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  • Writer's pictureSimran Somani

What an MBA from IIM-K after CA looks like!

If you are an MBA aspirant and have a Quora account, this man needs no introduction.

Akshay Sirsalewala is an MBA from IIM-Kozhikode (2018-2020) and a Chartered Accountant. He has cleared all levels of the CFA and FRM examinations. He was a member of the Public Relations cell at IIM-K and interned with PwC US Advisory as a management consultant where he received a PPO.

Also, did we mention that he is an absolute delight to read?!

As a part of our CA+MBA series, we reached out to Akshay to get answers to some very pertinent questions. We believe these insights are invaluable to CAT aspirants and incoming PGPs.

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!

Let’s dive right in!

1. How did a CA + MBA add value to your profile?

Since we’re already familiar with the common value adds such as placements, I want to talk about two supremely essential points here:

a. Opportunities to network-

My team finished in the Top 3 position in a D2C case competition. Thanks to it, I got the chance to be on National TV (CNBC) and also interacted with the APAC Region Director of that company for close to an hour. This is just an example. There are 100s of such competitions and lectures by eminent personalities on campus. The opportunities to interact with industry leaders is just amazing!

b. Grooming and learning how to present myself-

In my entire 5-year CA prep, I would have spoken publicly twice (baring GMCS). In an MBA, you literally do more than that in a single week! This is a vital skill. I remember being selected to represent my class in front of 1st year and 2nd-year students in the 1st two weeks of my MBA. When I came on stage, I actually panicked a bit! Cut to 6 months later, when I spoke in front of 100+ faculty members and students during our Republic Day celebrations - I was way more confident and calmer.

2. Do you think attempts in CA Final will affect an aspirant’s MBA chances?

IT DOES NOT MATTER! (Terms & Conditions apply)

I cleared my CA Final in my second attempt. As you can probably imagine, I was quite worried that my “second attempt” could pose a problem during the interview stage. I was wrong! Nobody questioned me about it – Not even once! Even during final/summer placements, not a single company asked me about the no. of attempts.

Rather than attempt, rank matters! CAs are divided into two sections - rankers and non-rankers. The attempts will not be a significant differentiator as long as it is a decent number.

It could, however, be problematic when you have appeared for the exam 4–5 times or more. This shows a massive GAP on your CV of 2+ years and you can probably expect some tough questions coming your way.

3. IIM-K specifics! How many CAs are the general intake at IIM-K?

The trend I see in IIM Kozhikode is heartening! The number of CAs has increased from 5 in the 2018-20 batch, to 12-13 in the 2019-21 batch to around 20 in the 20-22 batch. I would attribute this to 2 things–

1. Increased awareness in the CA community about MBA; and

2. The changing perception of IIMs about the value of CAs.

Their profiles are actually quite good. Most fall in either of the three categories – CA/CFA, CA rankers, or CAs with 2-3 years of solid work experience.

Out of the 5 CAs we had in my batch, two were CA+CFA/FRMs, and one was a ranker.

Coming to placements, most CAs end up in either of these 3 profiles – management consulting, investment banking, or Corporate Finance roles. Last year, we had a couple of PEs recruiting for the first time on campus and one CA was lucky enough to be placed there.

4. How do CAs fare / what we should work on compared to our engineering peers?

When it comes to placements, CAs fare much better. A lot of it has to do with demand and supply. Compared to 350+ engineers, CAs are extremely rare. Suddenly we are the apple of everybody’s eye.

We also have a slight edge on the academic front because we have already studied many of the subjects before. In every term, there were 2-3 subjects where I would just sail through.

However, there is one skill which is terrific in an engineer – the ability to work on the last day and nail the exam. It’s sheer madness! For the same time my roommate (Shout-out to Vaibhav Gauhania) and I studied, he would invariably score more. Their ability to decipher what is important and study accordingly is amazing. Thanks to the unpredictability of final CA, we CAs tend to study almost everything that is taught!

5. How did you decide if an MBA would be “worth it”, especially when you consider the RoI?

When I got my admit from IIMK, I had a 7-figure salary so it was not really an ‘obvious’ decision.

After doing my MBA, however, I realize that we see ROI in a very restricted manner. One shouldn’t forget the other ‘non-monetary benefits’ an IIM stint gives you - 2 amazing years of hostel life, cherished memories, learnings in the classroom, and exposure through case competitions! These are things I just cannot put a price tag on.

I even got shortlists from companies that would have never called CAs for an interview. The ‘IIM stamp’ makes things leagues better.

6. Any electives at IIMK that should not be missed (this could be general or CA perspective)?

Interesting question. I’d like to say that this is very subjective. Pun intended.

The choice of electives depends on what the individual is looking for. As someone who wanted to make a career in consulting, I choose a healthy mix of all subjects from strategy to finance to even IT! There are a couple of electives which are universal favourites – Globalization by Professor A. F. Mathew (the man, the myth, the legend), Competitive Strategy through Poker by Professor Deepak Dhayanithy, and Operations by Professor Arqum Mateen (Informative and extremely funny).

7. What should CAs do before starting their B school journey – Both CAT takers and Incoming PGPs.

I have worked on the CVs of almost all the CA juniors at IIMK. In my experience, the majority of them had 2 things missing – Positions of Responsibility and Extra-curricular activities. Needless to say, attending a 1-day seminar or fulfilling GMCS requirements should not be mentioned on your CV.

Consulting shortlists are the exception here and your extracurriculars are very crucial. You could build your profile by indulging in any activity you like – blogging, teaching, volunteering, etc.

I would urge the aspirants to fill this void. It may not be a make or break point but will definitely differentiate you from the others.

All the very best for CAT 2020 and your first year at B-School!


To stay in the loop for more tips, tricks & experiences from amazing people like Akshay, subscribe to this blog!

More from our CA+MBA series:

Want to know what an MBA from IIM-B after CA looks like? Check it out here.

An MBA from IIM-C after CA looks like is linked here.

Interested in learning about how to approach the CAT? Check out our Strategise the CAT series here!

For more CA tailored content, check out:

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