Sameer Kamat, founder of MBA Crystal Ball, Careerizma and Booksoarus. He is also a successful author of bestselling books ‘Beyond The MBA Hype‘ and ‘Business Doctors: Management Consulting Gone Wild‘. MBA Crystal Ball is a company he built on abject necessity to help streamline the MBA application process.
Though the goal is to help aspiring MBA candidates to prepare, form, and apply in a proven, necessary, and methodical manner, this process also helps all involved in the entire process. The thought leadership behind MBA Crystal Ball began some years ago when Sameer himself was an aspiring MBA candidate. Sameer faced fundamental challenges in accessing, processing, and presenting DATA in a coherent manner. Back then reputed MBA consultants were all based overseas and were available at high price points. Sameer managed the entire process independently, like his fellow candidates from across the country.
MBA studies is an expansive ocean, with panoply of institutes and universities offering courses across the globe. This is due to extreme demand and competitiveness. Many candidates were blown away in the whirlwind of competition where only ones with the most subtle, methodical, logical approach succeeded. Some affluent candidates sought expensive overseas consultants, on the whole the situation looked rather grim for the rest.
Sameer graduated from Cambridge in 2005, after which he started MBA Crystal Ball in Mumbai as a part time initiative. The purpose was to level the MBA playing field for international applicants. A few years went by for true potential of the venture to take shape. Sameer left his Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) job with ambition of focusing his energies full time towards his child, MBA Crystal Ball.
Sameer eloquently says “Our team is still very small. Though we haven’t spent a single rupee on advertising our services, our capacity fills up pretty quickly each season. But we know there are many more applicants who could use a helping hand. So, on our blog and forum we share a lot of ideas and strategies for free, to help folks who can’t afford professional consulting services. Our little way of giving back”.
Tennis Analogy: Advantage, All Stakeholders
It is not only the candidates who showed faith in this elegant process of ironing out the gratuitous creases in the MBA field. The firm has now featured admission officers of many top ranking business schools from across the world on the website. Sameer says, “This helps us connect the admission officers to our readers and add transparency to the evaluation process”.
MBA Consulting and MBA In India
Sameer tersely opines on the consulting and the very nature of MBAs in India as such, “The traditional 2-year Indian MBA program accepts applicants with little or no experience. With the limited real world experience to evaluate, there’s a much greater emphasis on competitive exam scores. That’s why test preparation is a huge industry in India. Admissions consulting doesn’t have much relevance for this applicant group. In the last decade, Indian B-Schools started offering shorter (1 year) MBA programs targeted at experienced candidates. With the evaluation parameters going beyond objective scores, applicants started seeing the value of MBA consultants”.
Sameer is well aware of the anomaly of non-emphasis on the broader or introspective topics our Under-graduation system is blind towards. He says “The applicants who approach us are also aware of the fact that their competition is not just within the extremely tough Indian applicant pool, but also with strong candidates from other countries”. Such gaping holes have created the necessity to fill the obvious void, and this has lead an increase in the awareness and value of what firms like MBA Crystal Ball do.
MBA Crystal Ball’s Process Down Into 3 Stages – Honesty, Flair, and Execution
It is natural for us humans to rig the game, when we face a steep cliff. MBA applicants do the same, says Sameer when they overestimate their potential. This is not so much because of the easiest choice, it is more so because of lack of choices. In an attempt to make their voice heard, candidates tend to exaggerate their accomplishments, bordering outright plagiarism.
MBA Crystal Ball’s motto is to help the candidates realise the real scenario out there, and help them build expectations and careers on reality rather than less informed ideals. Here is what Sameer has to say, “We try to be brutally honest with applicants and tell them if they are overestimating (or underestimating) their potential. Or if they are aiming for careers which may be out of reach even if they do manage to get into the elite programs. It also means turning down business when clients expect us to do something we don’t believe in (e.g. when it crosses our professional or ethical boundaries)”.
Presentation of candidates in all forms is the focus at MBA Crystal Ball. Sameer understands that it is not only what the candidates say, it is how they say. Sameer opines, “Our job is to help them find what that is and present it with flair, in a way that would be relevant and interesting to the application reviewer. Of course, none of our strategy related ideas would be helpful if they can’t be tied up well in the execution phase. Which is why all three aspects – honesty, flair and execution – are important in what we do”.
The Best Institutes In India
According to Sameer, in the traditional two year MBA space, the Indian Institutes of Management have carved a niche for themselves. The relatively new one year format has names such as the Indian School of Business (ISB), IIM-Ahmedabad (PGPX) and IIM Bangalore (EPGP) that have been in the Financial Times Top 100 MBA Rankings for several years.
MBA Mock Application Process
MBA Crystal Ball have an intelligent approach to this process. Before initiating formal processes, applicants are implored to read ‘Beyond The MBA Hype’. This presents candidates with the theoretical conundrums and the stark reality of everything entwined in the career of an MBA. Sameer says, “It’s a wake up call, especially for those who think an MBA is a magic pill to solve their professional and personal woes. Students who have practical expectations from the B-School, professors and the careers team are less likely to be disappointed once they start the MBA journey”.
The Planning Stages
This stage lays emphasis on the below aspects. At MBA Crystal Ball, all these aspects are given complete attention to detail during the M.A.P.
- Applicant’s Work Experience
- Post-MBA career goals (such as Industry, Role, Geography)
- Choice of B-Schools
- Course Format (1 Year vs 2 Years)
- Cultural Compatibility
- Financial Implications
- And several others
Here is how Sameer smartly summarises the predicament, “the concept is pretty straight-forward. Most applicants spend many months on their test preparation efforts. They take multiple mock tests before the actual test. However, when it comes to the application work (MBA essays), many assume that they can put in their best foot forward without any practice.”
Per MBA Crystal Ball, candidates tend to see an Essay as the only possible conduit to showcase every aspect of their lives. They end up squeezing too much information, rendering the authorities to rummage around for valid points within the ocean of information. Sameer says, “There are tons of things they could talk about in the application. Many applicants end up doing exactly that. They try to squeeze a lot of detail in the essays, ramble on in the interviews. However, the reviewer doesn’t have the time or patience for it. Ultimately the application strategy comes down to 2 basic points – prioritisation and presentation”.
A Resume casts the candidate in a single dimension, leaving a lot of aspects out. This makes the MBA essays one of the most impactful components in the application, as it allows applicants to differentiate themselves from the crowd. The essence of an Essay is to bring out a strong, credible and coherent storyline.
Sameer opines, “many non-native English speakers go overboard with the language and vocabulary. Language is important, no doubt. But it’s also good to keep in mind what the application is trying to convey. Apart from that, several applicants fail to address the essay question directly. Many write what they ‘think’ Adcoms want to hear”.
A high score doesn’t necessarily translate into a competitive advantage. MBA Crystal Ball helps candidates understand how adaptive testing works. The test is about ACCURACY and TIMING. Though the concepts tested are basic High School level Math and Grammar, getting a high score involves more than just a theoretical understanding. Sameer says, “The candidates shouldn’t burn out before the final test”.
MBA Crystal Ball’s repertoire includes providing invaluable resources and TIPS to candidates to prepare for the test.
On placements, Sameer says management consulting is top choice for MBA graduates as it is a remarkable way of learning the theoretical concepts and skills inculcated in the course. Consulting also exposes the consultant to numerous industries and business problems in a short span of time.
Sameer champions the value of an in-house, classroom trained courses against the advent of MOOCs and other easily available options. He says, “A full-time classroom based MBA offers an immersive experience that other forms of learning can’t match”.
Overall, Sameer’s challenges during his aspiring days as a candidate and through his years as a consultant, has made MBA Crystal Ball a one stop destination for candidates who seek to broaden their horizons to embark upon successful management careers.