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An uncharted voyage - Bachelors in Tourism to IIM-Ahmedabad - ft. Shefali Chhaya

Updated: Jul 18, 2020

Today we have someone ‘unconventional’ even by our standards (and that’s saying a lot!).

The selection process for IIMs can leave anyone feeling confused and daunted. But what about the myths surrounding them?

“IIM’s don’t want profiles that are too niche!”


“Interviewers don’t like grads from private colleges” (I know this one all too well)

And that’s where Shefali Chhaya comes in. With admits to IIMs ABLKI, she absolutely crushes these myths!

To give you some background, Shefali graduated from Amity University, Noida with a bachelor’s degree in Tourism Administration in 2018 and will be joining IIM Ahmedabad this year (PGP 2020-22).

We’ve asked Shefali to share what she’s learnt through the process and the fantastic interview experience that got her to those famous Harvard steps.

Important alert! - If you are a Chartered Accountant, Lawyer, Economics or Commerce graduate who wants to make it to the B-School of your dreams, don't forget to subscribe to The Unconventional MBA!


Shefali’s Profile

10th – 8.2 CGPA | 12th – 85% (Science)

CAT percentile: 98.60

B.A. Tourism Administration (Hons.) – 8.7 CGPA

Amity University, Uttar Pradesh

Work ex: 25 months

Hi Everyone!

Shefali here.

I graduated with a degree in B.A. Tourism Administration from Amity University, Noida in June 2018. During college, I was actively involved in various college and corporate events relevant to my degree.

After graduation, I worked as a travel consultant for 9 months before moving to the Social Media Team of Doordarshan Sports. I have anchoring experience at various DD Channels (which is where I’m currently working). I’m also a trained Kathak dancer and have been practising for the past 10 years.

For as long as I can remember, I loved seeing new places, talking to people from different countries and trying their local cuisine. Travelling will forever be my first love, and the management aspect will allow me to further understand how the industry functions.

1. Why MBA?

Many think that tourism is something you experience rather than study. This is a complete myth! There’s a lot of things that go behind making a travel & hospitality business successful, and to understand this is why I’m here! An MBA would allow me to expand my knowledge of business management and also other related domains.

2. Any fears or doubts that you had during the preparation phase, and how did you overcome them?

I found the QA section of CAT to be a bit daunting. I overcame my fear of mathematics by focusing on clearing my basic concepts and focusing on my strengths which I got to know by giving regular mocks.

I also believed that even someone with such a niche background couldn’t make it to a top B-school. This was a personal fear which I had to manage by making sure that I believed in myself and not allowing myself to be disheartened by what others had to say. So believe in yourself!

Lastly, coming from a private university, I did believe that there is a slight disadvantage since a lot of students appearing for the interviews are from elite colleges. However, it's best to use this as your motivation to remain focused and work even harder.

3. How did you connect with the interviewers and make them see you are a good fit for the college?

For me, I believe it would be my consistent academics and my background that bagged it. My anchoring experience was definitely a major highlight during all my interviews.

From my experiences, I also realised that interviewers look for something that makes you stand out of the crowd, especially how well you performed in your particular field. Colleges look for students who are the best in their respective fields.

4. What are the kind of options you want to explore in your 2 years at IIM-A?

I’m really open to all the options available. At present, I’m most inclined towards consulting, marketing and general management.

5. Any advice you’d like to give to future Arts + MBA grads?

You need to believe in yourself, trust me diversity is more than welcome by business schools and it would actually play in your favour. Give your best shot, don’t be afraid of failures and you’ll make your way to your dream college!

Interview Experience

IHC New Delhi, 7th March 2020

Duration- 25 Mins

Two Male Panelists

AWT Topic (20 min): Galileo and Pythagoras should be respected more than Shakespeare and Mozart because they impact civilization as it is today. Give logical points against this argument.

P1- Hi Shefali. You’ve come from a very diverse field. Tell us something about yourself.

Me- Introduced myself. Told them about what I’ve studied and why I chose it, detailing my 2-year work experience.

P1- If you could give 3 suggestion to the Government of India to promote tourism industry what would it be?

Me- Explained briefly that infrastructure needs to be robust, there needs to be use of USP’s of India, which are its diversity in terms of people, cultural and tourist attractions for promotions. The third suggestion was spreading awareness amongst Indians on how to treat the tourists who visit India.

P2- Who is the current Tourism Minister?

Me- Mr. Prahlad Singh Patel

P2- Who is the current Minister of Information and Broadcasting?

Me- Mr. Prakash Javadekar

P1- Why do you want to pursue an MBA?

Me- Told them that I wanted to learn the management functions in a holistic approach and my plans after the MBA.

P2- How would an MBA help your family business?

Me- Since we currently book international packages for outbound tourists, I would like to expand it for Inbound tourists with Special Interest Niche Tourism like Wine, Golf, etc.

P2- Tell me about a Landmark judgement by the Supreme Court in the past 2 years?

Me- Spoke about the Sabarimala judgment and my views on it.

P2- What do you think about Article 370 being revoked? Do you think it was the right decision?

Me- Explained the controversy surrounding Article 370 and mentioned both positive and negative aspects of the decision.

P1- Which other calls do you have?

Me- All IIM’s except C, SIBM Pune, NMIMS, TISS

P1- If we select you, which college would you finally select and why?

Me- I told them that IIM Ahmedabad was always my dream, and would choose it without a doubt because of the quality of peer learning from diverse backgrounds, as well as the robust alumni network.

P2- Do you know any alumni who is from IIM A and in the tourism industry?

Me- Yes sir! Mr. Deep Kalra, CEO of MakeMyTrip.

P1- You said you are at anchor at Doordarshan. Tell us more about it. How has this helped you?

Me- I showed them some of my pictures from shows and other events. Spoke about why I like anchoring, the kind of shows have I done, and how it has enhanced my overall communication skills and my personality.

P2- Since you manage Social Media, what responsibilities do you have ethically and who are your competitors?

Me- I explained how fake news is dangerous these days, and that as a precautionary practice, I check the authenticity of news along before posting anything. I also make sure to use pictures credits. I also discussed my analysis report last month compared to other competitors with numbers.

P2- Suppose we select you and Meghalaya tourism hires you as a Marketing Manager. How would you promote tourism there?

Me- I talked about how infrastructure like hotels, restaurants, railway stations and airports need to be ramped up but in a sustainable way involving locals for development. Spoke about Meghalaya’s tourism sites and how their USP should be used for publicity on social media sites.

P2- Rapid fire: Tell us the capitals of these countries- Argentina, Uzbekistan, Mexico, Iceland, Honduras, Jordan.

Me- Answered all correctly: Buenos Aires, Tashkent, Mexico City, Reykjavik, Tegucigalpa, Amman.

P1- What are your hobbies apart from anchoring?

Me- I told them about my diploma in Kathak, my performance history of 10 years, and about how I remained an active participant in cultural events throughout school and college

P1- Would you sit in the Placements for IIM A?

Me- Yes Sir. I have an inclination towards Consulting and Marketing, and so would surely sit for placements.

P2- Thank you Shefali. We are done here!

Me- Thank you so much, Sir!

P1- Best of luck, Take a toffee

Verdict: Converted!!


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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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