How Pugmarks helped me get into IIM Ahmedabad

What do you think is the one thing that MBA admission interviewers look for in a candidate? Their academics? Their entrance exam score? Their work experience? The answer is something far more basic and intuitive; they’re looking for someone who’s done something different. And that’s where Pugmarks came in for me during my B-school interviews.

I’d gone on a few Pugmarks camps as a child, but it was my Rishikesh rafting camp in the summer of 2015, and my camp volunteers there (shoutout to Sonal, Shreyas and JD) that actually motivated me to take up the VTP course. (Small digression: we’d made small video about our camp, do check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcWr5EsqapY.) Anyway, I did my VTP in Mumbai in the second half of 2015, made great friends along the way, and even did an Advanced Wildlife Training Course in Tadoba under Ani sir in December, followed by a few camps over 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Fast forward to January 2020, when I was preparing for my B-school interviews, and my mentor asked me, “What differentiates you from all the other applicants? What have you done that you can guarantee nobody else among the whole pool of applicants has done, that can make the interviewers remember you out of the two-three thousand people they will interview?” Now, I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but if I had to think of something absolutely unique, it was Pugmarks without a doubt. So, I decided that it would be my one “thing” that I would rely on to differentiate myself.

The most common first question in a B-school interview (or any interview for that matter) is to introduce yourself. I built Pugmarks into the end of my answer for this so that interviewers would get hooked on this something that sounded a little different from the legions of engineers they had interviewed over the years. Almost inevitably, they would ask, “Can you tell us more about your time in Pugmarks?” And then they would be really impressed by the kind of work volunteers did in Pugmarks, from trekking and camping to managing a ton of children (along with schoolteachers on occasion during school camps :P), and I definitely think it had a great impact on me getting into the top B-schools in the country:)

Although up till now I’ve only talked about how I leveraged Pugmarks for my interviews, the truth runs far deeper. Pugmarks was the first occasion where I was given a significant amount of responsibility, which helped me mature as a person. The VTP helped me meet so many people who changed my life for the better and exposed me to a plethora of worldviews outside my sheltered engineering one. Even in the few interviews where Pugmarks and the VTP did not come up, it was obvious to me in retrospect how much Pugmarks had helped me grow and mature as a person. And this experience will be even richer for freshers who’re applying to B-schools without work experience (which gives you a taste of handling responsibilities as well).

So if you’re a Pugmarks volunteer, and you want to take your career to the next level through an MBA, you already have a great weapon in your arsenal. Make the best of it, and you’re sure to get through. All the best!