Cape Town University campus life- Pranav Tandon shares his B-school experience
For Pranav Tandon, an alumnus of the Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, pursuing an MBA programme abroad opened a wide array of opportunities that they were not exposed to him earlier.
“The good part of GSB was that it limited its admission to only 80 a year which meant that we were 80 individuals from different walks of life, more than 30 nationalities and with different professional backgrounds. Thus I was exposed to the thought processes of people from different nationalities,” says the marketing professional who is currently looking after business development at Leapbridge Education.
In an interview with Careers360, Pranav talks about how studying abroad added value to his career, his active campus life at GSB, Cape Town and an exchange programme at the Kellogg School of Management in the USA.
Below are the edited excerpts:
Q. What was your initial thought process when you joined an MBA programme abroad?
A: I wanted to do an MBA abroad so as to experience the learning environment and expose myself to the thought processes of people from different nationalities. Like any other MBA student, I wanted to use this degree as a launching pad which could take me to positions that I couldn’t have got and simultaneously get a rounded knowledge on how to start my own business. This is what I had asked for and that is what I got.
Q. Can you please briefly tell us about your career path so far? Share your study abroad experience with us.
A: After graduating as a Production Engineer from VJTI Mumbai, I worked with L&T as an intern before joining Lehman Brothers as an analyst in June 2008. After the sudden bankruptcy of the firm, I was retained by Nomura, the Japanese Investment bank that took over the reins of Lehman in India, and worked with them for around 3 and a half years.
However, I wanted to explore further opportunities, especially in management. After much research, I decided to do my MBA from the Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, which is ranked 52 globally in FT Rankings. The programme was interesting as it gave me a chance to explore not one but two countries -- South Africa and USA -- as post my course I got a chance to do an exchange program at Kellogg School of Management in the USA.
Also, studying abroad gave me a whole new perspective in life. You see, meet people from all over the world and then there is exchange of ideas. There is a whole new world of information waiting for you.
After coming back to India, I started my LLP firm called Re-tel Energy which was based on the principle of converting waste vegetable oil into Biodiesel. I was not able to take the firm to where I would have wanted to, so I have kept it on the backburner. While I was struggling with setting up this venture, I got a chance to work as Entrepreneur in Residence at Wunderbar Kids Pvt. Ltd. which set the foundation of my present work at Leapbridge Education.
Q. How do you think your MBA programme abroad has added value to your life, both professional life and social/personal life?
A: Studying MBA abroad definitely adds value. However, the value is not always tangible. For some, it takes them higher in the career as they are able to jump a few steps in hierarchy and for some, it opens a wide array of opportunities that they were not exposed to earlier. For me, it did the latter. I feel that post MBA now, I have a liberty to experiment and try different things out with a guarantee that financially I would remain stable. This not only helps you in your professional life but also makes you at ease which goes a long way in developing your personal life. Socially you become more active as one thing that MBA definitely teaches is networking.
Q. Is the industry work different from what you learnt at B-school?
A: B-School gives you tools that depending upon situations you can apply in the industry work. As such it would be wrong to compare both. But yes, if an MBA does not provide you the exposure of how these tools are implemented under different situations then that MBA is of no use.
Q. Tell us about your domain and your work profile? At professional level, did you pursue the same field you were interested in or you switched your domain as you completed your MBA?
A: I would like to call myself a marketing professional but everyday I learn something new which makes me believe that I still don’t have a specific domain. The work that I do requires me to not only look after the marketing for my company but also be involved in financial and strategic decision making. This I feel is great for the overall development of me as a professional as well as an individual. At professional level, I have tried to work in field that I am genuinely interested in. Creating avenues of learning has always been a desire close to my heart and I am happy that through the work that I do, I am able to contribute, nurturing that desire. Pre-MBA, I was working as a Tech Analyst, so, yes, work wise I have had a considerable change in what I did before and after my MBA.
Q. From your experience, please share how did your internship experience help you at your first job?
A: I fortunately chose to do an internship in a firm which was small in size and thus gave me a lot of exposure on how the business is run. It helped me a lot as I was able to link things within separate functions, when I started working on a full time basis.
Q. You must have spent memorable time abroad at management school. Please share a few good memories.
A: During graduation, we are young and the enjoyment comes by exploring similar things together. B-School happens at that stage when you are aware of your priorities and know where you are heading. As such, the time spent at B-School, even though, is focused, but is fun because you feel that you are taking a constructive step towards achieving your goals. I definitely miss those days at GSB where every now and then a new business idea used to take shape and with all gusto and energy we used to brainstorm days in an out on trying to figure out how it can be made into a sustainable and workable solution.
Apart from these, the other highs include partying with friends, going on mountain trails, trips and participating in competitions that one could only experience in a B-School abroad. A few things that I can’t forget in GSB are the Sunshine Day where we all partied all night with one goal to stay awake and see the sun from top of the mountain or the 3 Peak challenge where we had to complete 3 peaks of South Africa’s table mountain one by one.
Another thing that we did in Chicago in -30 degrees was to jump in the frozen lake to raise money for a cause. These and other incidents will always remain close to my heart and I will cherish these memories till the end of my life.
Q. Briefly take us through your life at the campus, both academic and non-academic life in South Africa?
A: The full time MBA was 11 months long and was structured around 11 compulsory core courses designed to address the fundamentals of management. The workload was incredible, but as I progressed I realised that is more about managing oneself, so that you use the time you have to the optimum. I used to spend most of the day in school attending lectures till lunch time, post which I was involved in group discussions and assignments.
Apart from the usual academics, I used to go for a run around the coast for good one hour before preparing my dinner and talking to the family. Usual hangouts over the weekend and also during the weekdays, networking activities, clubs, sports etc were a few other things that I was involved in.
Q. What is the best part of this B-school from a student perspective?
A: The best part is the varied class size. The good part of my B-school was that it limited its admission to only 80 a year which meant that we were 80 individuals from different walks of life, more than 30 nationalities and with different professional backgrounds. The discussions that used to happen in the classroom were varied and used to throw up so many perspectives of one situation that at the end of the day mind used to feel fulfilled. The kind of satisfaction that I used to get after any lecture was over, is something that I haven't experienced in my previous educational life.
Q. Tell us one of your B-school student life secrets, which can be shared with the future aspirants?
A: There is no secret as such, but I guess if one spends more time in implementing ideas while doing an MBA rather than just trying to pass exams that would be better in the long run. During the MBA, you get a pool of talented people along with some brilliant professors which is a difficult combination to find once you start working. As such I would recommend one to form groups and work towards a larger goal of creating something that could help you post your MBA.
Q. Any suggestion/guidance for your future MBA aspirants?
A: MBA is a once in a lifetime opportunity. One should not bog oneself down in only doing assignments, but should spend most of the time in learning as much as you can. This is time to develop networks and forge relations that last for a lifetime.