident and spent 3 years in a hospital. Hospitals are places where you can observe lots of irrationalities. The question that troubled me every day was how to remove bandages from burn patients. Should you remove them quickly, ripping them off one after the other or do it slowly? The nurses in my department believed in the quick ripping approach and I didn’t like it. They kept on doing what they thought was the right thing for quite a long time. When I got out of hospital, I started doing research on this question. I would bring people to the lab and I would hurt them in different ways and I would examine what actually caused them to have higher and lower version of pain.

And what did you find out?

That the nurses were wrong. Even though they thought that the ripping approach was the right approach, it actually created more pain. From that point onwards, I kept thinking of cases where people with good intentions think they’re doing the best for their clients, but in fact they’re doing things that are not correct for them. From that point onwards, I looked at all kinds of cases where we have an intuition that points us in one direction but reality should point us in different direction.

How does this subject fit into the b-school curriculum?

Managers in any capacity have very few opportunities to actually learn from their action. You have to make lots of decisions based on your assumptions about human nature what your clients, employees, shareholders are going to appreciate. You have to make decisions based on your own assumptions with all kinds of other domains as well. So, understanding the true fundamentals of human nature is important for any manager. But the second thing is that understanding the humility of doubting your own intuition is also very important. I think that for b-schools, it’s important to understand what really drives people and not what we think drives people. The second thing is having some more humility and understanding when we should not trust our intuition and the extent to which we should try and do experiments.

You say a mans craze to derive maximum benefit from his environment leads to unrealistic satisfaction. Thats asking too much from a common man who is naturally aspirational?

I think that the decision to behave optimal is way too much for anybody. I understand what optimal behaviour is but we shouldn’t really hold anybody accountable to that level. It is too much. At the same time, I think that we could think about how to get people to improve and that’s not too much. I’m hoping that by showing people some kind of direction of what could be much better they at least can go on that path.

With regards to comparing one’s life to others, isn’t that what pushes people to do better in life when we see successful people and get closer to their level?

Much like lots of irrationalities, it’s a mixture of good and bad. The fact that you’re comparing yourself to people who are doing better is probably motivating; to try and strive for the better. But it’s also a cause for stress and unhappiness. I would not think that everybody should move and be around people who are much worse than them because that would make them always happy. After all, spending your life in front of the TV watching Seinfeld might be a happy life in the short term but not with a lot of meaning. There’s definitely no accomplishment which is not good for society. I think we need to learn about what’s really driving our happiness and try to think about which cases affect us in the positive way and which ones affect us in the negative way. It’s not always the case that we want to eliminate other successful people from our lives.

Discussing ‘free’ goods, you say that people do not bother to think about their benefits?

I think what you’re asking here is that ‘free’ is a hot button. It gets people to think about purchases in a very different way. The moment something becomes free, we think about the benefits and not the costs and because of that, we are directed to it. Fighting this tendency for free requires a lot of understanding of human nature.

As consumers, people should figure out what are our hot buttons, what gets us to misbehave and make the wrong decisions and how do we fight them. Then there’s the question of how will marketing work. Marketing is a profession that is supposed to think about consumers and what they want and try to convince companies to create things that are actually good for consumers. It is also about pricing, tricks, advertising and so on. I think that the world would be better if people in the marketing profession actually focused on how to get the product to be better rather than tricking people into buying them. So I don’t think it means that marketing will not work. I think that it will have a different path that might actually have more benefits.

Can you provide some more cases of social norms entering market norms?

The simplest examples are our personal lives at home. If you’re married to someone, you don’t really ask them to do things for money. But we all understand that if you go on a date and you tell the person how much you spent on the date, it’s not going to work out very well. For companies, I think it’s somewhere between giving people salaries and asking them to do something for social benefits. As a company, if you provide your employee with lunch, you’re doing something in the social norms. Providing medical and retirement benefits are all social norms but if you tell them how much it cost you, everything can backfire.

Don’t people at higher positions in life tackle arousing situations much more professionally?

If you think about people who are higher in life, you can think about Bill Clinton and all kinds of politicians. I think there’s plenty of evidence that those people do not tackle things with less emotion and more professionalism.

If self-control is on the decline in the world, shouldn’t motivators be in the person rather than external sources?

I think the answer is yes. People should figure out self control. I think we should think about how we can do it ourselves and how we can get better at it. At the same time, I don’t think it’s enough. I think we need to think about how to improve it. I don’t think it’s enough to just to that. I think we need to learn to control both ourselves and the external environment.

Does not overvaluing one possessions actually work well for self-esteem?

I think overvaluing what we own and create is incredibly important. It’s one of those irrationalities that have both benefits and disadvantages. It’s beneficial because we start valuing it to a higher degree and we care more about it. It’s negative because there are cases where we are not giving it up when we should be giving it up. So I think it’s one of those irrationalities and many of them are like that, which have both benefits and costs. We need to figure out when it is beneficial and when it’s negative.

In terms of business, I think the place that is most clearly seen in business is the idea of not invented here. Once businesses fall in love with their own ideas, it’s all of a sudden difficult for them to not see things that way.

Previous knowledge affecting our decisions is natural. You dont think so.

If you know a lot about the world, it’s a shortcut. It’s heuristic to say: Hey, I believe that this is just the same decision as the one before. If this is the case, it’s a good thing to do.

But it’s not necessarily always good. What we show in experiments is that sometimes people use even irrelevant decisions because those decisions give them indications from the past. Even though they are irrelevant, people keep on using them. The question here is how do we make sure we use only relevant knowledge?

The placebo effect helps generally in life. Corporate life too?

The placebo effect is a wonderful thing because it’s about the power of expectation and reality. What the placebo effect shows in pain is that when you expect a medication to relieve you of pain, your body secretes an opiate, a substance that’s pain reducing and because of that, the pain reduces. Expectation changes your physiology in making it into a self-confirming prophecy. If you think about it, a lot of the world is like that. We have an expectation of how something would work. Our physiology changes, our expectation changes. You think a vacation will be wonderful, your expectation changes and you interpret more things as being wonderful. You think a particular meeting will be terrible, you interpret everything in terms of terrible and in the end, it’ll be more terrible than it had to be. All of those things happen and because of that, there is a question of how you create expectation and how it becomes reality later.

The application for this is everywhere. It’s in pain but it’s every experience that people have. The moment you understand that the expectation drives the experience, you understand how you should think about planning expectations and setting them.

Ori Elkin at the centre and Gili Elkin extreme right

The story has been updated and re-published with a quotes from Carrie Marcinkevage, admissions director at Pennsylvania State University’s Smeal College of Business,

A company started by an MBA couple, has caught the b-school community in the US by storm. Wordprom, the company, is in the business of selling business school essays online. Started in August last year, the company already has 4000 essays on its website, all for grabs at $ 25 each.

However, with the ethics dilemma rooted so deep in its existence, the company’s founders Gili Elkin (a 2008 Stanford School of Business graduate) and Ori Elkin (a 2007 Haas School of Business at University of California) have as much defending to do as much as selling their essays.

PaGaLGuY caught up with Gili Elkin for a quick chat on what the venture is all about and how much do ‘morals’ predicament trouble its founders?

Incidentally, Wordprom is not the first company to try this business. Last year a group of Harvard Business School students started a similar enterprise as a school project, but it did not do much after the initial euphoria.

Why did you start

As past applicants we are aware of the time and efforts it takes applicants to reach a level where they understand what the schools are looking to see in an application. When I was asked in a Stanford essay why I was interested in an MBA and why at Stanford my first draft was about the great weather in California. Only after reading dozens of MBA essays in a book I understood that I needed to start seriously thinking about my career goals.

I understood what traits schools were looking for and with that in mind I sat down to write my stories. I understood which part of my own life I needed to emphasise and how to tell my stories to make them interesting and memorable.

But you were in MBA consultancy before this?

As MBA consultants for several years now ( and Veritas), we are aware of the large amount of money that applicants spend only to understand what they should focus on in their applications and what is the best way to market themselves.

On one hand, admitted applicants (students and alumni) are looking for the most efficient way to share the knowledge they gained and help future applicants. On the other hand, applicants are always looking for examples in order to save time and money invested in the application process. I believe that MBA essays samples will save a lot of consulting time and save applicants money. I certainly believe that five MBA essays samples are worth much more than one hour of consulting service (which is around $250 US).

These days, many applicants are using consulting services through their application process. However, since the consulting services are extremely expensive, they provide an “unfair” advantage to those who have financial means. Since I believe that all people need to have an equal opportunity to apply to schools, I thought of a way to make the admission process accessible to everyone everywhere and not depending on their financial statuses.

But aspirants have been referring to books for years now?

There are several books on that include examples of MBA admission essays for a fairly low price. However, I don’t think that they are accessible to everyone in the world and I don’t believe that the examples are comprehensive enough to serve everyone. In fact, I believe that because of the inaccessibility of people to enough examples of essays and because of the financial inability of people to pay for consulting services, many people that would otherwise apply to schools, give up on that idea because of the unfair advantage other people have.

Did the idea go well initially?

The majority of students and alumni were very enthusiastic to help and about the whole idea. Students and alumni offered to help and collect essays through their networks. After two weeks we had collected hundreds of essays and launched the main store.

How does it work. Do you approach students for the essays or the other way round?

As Stanford and UC Berkeley grads and consultants for many years, we used our wide networks of alumni and students and contacted them directly asking them to provide feedback about our venture and to submit essays through a site that was developed especially for that cause (a site that was launched two weeks before we launched the main store). Some were skeptical about the idea; only a few raised concerns about the confidentiality of personal details; and only a few raised the issue of plagiarism and the schools’ view (I would say that all of them numbered to 5% of the thousands of people I contacted). I made hundreds of phone calls and Skype meetings and connected with thousands of students and alumni through social networks in order to ask for feedback, and help to create a mass of essays.

How do you view ‘plagiarism’ in your business?

In a recent article on Businessweek, I read about schools’ concern of plagiarism. I never had an intent to establish something that would encourage people to act in an unethical way. We state in our Terms of Use and on our main web site that copying of any part of the application is prohibited and we will provide schools with access to the database so they could use Turnitin software to detect plagiarism.

Furthermore, I believe that unethical people will always find their unethical ways and I don’t think that our site is what will encourage them to do so. On the contrary - I believe that people will stop copying from books because of their concern that the essays are also on our web site and the fact that we provide access to schools (which are using Turnitin software).

What action do you take if you knew an aspirant plagiarised?

If a user plagiarises an essay, and finds out about it from a school, the user would be banned from the site and wordprom would take any other action that is in its ability against the user. We will cooperate in any way with schools to prevent plagiarism and we will do anything and everything to keep the use of our site ethical. That is for sure!

It is very hard to change the status quo but I hope (and believe) that in the future people and schools will look at our service as an integral part of the application process as they view the consulting services today.

You still face competition from books in your business?

There are dozens of books that have been selling MBA essays samples for many years. There are consulting services that provide free MBA essays samples for their clients. Alumni and students are providing applicants with their essays in order to guide them and help them understand what their school was looking for. We are the only online marketplace for MBA admission essays as far as I’m aware of.

How do b-schools view your service?

I predict that most schools would not support such an idea. Schools have always argued against consulting firms. A few years ago schools stated that they would deny admission from anyone who used consulting services. Today when schools understand that admission consulting is a ‘trend’ they guide consultants to help with applications in an ethical manner.

I’m aware of the fact that essays do not reflect whole application and some candidates are admitted despite of their essays, however we do not intend to provide a full picture of the application. We explain to the users that this is only a part of the application.

I understand schools’ view and respect it. However, I don’t believe that the site will make it harder to distinguish between candidates. I think that our site will increase the number of applicants for each school and especially to top schools (more people will believe that they have a chance after they better understand the admission process). If the pool of applicants will be bigger, I believe that the pool of students will be stronger. I hope that eventually the bigger demand will increase the number of programs and more people will have the opportunity to study.

We also plan to contribute a portion of our profits to underprivileged kids for obtaining high education or enrichments classes.

Is there a trait among successful essays?

Should be sincere and reflect the real life experience and career aspirations of the applicant. This is what I advise my clients. I ask them to write about their strong passion in life.

Any plans to extending this to other countries?

We plan to scale our service to other schools in different countries, additional programs,

undergraduate degrees, other documents and additional kinds of services.

PaGaLGuY take on this

The ethics issue is actually a significant component in the admission process or in the business of selling and buying MBA essays. But there is a thin line in what we would call prep work and plagiarism. Founders of Wordprom say that their services will help reach a larger pool of students and inculcate confidence in them while going about the admission process.

Could be, however essays are only part of the admission process at b-schools and almost never has an aspirant bagged or lost a seat only because of the essays. Schools like to evaluate an aspirant’s personal approach on a given subject, rather than lifted ones. With plagiarism software easily available, it is not difficult to pick the offenders.

Plagiarism is a growing menace world over and b-schools globally have been chucking applications of people who send across ‘copied’ work. If aspirants buying such essays or even picking up books that contain them, are able to intellectually understand the purpose of the essays and its finer points, great, otherwise it is a sad beginning for those aspiring to be great managers in the future.


Carrie Marcinkevage, admissions director at Pennsylvania State University’s Smeal College of Business, has been firm about plagiarism in b-school essays. Her school brought to the fore 29 cases of plagiarism for a required essay on the topic of principled leadership. For years there have been essay books and online essay banks searchable by topic. Though intended for inspiration and guidance, they are too often copied, either in parts or entirely, and used by new applicants as their own. For the company selling the essays, the challenge is the responsibility they do or do not take for potential misuse, however this responsibility is rarely taken. As the recirculation of essays and essay fragments grows, the value of the individual essay diminishes. How can we know your story if its not your story? In the end, it will be the schools, and not the essay companies, who must manage the authenticity of their process and their applicants."

NUS Business School, National University of Singapore

Despite a relatively rosier job market, as a Singaporean MBA you will find companies making the same demands from you at interview time as they are from European or American graduates. For example, you are more likely to land a job in finance if you have pre-MBA finance experience, and will have to solve case studies even for non-consulting job interviews.

This and more emerges in our interview with Saima Siddiqui, Senior Associate Director of Career Services at the National University of Singapores (NUS) Business School, who is responsible for providing the schools MBAs career services.

She says that school feels confident of continuing to excel in the increasingly crowded Singapore market because thanks to their traditional stronghold of the region, most Singaporean companies are full of NUS alumni who are always happy to help.

How does NUS Business School see the role of Career Services?

NUS Business School Career Services serves as a partner and guide for NUS MBA students in their professional and career development. NUS Business School Career Services provides workshops and coaching on career planning and job search strategy, including resume, cover letter and interview preparation. We organise forums for NUS MBA students to gain industry insight and build a professional network in Singapore, including on-campus industry talks, and off-campus industry-specific networking events. We arrange access to internship and job opportunities in Singapore and the region, and a connection to industry professionals and recruiters.

What expectations do MBA students have from Career Services?

Approximately 90% of MBA students in the full time program at NUS Business School are non-Singaporean, and most have not lived in Singapore before beginning the MBA program at NUS. As a result, these students do not have their own personal or professional networks in Singapore, nor are most very familiar with the business and recruiting environment in Singapore and the region. Therefore, NUS MBA students expect Career Services to provide them with the support and access necessary to build their own professional networks in Singapore, share insights into the employment market and recruiting environment in Singapore and the region, and serve as a point of access to employers, advise them on how to develop, prepare and pitch themselves to ensure that they are well positioned for their post-MBA job search.

In which ways is the role of Career Services most misunderstood among students?

There certainly are some misconceptions among students as to the role of Career Services, particularly before they arrive at NUS Business School. In other markets and in other countries, business school career services departments sometimes function differently from ours --- as a “placement office” rather than as an advisor, partner and facilitator in career development.

As a result, we sometimes find that students from certain countries have an expectation that they will arrive at NUS Business School and that they will be placed through the Career Service office, as part of a structured on-campus recruiting exercise. However, the reality is that an internship or job search in Singapore and the region is very different from what some of our students may be used to for the reasons such as, among others, that Singapore is a relatively small market. The population of the country is 5 million people, out of which one million are expatriates. So, while there is an expectation that there are a huge array of job opportunities in Singapore with many international firms and major regional players basing their headquarters here, in reality, the job market for MBA-level opportunities is relatively small and extremely competitive.

Secondly, many multinational companies use their offices in Singapore as their base to enter the wider ASEAN market, and some may explore opportunities in China and Taiwan from their Singapore offices as well. As a result, they are focused on hiring candidates with either regional expertise (natives of the target countries, prior ASEAN/target country work experience, or proficiency in a local language), or some other directly relevant experience that will immediately add value to the existing team. While there are leadership programs in the region, and some structured program hiring occurs as well, more often than not, companies in Singapore are hiring on an as-needed basis, and choosing candidates with relevant skills and experience, in fairly limited numbers.

Ans then personal networks and referrals can play an important role in highly selective and fast-moving business environments like Singapore. Because employers have short timelines, and very specific requirements, many opportunities that would be of interest to our MBA students are not publicised but shared through personal networks and word of mouth. Such hidden job opportunities are not filled through job listings or traditional on-campus recruitment.

All these factors combined mean that the most critical components for securing a summer internship or a full-time job offer in Singapore are job search planning and preparation, getting to know the market and building a professional network through internships, research projects and informational interviews, and working closely with Career Services.

NUS MBA classes are becoming increasingly global due to the increased interest in Asia among students from a wider spread of nations. How do you go about building the networks with companies to satisfy the expectations of an increasingly global class composition?

NUS Business School prides itself on the diversity of its MBA classes. A typical full-time MBA cohort at NUS Business School is comprised of 90% international students from up to 30 different countries. More likely than not, our MBA students have to partner with students from other countries, and diverse language and cultural backgrounds, in each and every class.

The fact that NUS Business School is located in Singapore, which is widely considered the gateway to Asia/ASEAN, and dubbed “the world’s easiest place to do business”, means that we have many global companies and major regional players as our neighbors here. While many of these companies initially brought top talent from their headquarters, there is increasing interest among such firms to hire talent locally, and develop talent (and future leaders) here in Asia.

NUS MBA students are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this shift, and have the right blend of professional experience in their home country, combined with training and experience here in Singapore. Thanks to NUS Business School’s location and reputation, we find that when companies enter the Singapore market, they often turn to NUS Business School in their search for talent.

How does a typical job search for an NUS MBA student go?

Typically, each first-year MBA student arriving at NUS Business School participates in our eight-week Career Management Module. This eight-part series, with segments focused on self-assessment, elevator pitch, resume, cover letter and interview preparation, as well as networking and career planning, is designed to ensure that all NUS MBA students have a full understanding of these important parts of career development and job search.

Once the first-year MBA students have completed the Career Management Module, Career Services begins conducting a series of networking events, on-campus presentations and company visits that allow students to gain exposure and build their knowledge and their network. By the beginning of the second semester, Career Services begins listing internship opportunities that first-year students are eligible to take on. Part-time internships are available to students during the course of the academic year for maximum work commitment of 16 hours per week. Full-time summer internships, are available from May-July for about 12 weeks and allow students to really get to know a company. Internships are an excellent source of full-time job opportunities, and each year, a number of NUS MBA students convert their summer internships to full-time offers. For the rest, applications for full-time roles begin in the third semester, and continue until Commencement.

How difficult or easy is it for someone with an Asian MBA to look for a job in the US or Europe? What kind of help does the school give?

The fact that a student may have an Asian MBA does not limit their ability to secure a job in the US and Europe. The challenge is that many US firms in particular have very structured MBA recruiting, so the likelihood of success largely depends on whether NUS, or a particular Asian business school, is on the firm’s list of target schools for recruiting. Beyond that, it is really about the candidates’ pre-MBA work experience, educational background and potential fit.

NUS Business School Career Services does not specifically target opportunities in the US and Europe, however, we are able to put our MBA students in touch with NUS MBA alumni in Europe and the US as needed. The school also has robust exchange programs with more than 40 partner schools (mainly in US and Europe), so students interested in exploring opportunities in a particular geography can choose an exchange there and use that experience to build their networks, better understand the market and try to access opportunities on their own.

Also, some of the companies that we work with in Singapore have international management or leadership development programs that take our students overseas, while other companies may hire an NUS MBA in Singapore, then send them to the US or European headquarters.

However, in recent batches, the majority of our students have been focused on finding opportunities in Singapore and the region, rather than accessing opportunities in Europe or the US. All eyes are on Asia now.

What are the top 3 trends in the MBA job market that you are observing for the graduating class of 2013?

There is proliferation and predominance of sales, business development and account management roles, and decrease of strategy and marketing roles. Nowadays, it’s all about adding to the bottom line, and fast!

Directly relevant experience is trumping other qualities in hiring. We are seeing this time and time again – when things are down to the wire and employers have to choose a candidate – we continue to see past experience being weighed more heavily than future potential.

We now also observe the pervasive use of case interviews across sectors – apparently, cases are not just for consulting anymore.

Is Singapore becoming too crowded with business schools? Do you worry that at some point in the future there would be too many b-schools in Singapore but too few jobs?

While Singapore is a relatively small market, MBA students in Singapore are accessing opportunities throughout the ASEAN region. As long as South-east Asia remains attractive, and remains a center of growth, there will continue to be plenty of jobs to go around. The challenge will continue to be the types of roles that employers are trying to fill as their needs in the region evolve, and the expertise that employers are looking for in candidates.

How will NUS deal with competition for jobs from students of new and emerging Singaporean schools such as INSEAD, Chicago GSB, ESSEC, etc?

NUS Business School has a unique perspective and value proposition that is unmatched by any other school in Singapore. We are part of the “National” University of Singapore, based on an internationally lauded, highly respected University. NUS Business School has a unique combination of local knowledge and locally-based research and scholarship, combined with world-class faculty who have studied at top institutions across the globe, and have brought that rigor and excellence to bear as they live, work and teach in Asia. The strength of our alumni pool is unparalleled – between BBA and MBA graduates of NUS Business School, it is rare to approach a major company in Singapore and not find many NUS Business School graduates among them. We believe that the role and positioning of NUS Business School is very unique in Singapore and the region, and unlike any of the other current, or proposed, MBA or EMBA programs being offered in Singapore.

Photo Credit: Flickr

"We are happy to announce that Shri Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat will be addressing the conference and talking about the Gujarat growth model and its significance to the country!"

Till the time, this article draft hit the publishing button; the above lines stole the light from everything else on the Wharton India Economic Forum’s Facebook page posted in the last week of February 2013. Within days of landing, these harmless lines have torn two of the largest democracies into different think tanks: Modi supporters for one, Modi haters the other – and a huge bunch who think the post is nothing but some welcome publicity for the PM candidate.

The Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF) established in 1996 at The Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) is a student-run business forum in the United States and focuses on India. It conducts annual lectures, wherein prominent Indians are invited to deliver speeches on various subjects. This particular event, titled "Changing Seas, steering for growth" is being held on March 23 at the Penn Museum, Philadelphia. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India, Milind Deora, the minister of State, Communications & IT and Shipping, Government of India, Atul Nishar, Founder of Hexaware Technologies, are also slated to speak at the event. Like was in the case of Mr Modi, Mr Ahluwalia will also be speaking via videoconferencing.

So how did the anti-Modi movement begin, especially since it was Wharton which had invited Modi

Apparently, it all started when three Indian-American professors from the University of Pennsylvania came to know about Modi speaking at the event. They initially started the protest with a simple appeal which finally garnered over 250 signatures till the cancellation of Modi’s speech came by. The three professors, Toorjo Ghosh, Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Ania Loomba, the Catherine Bryson Professor of English and Suvir Kaul, the AM Rosenthal Professor of English are known to have got on the job as soon as they came to know about the invitation and impressed upon Wharton authorities to cancel the invite.

Their petition read, “This is the same politician who was refused a diplomatic visa by the United States State Department on March 18, 2005 on the ground that he, as Chief Minister, did nothing to prevent a series of orchestrated riots that targeted Muslims in Gujarat."

Sources says that Wharton officials have, since the petition by the faculty and now cancellation of the invite, been caught in a fix because while their students invited Modi, their faculty uninvited him. The Wharton School is trying to distance itself and project the entire fracas as having originated from the UPenn camp and not Wharton. The school’s officials are also trying to make it clear that none of the signatories of the petition were Wharton (non-Indian) faculty. Wharton is hoping that the incident will not come in way of Wharton’s India programmes.

All this finally led to...

The Adani group, which was sponsoring the Forum to withdraw within minutes of the invitation getting cancelled. It led former Union Minister of Power, Suresh Prabhu to cancel his own visit, since he was also invited to deliver a lecture at the same Forum. Mr Prabhu told PaGaLGuY, “Mr Modi is the chief minister of a state. If they refuse him, it is an issue that is to be looked at seriously. I will not want to speak at the same event.”

The Shiv Sena party also expressed shock over the cancellation. Its spokesperson Mr Harshal Pradhan said that the anger is not about Modi alone. “An Indian has been denied the opportunity to speak after being invited and that is an insult to the entire country. “

Who lost out?

It remains a fact that Modi is still not convicted for any crime. According to Aakar Patel, writer, columnist and an expert on Gujarat, he is being prosecuted but not charge-sheeted or convicted, so that should not have been the reason for not allowing him to speak. “They shouldnt have banned him from speaking. Its a loss to those who wanted to hear him.”

True, besides the Wharton event would have had him on video conferencing, how dangerous could that have been, if one really gets into nitty-gritties. Besides, it was also just a small students body that had organised this event, not really an official one organised by the school itself.

So will this entire fracas affect the maybe future Prime Minister of the country, to which Mr Patel had an interesting answer. “Dont think so. He revels in this sort of thing.”

So if there is anyone that truly lost out, it would be students at the Forum. Those denied a chance to listen to Modi who - if you cut out the anti-Congress and anti-Gandhi family harangue, is quite an interesting orator, known to seduce his audiences with his Gujarat success story. Just the other day, even while group of students protested outside Sri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi, inside the college in the auditorium, Modi had got the young audience rapt in attention with his one-liners and funny anecdotes.

As much as Modi’s hate stories have spread afar, so also have his cohorts. Businesses are known to flourish in Gujarat as red-tapism in government procedures and babudom has been brought to a near complete halt. Modi is earning praises for being an efficient manager, even while earing brickbats for his alleged communal leanings.

Marathi stationery traders in Maharashtra for instance, are in total praise of this Gujarati. They claim that a huge chunk of Maharashtras small time stationers have taken bag-baggage and settled in Gujarat in the last couple of years since the business environment there is less corrupt and more condusive to good business growth. "And they are also raking in much more moolah than we are here,” said a stationer based in Dombivali, Maharashtra.

Those who have also lost out are the student organisers who had arranged to get Modi to speak at the event. Having cut a sorry figure, these organisers issued an apology. "We as a team would like to apologise for being a catalyst may have put Mr Modi and the Wharton School administration in a difficult position."

And guess who gained from it all? Activist Arvind Kejriwal. Media has been abuzz with the news that he is going to replace Modi at the forum.

And a quick mention of Modi’s PR team which needs to get its act together if their boss is being slated to be the PM candidate for his party. Protests and a cancelled invitation is hardly the way to go.

Another quick mention is that no Indian b-school director or official (at least the ones this correspondent called) wanted to share an opinion on this subject. Wonder why. Does anyone know?

Below is the story of 30-year old Adam Pervez, an IE Business School graduate (MBA), who quit his six-figure paying job to "find a deeper meaning in life." He realised he wanted to see and do much more than what his much-sought-after job was giving him. He hence started what he called the “Happy Nomad Tour” and has, over the last two years, travelled to over 20 countries in order to meet different people, stay with them, and learn from their experiences.

PaGaLGuY and the author of this article have decided to present Adams story rather differently.

Immediately below is an interactive chart which will tell you all about his travel (in his own words) at the click of a button and further down is a small tête-à-tête with the traveller himself. If going through it all, you still want to read more, go to Adams website at

(Red buttons above are clickable)

Instructions on how to use the map above.

  • On the extreme right hand side lies the zoom controls. You can use them to magnify further inside the map to get a clearer picture.
  • You can also use the “Full Screen” option.
  • The red dots are positioned in a chronological order to represent the country the traveler has visited. For example, 21 represents India and this is where he is currently staying. By positioning the mouse on the red dot, you will get a box with an image in it. Here you can either click on the picture to magnify the image or you can click on the white screen outside to read the comments on the place.
  • Please feel free to experiment by clicking on the map and dots that represent each country. Those who want it easier, simply click on the Play (>) button and enjoy the ride.

And heres the interview with Adam...

What is the objective of the Happiness Nomad Tour?

In short, to be happy, spread as much joy and positivity as I can, and learn as much as I can. While working at a perfect MBA job with Siemens Wind Power in Denmark I felt completely unsatisfied with life and the direction I was heading in. I looked within and asked myself questions I had avoided all my life like what my purpose is. I was floating down the river of life and finally I decided to grab the oars. I call this process of self-discovery, planning, and then taking action the Happiness Plunge, hence the name of my website.

I identified my passions of traveling, writing, helping others, teaching, learning, and telling stories. I’m volunteering my way around the world to learn about the world from the community level, having meaningful interactions with people across the globe.

The objective is to learn as much as I can so I can start my own non-profit organization in the future. I think the world would be better if more of us were working hard 40 hours per week toward our passions, which means taking the Happiness Plunge.

What are the obstacles that you have faced during your journey?

On a basic level, I get sick very often on this journey. The combination of long overnight journeys, different climate zones, and questionable local definitions of hygiene have left me sick with a cold or diarrhea once every few weeks for almost the entirety of my journey.

I have also been robbed three times. The first time was in Guatemala, though the thief got nothing as I didn’t understand his Spanish. The second time was in Colombia and it was far scarier. There were three of them and they were violent. Still, they got nothing from me. Lastly, I was pickpocketed in The Philippines. This time they won, but not exactly.

Each country presents new challenges to figure out like transportation, telecommunication, normal behavior, food, how much things cost, etc. These are quite easy to figure out though. There are also language issues, of course, but this isn’t as dire or difficult as you might think.

In the beginning it was hard to explain what I was after and everyone thought I was crazy. But over time I’ve won over my family and friends, though I’m sure many still think I’m crazy. Some still ask when my vacation is over, to which I reply “hopefully no sooner than 50 years from now.” Once you give up caring what other people think of you, you’re free to be yourself and pursue awesomeness however you see fit.

Lastly, there is a lot about the world that my comfortable Western existence prevented me from knowing or seeing. Some aspects of humanity and the human condition are downright ugly and sad. The biggest obstacle is not being able to fix these injustices I see. Instead I accept that life isn’t fair and do what I can to alleviate suffering.

Give an example of a weird or an interesting encounter.

In Medellin, Colombia I went to the botanical garden and had some guanabana juice, post which I developed some intestinal problems. I found a bathroom and did my business. I then walked around town all day, took the metro and then a bus to get back to where I was staying. In the bus, a lady tried to tell me something but she was so soft that I only heard toilet paper. I gave her some from my backpack but she was horrified. I reached home, went to the bathroom and figured out that had a toilet paper tail all day, some toilet paper hanging out the back of my pants for all to see.

How do you sponsor these events/travel?

You can read more about the behind the scenes aspects of The Happy Nomad Tour here. In short, it’s a combination of luck and frugality. I worked in the Middle East for a few years after getting my engineering degree. This gave me the savings to pay for my MBA in cash. I finished my MBA with 500 euros in the bank and headed to Denmark to find a job in the middle of the financial crisis. Working at Siemens replenished my reserves.

I have been living off my savings for the past 19 months, though I made a paltry $900 last year through various writing opportunities. I have always lived a very simple, non-extravagant life. Living way below my means has allowed me to be a perpetual saver.

The few flights I’ve taken have used frequent flier miles. I stay with locals everywhere I go. It gives me an insight into how they live, what family life is like everywhere, and forges friendships. It also helps me save money. In 9 months in Latin America I spent $195 on accommodation. Knowing the language helped me a lot there. Even including my time as a tourist in Myanmar, I’ve spent $780 on accommodation in the past 19 months – less than a month’s rent for my apartment in Denmark.

I have had no sponsors and I don’t advertise on my website. I’m open to sponsors, but I think it would be hard for me to find a corporate sponsor whose mission and vision are aligned with mine.

Which country are you going to next?

After I leave India in the beginning of April I’ll head to Madrid, Spain. I’m giving a speech to the new intake of students at IE Business School. I’ll inspire them to think outside the box regarding their careers over the coming 13-month program, and to use their time in business school to take advantage of all the incredible resources at their disposal to make their dreams come true. To communicate this, I’ll use the stories of the numerous inspirational people I’ve met along my journey who are changing the world one day at a time as well as my own story.

After Spain, I’ll take a break in Cyprus. My intestines need a rest after India, and I need to take a break to get caught up. I want to start writing a book and I will start a small business to help achieve financial sustainability. My break will be 3-6 months and I might give living in Turkey a try as well. Then I’ll resume The Happy Nomad Tour in the Middle East.

What is your advice to Indian students?

My advice to Indian students will be to follow their dreams and to find what motivates them. They don’t have to emulate what I am doing as there will be visa issues. Instead I would ask them to look within and see what excites them and what would make them get up in the morning and follow their dreams.

(Dear Puys - if you liked the way we presented this story, do let us know!)

The first Hangout was nice! Watch a recording of the hangout on this video above.

If you are taking GMAT and wish to score 700+, this might be useful for you.

Join Arun Jagannathan (@Psychodementia) the most consistently helpful puy in the GMAT section over the years and owner of at 7 pm IST today evening (Saturday, March 9) on a live Google Hangout as he takes questions on GMAT preparation strategy to beat the magic figure of 700 and gives advice and tips.

If you want to ask a question to Psychodementia on crossing 700 in GMAT

> Post it in the comments now or tweet using the #pagalguy tag

If you want to just watch the show live

> Open this article page at 7 pm

We are doing this for the first time at PaGaLGuY, and we are excited to see how the Hangout will work out. Do join us so that you can give us feedback on how we did.