Anirudh Swaminathan | IIM Ahmedabad Interview Experience
Updated: May 4, 2020
Grad: 72.5% - CA (Final)
CAT'18: 99.79 percentile
Work-Ex: 2 years (ABG)
Date & Venue: February 15, 2019 & The Orchid, Mumbai
Panel: 2 male professors (one Senior Prof (P1) and one Junior Prof (P2))
P1: Good morning Anirudh! We see that you are a CA. What have you been doing post CA?
Me: I have been working for the Aditya Birla Group as part of their Finance Leadership Programme.
P1: Oh nice! Did you get a rank in CA Final?
Me: (I generally feel uncomfortable when talking about this and this was evident in my ears turning scarlet) Yes Sir. I got a rank in CA Final.
P1 (with a quizzical look on his face seeing my discomfiture): Very nice. Which rank did you get?
Me: AIR 5 Sir. (On further prodding by P1, I told that I secured AIR 25 in CA Inter)
P1: Ok. So tell me a significant contribution of yours at your workplace.
Me: Explained my HR stint at office and how I came up with an alternative suggestion for pricing an unlisted company’s stock options. (To give a background, for the employees working at the Group level, servicing various companies like Ultratech, Grasim etc. an index is computed which takes into account the share performance of all the listed companies of the Group. I had suggested changes in the manner of computation of this Index)
P1: Good. Can you tell me some market indices?
Me: SENSEX, NIFTY …. (trailing off)
P1: Some more?
Me: S&P 500…. (P1 asked Nikkei? and I told “yes Sir. Japan’s Index” and FTSE)
P1: Well, considering that you have worked on index computation, can you tell which indices are price based and market cap based.
Me: Sir, SENSEX and NIFTY are based on free float market cap. I am not aware of the manner of computation of others. (Well, the way I had conceptualized the changes in my office was a customized solution for ABG or so, I thought. So had no clue on this)
P1; Well, move on to the Finance stint.
Me: Spoke at length on a Capital Expenditure proposal which I had evaluated. Was asked on biggest learning from it, number of iterations in the model, manner of arriving at assumptions, role of business and corporate departments etc. (Went on for 5 mins in a satisfactory manner.)
P1: Well, What do you do apart from work?
Me: Mentioned about interests in Carnatic Music.
P1: Generally, Carnatic musicians stay off any controversy, but in the recent times, one musician has courted a lot of controversy. What are your views on him? How does the public perceive his views/ reforms?
Me: Yes Sir, You are referring to Vid. TM Krishna. Spoke at length on his controversies and ended by saying that every citizen has the right to speak out his mind. And an artiste is no different from others in that aspect. So the fact that he speaks out his mind is a welcome thing in a democracy.
(Till this point, the interview was more or less focused on my comfort zones. The interview started going downhill from the next question and however hard I tried, I couldn’t get back to my comfort zone)
P1: What do you think about India’s growth?
Me: India is growing at a fast pace of close to 7%. However, considering we are experiencing a demographic dividend, we need to grow faster in order to be able to create more well paying jobs for the youth who are joining the workforce.
P1 (with a mischievous look on his face) Well, what do you think is stopping India from growing faster - Lack of Capital or Lack of Attitude?
Me: (in hindsight, I feel that I should have asked for a minute and have thought about it before answering, but somehow in the flow of conversation, blurted out the answer immediately) Lack of Capital, Sir.
P1: Why do you say so?
Me: Started with the angel tax problem and how it affects investment flowing into India (was quizzed on the issue - explained the section)
P1: But why do you think that this issue has arisen recently?
Me: Sir, the provisions being used have been in force for quite some time. I think it is a time lag between enactment of a legislation and implementation of the same.
(It was already 5 mins and I was deep into supporting capital. At this juncture, the P1 came up with a brilliant counter argument. Looking back, it was a well executed strategy by P1. Having spoken for so long in support of Capital, there was no way I could shift to attitude - and yeah, they had clarified before that I could choose only one!)
P1: But just observe the corporate houses in India. Almost, every large corporate house is overburdened with debt, with the exception of your Group. So is it not a problem of surplus capital?
(Was clearly stumped by his logic but somehow replied instantaneously)
Me: But, try seeing it from the side of banks. The public sector banks, which play a major role in our country’s ecosystem have lent to their full capacity and are not in a capacity to lend more. This affects fresh investment and thereby the future growth.
Also, the unorganized sector… (was cut short)
P1: So, to solve the problem, what do you think should be done to the defaulters?
Me: There are two categories of defaulters. The first is a fraudulent type - who siphon off money. They should definitely be punished. But if the promoter defaults due to failure of business model or hostile business conditions, he should not be punished. If that happens, people will lose the risk appetite to start/ run a business.
P1: So what should you do to the second category? Will you give him more loans?
Me: No, even he should be referred to the NCLT and probably some other person can run the business after paying off the financial creditors.
P1: And how does this solve the lack of capital problem?
Me: (kicking myself within for choosing Capital in the first place) Though the recovery for the banks might be lower, it frees up capital and they can lend afresh. With effective enforcement of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, this will happen over a period of time.
(P1 passes the mantle to P2)
P2: You have written in your WAT that leaders should have a mix of technological and social skills. Do you feel you have the same? Can you be a leader?
Me: (Spoke about some technological tools I used at PwC during articleship to prove that I could use technology.) To be frank, I do not see myself becoming a leader in a technology company, because that requires in depth knowledge of technology. But I am confident of leading other companies.
P2: Why do you want to do an MBA? (started answering but was immediately cut short) What is the one thing which you lack currently and you think you will gain from MBA?
Me: Currently, I think of everything from a finance angle. I think an MBA will help me to think from the perspective of a business owner.
P2: Why can’t you stay in your current job and achieve the same?
Me: (Explained about diverse peer group, case based approach etc)
P2: Can you demonstrate an instance of leadership?
Me: (had better examples, but have no clue why I chose this one). Spoke about leading an audit assignment as a Field In Charge.
P2: Where do you see yourself 20 years in the future?
Me: (A question which I had prepared for)
P2: Where do you see India in the future?
Me: India has a great growth story in the years to come. It has a burgeoning middle class, which will lead to greater consumption (was cut short brutally)
P2 : We have been hearing this story for so many years now. Don’t imagine things.
(Was the lowest point in the whole interview and I felt that I had screwed up big time. And P2 was continuing to stare angrily at me)
P2: Do you play any sport?
Me: Yes Sir. I play badminton.
P2: Thank you. We are done. You can leave.
(No toffees, no cookies and they both didn’t even look at me when I got up and left the room)
(The verdict was completely unexpected and I could not believe it till I got the official mail from IIM A.)
This answer has been reproduced from Quora with Anirudh's permission. He wished all the non-engineers good luck for their upcoming interview rounds and hoped that this could benefit them.
For more, keep reading the IIM Interviews.