My journey to XLence: Rishabh Singh, XLRI Class of 2023

Honestly, I never thought I would do this. Sharing my story with aspirants to motivate them, inspire them. Because I never thought my story was worth telling – An engineer who decides to do an MBA. Many before me, Many with me and Many after me will do the same. But what I have come to realise is that every story is different, struggles are different and thus every story needs to be told.

I hail from Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. I am a Computer Science and Engineering graduate from BIT Mesra, the batch of 2017. Since then, I have been working as a Web Application Developer at Cognizant. Almost every other aspirant with work experience similar to mine had given CAT at least once. But not me. I realized very late why I needed to do an MBA. It took some time convincing myself because I was living in a very soothing bubble – the comfort zone. I remember sitting in my cubicle, writing a code, debugging it, pressing enter angrily. I asked myself. Is this something that you want to do for the rest of your life? Don’t you want to be a part of the meetings where this business is discussed? Don’t you want to move from the service end of things to the business end of things? And when I got these answers, the path became a little more clear.

It was March of 2020 when I decided to appear for the MBA entrance examinations. Started by giving a mock and scored horrendously. But what that mock gave me was a reality check. It helped me identify my weak areas. Now I know why everyone was afraid of the LRDI section. And then, COVID struck. The entire country went into lockdown. Work from home became a new norm. A 9-hour job turned into a 14-hour ruckus. Work from home was getting more isolating with each passing day. This is when I learnt the most important b-school skill even before joining one – Time Management and Task Prioritisation. It was also a time when I learnt a new skill, cooking. Not one interview went by where there was not a discussion on Cooking.

Slowly my mock scores started improving. I was gaining a lot of confidence. I started believing that I could clear this exam. Months passed like weeks and November was here. My exam was scheduled in Slot-3. So I had to fight the temptation to look at Slot-1 and Slot-2 reviews. I didn’t want to know if the paper was easier or tougher compared to last year, which section was tricky. I wanted to go in without a preconceived notion. The feeling just before entering the CAT exam hall was a mix of nervousness and excitement. And then wait for the exam to start.

At 4 PM, the exam starts. VARC passes like a breeze. My confidence was up. Next up was my Achilles heel, LRDI. I bombed this section. Then and there I knew, I am not going to clear the sectional cut-off. I carried on that burden to the next section. All the while solving Quant, the only thing I could think of was LRDI. The first attempt at CAT came a bit too late and I knew I wouldn’t make it. At 6 PM, the exam ended. I was standing there with my shoulders down. I knew I had bombed LRDI. For those of you who have seen TVF Aspirants, I felt like Sandeep Bhaiya standing there in the rain. Instead of “Dhaaga” playing in the background, it was the noise of the city.

I was feeling low for a couple of days. I felt I set the bar too high for myself. I felt I had failed. But..But..But..”Failing doesn’t make you a failure, giving up does.” I had only lost a battle and I was in no mood to give up on the war. I was on to my next target XAT. I religiously solved previous year papers, giving major focus to the Decision-Making section. CAT results came out a day before the XAT exam. But I was done thinking about it. Saw my result. It didn’t bother me anymore because what’s done was done. I went in for the XAT exam with a clear, calm and composed mind. And coming out after three hours, I had a pretty good feeling about it. January was all about exams then. SNAP, NMAT and IIFT – all were scheduled just a few weeks apart. In the meantime, some shortlist calls were also coming out. CAP lowered their sectional cut off to 70 percentile, so I got a call from it. Apart from that, I knew no other IIM is going to call a GEM with 96.52 overall and 70.21 in LRDI. I was overjoyed when the XAT results came out and I scored 99.56 in it. Finally, I had a ‘creme de la creme’ call. The other calls that I had were SIBM Pune, SCMHRD, NMIMS Mumbai and later IIFT.

But the war was still half won. You know when you are playing a video game, the next level always feels tougher than the previous one. Cracking a b-school interview is a whole different ball game than cracking the entrance. You could be asked anything. Then I read some statistics like for every 1 seat 5 people are called for an interview. I was running low on self-esteem. My mind was filled with “What If” scenarios. I started preparing for the cliche questions – “Tell me something about yourself”, “Why MBA after Engineering”, “What are your strengths and weaknesses”. I was eagerly looking for GDPI courses to get a feel of the interview. I was browsing through a lot of different channels to get some advice and then struck upon the PDP of Career Launcher. I did my research before joining the course and then enrolled in it. The course helped me brush up on my current affairs along with some management jargon. Sreeni Sir was appointed as my mentor and I was eagerly waiting for our first interaction.

It was a week before my CAP interview when I scheduled my first interaction with Sreeni Sir. After a 45 minute interview, the one which I had completely bombed, I was low on confidence. My answers were not crisp, I was not confident about what I was saying and I was letting the interviewer drive the interview. But my mentor had a calming smile on his face. He asked me to list down What went well and what didn’t. Honestly, nothing went well in that mock interview. The next 1 hour of the conversation did not mention b-school even once. It was about me. Who I am. He wanted to know my story, my journey, my achievements, my perspective on things. I remember asking him “Sir, Did anything go well in this interview?”. He replied, “Rishabh. You have all the spices. But the interviewer shouldn’t be the one to dig it out.” This stayed with me. That 1-hour conversation with Sreeni Sir, helped me shape up my answers.

My interviews started. Before every interview, I just reminded myself what my mentor told me. “Be confident you can drive the interview and you’ll sail through.” And I sailed. One after the other, my interviews went well. I was beaming with confidence. My self-esteem was on an all-time high. I started every interview with a smile and ended it with the same. Before the start of this journey, my end goal was MBA. But this journey has taught me that you can not have end goals at such an early age. Just identify your stepping stones. I am thrilled to share that I will be joining the XLRI BM programme. It is time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings. A big thank you to my family, friends and my mentor – Sreeni Sir.

To all the aspirants out there – Before anyone else believes in you, you have to believe in yourself. Some days will be good, some will be horrendous. But one should not lose focus. Remember, “Prosperity doth best discover vice but adversity doth best discover virtue”. Re-Watch your favourite TV series, catch up on what’s latest on the news and take some time out of your schedule to study. Don’t get disheartened after a low scoring mock. Treat yourself that day and then analyse the mock. Identify your weak areas and strengthen them. Finally, I would like to conclude using my favourite quote “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”


Converts: XLRI-BM & HRM, MDI Gurgaon, New IIMs, NMIMS Mumbai

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