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Professional Guidance

In Conversation with Nikunj Rakyan, IPR Lawyer turned IIM Bangalore Post-Graduate Student

Nikunj Rakyan, completed his Bachelors in Law from Amity Law School and was working at one of the best IPR firms, Remfry & Sagar when he decided that he wanted to pursue MBA from a top-tier IIM. Learn about his journey from law school to scoring a 99.76 percentile in CAT and finally achieving his dream of making it to a top-tier IIM. 

Mr. Nikunj Rakyan, alumnus IIM-Bangalore

(1) How was your experience at Amity Law School, Noida? How did you go about your academics as well as extra-curricular activities?

Amity was a great place to study where students had a lot of freedom to pursue their interests. Since I knew about the considerable weightage IIMs placed on academics, I tried my best to keep my grades high. 

I also tried my hand at a few moot court competitions, took part in clubs and committees, and interned at a few law firms-  basically the traditional law school experience.

(2) How would you describe your experience at Remfry and Sagar? Do you recommend that one should gain some experience after graduation and then join a B-School?

Remfry was a great place to work. I got to work on IP portfolios of clients from across several industries and learnt more about trademark and copyright law than I could have imagined. 

I distinctly remember how supportive my seniors were when I told them about my MBA plans (though I did have to sit down and explain where this ‘sudden’ decision came from). 

Now work-ex isn’t exactly necessary and freshers are quite common in B-school. However, there are 2 distinct benefits to getting some work-ex under your bet:

(A) Work-ex (in months) is considered during both the shortlisting and selection phases. The weight of this factor varies from B-school to B-school (For example, IIMB weighs it heavily while IIMC doesn’t consider it at all); and

(B) Work-ex gives you some insight into the ground realities of a business and helps you contribute to class discussion in a more meaningful manner.

And of course, having invested 5 years in law school, it also makes sense to invest some time working in the legal field to get rid of any reservations you may have about going down the MBA route.  

(3) What made you pursue an MBA after a law degree? What difficulties did you face at the starting and how did you overcome them?

The idea of doing an MBA was something I started considering during the first half of law school. The Marketing Management course really opened my eyes to the possibilities of the field. 

Daily discussions over brands and protection strategies at Remfry got me interested in marketing even further. Eventually, I took the leap and decided to focus on CAT preparation full time.

Now switching careers after 5 years of undergrad isn’t an easy decision. Even after convincing myself that this was a good idea, I still had to answer to everyone around me including my parents. 

Coming to the CAT exam itself, it consists of 3 sections, but rather than their ‘official’ names, let’s just call them English, Logic and Math. After a 5-year gap from the subject, Math is arguably the hardest for any lawyer to cope with and scoring at par with your peers from Engineering can be tough.

Luckily, the level involved rarely exceeds what we learnt in class 10th and consistent practice can help you ace this section as well.

(4) When did you start your preparation for CAT, when should a person ideally start preparation for CAT and other management exams?

I started preparing in mid-July (roughly 4 months). I think the preparation time really depends on the person based on his/her strengths and weaknesses. For someone preparing full time, July (or even August) is a great time to start. 

On the other hand, preparing with a full-time job can be quite difficult considering the long working hours in the field. In such a case, it’s really important to dedicate a few hours every day for preparation.

(5) Did you get yourself enrolled in a coaching institute? How valuable do you think coaching institutions can be for MBA? Which coaching institute did you go to?

I enrolled myself at Alchemist in July the day after I quit my job. I consider myself someone who does well under structured guidance and that’s where coaching classes came in handy. Alchemist also had a modular booking system which let me schedule all my classes into a two day per week frame. This let me reduce my time commuting and focus on self-prep.

While coaching may or may not be necessary (depends on you), mocks are a must. They help you gauge your level of prep and let you experiment with different strategies.

(6) How many hours did you put in for your preparation everyday? Is it important to have a time table or weekly targets?

I generally put in anywhere between 2-8 hours a day. However, I would regularly take week-long vacations to break the monotony of preparation and come back afresh. 

Weekly targets are important to make sure that no topics are left until the last minute. That said, it’s also important to take mocks regularly and not wait for the syllabus to be finished. 

(7) What strategy did you follow to crack the interview? What kind of questions have you been asked in the interview? Give some tips to nail an interview in order to secure admission to a top business school?

The only thing IIM interviews certainly are is unpredictable! While it helps to prepare some typical HR questions such as “Why MBA” or “Introduce yourself”, the panel can pretty much ask you anything from the subjects you studied in undergrad, your hobbies, your work ex, or simply stick to current affairs. Brushing up on these is important.

Of course, this is easier said than done and I had a tough time answering many questions that came my way. For example, during one interview I was asked to respond to questions regarding my hobbies in German. Once I got over my surprise (read: shock) at this request, I somehow managed to mumble something in broken German until the interviewers finally asked me to stop. 

On the other hand, my interview at IIM Bangalore revolved around my copyright law, a field I love and was more than happy to talk about. 

(8) After the interview and until you got the final result, how did you cope up with the anxiety as the pandemic situation would have made it worse for you?

Waiting for results can make anyone anxious and you can truly never know whether you’ve converted the call or not. Having quit my job, I couldn’t help but imagine the worst-case scenario where I had wasted an entire year and had nothing to show for it. 

In such a case, it’s important to be surrounded by family, look for distractions, and focus on the bright side. I also spent my time reading books and discovering new hobbies such as writing and watercolour painting.

(9) What is your message for law students who want to choose MBA as a career after pursuing law?

The decision to go for an MBA can be incredibly difficult given the time already invested in law school. It makes sense to think things through and invest some extra time to make sure that this decision is right for you.

The most memorable piece of advice I received during this time went something like this – your decision now won’t just impact the next 2 years of your career, but the 40 that’ll follow.

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