Lights, Camera, MBA! ft. Sandeep Rajguru, IIMA
Updated: Jul 18, 2020
No producer, no movie.
No resolve, no results.
Life does not come with a handbook, no matter how much we might (or might not) want it to. Venturing into a new field sounds daunting and difficult to many of us. However, this was not enough to hold Sandeep back!
After completing his bachelor’s in Media & Communications and spending a considerable amount of time working as a video producer, he decided to take the CAT. Having dropped maths after the 10th grade itself, it was not really surprising when the interviewers grilled him about it.
Adopting a calm yet firm approach throughout an interview usually works, even with the toughest of interviewers/recruiters. Read on to find out how it played out for our today’s contributor!
*Lights, camera, action! *
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10th – 84.85 % (ICSE) | 12th – 83.4 % (CBSE) (Commerce)
CAT percentile: 98.07
Bachelor’s in Media Studies (BMS) – 3.008/4 CGPA
Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune
Work ex: 29 months
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous while waiting for my name to be called. I was moments away from what could be a career-defining interview. I was through with my AWT - my mind racing to reassess the arguments I had put forth. Were they well presented? Could they withstand scrutiny? Had I mixed up my it’s and its?
As it often happens with me in such situations, after a few minutes of drawing up imaginary blunders, I sat back and laughed at myself.
Over the next half an hour, I got to know a little about the other aspirants in my group. These were IIT toppers, GATE rank holders, National Level athletes and others of such ilk. The humility and passion with which they spoke about their journeys filled me with extreme positivity. This is where I want to be, I resolved
Soon after, I was called in.
P1: So Sandeep, tell us about yourself? (even before I had pulled out my chair)
SR: Good morning panelists! So glad to be here. I would like to talk about it in detail if that’s okay.
(I was clearly taken aback and clearly not making any sense. Both panelists gave me the blankest look you can imagine.)
P2: Go ahead.
SR: Sir, I am a media and communications grad from Symbiosis where I specialized in audiovisual communication. Throughout my childhood, I had grown up on a steady diet of films and novels and my passion for stories is what pushed me to pursue a media education.
I have lived in 7 cities so far, and frequently moving from one place to another taught me to connect with diverse people with different cultures and mindsets, and I am grateful for the array of experiences such a path has exposed me to.
From 2016 onwards, I have been working as a producer, taking up both corporate as well as freelance roles. Last year, I realized I wanted to understand and contribute to business functions such as strategy and marketing, and that’s why I want to do an MBA.
P1: What kind of films did you watch growing up?
SR: I was a huge Shah Rukh Khan fan, so a lot of his films. Till I was in 10th standard, we did not have a computer at home, so my options were limited to the films which played on cable TV - and that consisted of a lot of old Bollywood films and popular international films like Harry Potter.
I remember Harry Potter used to be a regular feature on CN and Pogo, and I never missed the chance to see those films. I think I must have seen the first three movies at least 50 times. (smiled widely)
P1: And what kind of books did you read in your childhood? (smiling)
SR: My primary source of books were my school libraries, and most of the collection was pre-20th century. So I got my hands on all the available Western Classics there- a few titles which I remember fondly are David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, Huckleberry Fin, and Wuthering Heights.
P1: Why did you move around so much?
SR: Sir, my dad works as an engineer and in his career, he took up many different projects with different companies all around India, hence the multiple moves. I am actually glad it panned out that way.
P1: Okay. So tell us, can India become a 5 Trillion Dollar Economy in the next 5 years?
SR: I believe it’s unlikely that we will be a 5 Trillion Dollar economy in such a short period of time. We are currently a 2.7-2.8 Trillion Dollar economy and even assuming we grow at an extremely optimistic 7.5% growth rate each year, we will be short of that target by quite a bit. (expanded more on recent economic slump and policies which have affected growth rate in the last few years)
P2: So you must have followed the Union Budget which came out yesterday. What do you know about it?
SR: (Spoke about key highlights from the budget- Income tax slabs, LIC IPO, allocation to investment in key sectors, Bank Deposit Insurance Cover, etc.)
P2: So you have been talking a lot about investment and spending. Is there a difference?
SR: Yes, sir. With respect to the budget, when the government expects to actively promote growth in any sector and expects a tangible return- that is investment. However, in the case of spending there is no such requirement. For example, farm loan waivers, cash subsidies etc.
P1: Alright. If IIM Ahmedabad wanted to improve its rankings, what should it do?
SR: If rankings in India are concerned, IIM A is already at the top in all lists. If we consider global rankings, then perhaps one needs to see the criteria the colleges are being ranked on. Let’s say if the parameters are infrastructure, placements, faculty, brand perception, etc. then we need to find out in which criteria can the college do even better.
However, I’d like to say that the criteria and assessment for a set of such rankings are going to be diverse, so there will be a variation in the results irrespective of the approach.
P2: Hmmm. Let’s talk about media and ethics. Do you think Indian media is ethical?
SR: I think there are some major players in the Indian news media that are not ethical. In fact, I would say a majority of news media especially on television is biased.
P2: Do you think media should be neutral, then?
SR: Sir, journalists have always had a certain political leaning, but what is shocking is the lack of accountability which media houses can get away with these days. Lack of research, sensationalized debates and communalization of events are key personality traits of many new channels and this trend only seems to be growing.
There are a handful of initiatives like Alt News which try to fight these issues in media but the numbers are too few.
P2: And why do you think so many media houses are unethical?
SR: I think a very significant reason is strongman power which has been the flavour of National Level politics for quite a few years now. (provided examples of how I experienced it as a media professional myself)
In the last decade, India has slipped more than 35 ranks in the Press Freedom Index. And perhaps, for a lot of media houses which are also businesses at the end of the day, it is easier to be populist than challenging the status quo.
P1: Okay. Tell me who were the first five Presidents of India?
SR: Rajendra Prasad, Radhakrishnan...(took a pause)
SR: Sir, I am sorry I am unable to recall all the names. I will definitely look this up after the interview.
P1: Who else should be on that list? Atal Bihari Vajpayee? (mocking tone)
SR: Sir, No. Mr. Vajpayee was our PM much later. I’m sorry I will learn about it.
P2: Okay tell us who is the PM of US?
SR: (a little taken aback, I was sure there is no PM in a US Government but didn’t want to take a risk)
I am not sure about that position in the US Government, but I will have to check to confirm.
P2: What about the President of UK?
SR: Sir again, I am not sure about that position in the UK parliament. I will have to check to confirm.
P2: And who is the PM of UK?
SR: Mr. Boris Johnson
P2: What do you think are the three biggest problems facing the world today?
SR: Climate Change. Rise of Extremist Politics. Poverty. (expanded further on all three)
P2: And on a scale of 1-10, how optimistic are you about these problems being solved in the next ten years?
SR: Sir, the scale of these problems is so huge that it requires unified international co-operation and political will to tackle. And even if everything is absolutely perfect both in terms of strategy and execution, 10 years is too short a period to solve these problems. So I’d have to say 4/10.
P2: That’s the best we can do, you think?
SR: Yes, Sir. That would be the best-case scenario (spoke more about the difficulty in aligning economic interests with environmental interests, the rise of right-wing regimes all over the globe and the systemic causes of opportunity gaps and compounding inequality)
P1: Okay, tell me what is the probability of the sum of three fair dice being 100 if rolled once together?
SR: (after a pause) Sir, 0.
P1: Probability of 20?
SR: 0 again.
P1: What about 11?
SR: That’s a longer calculation. I’ll need to use a pen and paper.
(P1 forwards pen and paper)
SR: (After about 30 seconds, I realized that my method was way too long and it wasn’t possible to solve it easily) Sir, I am unable to remember an efficient approach to solve this. I understand the logic (explained it) but the calculation is time taking by this method.
P1: How are you going to cope with the mathematical rigour at IIM Ahmedabad?
SR: Sir, I had dropped Maths after 10th standard because I was sure I wanted to be in the media industry and didn’t think that I would need Maths from thereon. Of course, that has changed now. But that also means that CAT 2019 was the first time I was solving Math problems in 9 years. And I think the results reflected my hard work.
As far as dealing with the Mathematical rigour, I have already signed up for a few courses in Stats, Probability and Calculus on sites like Coursera and Udemy. And I will give my 100 % to be ready.
P1: Do you have any extracurricular achievements?
SR: (Mentioned playing Junior baseball at State Level in Maharashtra. Was the head of a film festival organized by Symbiosis. Credits for independent short films.)
P1: What do you know about Dandi March?
SR: It was a protest March lead by Mahatma Gandhi against the levying of taxes on salt by the Britishers. Bapu believed that salt was a basic necessity and should be accessible to every citizen of the country. The sentiment found enormous support with the public and lakhs of people joined the march.
P1: Where did the protest start and where did it end?
SR: Sir the protest culminated with Mahatma Gandhi breaking the salt law and making illegal salt in Dandi. I’ll need to check what the starting point was.
P1: Did it start in London? (mockingly)
SR: Of course not, Sir. It was in India. I will need to check the starting point.
P1: Last question, what is the story behind your surname- Rajguru?
SR: Sir, actually 4 generations ago our surname used to be Mohapatro. At that time, my great-great-grandfather used to work as an advisor for a regional king in Odisha. Towards the end of his tenure, the king pleased with my great-great-grandfather’s service conferred the title- Rajguru. It translates to the teacher of the king. So that’s the story.
P1: Very interesting.
SR: Thank you, sir! (smiling)
P2: That will be all we think. Take a toffee!
SR: Thank you so much. Just one thing, I am sure I will be able to deal with the Mathematical rigour, Sir. Good day!
Verdict - Converted!
Unlike most people, I didn’t want to keep the toffee as a souvenir, so I just popped it in my mouth. It had been years since I last ate an Éclair.
After a few minutes of discussing the interview with the other aspirants, some of us decided to explore the campus.
All of us just had one thing on our minds- was this going to be our only afternoon at this historic institution or the first of many?
Luckily, it turned out to be the latter.
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