For our success stories segment, we interviewed Ritika Moolchandani who is a first year student at MICA, Ahmedabad. Ritika was our classroom student and converted MICA. In this candid interview, Ritika talks about her preparation journey, her background and interests, and gives a sneak peek of what life is like at MICA.
I was born in brought up in Dubai, spent 18 years there before I moved to India for my higher education. I completed my Bachelors in Business Administration (B.B.A.) with a double major in Corporate Management and Accounting and Finance from Symbiosis International University, Pune. After my graduation, I worked for three and a half years with a research and consulting firm called Great Place to Work® Institute, India, where my primary responsibilities included business development, managing brand communication, event management and client acquisition. My work experience allowed me to understand the nuances of the corporate sector and experiment with a myriad of responsibilities which helped me understand my future outlook better and led me to pursue a post-graduate degree in marketing.
Tell us about your extra-curricular achievements and hobbies
Writing has always been a keen interest and I’ve used the opportunities available to me throughout high school and my undergraduate institute to nurture this interest. I undertook a course on creative writing from Xavier Institute of Communications (XIC), Mumbai, participated in several essay writing competitions, was the founding member and editor of the annual business magazine published by my institute and a member of the yearbook committee. During my work tenure, I pursued this interest to launch the organization’s first blog which featured interviews of some of the leading professionals in corporate India. In addition to this, I have worked closely with different NGOs in the education sector and conducted a series of marketing competitions and events at Symbiosis.
When did you decide to do MBA and why? When did you start your preparation?
During my final year at Symbiosis, I was convinced that I wanted to pursue an MBA sometime in the future but I wanted to apply the skills I had acquired throughout my undergraduate degree before jumping into a post-graduate degree directly. After working for a year and a half, I decided to start preparing for my MBA. I loved the work that I was doing and felt that an MBA would help me channelize the skills that I have acquired for the next phase of my career. I didn’t clear the MBA exams during my first attempt, and by the time I joined MICA, I had worked for almost three and a half years but in hindsight, the perspective I gained through my work experience has enhanced my understanding immensely during my course.
Did you join any coaching institute? Do you think coaching is required?
I had joined the classroom programme by Learningroots. I genuinely believe that coaching is an important part of your preparation because your mentors are the ones who have been there, done that and are able to guide you during your preparation journey. Coaching helped me strengthen my basics and build on my strategy for the exams. Some of the methods I learnt in class helped me gain an edge over my peers. As an individual, I also think it helped me stay disciplined throughout my preparation journey and work towards my goals.
How many months did you prepare for? Can you take us through your schedule?
During my first attempt, I prepared for about 5-6 months but managing my time effectively is something that I struggled with. For my second attempt, I started preparing in April 2016 and studied every day for about 2 hours. Since I was working, I would prepare either during the morning or evening. I also spent my lunch breaks and any other spare time at office revising formulae or looking at important sums. I tried to have a target in my mind for each week – in terms of the topics that I intend to cover (across all areas – QA, VA, LRDI and GK) and tracked my overall progress. From September to December, I was on leave and utilized this time to take mocks and fine tune my test taking strategy. This flexibility allowed me to work on my weaker areas. There were times where I felt I wasn’t being able to stick to my planned schedule but I kept at it, and eventually it fell into place.
What material did you use?
I used the classroom material shared by Learningroots in addition to some textbooks recommended by my mentors, especially for Quant. In addition to this, I took a series of mocks from different institutes and test providers for each of the competitive exams that I attempted. I also focused on GK by enrolling in the Learningroots GK course, reading the comprehensive compendiums and tested my knowledge through the GK tests. For MICAT, I used to read afaqs!, Campaign India, ET Brand Equity which helped me immensely for the GK section. Since MICAT has a story writing section, I would read a few short stories by P.G. Wodehouse during my free time to prepare myself to be able to think on my feet during the exam and write a story.
What were your strengths and areas of improvements during preparation and mock phase?
Verbal was always a dormant strength, but I needed to work on my strategy to improve overall accuracy during the test. Quant, LR and DI were major areas of improvement for me which I worked on by taking multiple mocks and sectional tests. The mocks and tests helped me gain exposure to different types of sums and helped me understand the kinds of sums I should be attempting during the exam and identify the kinds that are best left untouched.
Can you elaborate your preparation a bit?
In addition to classroom and textbook practice, I ensured I took a lot of mocks during my second attempt. I started with 1-2 mocks a week and increased the frequency to up to 4-5 mocks a week when the tests were approaching. I spent a significant amount of time analyzing my mocks, noting down my mistakes (maintaining an error log helped me during the final stages of my preparation) and capturing important sums for revision. I developed a structured approach to analyzing my mocks with the help of my mentors and this was probably what made the difference during my final attempt. I maintained an excel sheet with my scores which also helped me identify a pattern over a period of time to understand that I needed to focus on my accuracy throughout the sections in different tests.
Can you tell us more about the MICA process?
CAT/XAT/GMAT is a pre-requisite for MICA. In addition to this, MICA has its own test known as MICAT, which is followed by a rigorous Group Exercise (GE) and Personal Interview (PI). The MICAT is a unique test which consists of 6 sections: Psychometric, Verbal Ability, Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation, General Awareness, Divergent and Convergent Thinking (a.k.a. Logical Reasoning) and Descriptive Test. Out of all the exams I wrote throughout the season, MICAT was probably the most interesting exam! After the MICAT, candidates are shortlisted for the Group Exercise and Personal Interview.
Prior to the process, candidates are required to submit a brief statement of purpose and application form which seeks personal, professional and academic information, along with details about certifications, hobbies, extra-curricular activities, likes and dislikes. It is a brilliant opportunity to showcase what one has done to the panelists and talk about it during the interview.
The process starts with a Group Exercise, which unlike Group Discussions tests your abilities to develop a creative solution to an assigned problem. This problem could range from developing advertising and communication campaigns to understanding how to pacify customers in an airplane which has been delayed for hours. Candidates are given the exercise, time to brainstorm and stationery to devise their final solution and present it to the panel. After this, each candidate has a personal interview which is usually a conversation about oneself, likes and dislikes mentioned in the statement of purpose, favourite brands and campaigns. Interviews can differ from one individual to another – some of my batchmates have had extremely technical, stress based interviews, whereas mine was centered on my experience and interests.
Why did you choose MICA?
I chose MICA because of its focus on Strategic Marketing and Communication. Over the years, it has built a niche position for itself among the premier B-Schools in India. It is the only school in the Asia Pacific region that offers a post-graduate diploma in strategic marketing with focus on advertising, brand management, digital communication and analytics. Over the years, the alumni from MICA have carved positions for themselves in the fields of advertising, marketing and brand management. The curriculum at MICA is also radically different from other schools. Since the focus is on marketing, we study subjects like Semiotics, Imagining India, Sports Marketing, Culture and Communication, FMCG Branding. These courses are delivered by renowned industry experts from organizations like Nielsen, Royal Enfield, Sony Pictures Networks, Ogilvy and Mather, Procter and Gamble among many others. The rigor of the course coupled with the academic focus and pedagogy ensures a well-rounded -analytical and creatively anchored marketing manager.
MICA encourages you to love what you learn and indulge in the whole process. The larger emphasis on what you are able to gain from your peers and the institute over the two-year period. The institute encourages and moulds the creativity within you and shapes you in a way which lets you apply this creativity in business contexts. MICA also has a beautiful campus and MICAn traditions – known only to those behind the red brick walls are something that we cherish a lot!
Any tips for applicants?
The journey to an MBA is long and enduring and needs a lot of persistence – what you take away from it is dependent on your outlook and willingness to learn. I learnt a lot during this phase and I think at the end of it, the journey matters a lot more than the final outcome.
What are your future plans?
In the future, I see myself as a brand communications manager or a digital marketing manager for a leading FMCG or E-Commerce brand.
It was great talking to you, Ritika! We wish you all the best! Thanks! 🙂
End of interview.