16 Oct 2015 21:28 IST

And the best management student of 2015 is…

Chanakya — the Mastermind competition saw some of the smartest B-school students slug it out for the ₹1 lakh cash prize and title

The stage was set — 10 expectant students sat facing the five-judge panel, who would declare one of them the winner and award him/her a cash prize of ₹1 lakh, along with the title of ‘Best Management Student of 2015’.

This was Chanakya — the Mastermind competition, held as part of the 14th MMA (Madras Management Association) All-India Management Students Convention 2015.

Read about the inauguration

And this year, the award went to Mathew Matthews from IIM Indore, who withstood the scrutiny of an eminent panel made up of big-wigs from industry such as Vinod K. Dasari (Managing Director, Ashok Leyland Ltd), Kavitha D Chitturi (Executive Director, KCP Ltd), Raju Venkatraman (Founder, Chairman and CEO of Medall Healthcare Pvt Ltd), Lakshmi Venu (Joint Managing Director of Sundaram-Clayton Ltd), Rajan Srikanth (Managing Director of SmartKapital) and CV Subba Rao (Deputy MD, The Sanmar Group).

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How it panned out

The Kamarajar Arangam hall in Chennai was full, with management students and other eminent management personalities attending the event.

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The selection was done in two rounds — the first round required the participants to watch a 45-second video (twice), think for 60 seconds and speak for 60 seconds, on what their takeaways from the video was.

While the clips were all humorous (from Mr Bean, a video on immigration identification to people getting stuck on escalators), they all had an underlying management lesson that the participants were expected to identify.

While most gave sensible answers, Mathew Matthews (his video had a girl fuming, trying to wake someone inside a house. She tries knocking and throwing stones, but in vain. A man comes along and gives her his phone. Instead of calling the person inside, she throws the phone to break the glass) gave a concise, articulate reply that bowled the judges over.

He said, “There are three messages you can take away from this video. When you lose control or when you are tense, whatever you do, doesn’t make sense. Second, when you are going to help someone, understand the situation first. There are always two questions — when to help and how to help. Third, when you are being helped by someone, show the courtesy to accept it and make sure you don’t make the other person’s life miserable.”

After this round, five participants were eliminated and five went ahead to the final round, which required them to answer questions by the panelists — each participant had to pick a piece of paper, on which was the name of the panelist who would ask the question, and the question itself.

Thought-provoking questions

As IQ alone is not enough to make a great leader, some thought-provoking questions tested the emotional intelligence of the students. Some of these were: How do you see a bottleneck, in life in general, as something positive or negative? Do successful people a) adapt their principles to suit to changing times, or b) stick firmly to their principles at all times? We live in an era where virtual networking is becoming increasingly dominant. In this time, is human interaction less important? Do you think this trend is good or bad?

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Mathew Mathews, who got the ‘bottleneck’ question, had this to say: “​To look at my own personal life, I went through a personal tragedy that I thought I couldn't ​get over. I thought life would not be the same anymore. I cried the day my dad passed away. There were lots of responsibilities that I had to take care of, and I thought I wouldn't ever be able to do it. But I sailed through that. Now that I am on the other side, it gives me a lot of confidence. It made me the person I am today, and when faced with problems, I am now confident and composed. I believe every person goes through a phase that defines that person. So I believe that bottlenecks are positive.”

The process

The competition received 4,100 applications online. They then had to send an essay on ‘Why I am a potential best manager in this country?”. Along with this, there had to send a resume on academic performance. All the candidates then went through an online quiz and, based on these three rounds, 150 people were shortlisted.

Next was the interview round, either face to face or via Skype. Forty-one of them made to Chennai, two days before convention, after which they again went through three rounds — psychometric test (to test strategic thinking), Just a Minute and group discussion. Only after this were the 10 finalists selected.

Apart from Mathew,the other nine were: Ankit (Bharathidasan Institute of Management, Trichy), Anoop (IIM Shillong), Arundhati (VIT BSchool), Divya (NIT Trichy), Keshav (IIM Trichy), Keerthika (Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship, Bangalore), Nishanka (BIM, Trichy), Piyush (IIM Ranchi) and Shing (XIME, Kochi).

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