Anurag Singal and the gift that was IIM-A PGPX!
The man in question needs no introduction to the CA fraternity.
The force behind CAJobPortal.com, India's first recruitment website exclusively for Chartered Accountants, now actively managed by his wife-preneur Sonia. CA Anurag Singal has 11+ years of experience across leading corporate houses!
He also went on to do a full time PGP-X at IIM-Ahmedabad.
He does a fabulous job of bringing amazing, rare stories from inspiring individuals, all while giving us a sneak peek into his own thoughts and ideas.
We had the splendid opportunity to ask him a couple of questions.
All you CA or MBA aspirants, this one is a must read!
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Sir, let me take you back to your college days. You were already a CA and had a successful corporate career, why did you put that on hold for the PGPX course at IIM-A?
I entered the hallowed portals of IIM-Ahmedabad in April 2014 for my 1 year PGPX journey. I was a Chartered Accountant who had hitherto been an EV/EBITDA and “Free Cash Flow to Equity” number cruncher at the house of Tatas and Birlas.
As I stated in my admissions interview, maybe I wanted to turn my recruitment blog – CAJobPortal.com -into a commercial venture. And this 1 year was my experiment as a student-cum-wannabe entrepreneur. So that was the passion and I knew the IIMA eco-system was the best place for it.
I still recollect completing a 3 hour exam in 45 minutes because a professor kindly consented to allow me to pitch CAJobPortal.com to a group of MDP participants!
An entrepreneurial dream! I am sure that the time you spent at campus was transformational for you. What impact do you think IIM-A had on you as a person? Considering at the PGP-X level, you are already well-settled and more mature than the candidates entering the two year MBA programme!
The first thing the campus did was to make me humble.
I entered with castles in the air, CA Rank-holder, an inflated sense of ego about my IQ and then realised that this place gives every outlier a run for his/her money.
You have always someone better than you, at everything you do.
And then find your mojo under the Bell Curve.
And trust me, from anxiety/depression to self-acceptance, loneliness to companionship, seclusion to getting fame through newspaper coverages, kicking myself for ‘’why nothing is clicking’’ to feeling on top of the world – ‘how everything is happening better than I expected’’ - I experienced human emotions in myriad colours during this 1 year.
I realised B-school is not "ram rajya' and hence has all shades of black, white and grey. I learned to handle friends and foes with élan.
From stormy classroom discussions on case studies to meeting legendary Professors (walking encyclopedias) to competing with the best teams in the world through Capstone Business Simulation game to "yognidra" in the Gir Forest- it was such a rich repertoire of experiences.
It is so hard to imagine someone like you being overwhelmed! What was the biggest challenge you faced - switching from corporate life to campus life? How did you overcome it?
Oh yes, It was tough for me to figure out how I will react when the SMS “Your account has been credited with xxxx” stops coming and you break FDs for grocery bills! So initially it was very tough –
Amidst the scorching 50 degrees of Ahmedabad heat, as I used to walk towards the Vikram Sarabhai Library to study, with a bag full of books, – the entire habit of reading had gone away – it was tough to tell myself that I wasn’t good at some subjects.
Statistics, Designing Operations to Meet Demand (DOMD) or Marketing were completely uncharted territories. And I often felt low in the class because I was always used to being on top of things.
Each batch mate came from a different background with different core strengths. It often hit the ego - " abey mujhe kyun nahi chamka ye logic".
Apparently, I thought my strength was Accounting (FRA as it’s called in IIMA) and used to take extra classes for the batch but eventually it was an Engineer who topped the course in Term 1!
Also, everyone was so focused – they had quit plum jobs and paid a hefty fee. You felt elated that you've answered 19/20 questions in an Economic Quiz correctly, only to find that 6 guys have aced it 20 on 20. You studied till 4 AM in your syndicate rooms and after returning back to your dorm, feel crushed when lights are on everywhere.
I felt quite left behind in this race and that too in a dorm (I had never lived alone)
So after Term 1, I took Sonia and Dhwani (my 1 year old daughter to campus). Then I consciously opted out of the Grade Rat Race.
I told myself – I am a CA, have secured All India Ranks in both Inter and Final. What do I want to prove again on the academic turf? Is the race really worth it? Can my core competencies shift from Accounting & Finance to Supply Chain, TQM and Statistics? The answer was “No”.
The course was eventually meant to prepare you for General Management and thus it was okay to know the topics and not master them. I changed the goalpost to getting a grade B instead of Grade A, which was quite feasible given I had some quantum of natural intellect and could leverage my rich corporate experience
It also meant that I would walk into the classroom, quickly read the Case under discussion and then get into debating points with those who had burnt the midnight oil on the same (we had marks for Class Participation)
That left me with a lot of time and I was more focused on speaking to the Professors, the External Guests, the visiting alums, attending CIIE events ……….doing exactly what I wanted to expand the vistas of my imagination.
How to get ROI on the money paid? My wife and I decided to completely focus on our entrepreneurial venture. By March, we were already having an Order Book in terms of clients who gave us recruitment mandates, money started flowing into the bank account, which made it acceptable from a Marwari perspective as well.
Can you share with us, your most precious memory from your days at campus?
The icing on the cake for me was surely taking my 1 year old daughter Dhwani around campus for the evening walks. Our house walls are still dominated by selfies in the Louis Khan Plaza!
Sir, how has life post IIM-A been? Do you think it lived up to the dreams you entered campus with?
Handing over a revenue positive start-up to my wife Sonia Singal who wanted to re-initiate her career post marriage and maternity break, was so special and maybe a great gift from PGPX
There was a lot more to this place which can’t be expressed in qualitative and quantitative terms. To me, IIMA was just a silent prayer come true. The campus had re-engineered me brick by brick.
Your piece of advice to the young CAs, MBA aspirants and incoming PGPs of today?
Never let the race get on top of your nerves.
I think your journey will be unique and where is the fun if you just end up as another one of those hundreds of management consultants, bankers and marketers?
Obviously, getting a great placement is important but try to make your campus experience as memorable as possible.
Imagine me pulling this off during T-Nite. Such opportunities can only be provided by a campus life!
Focus on relationships – sometimes we tend to get very transactional with people. Maybe that is also important, but at times, there may be no immediate and tangible outcome from speaking to someone, still it is important that you do so. Because trust me, just like in The Alchemist, in the long run, these strangers help you realize your ultimate destiny.
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