Meet the EPGP Class of 2023: Bibin Kumar, IIM Bangalore

Bibin Kumar

Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore

“I am like a chef who can make a thousand dishes but can’t cook a perfect meal. I guess that’s what’s going to make me a good Product Manager.”

Hometown: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

Fun Fact About Yourself: I wrote a book when I was in the eleventh grade, but I had never read a book. I have composed over 20 songs, but I’ve never been to a concert. I majored in Aeronautical Engineering, but I never touched an aircraft in my 4 years of undergrad.

Undergraduate School and Major: B.E. in Aeronautical Engineering from Nehru Institute of Engineering & Technology, Coimbatore

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Deloitte Consulting US India, Technical Product Manager

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of IIM Bangalore’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? IIMB was always my top choice of MBA program for a couple of reasons besides the plethora of talent in the classroom and the fact that it was the highest-rated MBA program in the country:

1) The Freedom to do what I want to do – Curricular or extra-curricular, I heard from some alumni about how the IIMB leadership was appreciative of the students exploring any avenue of their interest. I personally knew of alumni who worked on the latest ideas in the tech domain such as Web 3.0 right after graduating. I heard stories about alumni who were amateurs in certain sports but signed up with some great coaches to become decent to pro-like players. And my favorite – I heard about music bands coming out of IIMB and continuing to operate still.

2) NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL) – I get to meet and interact with some of the highly passionate entrepreneurs from the startup capital of the country here. As an aspiring entrepreneur who’s never shy of ideas but always worried about opportunity cost, the stories – of both successes and failures – that I keep hearing from the folks who are turning their ideas into reality are instilling some much-needed confidence in me. Moreover, I get to have a first-hand experience of product development in an entrepreneurial environment, build a great network, and be close to work while at school.

What has been your favorite course or extracurricular activity at IIM Bangalore? What has been the most important lesson that you have learned from it? I am not going to name the course or the activity but there’s a certain someone who always left us with things to ponder such as the importance of classroom learning over online education and how learning the concepts is key. Still, there is none more impressive than what he said about MBA exams and I quote, “Exams are an unfortunate incident in your quest for knowledge”. Truer words have never been spoken!

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I felt depressed in late 2013. I did not have a job and that made matters worse. Getting rejected by almost every company that I applied to, I found recovery difficult. Eventually, I found an opportunity with Infosys. After an initial period of training, I worked here as a teacher for 2 years, training new undergrads on Soft Skills and Design Thinking. By the time I left Infosys in August 2016, I had trained over 20,000 new undergrads at Infosys with the highest average feedback among my team.

Why is this my biggest accomplishment? While the job did turn out to be a turning point, it wasn’t easy. Despite fighting depression, I had to wake up every morning, wear the mask of a brave soul, and be there for my students when they needed me. I saw happiness, I laughed with my students. I saw success. I celebrated with my students. I saw failures – failures that led to some students getting expelled from the training program. They would be jobless, and I had been there, so I wept with them, helplessly. But overall, my time as a trainer helped me not just defeat depression but build empathy and become a better person. Despite such tough times, I was able to achieve success as a trainer – a role that would shape the rest of my career including my decision to do an MBA.  My two years as a trainer is my biggest accomplishment yet and could well be forever.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far: I am super proud of my contributions to the cohort and the program as the cultural secretary of the batch. While my achievements in this regard – organizing many ‘firsts’ for the 14-year-old program – are the first things that come to my mind. When I dig deeper, I think I am more proud of my initiatives in peer learning. From time-to-time, I have been proactively setting up forums to share my learnings on soft skills and hard skills such as product management that my cohort has become increasingly appreciative. I keep validating the impact of these sessions. When I hear feedback such as “it does make a difference, Bibin”, I have no second thoughts. ‘Once a teacher, always a teacher!’.

What is your class’s favorite hangout away from school? Why do you gather there? Ask us the same question 10 years down the road and we’ll all shout in unison, “D802”. It is the apartment where three of our classmates live, the walls of which know all our secrets outside the classroom activities. This is where we went from being strangers to becoming friends. Parties, afterparties, live sports, and case competitions – there’s never a reason not to gather here. I am sure that come the end of our program, this is where we’ll bid our goodbyes. D802 is special.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Although I was primarily a Technical Product Manager overseeing the day-to-day, tactical side in product development, I had to step up and play the role of a Strategic Product Manager for a few months. I enjoyed this temporary role. However, I did have my struggles and could have achieved success sooner if I had a holistic understanding of business management. While I could have gained this on the job gradually, I always knew that there was no substitute for classroom learning. This is especially true if I were to do this from a school like IIMB, mentored by the best professors in the country and some of the best in the world. Six months in, I keep connecting my learnings back to my less successful and failed experiments, and I seem to have answers to how I would have tackled those situations differently. After graduation, I hope to work in product strategy, helping businesses leverage technology to make decisions and disrupt the status quo.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into IIM Bangalore? Be absolutely sure of why you want to do an MBA when you are doing it, and think long and hard about what you want from the IIMB MBA. Discuss your career goals with a career consultant and get feedback about what skills you need to develop to get there. If an MBA can help you acquire these skills, only then should you go for the MBA. Talk to as many IIMB alumni as you possibly can, preferably the ones who’ve made successful transitions into the role that you desire. Get insights from them about what you can expect from the program and what the program, and in turn IIMB, would expect from you. Really weave a story around your application that explains how you have progressed as a person and a professional. Rest assured, IIMB will elevate your personality and professionalism to a whole new level, but the school does expect you to be at a certain level so that you can add value to the program and your classmates. Good luck!


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