This CA shares how getting an MBA accelerated his career and opened doors for him. Here's how he got it right.

The Finance Story

  • Hi, I am Vinay Tiwari, a Chartered Accountant and investment professional from India.
  • After completing my CA qualification in 2012, I worked for a few years but I wanted to broaden my world view & my network. Hence in 2016, I decided to pursue an MBA from ISB.
  • I'm sure you want to know how this decision accelerated my career? How did it help me in my future career? Did it give me an edge needed? Whether an MBA at ISB has all the bells and whistles, everyone says it does?
  • Here is my MBA story of How a Chartered Accountant made a case of doing an MBA and followed his dream of becoming an investment professional. 

From wanting to be an economist to becoming a CA

Growing up, I often did well in my exams but never dreamt of doing CA.

I always wanted to be an economist and was so obsessed with Dr. Amartya Sen that my first Facebook profile picture was of him. However, my father thought that CA would be a much safer career option and got me enrolled for the CA course from The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).

While pursuing CA, I developed a keen interest in concepts like capital budgeting, WACC, portfolio theory, etc. I also liked the multiple laws I got exposed to.

Surprisingly, CA was super easy for me and, as fate would have it, I cleared all the papers in the first attempt in 2012.

Establishing my career path

When I qualified as CA, I had no plan in place for a career, and I was not aware of the choices I had, so I went with the flow - I was quite sure that I didn’t want to be an auditor or tax advisor.

The ICAI provides campus placement, and I was shortlisted for interviews with a few companies one being Vedanta Resources Plc. Since it was one of the better companies, I took the offer and joined them.

This opportunity was in the beautiful state of Goa! I grew up in Jaipur, which is a Tier 2 town in India and I always loved Tier 2 towns over Tier 1, so this was perfect for me!

Here, I worked very closely with a board member shadowing him on almost all the strategic matters for the INR 25 billion business. I got a taste of all the functions, which come together to create the magic necessary for a successful business. I think it was a wonderful experience which gave me a lot of confidence and got me obsessed with helping and growing the business.

In 2014, I moved to Godrej. The opportunity with Godrej was amazing. Before the age of 24, I was asked to lead the finance function of the largest manufacturing cluster for one of the biggest FMCG companies in India.

This was based in Guwahati. I have always believed that you should get your hands dirty early in your career, so I moved to Guwahati!

I think I got lucky in terms of the work I handled, the kind of people I worked with and the friends I made there.

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Deciding to pursue an MBA after working for over three years

It was during my first job that the Director of our business, Mr. Amit Pradhan, told me that I could think beyond accounting and finance and can think of business as a whole.

He thought I could be a great overall business professional than just a mere finance expert! And suggested an MBA would be ideal for me; it would broaden my worldly perspective, put structure around my thoughts, and help me create a great network.

The Director’s suggestion of doing an MBA, got me thinking. I consulted a lot of people, and the general feedback was slightly positive towards an MBA.

An MBA at ISB and nowhere else

To ensure an MBA was beneficial for me, I set two conditions before making the decision: Firstly, I was to get an MBA before turning 27 (no logic behind this), and secondly, I will only do it at ISB (I was not prepared to leave India, and ISB was the best option).

Why ISB? MBA at ISB was a no brainer for me for the following reasons:

  • It’s a one-year program
  • Reasonably priced
  • Attracts a diverse set of people (by Indian standards)
  • It’s an Indian focused program, and I was not keen on leaving India
  • It has an excellent reputation
  • Decorated and supportive alumni base

Preparing for ISB admission through GMAT and getting selected

ISB accepts GMAT scores, so I applied for GMAT in July 2015.

I prepared on and off for almost four to five months, but the serious preparation was for 20 days when I regularly studied.

During this time, I was based out of Guwahati and worked as a finance lead (CFO equivalent) for a manufacturing cluster of eight factories. Coaching facilities were limited and my office schedule didn’t allow me to attend classes, so my entire preparation was based on self-study. My GMAT score was 720.

I only applied to ISB which was a huge risk.

As luck would have it, all things worked out, and I got accepted into the only business school I applied to.

Now with luck by my side, I was okay with taking a year break and was convinced that the benefits outweigh the cost of doing an MBA.

My MBA journey

My MBA journey began in April 2016 and ended in April 2017.

My classmates were super cool. They came from all walks of life, ranging from IB to consulting to start-up founders to bureaucrats to traders to ex-army leaders to the national level sportsman. And yes, all of them had prior work experience ranging from 2 to 17 years.

I think one year was extremely demanding - hectic but fulfilling. It was a roller-coaster ride and given the option; I would probably spend this one year again in the same fashion.

I would like to divide the entire journey into the first four terms and the last four terms:

  • During the first four terms, I was focused on academics, scored a perfect 4 CGPA (meaning institute rank 1), competing with few of the finest brains in the country.
  • In the last four terms, I was much more relaxed. I spent a significant amount of my time in the swimming pool, playing games, participating in a lot of case competitions.
  • In a nutshell, I learnt a little bit about relaxing and still being productive during the last four terms.

Despite my two lifestyles, I graduated with two of the three academic honors from ISB. I was placed on the Dean's and Merit List of ISB based on my superior academic performance.

After completing my MBA in July 2017, I joined HUL and fortunately, I didn’t start as a fresher...I was three years ahead of IIM graduates who joined with me!

So, all is well that ends well.

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Questions I get asked most often.

"Does an MBA really accelerate your career?" 

MBA opens many doors for you and helps you in making informed career choices. Where one starts, depends on a lot of factors such as the brand you are going for, field, and function you join. Starting salaries also depend on multiple factors.

My sincere advice is to NOT look at the outgoing salaries. Generally, the majority of your fiscal gains come after the age of 45 years.

Think of doing an MBA (or career in general) like a valuation exercise; try to maximize your terminal value, more than 70% of your monetary gains will come after the age of 45.

"How does one get selected at ISB?"

The Criteria for applying is quite basic:

  • they require a degree,
  • a valid GMAT score,
  • and the reason why you should be selected.

However, the application tries to portray your strengths by highlighting your work experience, extracurricular achievements, academic scores and other strengths that you bring to the table. And then you are selected from the pool of applicants for the limited sheets available.

The entire process from writing GMAT, to applying, to interviews and getting accepted and then submitting the token fees took five to six months. It was a great experience overall.

Also Read

MBA Series: How this CA took a break and decided to do a one-year MBA. And whether it was worth it.

"How was the interview process for you?"

The ISB interview is generally of one round conducted by a panel of alumni and ISB professors.

I prepared by speaking with a few friends, alumni and a counsellor who guided me through the entire process.

"Is getting funding hard compared to other qualifications?"

I think the difficult part is getting into a prestigious program. Funding is not that tough.

Once you get into a prestigious program, you will be bombarded with requests for taking loans from multiple banks at competitive interest rates. There are numerous scholarships available and the certainty of getting a good job after an MBA makes taking such loans relatively risk-free.

One can select from the number of options available such as scholarships, savings and competitively priced education loans.

"Why an MBA in Finance and Strategy, not Marketing?"

I never doubted that finance was my calling, and doing an MBA re-enforced that belief. Majoring in finance and strategy was the obvious choice given that I wished to have a career in investment in the long run.

I was also interested in marketing. In fact, I was just one course short of majoring in marketing. I was sure that I wanted to be an investment professional, and hence I decided to get a major in both finance & strategy.

"Who should pursue an MBA?" 

MBA is for anyone who is:

  • Interested in broadening their network: I probably have one or more alumni working in all the leading companies in India. If there is any stream/company/job that you wish to understand, just write an email to the alumni, and they will be willing to help. That is the power of networking.
  • Looking to broaden career prospects: Sometimes people don‘t know what exactly they wish to do. Many people try consulting jobs before they figure out their interests, at the same time consulting acts as a great launching pad. Sometimes people want to make a career in finance and the current qualification might not be useful. An MBA opens multiple doors for you and you have many options to choose from
  • Who wants to understand the broad framework in which businesses work: You start to understand and appreciate the role which various functions play in the success of a business. In your MBA, you study a lot of cases, based on real-life situations faced by business leaders. Understanding of various views helps a leader make more informed decisions.

If you find that any of these reasons apply to you, then you can consider an MBA. This doesn’t mean an MBA is the only option to do these, but it surely is one of the ways.

"When do you feel is the right time to pursue an MBA?

Management concepts, cases and discussions will start making more sense once you have some sufficient work experience.

I strongly advise anyone considering an MBA to get some prior work experience. 

Wrapping up...

It was during my time at ISB where I was convinced that I longed to be an investment professional for the rest of my life.

Most of your learning will come from engaging with your peers. Speaking with people from various walks of life has improved my awareness of various industries and functions.

I have surely grown more confident in terms of taking risks, as I am aware of the safety net of ISB around me. My thinking has become more structured and comprehensive.

It is a 'huge investment' so be sure if this is for you. You can extract maximum value from an MBA...if you have clarity of goals!

Now It's Your Turn...

Do you have a reason to do an MBA or are you doing it just because everyone else is? Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

(Article edited by Lindy Ntuli and image edited by Ankit Lodhi) 

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