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‘I learnt to put things in perspective’

Activities at St Xavier’s involved chats with RBI and BSE officials and working on NREGA projects

education Updated: Jul 17, 2012 16:10 IST
Gauri Kohli

With a best of four score of 94.75%, Delhi boy Akshay Kohli was hoping to bag a seat in the economics (hons) programme at the prestigious St Stephen’s College or Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) a few years ago. But even that kind of high score wasn’t enough to get him a place in his favourite course and college. Kohli’s aim was to make a career in the finance or the consultancy sector while working for a top company such as Citibank, McKinsey, Boston Consultancy Group, Deutsche Bank, Ernst & Young or Bain and Company.

“These companies come for campus recruitments at institutions such as IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi, St Stephen’s College, SRCC and St Xavier’s College, Mumbai. Since I was a commerce student in Class 12, going to Delhi University was the obvious choice. But the cut-off was much higher for commerce students in these colleges. That’s why I decided to join St Xavier’s College, Mumbai,” says Kohli who went on to pursue a BA in economics and statistics.

Kohli has no regrets about moving to Mumbai despite the keenness to study at Delhi University. “St Xavier’s was also on my priority list for a bachelor’s degree because it provides a lot of exposure and hands-on training to its students. Moreover, the degree at Xavier’s had a focus on liberal arts, giving a student an opportunity to pick subjects such as economics, maths, political science and psychology in the first two years and a specialisation in one of these in the final year.

This is very different from the structure at Delhi University,” he adds.
Settling in Mumbai was a Herculean task for the Delhi lad as he had a tough time finding a private accommodation and coping with the weather. After settling in, he channelised all his energies into his college life, enjoying every bit of it in the process. An active participant of the college fest, cultural events, projects and other co-curricular activities, Kohli cherishes memories from each of these and is happy that he got to learn a lot in the process. “During the first year, we worked on a project on hands-on simulation of the stock market as part of which we roped in experts from the Bombay Stock Exchange. In the second year, we travelled to Ghugari in Mandala district of Madhya Pradesh to collect data on the public distribution system of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The role of foreign banks in India was our project in the final year where we had two-way discussions with the deputy governors of the Reserve Bank of India, Subir Gokarn and KC Chakrabarty on fulfilling the task of financial inclusion. These were all unique and amazing experiences for any undergraduate student who wishes to pursue finance and economics in his career,” says Kohli.

After completing his course, he was offered a job by a leading multinational bank during the campus placement drive where he worked for a brief period before quitting as he bagged admission to MPhil in economics at the University of Cambridge. “I wanted to study at Yale, London School of Economics, Oxford or Cambridge. I knew that studying at St Xavier’s would boost my chance of securing a place in one of these institutions,” says Kohli, an alumnus of Delhi Public School, RK Puram.

So does he miss not being part of Delhi University? “Sometimes I do. But then there are a lot of nice things about studying in Mumbai such as the location of the college, hangouts, faculty, students and activities. I also interacted with my friends in Delhi University which made it more memorable,” he adds.

Things you’ll not find in the official college prospectus
* St Xavier’s College has a long list of illustrious alumni such as Sunil Gavaskar, Shabana Azmi, Vidya Balan and Shobhaa De
* The campus boats of a typical vintage architecture going back to the days of the British Raj
* There’s a lot of emphasis on social work and the college has its own Social Service League that works for the underprivileged. It’s a great opportunity for those who wish to work in this sector and pursue academics simultaneously

What you must eat
* Vada pao
* Paani puri, chaat, bataata vada, brun maska, bhel puri, pao bhaji
* Chicken, roadside grilled sandwiches

Where you must go/visit
* Parsi eating joints and cafes near the college are must visits
* Carter Road, Linking Road, Bandra, Chaupati, Band Stand, Juhu Beach and Marine Drive are also worth seeing

What you must carry
* Umbrella is a must-have as the weather is unpredictable
* Lots of casual dresses and all summer clothes
* Your favourite books, DVDs and laptop to give you company at home when it’s pouring outside!
* Carry along only necessary documents that you need, especially if you’re going to stay in a rented accommodation

What you must know (local language/cultural aspects)
* You must know a bit of the local Mumbai lingo to communicate with the auto rickshawwalas and the locals

Key learning from college
St Xavier’s College, Mumbai

Kohli believes his college gave him freedom to pick up something new in terms of projects, activities and initiatives. “The economics festival at the college called Econundrum was initiated by me and is now among the biggest college festivals in the country. Such events allow us to do everything right from organising, budgeting, planning and executing the whole affair. They also give us a chance to hone our soft skills such as teamwork, leadership, communication, and responsibility. Another thing I learnt was how to remain focused. I valued money and began to put things into perspective,” he says.

Work-life balance
Interacting with his classmates who have been placed in banking or consultancy firms has given him a better idea of the demands of the job market. “Though I worked with a leading multinational bank for a very short duration, I realised that the banking side is tougher when compared to consultancy work. But at my age, there’s no need for a work-life balance because you want to give it all and most people are willing to put in long hours at work,” says the 21-year-old. He doesn’t mind working too hard if he gets what he loves doing. “Work becomes your life if your job becomes what you love doing most,” he adds.

Let’s talk about my job
Worked with a leading MNC bank, Mumbai

Kohli’s was placed through the campus placement drive at his college with a multinational bank where he worked in the commercial banking section. This involved banking for the mid-market corporates under the credit risk analysis vertical. Finance has always been an area of interest for him and he hopes to bag a great job after finishing his studies at Cambridge. “I would eventually like to come back to my country and work. Going to Cambridge would give me a lot of exposure academically and would also boost my knowledge about the global job market,” he says.