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Retaking the CAT and Déjà vu at IIM Ahmedabad - the entwined tale of Aayush Redij

The Unconventional MBA has dedicated its blog to bring out the raw stories of underdogs, people who crush the various myths of doing an MBA from an IIM and bring a touch of colour wherever they go. Today is no different.

With a degree in Mass Media and an admission letter to IIM A, we have Aayush Redij who manages to carve out a space for himself among the lakhs of hopefuls.

Aayush is a man of many worlds, from being assisting in the organisation of IPL tournament in 2014 and managing ‘Vodafone SuperFan’ and ‘Vodafone Fan Army’ to being a part of the organising team of VH1 Supersonic Music festival and to heading the project of The Economic Times Trends Realty Titans Coffee Table Book.

He worked as Manager of Strategic partnerships in Escapex in Indonesia, and now is all set to enter IIM-A.

We asked Aayush to share his journey from being a bright-eyed college graduate to getting into IIM Ahmedabad in his second attempt at CAT. Read on to find how it goes.

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Aayush’s Background:

10th – 83% | 12th – 82%

Bachelor of Mass Media - 6.75/7.00 C.G.P.A

Mithibai College of Arts Chauhan Institute of Science and A.J College of Arts

University of Mumbai

CAT percentiles over the years: 89.5% (2018), 95.8% (2019)

Part 1 - The Attempt

My journey to IIM A started in 2017 when I decided to give the CAT. I joined classes to prepare for CAT 2018, during my final year of college.

At that point in time, if you’d asked me which was my dream B-School, you probably wouldn’t have gotten an answer.

My plan was to completely immerse myself in the undergraduate college experience, I was going to classes, participating in college fests, organizing them, chilling with my friends and making memories.

Cut to CAT 2018 in November, as soon as I gave in the paper, I knew that I had messed up. I wasn’t expecting much out of it and I continued my preparations for my other exams in low spirits. True to my predictions, I only managed an 89.5 percentile.

Obviously, I gave up on the top IIM calls, but I still held out hope for other B Schools.

To my gleeful surprise, when the calls came out for the interviews, I received calls from numerous IIMs - Shillong, New IIMs and even IIM Ahmedabad(!) alongside MICA, NMIMS and Symbiosis Finally, I could see light at the end of the tunnel, something I attribute to my unique background in Mass Media.

So, I started to prepare for my interviews, which I believed to be my forte as I had a very strong CV and was very comfortable talking and interacting with people.

I will never forget my IIM Ahmedabad interview that year.

It was on the 21st of February at Tulip Star in Mumbai. I was 3rd in my panel and was fairly confident and prepped for the interview. The interview went on for almost 35 minutes and we discussed a variety of topics besides academics.

Philosophy, moral dilemmas, current affairs and even sports. After the interview, I was very happy as I knew it had gone well. The fact that I had nothing to lose only boosted my morale, as I had already accepted the fact that my chances to convert were very low owing to my percentile.

That year I did not manage to convert IIM A, but I did convert NMIMS.

Part 2 - Crossroads

To give you a little bit of insight into my thoughts, NMIMS was my last option for a B-school for a whole variety of personal reasons. Yet I paid the fees to give me more time to make a decision.

At that time, I was working with Escapex; a US-based firm which creates celebrity mobile apps and is into influencer & celebrity management. Although I loved my work, I was at a difficult crossroad.

On one hand, I had a convert in NMIMS which honestly is a pretty good B-school and on the other, I had the option to continue my job and give CAT another shot next year.

If I chose NMIMS, I would not need to go through another year of stress and the emotional toil that comes along with attempting CAT. The risk of ending up empty handed was very real to me. But a small part of me did not want to settle and wanted to prove to myself that I could do better, if I just tried again.

I realise, to most, that this is usually a clear-cut decision to attempt CAT again. It was hard for me because I wasn’t sure if I was in the right mental space to go through the ordeal again. (although now I am glad I did).

Three important people in my life helped me through my decision: my parents who wanted me to believe in myself and my professor. I will never forget his words “What is the most that you stand to lose? Think about that.”.

Amidst this, an opportunity came knocking on my door which made my decision easier. My company offered me the opportunity to shift to the Indonesian office which was the head office for the Asia Pacific to manage and set up a structure in Indonesia just as I had done in India.

I took the job as it felt like a sign from the universe and I packed my bags for Indonesia (the best decision I have ever made).

Today if someone asks me how I actually made the call to leave NMIMS and attempt CAT again, I would say that it was a tiny voice at the back of my head wanting to strive for the best that calmed my confused mind. Plus, I would not have been able to live with the fact that I didn't even try!

Part 3 - Bad déjà vu & IIM-A

Now onto the next part of my journey. We all know that converting IIM Ahmedabad does not come without its surprises.

I had a score of 95.8 percentile in CAT 2019, (which according to me was good enough to get me another shot at the interview and give me a chance of converting the call) and I prepared well for the interview. The strangest part of the process was that it felt like déjà vu - and not just because I’d given it once before.

My interview was again on the 21st of February at the same venue and in the same slot as well. 3rd to top it off, even one of my panellists was the same. I must warn you, that most of my interview is still a haze for me and I don’t remember parts of it. But what I do remember is the feeling of my stomach churning and the only thought that was running through my head was ‘what if the panellist recognises me and isn’t interested in interviewing me’. As my turn inched closer, I slowly calmed my nerves and regained my confidence.

I entered the interview room and greeted them. As soon as I sat down, he remarked, “Your face is very familiar to me, but I cannot seem to place you. Let us get on with the interview, so tell me something about yourself.” I began to introduce myself.

As soon as I finished, the female panellist questioned me about my work, after which she casually asked me if I had appeared for an IIM A interview before. Just as she asked me this, the male panellist exclaimed, “Now I remember you; you gave the interview last year as well and I was your panellist!”

To my surprise, he could recollect our entire conversation and from his face, he seemed to be happy about it. I acknowledged the fact and then continued to answer the follow-up questions which the female panellist asked me.

After about 2 minutes, the male panellist seemed to be disinterested in interviewing me and was busy on his phone. The other panellist continued my interview and asked me what I thought about the future of Short Form Video content (owing to my work experience).

As I was answering the question, the male panellist suddenly interrupted me and asked a weird question, he said, “If you had a 7-year-old smart niece, and she came up to you and asked you about what she was observing around her about how media content was getting shorter and shorter, how would you explain it to her?” I naturally started to explain my answer in the easiest language possible keeping in mind that I was talking to a 7-year-old. He stopped me and said, “why are you dumbing your answer down, don’t you remember your niece is smart?” I was at a loss for words because I didn’t know how to react.

But that was the turning point for my interview. Slowly but steadily I was able to steer the interview towards my strengths. I remember that the last thing we discussed was about Scuba diving and the panellist asked about my experience and a couple of technical questions. They wished me well and offered me chocolate, which I gladly accepted because I hadn’t eaten melody in forever

As I walked away from my interview, I did not feel satisfied with it and I wished desperately that some parts of the conversation had taken a different turn.

However, you cannot change the past, and I learnt to take this into my stride and moved on as I still had more interviews pending.

Fast Forward to 8th of May, I was extremely nervous to check my result, as I felt that I had wrecked the interview, but oh boy! I have never been happier to be wrong.

I was finally a student of IIM Ahmedabad and I am ready to start the next chapter in my story.


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Interested in learning about how to approach the CAT? Check out our Strategise the CAT series here!

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