Rendezvous with Piyush Surana, IIM Ahmedabad Class of 2008 and currently Business Head – East at Ola Cabs
A brief intro on what triggered the MBA decision at that point of time?
Coming from a business family and having pursued a B.Com from a mid-tier college there were few opportunities open to me when it came to starting a professional career in a role that would enable a good learning experience and solid career progression. At a time when campus placements in B.Com where almost non-existent, the best option was to pursue further education and due to my background an MBA was the most natural option. Hence, even before I started college I was pretty sure I would pursue MBA concurrently and started preparing for CAT from second year onwards
What were the key tenets of your MBA admission strategy
Given that MBA was my sole focus during a non-residential college there were some things that I focused on. Firstly, I made sure I took the opportunity to maximize my learning and exposure so I completed my CFA before I actually when on to do my MBA. This helped my profile stand out as well as helped me during my course at IIMA. Secondly, I made sure that preparing for CAT remained my top priority throughout. Thirdly, one thing that a lot of people ignored but I gave a lot of focus on was focusing on non-CAT learning as well whether sharpening world knowledge or my interviewing skills. This is something that has helped me ever since and I am sure made me stand out during the interviewing process.
How does the B-school life transform one as an individual? Can you please share your key learnings?
One thing that goes without saying is that one learns as much outside the class as inside it. Staying with so many of the best minds in the country and with the emphasis on group work, one gets to learn a lot of things. At IIMA another thing you learn how to deal with pressure – especially in the first year. You learn how to deal with timelines, prioritization and working in parts and then bringing it all together. In such an environment one does not have an option but to trust one’s team. One another things for someone like me who was living outside of my home for the first time is that you also learn a lot about yourself and that is an important part of the journey.
In your view, what are factors one must consider before embarking on the MBA journey? Aptitude, career aspirations, work experience etc.?
One of the first things to consider is what excites you. While there are exceptions, MBA is one of the most generalist fields out there. So instead of working in core areas, you would be more than likely to move across sectors and verticals. For example, over the last 8 years I have worked in investment banking, metals, telecom, healthcare and tech. This may or may not excite people. The second thing to consider is prior experience. There is no right or wrong answer here, While globally it is accepted that work experience aids an MBA and I would also have learn a lot if I had some experience before I embarked on mine, it is also true that in India very few people really get to learn a lot in their job out of college. I mean, if doing MBA is what you really want coding for 2 years is not going to help in any way. You might as well go to a good college right away.
What would be your advice to future MBA aspirants?
- Do not settle for anything less than what you are capable of. Many people ask me what colleges they should consider. While every person knows his or her potential best, do not undersell yourself. You are only going to get this opportunity once in your life – make the best of it and strive for the best option possible
- An MBA is not the end all and be all. While it is very important ultimately once you enter corporate life you will be judged on your performance there. Yes, a prestigious MBA opens doors but in the end, if you are capable you will excel no matter what and no amount of book knowledge will automatically convert to success in business environments
- Most importantly, no matter what, learn to enjoy yourself!