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Meet Our Counsellors: Kovid Gupta

Posted on Sep 17, 2019
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Ever wondered what it feels like to study at a top university abroad? At ReachIvy, all our counsellors and editors are from top international universities and have experienced this first-hand. Our blog series “Meet Our Counsellors” ropes in some of them in the midst of a decorous career and lets you in on their authentic study abroad experiences.

For the first blog in this series, we have Kovid Gupta, an MBA graduate from Cornell University who now works as a screenwriter, filmmaker, and social activist. He also figured in Forbes Asia’s 30 under 30 in 2017 and had worked with several personalities in Bollywood and the Indian silver screen.

“What experiences did you have while studying abroad?”

As someone who grew up in the USA as a child of Indian immigrants, going to business school abroad was a natural decision for me. A few key factors that distinguish my own MBA experience at Cornell University versus those of my friends who went to business school in India include:

– Strong diversity of classmates: Spanning geographic, religious, linguistic, and even gender identity boundaries. There are no inhibitions and people are free to express who they are, therefore helping one expand his or her own perspective on relationships and work styles.

– Expert professors: In the majority of MBA programs, especially the top 20, professors are experts in their fields. Their career paths are highly dependent upon the kind of research they produce, which makes the classroom experience even more enriching. My Economics professor, for instance, wrote a column for The New York Times for over a decade.

– Focus beyond academics: Belonging to student batch with people mostly in their late twenties or early thirties brings a certain level of maturity with it. While several students are still rank-driven, a huge section has moved past rat-race mentality and are more focused on building soft skills or industry-specific skills as opposed to beating each other on class ranks. Several top business schools, in fact, have a Pass/Fail system for grades for this very reason – to allow students to grow beyond performance on quizzes or exams.

 “Is getting an MBA worth it?”

The first question to ask yourself is why you are getting an MBA. I will put down a few scenarios below based on my own life and the backgrounds of several of my business school friends:

– “I want to make a career switch” – If the industry you wish to falls into a classic corporate category – such as investment banking, consulting, marketing, etc. an MBA will provide you with the resources and companies to recruit with. If you wish to pursue something more unconventional, such as producing films, starting a non-profit, opening a VC firm, or such, not all B-schools will provide the tools needed for the same. In such a case, it becomes crucial to pick a school that has a history of producing successful people in your field. For example, UCLA is an excellent school for those interested in films due to its proximity to Hollywood.

– “I want to grow in my existing company, OR my employer is paying for it” – Again, an MBA will equip you with the skills to become a better manager and team player. Through various case studies and real-life simulations, you will get your hands dirty on how to tackle real-world problems with better insights. Typically, employers do increase job profiles and raise salaries of employees if they return post their MBAs.

– “I want to grow my network” – An MBA will prove vital in this aspect. The higher-ranked the MBA program, the more likely you will be going to school with future hot-shots. An excellent network of classmates can be beneficial if you ever need a connection into a company you are looking at for a job where an ex-classmate works, you are looking for investors for your own company, you need to be connected to someone on LinkedIn who an ex-classmate may happen to know, etc. Similarly, professors also provide similar help.

– “I just want the brand name on my resume” – This is, in fact, a reason why many people pursue the MBA route in foreign countries. It is important to understand that the MBA is a very intense experience, so the desire to pursue it must be firm. At a top school, it is next to impossible to breeze by the material or skip classes frequently. At Cornell, as I recall, professionalism and adherence to academic policies were taken very seriously. In one of my classes, in fact, an absence (unless for a very serious reason) resulted in a letter-grade deduction.

Having said this, the brand name of a top school does make a huge impact, even outside of “conventional” MBA fields. I work in the Hindi film industry and belonging to an Ivy League provides me with a lot of credibility among my peers; despite education playing a somewhat insignificant role in traditional Bollywood production houses.

Do you think Kovid’s kind of experience and expertise could help you achieve your dream of studying abroad? Head on to Our Services and see how we can help you realise that dream!