12 Jan 2021 00:54 IST

‘Focus on long-term growth at a B-school’

IIM Bangalore gave me the opportunity to learn under the tutelage of some of the best faculty and classmates

Mohit Srivastava, an MBA from IIM Bangalore and an engineering graduate from IIIT Hyderabad, is Associate Director - Product, of a fintech start-up Zeta. He speaks about the plentiful benefits of being a technologist with an MBA as it opens up a gateway to a varied range of career opportunities.



As a computer science engineering graduate from IIIT, how did you decide to pursue management studies?

I held several leadership positions including leading one of the four houses of IIIT, Hyderabad (IITH), leading IIITH's annual cultural fest, and forming IIITH's first student parliament. While I was good with computers, I found many of these roles enthralling and challenging. Computers behave deterministically. Human behaviour and its impact on businesses, on the other hand, is non-deterministic, unpredictable, and beautiful. This notion only fortified at my first job when I interacted with people from different backgrounds and customers with varying demands. I was further drawn to this field of study.

When I got the chance to pursue an MBA from a prestigious institution such as IIM Bangalore, the opportunity to structurally learn some of these aspects under the tutelage of some of the best faculty and classmates was too irresistible to skip.

Did you have work experience before you enrolled for an MBA at IIMB?

Yes, I had two years of prior work experience with Amazon as a Software Engineer. This was a time when Amazon was still a fledgling loss-making behemoth with a share price 1/35th of its current market price.

What does your current role entail and has the pandemic affected your job in any way?

I work for a $300 million valued fintech start-up — Zeta. In my current role, I head two product lines. The first is Tachyon Prepaid, where we offer prepaid banking stack to financial institutions. The second product line is Fusion, where we provide embeddable banking services to fintechs and neobanks. While the pandemic has affected all workplaces, I have been lucky to be a part of a firm that is continuing to grow.

Looking back at both your engineering degree and your MBA, how would you say that it is helping you in your work life and career now, if at all?

As a child, technology always fascinated me, and it still continues to. In fact, in the last 30 years, technology has revolutionised the world. Not only all Fortune 10 companies, but a majority of the Fortune 20 companies are tech companies too.

I figured out during my MBA journey that I was a technologist at heart and decided to stick to an industry and a role where I could leverage both engineering and MBA. And, product management perfectly fit the bill. It has obviously been glamorised by Sundar Pichai's extraordinary journey but in order to be a good product manager, you obviously need to understand technology and digital channels. Most non-tech firms fail to do that. My engineering degree greatly helps me here.

Besides, if you think of product management, it is a horizontal skill which involves communication, stakeholder management, high IQ and EQ (emotional quotient), and strong judgement/prioritisation skills.My B-school degree greatly helps me here.

What are the B-school learnings that you are applying in your work?

As a product manager, you need strong interpersonal and communication skills to work with multiple stakeholders. This is one of the first things you learn while working in groups for different case studies/assignments at your B-school. Product management also involves understanding your target users personalities and pain points. This skill builds over a period of time but having a clear understanding of STP (segmentation, targeting, positioning) and experiential learning through case studies can make a world of a difference.

It also involves understanding sizing, market opportunity, and ROI/LTV (lifetime value) of a customer. While the relevant metrics are very industry-specific, the rate at which you pick up these skils are drastically faster if you have studied finance.

Do you think there was something missing when you did your engineering and MBA that you feel should have been included/taught?

The pedagogy at B-schools such as IIM Bangalore is heavily case-based. While I love this approach, the course could focus more on case studies about technology companies, especially the lesser-known ones. Big techs (Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft) and big Chinese techs (Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidoo) have stormed the world in the last two decades. But most of our case studies were about traditional industries such as oil and gas, and CPG.

Also, introducing a structured product management course could be helpful. A lot of my learnings about product management are from my work experience and my entrepreneurial stints.

What would you like to say to students looking to pursue an MBA?

MBA from prestigious B-schools definitely gives you a headstart in your career, but its best not to get caught into the stereotypical rat race. Life is a positive-sum game and rat races are counterproductive in the long run. People often overestimate themselves in the short-run and underestimate themselves in the long-run. While you’re at a B-school, gain skill-sets and learnings that would help you win in the long run.