This is not like other pieces on The Unconventional MBA. We usually publish our author's tales in their words. Here, I narrate Mr. Amim Fatmi's journey, in my words.
I found Amim through his insightful Linkedin posts and interesting take on life. I reached out to him, asking if I could get on a call with him and interview him for a piece I'm doing. Little did I know that the call would end with me humbled by this man's journey and thrown into deep self-reflection.
Amim is an XLRI HRM graduate of 2020. He did his under-graduation from NIFT Delhi and had previously worked with Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail for 12 months. At XLRI, he interned with P&G, was the General Secretary of his batch, and a part of the TCS Leadership Program.
His story is one of battles, victories, setbacks and triumphs. To everyone reading this, prepare to be inspired.
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“Come home and pull a rikshaw” – These are the words that transformed Amim Fatmi’s life.
When I say Amim comes from the humblest of backgrounds, it is no exaggeration. Amim’s childhood home in Gaya, Bihar lacked basic amenities like glass on windows. Making do with plastic bags in times of extreme weather was a way of life for him.
Despite the financial limitations on his family, Amim’s dad ensured he got the best education. Side hustles and sleepless nights enabled his father to send him to a private school, which in turn helped Amim score a commendable 96% in class X.
Bidding adieu to his Kota-cum-IIT dreams due to a resource crunch, Amim targeted affordable central universities to apply to for his +2. Having received admission offers from Jamia (Delhi) and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU, Aligarh), he chose to go to Delhi. However, he left it in 7 days due to his dislike for the vastly different culture (I mean, Delhi vs Gaya?) and ended up enrolling at AMU.
The next two years, Amim struggled to balance his newly found freedom away from home and ended up having more fun than most, and his class XII percentages showed – 60.25%.
Filled with grief, he called home, hoping for some sympathy and consolation. However, he was met with his dad saying, “Come home & pull a rickshaw – we will buy you one”.
The next 2 months, he stayed in Patna - too embarrassed to go home. He started his futile attempt at IIT JEE preparation but soon realised he was out of his depth there. He loved technology! But not so much the Physics, Chemistry and Math.
Completely lost and demotivated, Amim saw no clear path to the future. Upon the encouragement of his friend, he wrote the NIFT entrance exam. The result was an astounding AIR 32!
In the Bihar of 2012, nobody had heard of “NIFT” in Delhi – A college for fashion design in the most outrageous city of India? “Padhe-likhe darzi banoge kya?”, as people would put it.
An orthodox Muslim family with the burden of dreams on their son, they wanted him to become an Engineer or a Doctor.
As fate would have it, the programme admitted only the top 32 AIRs at NIFT Delhi, India’s No. 1 fashion technology institute. One mark lesser, and Amim would never have re-entered Delhi. This was his chance.
Battling his family, neighbours, and the social stigma attached to pursuing a degree in fashion technology, Amim went on to join this flagship course. His mother was the biggest pillar of strength, support, and blind faith. All she asked of him was to never do anything that would make her regret sending him to college there.
Imagine a 17-year-old Amim now. A boy from Gaya and Aligarh, with his peculiar accent and not so perfect English, with conservative ideals and thoughts, an all-guys ‘gang’ and a promise to be on the path of virtue to his mother. Suddenly, he is thrown into a new environment in a woman-dominated course, in a ‘modern’, ‘happening’ and ‘forward’ city like New Delhi where he studies fashion, of all things.
It could baffle anyone. Slowly but surely, Amim started to pick himself up. He braved the snide remarks and sneaky sneers of his classmates on his command over language, vocabulary, and accent. In his second and third year, Amim discovered clubs, committees and culturals. He aggressively worked on himself, and with the help of some absolutely fantastic friends, things started to fall into place.
From feeling like a misfit, an outsider, Amim won “Student of the year – NIFT”.
Not only that, Amim started earning money and sending it back home. At the age of 20, Amim worked with Red Bull and earned INR 18,000 a month – 8,000 more than his father earned at a time.
His memorable experiences are ones so many of us don’t think twice about. Buying a smartphone for himself and his family, a plane ticket to go back home..... These were Amim’s treasures.
In the final year of college, he went to Maldives as a part of a GoI youth delegation programme and had his first international exposure. He then went on to intern with ABFRL (Aditya Birla) and bagged a PPO.
For the first time ever, his dad said he was proud of him. Something Amim longed for all his life.
While at ABG, Amim interacted with students from top B-schools who were part of the fast-track leadership program. Amim knew he wanted more – more importantly, he wanted that.
Amim was no stranger to risks - so he quit his job, let go of a steady income and the safe career path he built. And in June of 2017, Amim started preparing for the CAT. Unsurprisingly, this was not a decision anyone around him understood or supported. He was heavily dependent on his family for motivation. He started to do some freelancing in his free time to sponsor his CAT coaching classes.
With a 97 percentile in the CAT, Amim got no calls from any of the old IIMs. With a profile like his, this CAT percentile was beyond sufficient, but the universe was not done making him pay for the lapse in judgment for the 60% in XII boards. With 99+ percentile in IIFT, Amim failed to clear the LR cut off by a whisker. No IIFT call either.
Having a breakdown a day before the XAT, he had no hopes from XLRI’s infamous entrance examination. The XAT did not disappoint his stroke of bad luck. That was the first year XAT went online and amongst server crashes and chaos, Amim managed a 94.7 percentile.
XLRI HRM call had a cut-off of 94 percentile and ended up being Amim’s only call.
As he sat outside his interview room, the casual humdrum of prospective b-schoolers had started. The “Tera kitna percentile hai?” chat I am sure we are all only too familiar with. As expected, he encountered some kid who claimed to know the process inside out.
Amim, having been through so much more in life than one MBA interview was unphased. He went to the room with a smile and a “I have nothing to lose” mindset.
“Tera nahi hoga, Amim. You have the lowest percentile in the whole room” was what he had just heard. What happens next, is exactly what shows you how much he had transformed.
Even before he sat on his chair, the interview asked “Amim, how did you manage to score 60% from 96%?”
Cheekily, Amim responded “Bohot mushkil tha, but kar lia manage, sir.”
This response was met with a hearty laugh and from then on, the interviewers left no stone unturned to uncover everything about the man sitting in front of them in a span of 30 minutes. He was bombarded with practical scenarios, provoked to induce stress and grilled on his technical subjects. They wanted to know what lessons life taught Amim and if he had learnt them.
With a WL of 48 (Which if you know the XL WL movement trends is a sure shot convert), Amim Fatmi entered the sacred halls of Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur, only to exit with a P&G internship, the honour of being the GenSec of his batch, a placement offer from the giant Tata Consulting Services and a story that could move anyone.
Connect with him here - Amim Fatmi
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