Interview with Ashish Shetty An Indian Alumnus of LBS

Ashish Shetty born and brought up in South India currently heads Marketing for the Insurance Solutions Unit at Tata Consultancy Services. Last year, he graduated with an MBA degree from University of Hong Kong in partnership with London Business School. His vivacious personality and superb experiences, makes him stand out where ever he goes.

Go2BSchool Team caught up with him to share his valuable experiences at London Business School and University of Hong Kong. Here is the transcript, read and get inspired!

Go2Bschool Team: What is your background? Where did you grow up? From where did you do your schooling?

Ashish Shetty: I grew up in a small town called Udupi, located in coastal Karnataka and did my schooling there. I graduated as a Computer Science Engineer in year 2000. Soon after my engineering I worked for 1 year at a startup IT firm at Bangalore, and then moved on to work for a large Dairy company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in the IT field for another 2 years. I joined TCS in 2004, and spent 2 years in Amsterdam, Netherlands as a client partner and program manager for one of the large IT engagements, before the MBA bug hit me. Subsequently, I appeared for GMAT, took a sabbatical from work, and did an MBA specializing in Marketing, jointly with London Business School and University of Hong Kong in the year 2009.

Go2Bschool Team: Before doing an MBA, what were your roles and responsibilities? How have they changed now?

Ashish: Before MBA, my responsibilities involved managing relationships with large customers and program management. I aspired to do an MBA to get a wider industry exposure and develop some good contacts that would help me to move on to the next role and grow in my career. Post MBA, I am leading the gamut of marketing activities for one of the strategic business units of IT firm, TCS.

Go2Bschool Team: Being from an engineering background, what attracted you to do an MBA?

Ashish: Although I am from an engineering background and worked in the area of software development and program management, I always had an affinity towards business. So, from a purely technical role, I slowly moved towards techno-functional roles such as program management and customer relationship management in my pre-MBA career, before taking a jump at b-school.

Go2Bschool Team: Why did you opt for University of Hong Kong and why not IIM or any other B-school of India?

Ashish: Basically, I was looking for a 1 year international program and this school fitted my requirements. I believe in the Asian growth story, and looked for Asian universities to get the Asian exposure as I already had middle-east and European regional exposure in my pre-MBA career.

The best thing that attracted me to this program was the partnership program with London Business School and Columbia Business School. Moreover, Hong Kong University is a top ranking university in Asia and its MBA program is consistently ranked within to 50 in the world by Economist Intelligence Unit rankings.

Go2Bschool Team: Why didn?t you choose Columbia Business School since you had never worked in the USA?

Ashish: I preferred LBS brand more than the CBS. And I believe in India, LBS has a better brand recall than the CBS.

Go2Bschool Team: Can you tell us in detail about the HKU-LBS-Columbia partnership MBA Program?

Ashish: The three major Universities of the world called Columbia Business School, London Business School and Hong Kong University have a unique arrangement for MBA program, where the students spend 8 months in Hong Kong to study the core management subjects and then fly to either London or New York to study up to 5 electives at London Business School or Columbia Business School. This is different from an international exchange program as the student need not again apply for a seat in LBS or CBS and it is pre-determined at the time of admission itself. The students get full time permanent Alumni status along with career services at LBS or Columbia.

Go2Bschool Team: Can you tell us the general acceptable GMAT Score there and also your GMAT Score?

Ashish: The admission process requires you to write a GMAT and writing essays and recommendations according to the norms of any US or UK B School. The average GMAT Score they require is 650. My GMAT score was 720.

Go2Bschool Team: How was the interview round? Can you give some tips to the future applicants?

Ashish: The interview round is generally around statement of purpose they have written. They try to find out what is your overall objective of doing MBA. They want to check that are you serious in doing MBA or doing it just because everyone else is doing. They see if you have a clear goal and what you want to get out of this MBA. You have to convince them on your purpose of doing an MBA and you will make valuable contribution to the school as well as the future organization that you work for post MBA.

Go2Bschool Team: Did you visit the University of Hong Kong before you were admitted?

Ashish: No, I dint but I spoke to a few alumni there, some Indian alumni who passed out in the previous year. The University did offer me to visit their campus and check it out but due to job commitments I could not visit before actually going there for studies.

Go2Bschool Team: How many Indians were there in your class?

Ashish: The total class strength was about 60 students and we had about 12 Indians and about the same number of Chinese students who formed the majority. We had students from 11 different nationalities. So, it was quite a diversified class.

Go2Bschool Team:Your class had 12 Indians. Were they all engineers? Can you tell us about interesting backgrounds of 1-2 other Indians who were not engineers? Were there any women from India?

Ashish: Not all but majority were engineers. Only about 4 were engineers. There were 4 girls. Background of Indian students included- Captain of merchant Navy with 10+ years experience, there were people from Commerce background with banking experience, Family Business Owner, etc.

Go2Bschool Team: How many Indians from India at LBS?

Ashish: There were many. Even few of the top professors were Indian.

Go2Bschool Team: The major reason that proves to be a hindrance for Indians is finance to apply to top B schools. So, how did you finance your education in University of Hong Kong?

Ashish: The total cost of studying comes to around INR 30 lakhs. Majority financing was through bank loans and Indian nationalized banks. I also used my savings.

Go2Bschool Team: You spent 30 lakhs on your MBA. Which bank gave you the loan? Was it easy to get a loan? How long will it take you to repay this loan?

Ashish: Most nationalized banks give up to 20 Lakhs loan. I took from Canara Bank. Loan up to 4 lakhs does not require a mortgage or a guarantor. Loan from 4-7 lakhs needs a Guarantor. Any loan above 7+ lakhs needs both mortgage and guarantor. There is lot of paperwork involved. But the process is easy and standardized. It depends anywhere between 2-5 years.

Go2Bschool Team: What were the activities you were involved in London Business School?

Ashish: The foremost advantage of being in a top business school is the student community itself. It is very diverse and quite independently they do a lot of club activities that are quite professional. One event that I would like to mention is the Annual India Business Forum that they hold. It is a totally student led program which is done in a very professional manner. I was a one of the organizing committee there and it was a very good experience. It was a conference attended by several senior leaders in industry and Deputy Governor of Reserve Bank of India as one of the main speakers. The speakers also included top CEO’s from India. A lot of other club activities also take place that help students to meet other people there. Some of the projects like they have internship projects where students are asked to do a project for a real company and college will help you to develop contacts to get these projects.

Go2Bschool Team: You also took part in the Standard Chartered Banking Experience Innovation contest and you won it too. How was the experience?

Ashish: This is a competition that takes place in Hong Kong every year. It was part of the innovation and business creativity class. The topic of the competition was to design an Innovative Banking product or experience for Standard Chartered Bank, which would help increase its market share in the middle income segment. This required us to conduct a research study and submit a report, followed by a presentation of our findings and recommendations to a panel of judges and participants. We won the first place in this contest. We were a team of five people.

Go2Bschool Team: Can you give us a more details on your proposal in this contest?

Ashish: Our winning proposal to Standard Chartered Bank was about designing a one-stop solution for home loan. Most banks in Hong Kong focused only on providing home loan mortgage solution. Our recommendation to the Bank was to extend this to a complete end-to-end solution that not just gives loans but also helps customers in property search, background verification of property, clearing legal hassles, insurance etc that is involved in acquiring a property.

Go2Bschool Team: Can you give a sense of the % increase in pay after doing an MBA?

Ashish: It is close to 70%

Go2BSchool Team: What surprised you about University of Hong Kong or LBS that you did not expect?

Ashish: The kind of industry exposure and learning opportunity that was built into the curriculum was a pleasant surprise.

Go2Bschool Team: How was the experience at London Business School?

Ashish: The experience at London Business School was very enriching. Students learn from other fellow students as much as they do from professors. The industry and cultural backgrounds of the students are very diverse. In any class, one can easily find students from 20-25 countries. Student community is very active. They run a number of clubs that are very professional in the way they operate. Through these clubs, a number of networking events and conferences are organized and industry leaders are invited as speakers.

Go2Bschool Team: Would you consider living long-term in London or Hong Kong? Which would you prefer and why?

Ashish: Not at the moment. Because I see greater opportunity in India

Go2Bschool Team: Your advice to future MBA applicants?

Ashish: One thing that I would say is first of all MBA applicants have to be very clear on why they want to do an MBA and even if it means a wait of couple of years more, they should take time to think clearly of their objectives. They should go for an MBA only if they are sure about it. It is not that once you start the course you start thinking about it. Another assumption that most of the Indian people have is that just an MBA degree from a reputed Institute would result in landing in a high paying job, which is not true. It’s what you put into your MBA is what you get. In other words, it is not the end but the means of the MBA journey that is important.

Go2Bschool Team: What are your future plans Ashish?

Ashish: I consciously returned back to the IT Industry because I like this industry and I believe for the next decade or so Indian IT Industry has lot of potential for growth. I am glad that I have landed up in the Sales and Marketing role that I aspired for. In the coming years, I would like to expand my knowledge in this area and gain practical experience that would help me grow to next level in my career.

Go2Bschool Team: .Why did you return to TCS? Why not explore different companies? Does TCS make it more attractive to return after an MBA?

Ashish: Yes it does. It offered me the desired role and adjusted my designation, grade in recognition of the MBA and the Institution.

Go2BSchool Team: Thank You Ashish. It was very nice talking to you. Have a great day!

Ashish: You are welcome!

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