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Admissions Director Q&A: Narottam Kishore of BITSoM

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We return to our Admissions Director Q&A with Narottam Kishore, the Head of Admissions & Outreach and Student Affairs at BITS School of Management, Mumbai (BITSoM). BITSoM is a new business school under the aegis of BITS Pilani, identified as Institution of Eminence by the Government of India.

Narottam has been at BITSoM for the past two years, leading admissions and outreach initiatives for the full-time MBA program. In his role as the head of the Student Affairs, he is responsible for overseeing student clubs, managing student activities, and promoting student learning and development outside the classroom. Prior to BITSoM, Narottam served in a leadership role at Indian School of Business (ISB), including in program management, business development, and admissions.

Read on for Narottam’s insights into the BITSoM MBA program, the hallmarks of its location, what to expect in admissions, and more.
To know more about the MBA programme at BITSoM – Click Here

Narottam Kishore, Head of Admissions & Outreach and Student Affairs, BITS School of Management, Mumbai (BITSoM).

Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

Narottam Kishore: At BITSoM, we put lot of emphasis on the development of leadership skills, which are included in our curriculum through the ‘Winning at the Workplace” courses.  While designing the MBA curriculum, we took feedback of industry leaders and we realized that they are not only looking for knowledge of core business courses but also looking for competencies such as presentation, communication, and critical thinking skills. In many of the business schools, leadership skills are taught through one or two courses. But at BITSoM, leadership courses run through the backbone of the entire program.

In addition, BITSoM’s MBA program integrates liberal arts into its curriculum. While knowledge of business is important, students need to see the link between business and society and therefore we offer experiential and immersive courses such as theatre, design thinking, and even the Indian Constitution. These courses focus on competencies essential to the workplace and help our students become a self-aware leader.

CA: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision?

NK: Once an application is submitted, our admission officers go through the application file and check whether the file is completed. Once the file is completed, our review team assesses the candidate’s application and decides whether to invite them for the interview. Once a candidate is shortlisted for interview, the admission officer forms an interview panel of 2 suitable interviewers. At BITSoM, all interviews are taken by either senior faculty/staff member or senior BITS Pilani alumni who receives specialized training on how to conduct MBA admissions interview.

Before each interview, interview panelists fully read the applications to get to know the candidate well. The objective of our interview is to have a conversation around candidate’s background, likes/dislikes, and strengths/weaknesses, etc. The interview lasts for around 30-45 minutes and after that panelists rate the candidate. The file is then moved to the admissions committee for discussion. The admission committee discusses about each candidate for a final decision. Once decisions are made, we inform the candidate.

It is important to highlight that this entire process may take up to 10 weeks during which candidates may reach out to our admission officer for any queries. Timelines of admission offer can vary depending on the admission rounds. We always mention deadlines and timings for decision on our website.

At BITSoM, our aim is to find the candidates who are best fit for our curriculum and know we can be a great partner to help them reach their full potential.

CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read an essay? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? What is one key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write?

NK: The essays are important component which help us understand the candidate better. While reading the essays I want to get a sense that I really know the candidate. Many candidates write what they think we want to hear and that’s the biggest mistake one can make. Each candidate is unique, and we are looking for their responses to the question.

We have two essays, the first is about their beliefs, values, and how you can enrich the cohort experience. It is a great time for candidates to tell their story. The best way to approach this topic is to do self-reflection first. For example, write out some bullet points about yourself hopes, goals, and leadership experiences. Once you identify them, you will not only answer the question well but also be succinct.

In the second question we ask applicants to share with us their most significant accomplishments or failure to date. Here also I recommend making sure that you not only tell us what you did, but also why it mattered and what you learned from that experience.

It is important that candidates present their true selves. We are reviewing many excellent applications, so it’s important that you stay genuine and do not try to be someone else.

We also have an optional essay, where you can share anything that is not covered in your application. You can explain a gap in you education, or any other experiences that helped you become what you are today. It can be very useful in knowing you better and understand your situation.

CA: Could you tell us about your interview process? Approximately how many applicants do you interview? Who conducts the interview (students, admissions officers, alumni) and what is the nature of the interview (resume-based, behavioral)?

NK: After application files are reviewed, we conduct interviews online for most of our candidates. BITSoM interviews are not a stress interview. We want to put candidates at ease and evaluate them in their areas of strength. The questions are largely behavioral in nature wherein the interviewers try to look for evidence of strengths or values mentioned by the candidate. The goal of the interview is to get the information that is most helpful and that complements the rest of the application.

The interview panel at BITSoM consists of two people – one person from BITSoM faculty/senior staff community and another from the corporate world which could be BITS Pilani alumni or others. Each interview is conducted for 30-45 minutes. Before the interview starts, the interviewer has access to the application pack of the candidate. Each interviewer makes notes and assess the candidate in each of the assessment criteria.

I would highlight that although interview is one of the components of your application, it is not the most important aspect of your application. It is just one aspect of the application, and candidate should not put too much emphasis on it. There is no single element of your application that will make or break your chances of getting an admission.

CA: What is your testing policy?  Do you offer exam waivers?  Why or why not?

NK: We do not offer any exam waivers for admissions to our MBA programme. We accept GMAT, GRE, or CAT scores. CAT (The Common Admission Test) is India’s national level entrance exam which allows MBA aspirants to get admissions into top management institutes in India.

BITSoM MBA programme is taught in a block teaching method and is intense academically. Therefore, we need to be reassured that candidates can handle the rigor of the programme and they are academically ready. That said, BITSoM follows a holistic evaluation process where we look at various components such as academics, aptitude test scores, extra-curriculars, work experience, essays, letter of recommendation, interviews, etc. The test score is one of the components of our evaluation process.

CA: Tell us briefly about two popular courses at your institution.

NK: Out of the many interesting courses, I would like to mention the two most popular courses at BITSoM: Advanced Marketing Strategy and Scaling Ventures.

The goal of the “Scaling Ventures” course is to provide a framework-based approach to the question, “When should organizations scale?” Professor Gad Allon starts by explaining the simple difference between growing and scaling. He then takes students through his “SCALE” framework, which comprehensively covers all relevant factors. The course also examines individual components in great detail, such as the economies of scale (demand and supply), constraints in the business model and environment, alignment of the organization, and leadership capabilities. As part of the course, students are assigned a business case study to determine a predictable path to profitability through construction of an ROIC tree. The course strikes an excellent balance between analyzing financial statements and understanding cultures. A common piece of feedback from students is that with every case study, there is a eureka moment at the end when Professor Gad Allon reveals the solution.

The “Advanced Marketing Strategy” course is taught by marketing expert Dr. Nirmalya Kumar, who has decades of teaching experience at schools such as HBS, INSEAD, LBS, and SMU, and was the strategy head of the TATA group in India for three years. He presents marketing and strategy as a cohesive element, and guides students through case studies that illustrate the strategic changes organizations undergo when altering their marketing mix. The course covers the need and methods for Indian brands to expand globally, the secrets of B2B marketing, the importance of sustainability, and a strategic approach to private labeling. He draws references from his seven bestselling books and business consulting expertise. He also covers the nuances of branding luxury products and how they communicate with the target consumers. The course is structured with multiple in-class exercises that involve qualitative and quantitative analysis, including new-age tools such as Google Trends. Students describe it as one of the best marketing courses, and that it has expanded their perspective beyond conventional thinking.

CA: As we learn to live with COVID-19, campuses have opened up and students are back. What about prospective students? Will they have the opportunity to visit campus? Will admissions interviews be conducted virtually?

NK: BITSoM complies with all Covid-19 related guidelines and protocols as specified by the government of India. Our students, classes, and activities form the heart of the MBA experience. We encourage prospective candidates to visit our state-of-the-art city campus to get a first-hand view of the BITSoM experience.

Prospective students can schedule a campus visit and join a small group campus where they can talk with current students and discover our diverse and collaborative culture. In addition, you can meet our admissions representative for a one-on-one profile evaluation session where they will go through your profile and discuss ways to present it best and answer any questions you might have. A vast number of admissions interviews are conducted virtually.

CA: Is there anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?

NK: Many candidates get intimated by the process of applying to their dream college. Use this journey as an opportunity to know more about yourself. Some people get intimated by the class profile and if they don’t match up to it, they do not apply. While average class profile of your target school may be intimidating, they are only statistics. We want to know more about you, not just your test scores.

We focus on your strengths, on your determination and your passion. We believe growth can be limitless in the right environment, and that we can build that environment through the right mix of an inspirational faculty and inspired learners.

We are looking for students from diverse academic and cultural backgrounds to ensure a vibrant peer-to-peer learning destination. Do not get disheartened if you don’t have great aptitude test scores. You are more than just your scores. We seek candidates who can benefit from our programme so that we can help them achieve their full potential.

To know more about the MBA programme at BITSoM – Click Here
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