A Lawyer, A Miss India Finalist & now IIM-A - Meet Adya Niraj!
Updated: Jul 18, 2020
With the increasing popularity of the CA and commerce success stories we’ve posted so far, I keep getting requests (from lawyers) to share stories of other lawyers who chased their MBA dreams and made it to the big leagues.
Now keep in mind that very few lawyers actually give the CAT exam. Based on some ‘less than reliable’ sources, this number could be as low as 200-300. On the other hand, the combined number of CAs and B.Com students runs into the tens of thousands.
Shocking right? This figure surprised us too, given the million reasons a lawyer can go for an MBA.
So you can imagine how happy we are to introduce Adya Niraj from the legal fraternity who has been accepted into IIM Ahmedabad (2020-22). Adya is a 2019 pass out from NUSRL Ranchi and CAT 2019 was her first attempt.
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Nikunj: Hi Adya! It’s such a pleasure to have a fellow lawyer contribute to the website. First of all, congratulations on making it to the IIM Ahmedabad!
Adya: Hello! Thank you! It feels unreal even now. I guess there are only three of us lawyers at IIM-A this year.
Nikunj: So imagine that this was the IIMA interview! How would you (or rather how did you) introduce yourself?
Adya: My introduction was somewhat on these lines- I am Adya Niraj, a lawyer by profession. I graduated from NUSRL last year.
I won Femina Miss India Kolkata in 2016 and was one of the top 20 contestants in Femina MI 2016. Sadly, I couldn't win the top crown. I also have a Senior Diploma in Kathak (One of the interviewers made a remark here which I am unable to recollect). I then told him that after Miss India, I worked as a model with TFM Mumbai for almost a year where I got to work with some big brands like Amazon and Lakmé Fashion Week.
However, after a year I decided not to renew my contract because balancing my law school and modelling was a big hassle especially because of the huge distance between Mumbai and Ranchi.
Then I told them that these days I have been working as a faculty at TIME Ranchi coaching students appearing for the CLAT exam. I also take VARC and LRDI classes for CAT candidates.
Nikunj: Super interesting! So we keep hearing that CAT can be quite challenging for many in the non-engineering crowd. Was that the case for you as well and what advice would you give to our readers?
Adya: Well, I started preparing for CAT in June only after college ended. At that time I was as clueless as anyone and yes, the thought of cracking CAT was quite intimidating. There was hardly any content online or offline which suggested lawyer-specific strategies for CAT preparation.
Let’s just accept it, CAT is dominated by mathematical questions- two of the three sections require some serious quantitative and analytical skills. Given the pattern of the exam, any person without a background in mathematics would definitely get discouraged. On the other hand, non-engineers such as lawyers haven’t touched the subject for at least 5 years. So of course it can be challenging! But hey, fear not because you can still crack it with flying colours. Of course, it needs considerable and consistent practice.
After my five months of preparation, I was able to secure 96.69 percentile, which seems good for a first attempt but I never expected to get a call from IIMA based on this percentile. Maybe the stars were aligned in my favour as I did get a call in January 2020 *laughs*. See, the good part of having such a diverse academic background is that you get calls for interviews even at lower percentiles, unlike engineers who need to secure 99+ to be even considered.
Frankly, some of the top MBA colleges like IIM-A look out for academic diversity which means that the cut-off for a call can be significantly lower for non-engineers (especially lawyers). And once you get that call, the stage is set for you, my dear non-engineer friend.
Nikunj: I couldn’t agree with you more! Once you get the interview call, the interview itself can make-or-break your chances. Before we discuss your interview experience, is there any interview prep advice you’d like to offer to our audience?
Adya: As lawyers, I expect that you have an above average knowledge of current affairs and great communication skills. And, honestly, that plays a major role in cracking any B-school interview. One needs to come off as strong, confident and extremely competent.
So once you reach the interview stage, brush up your knowledge about your law subjects more than anything else because you most likely will be questioned on those in your interviews. This is especially true for freshers.
Since I have an integrated B.A. LLB. degree, I was also asked questions related to Economics and even English Literature in many of my interviews!
Again, I repeat, the interviewer will mostly ask questions related to the topics that you are claiming to be good at through your profile.
Nikunj: Haha! The pain of revising 5-years’ worth of subjects is too real. Of course, IIM-A interviews are known for their unpredictability. How was yours?
Adya: My interview was very interesting because the questions directed at me weren’t limited to any particular theme. I was asked a diverse set of questions on topics like Constitutional Law, International Law, Corporate and Banking Laws, Economics and current affairs. Adding to this, there were many questions related to my personal life and thoughts and beliefs.
One of the toughest questions I dealt with was, “Why do you think you can survive in IIMA?”. Sounds fairly simple in retrospect, but it caught me off-guard during the interview. I literally had to convince the interviewers that I won’t let my unusual academic background limit me in competing with my prospective highly competent batch-mates.
I believe that the only reason I was able to convince the interviewers was because I had successfully convinced myself that I deserved to have a place at IIM-A. In fact, even before you start your preparation ask yourself why you want to pursue an MBA degree.
Another thing which greatly helps is having a strong extra-curricular and co-curricular background. This works because then you have a lot of things to talk about to the interviewer and it definitely piques the interviewer’s interest.
Nikunj: The question on survival is pretty interesting. In fact, many non-engineering aspirants from under-represented backgrounds such as lawyers face this issue. They feel like their unique background will make them stand out a bit too much in B-school and make it tough for them to fit in. Any advice you’d like to share in this regard?
Adya: Well, there is an apparent belief that MBA colleges are almost unapproachable by non-engineers and that is why most people are discouraged to even think of pursuing an MBA degree.
But this is a huge myth. I mean, of course, I haven’t yet started my B-school journey so I don’t know exactly what challenges I am going to face due to my academic background. But I do know that being a non-engineer from a unique background makes my perspective more valuable. I’ll be better placed to contribute fresh perspectives to the peer learning process that B-schools are so highly regarded for. And, that’s why it’s a myth that non-engineers are worse off in either securing admission or performing well at a B-school.
Nikunj: I think that’s all the questions I have. Is there any final piece of advice you’d like to leave for our readers?
Adya: Ultimately, I don’t think there is any rule of thumb or set procedure to be followed to land in a good B-school. What is needed is that you are completely aware of your strengths and weaknesses; accept your weaknesses so that you could rise above them and sharpen your sword to fight the battle.
And trust me, as law students you may find the pattern of CAT unfair but, in reality it is not. The way most colleges select candidates levels out the field more or less. So, just be optimistic and start practicing those Math sums that you ditched five or even seven years ago. Who knows, you might even start liking them!
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Interested in learning about how to approach the CAT? Check out our Strategise the CAT series here!
The million reasons lawyers go for MBA!