Students Corner: Interview with Mr. Nimesh Kenia, PGP 1999

  • Could you please briefly describe your background, and why you had decided to pursue an MBA?

Ans: I was a commerce student, and a Chartered Accountant. However, I was sure I did not want to be in that profession – there were two main options for CA, Audit and Tax – but I wasn’t particularly inclined towards either. Some of my friends were giving various MBA entrance exams including the CAT, so I joined in. I hadn’t prepared much for the CAT. But thankfully. I got through the CAT and got calls from IIMs B and L. Apart from IIMB’s better brand equity, I liked Bangalore and so I joined here. In hindsight, it was not a decision that I had thought much about, it was an option chosen mostly through elimination.

  • Was there any particular field that you wanted to pursue after your MBA?

Ans: Given my background, I was always clear that it had to be Finance, but no specific areas within that. Most of us hadn’t done much research when we joined. When I began my first job out of campus at DSP Merrill, they told the new batch that none of us seemed to know what exactly we were getting into. What the job encompasses is something that we end up learning on the job. A batchmate of mine, who was also a CA, shifted tracks and went for a marketing role as his first job after MBA.

  • Please describe your life while on campus. What all activities and events were you active in?

Ans: I found some of my best friends here at IIM B. As a CA, I had never had to stay outside my home, compared to the engineers who had stayed for four years in hostels. I was independent for the very first time! I made lots of very good friends here – though we may not meet as often now, we do always look forward to having a drink and a laugh together.

The first two terms were mostly spent getting used to the rigmarole. It was only from our second year onwards that we began to explore the campus itself. Even now, at the reunion, some of us were discussing how we did not get to enjoy the campus as much as we probably should have. The first two terms were quite easy for commerce graduates and CAs, and the engineers had to catch up. Most of the subjects – Financial and Management Accounting, Economics, Organizational Behaviour, etc, were all easy for us. But by Term 3 and the second year, the engineers had become better than us and could actually teach us our own subject, so we had to keep pace! We would take part in a lot of activities in first year for building our CV, but eventually we realised what was important – if you like doing something, do it – don’t think too much about it, the learning will be good.

I was a part of the Students’ Academic Committee in my second year, and had also been involved in alumni activities in my first year.

  • What were your key takeaways from your time on campus?

Ans: On campus, we were put amongst the best in India, and probably among the best in the world. I made a wide variety of friends – some were teetotallers, some were nerdy, some were just like me while some were much smarter and more intelligent. That kind of diversity was amazing, you get to learn new skills from them you have never touched before. We all lived in a carefree, fairy-tale world, where we didn’t have to worry much about the world outside. Everything was a new experience – staying along for the first time, working closely with engineers. One could make the argument for studying at IIM economic, but it’s far beyond that. It was a completely different, yet friendly atmosphere, quite competitive yet not too much – while IIM A was said to be grade conscious, IIM B was more friendship and peer conscious.

The institute has helped in many fashions after graduating too. I am an investment advisor, and many of my clients are from IIM B – once you connect with them at the institute level, you will find that not many introductions are required.

  • Your batch was the one that kickstarted Unmaad. How would you describe that journey, and what was your role in it?

Ans: Unmaad was an engineer’s dream. Many of us had seen the popular cultural fests of IIT Bombay and IIT Madras. Our Cultural Secretary, Amardeep Malik, said we should have something like it too, and so we decided to start. Unmaad was like a baby. We had to fight for thousands and lakhs in sponsorship. We had to fight for almost everything, and as we proceeded, more people joined us. I was handling the accounts and finance side of things. All of us had this “karna hai” attitude. I don’t know if our efforts were appreciated by everyone, but we had a good time. What Unmaad is today is the result of incremental changes over the years – there is a huge difference in the scale we had achieved and the scale it is at now. It can definitely become even bigger. You could give credit to the 1999 batch for the initial thought process, for naming it and starting it. But since then, thanks to the efforts of future batches, the pace of growth has been revolutionary.

Our batch had actually started two things, Unmaad and IIMBIS, which was a panel discussion with people of various business fields – finance, IT, marketing etc – for the benefit of the students. It was not a money driven thing. The first challenge was to get the panellists, who were doing well in industry. We had to talk to the Director and the Deans to pull strings so that we could get them. The next challenge was that the Auditorium would not be full before lectures. I remember when one of the leaders of the IT Industry had come to deliver a talk, there were hardly 50-60 people in the Audi! Some of us went running around the hostel blocks to get people. However, when a leading instrumentalist came, there was no place to enter the Audi! That only showed that what you think people would like, and what people actually like, could be very different. You might do what you think is the best thing in the world, something you are very passionate about, but nobody else may care – people may not be interested. People just think differently. Just to think “I tried what I could, I did what I did” is a learning by itself.

  • What were your main learnings from IIM B?

Ans: I had many friends, who were engineers and understood numbers a lot, and were quite objective. After the MBA, they understood human behaviour as well. For me, IIM B helped me keep my mind broad enough, I realized that people could be very different, with very diverse thought processes. In my friend circle and with my clients, the name of the institute counts for a lot. Nobody can underappreciate the IIM B brand, the name and the network does help. The learning from the faculty and friends help you build character. My own character before and after IIM B is quite different. You get a headstart, a fact that needs to be appreciated enough. When you speak, people listen more because you are from IIM B.

My only regret is that I did not enjoy the campus as much as I should have. When I came here for the reunion, I just wanted to soak it all in.

  • What advice would you like to share with current students?

Ans: If you are not enjoying what you are doing, you are doing something wrong. Money, reputation and growth is important, but it all needs to be balanced out.

I am an investment advisor. Stock trading is like gambling, not a job for a genius. However, irrespective of how much I tell my clients to avoid trading, they still go ahead and Trade!  I now realize that some of the most important lessons are learnt, not through advice but by making the mistakes and learning it yourself!

The other important learning is that everything is relative. There is no absolute standard for anything, whether it is grades, behaviour, humour, etc.

  • Who would you consider your role model?

Ans: I don’t believe you can learn everything from just one person. It has to be from multiple people. Except those whom you know or have lived with, how much do you know a person? No role model!