Close Up – NUS MBA Club President Batch 2009

On the eve of the 2010 NUS MBA Club elections, Adarsh Abhineet, President of the 2009 batch shares some of her thoughts and opinions. 

Among the most anticipated events of the year in the lives of the NUS MBA students are the NUS MBA Club elections and the elections for the other supporting clubs, because the people elected become the face of the batch, and of the school, for one whole year. The elected student leaders come forth and pledge to devote time out of their hectic schedules to make a positive impact on the students’ experience. The higher up one is in the council, the more the challenges and the rewards. So just to get a close look at how hard the job is at the highest post in the Students’ Council, we caught up with Adarsh Abhineet, the outgoing President of the 2009 batch in a tête à tête, and an extremely camera-shy President at that :), the night before the election results for the 2010 batch.

So Adarsh, tell us about some of your peak achievements during your tenure?
When I started my tenure, I knew with limited time in hand I had to be extremely focused on what I wanted to do for the school and for the students. For me the biggest value-add to this school would have been getting its due recognition within and outside Singapore. For that, it was important that we explore the partnerships with top Academic institutions and renowned global organizations.

As the first step, I initiated talks with INSEAD. Both schools had been seeking mutual strategic benefits for years now. The Clean Tech week hosted by INSEAD was one of the first steps in that direction. I firmly believe that if NUS MBA program has to stand out in global arena people not only those associated with the school but people outside should also speak highly about the school and its students. I hope that the new Student Council will further strengthen this partnership by reciprocating in equal terms.

I have always had a conviction that an Academic Institution should stand out for what it gives back to the society. Net Impact was something I had cherished since the time I entered NUS. I believed this is the platform where we can really achieve the global standing which we have been aspiring for so long. One of the first few schools in Asia to have been accorded the Chapter status, the NUS MBA program is poised to take lead in CSR and Social Development in this region. I was highly fortunate to have Suraj who shared the same vision and worked towards making this dream into reality
One of the most important aspects that I had envisioned about the MBA Club council was giving it a strong identity. The creation of MBA Club logo that we see today has been a thought provoking process which encompasses the vision behind the formation of the Club. Thanks to Gagan and Shivdat for their efforts and the inputs.

Last but not least the highly successful China study trip had been a rewarding experience for one and all. And here I must mention Colleen, Du Fei and Yu Hao for their impeccable leadership and event management during this entire trip considering we all were crammed with our End Semester exams.

Have there been any major setbacks as well?
I believed that after highly successful Dream Trip America, we were poised to explore the Europe and establish the NUS MBA brand in this continent. The effort and involvement for this trip started right from the time when I took over this post and were in line with our set deadlines. However, the financial crisis in Europe and limited network in that neck of the woods proved a major setback to our plans. Though we eventually managed to rope in few companies, however, we were left with too less a time to embark on this trip.

What was your key agenda when you had taken over?
I had set my mandate on strengthening the Internal and External Branding of the NUS MBA program. As part of the Internal Branding, my focus was improving “Inclusive-ness Factor” among the students including Part Time and IMBA Students. I believed that for MBA program to be a wonderful experience, the students should feel involved and be part of this big family. An event, even minuscule in scale, if it can increase that “Wow” factor in students mind I would be successful. Hence be it Academic Program initiatives like Excel Workshop, Powerpoint Presentation Competition or Student Activities like Holi, International Day, Hari Raya or Freshers’ Night celebration, the idea was always to make students feel special about their MBA experience. Further, the China Study Trip, the buddy program, the joint Marketing Club event with EMBA students etc. had been the initiatives in that direction.

As part of External Branding, as I said earlier, collaborations with Business Schools in Singapore, the Net Impact Chapter, the Consulting projects with MILK organization and SHF had been step in that direction.

How successful would you say you have been in achieving a better branding?
I had set about with certain vision in my mind about how would I like to see the NUS MBA program. I think I have been able to make that incremental difference in this continuous process. Yes there will always be a wish list that you would have liked to fulfill, however, at the end of the day I believe my team has set the platform for the new Council to work towards that vision.

What were some of the major challenges that you faced during your term?
On a personal level, since I was interning back in India, at times, it became difficult to manage activities back in School. However, I must thank my Council team for putting up a sustained effort during this phase and working towards post summer events.

I think another key challenge the MBA Club President faces is walking on a thin line between the MBA office and the students. Both have certain expectations from you as a Club President and often you have to be extremely judgmental in taking decisions which is in greater good for the school.

During the later half of my tenure, the financial crisis had a telling effect on my batch mates. The challenge was always to think of measures which can facilitate their career prospective during this phase.

Where do you think the MBA club currently stands from the B-School administrative point of view?
I think it’s very important that the communication channel between the Students and the MBA office should keep constantly improving. There is no point in setting up of goals and visions for the school without knowing the expectations and constraints on either side. Further, it’s highly important that students know, realize and work on the quarterly, half yearly and annual goals that School set for itself and be part of this overall process.

For this it’s pertinent that School communicate the targets and key stakeholders involved to the students at the start of each Academic cycle. Just like any organization there needs to be an evaluation of whether these goals had been achieved or not and kind of participation that students showed in working towards this goal.

What do you think are the 3 key challenges facing the NUS MBA as a program?
Having seen operations of few organizations and academic institutions from close quarter, it’s important that an institution should identify its key pillars. I believe the success of a Business School depends on three key pillars – Admissions, Academics and Career Services. If I have to pick 3 challenges facing the NUS MBA, I would point one in each of these pillars.

Increasingly the Admission process for NUS MBA program is getting difficult, however, the question often asked is kind of premium that we associate with the variants of our MBA program. I think it’s high time we prize out one of these programs as our Flagship program and provide the kind of premium that we attach with the top MBA program around the world. At the moment outside world are in state of flux when they try to grasp the options that NUS MBA offers in terms of its variants.

Flexibility is a quality often associated with successful organization but too much of a good thing can have a detrimental effect. I believe its high time the Academic program, in view with given constraints, be resurrected with set and fixed mandate which will make life easier for the MBA office and erode the ambiguity in minds of the students.

In terms of Career Services, I think it’s high time we break the age old mould of perceiving the companies in Singapore as a closed organization. At the end of the day a prospective MBA student sees the career surge as his/her bottom line before taking up an MBA program. With the times increasingly getting difficult we need to come up with strategy that can convince the prospective student about NUS MBA value. A student aspires to do an MBA hoping for a quantum leap in his/her career, even if we take reality into consideration, this leap should be significant and not curtailed.

How do you think we should tackle those challenges?
In terms of Admissions, as I stated earlier, it’s high time we pick our Flagship program and attach a premium to it. No dilution of this brand per se and no compromises made during the course in terms of people moving in and out of the Flag ship program. Ideally, I believe in the financial theory of greater sacrifice and risk you undertake, greater returns you make. Besides the regional diversity, it’s high time we start penetrating the big corporate houses for the prospective students. Each year companies like McKinsey. Goldman, JP Morgan BCG sends across their Analysts for the MBA program, we need to tap these guys. And for this it’s highly important that selection process of the Flagship program should be stringent and they have value attached. This will have a two fold value-addon – People will start realizing the importance of networking and the big corporate houses will serious start looking NUS MBA as an option.

In terms of Academic program, we need to differentiate and finalize the length of Full Length and Accelerated program. Historical track records suggest that an Accelerated program of 12 months should be made available only to students with greater than 6-7 years of work experience else a 22 months program is a way forward for the Full Time students.

So a lot about the school and the program. But what has this 1 year as the president offered you personally?
I think when I took over the President’s post, I tried to emulate my predecessors in their working style and expectations that they had set. However sooner I realized my strengths and my priorities which were more important. The moment I started expressing myself and succeeded in convincing people about my ideas, I gained immense belief.

I guess the President’s post offered me a whole new perspective about managing people’s expectations and aspirations.(On hindsight I wish , I would have been applying for Business Schools now with loads of experience to share. Certainly, I would have cracked all the essays [laughs..] ) The kind of exposure and accountability that it brought forth in my personality will go a long way in making me a better individual. Even though at days I felt flustered and exasperated with things not getting the way I wanted, but thanks to the people around I never lost hope. I must admit the most pleasurable phase of this entire stint had been the kind of relationships that I built with people – The friends who were with me through out this journey remained intact and new ones joined as well in this endeavor.
At the end of the day , when I looked into the mirror it always brought a smile to my face and I thought – “It feels good to be President of NUS MBA Club!!”

Any final word of advice, any do’s and dont’s for the next president?
Just few words of wisdom – Believe on your instincts, trust yourself and should be honest in your intent. Rest everything will fall in place. And yes be as approachable as you can to anyone associated with the NUS MBA.

And these were the views of Adarsh, the outgoing MBA Club President of 2009 batch. ” Believe in your instincts” .. something to think over as we started our wait for the results of this year to be declared.

Shipra Gupta 
Class of 2010

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