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Continuing on my older post, here is a quick (personal) view on the recent UK visa changes and impact on the international students at LBS.

Before getting into the specifics, it is important to understand the rationale behind these visa changes. Until recently, there were a number of low-grade universities in UK that admitted international students, who would ‘technically’ come for education but basically start working (in whatever work they find) soon after landing in UK. And then soon after their official graduation, would get a post-study visa and continue to stay in UK. The core purpose of these universities was to offer a platform for young international students to get into UK. Something similar was common among many small-medium enterprises, which helped international students show job offers and official employment, and therefore continue to stay in UK. The recent UK visa changes essentially aim to prevent such ‘spurious’ practices.

Now there are two broad visa changes that one would think could impact the international students at LBS:

1) No student visas being allowed for some universities – As explained above, the main objective here is to stop students from using the low-grade university channel to get into UK. As a result, visas are now not being offered for a number of such universities. Infact, the immigration maintains a list of universities that are allowed to admit international students, for whom the UK immigration would offer student visas. This change certainly does not impact LBS, given LBS is the top-tier institute within UK. Moreover, the team at LBS actively works with the UK immigration to resolve any visa-related issues for its international admits (even if the issues are due to admits’ personal reasons – such as financial proofs etc.). In my batch, I’ve seen cases where the LBS senior management team, even the Dean, would get involved to ensure that international admits do not face any visa-related challenges.

2) No post-study visa, but mandatory employer sponsorship to stay in UK - To be able to stay in UK, it is now critical to have a company sponsorship. This is to prevent any small-medium companies (as explained above) from offering spurious platforms for international community to stay in UK. Obviously, sponsoring visas requires admin efforts and has cost implications, so not everyone mom-n-pop shop would make an effort to sponsor visa. But this does not impact blue-chip organizations that hire students from the LBS campus. All the leading banks, consulting firms, PE funds, industry recruiters etc. — all of them globally run the visa sponsorship process across a variety of geographies, and therefore it is not something that they shy from in UK. They continue to recruit international students within UK and sponsor their visas, as appropriate. That said, there are some firms that have shown some resistance to sponsor, especially when they have large global presence and therefore can recruit students for their respective geographies and nationalities. But this is more theoretical than practical, because if such large-scale employers like certain candidates, they would do everything in their power to ensure that those candidates have the required admin tasks (including visa) sorted out. Now the above is true for those looking for jobs in UK. As I understand, there is some marginal impact on those international students who are keen to start-up businesses in UK, since there are visa rules that now require these students to show significant dedicated financial support (either through own savings or through VC funding). Read more about the Tier I entrepreneur visa here.

Once you understand the rationale behind these changes, and what these changes are, it’s much more comforting — as you realize that LBS has negligible impact due to any of such changes.

Disclaimer: In general, visa rules are extremely complex, and it is common for different people to face different challenges. So if any reader disagrees with the above, and has an alternate opinion, I’d love to hear.

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Continuing on my previous post, here is a quick (personal) view on the right background / experience / timing to apply to LBS.

While every business school tends to build a community with students from extremely diverse backgrounds, LBS takes it to a whole new level. Pre-MBA experiences of LBS students broadly cover all major disciplines. The largest disciplines include financial services that forms c. 30% of the student population, consulting forms c. 25%, manufacturing is c. 8%, IT is c. 6%, and Retail/FMCG is c. 5%. Other disciplines include Not-for-profit, Energy, Media / Marketing, Defense, Legal services, Healthcare / Pharma — each of these forming c. 3% of the student population. There are minor representations from few others – e.g. travel / tourism, real estate, sports, music etc. Well, the key take-away is that there is no right or wrong background to apply to LBS. It’s highly likely that someone with the same experience as yours is (or was) a student at LBS. However, it is also important to note that if you are applying with one of the common backgrounds – for instance IT services or Real Estate – you need to have a very strong application across all key aspects to ensure that the application covers up for ‘common’ professional experience that you’ve had.

On an average, an LBS MBA student has 5 – 6 years of work experience. The whole range varies from 2 years to 15 years. Ofcourse, a candidate with 2 years of experience will typically have a very strong set of achievements. And a candidate with 15 years of experience will typically have a non-business background and is pursuing MBA at LBS to develop those all-rounded business skills. Please note that candidates who have recently finished their under-graduation and have no work experience should not apply to the MBA programme at LBS. These candidates should consider applying to the MiM programme (please read about MiM here). On the other hand, professionals with significantly longer experience should consider applying to executive programmes listed here.

Finally, the question remains that what round do you apply in. My personal experience tells me that the most important thing is to have a robust application, and not the round. One shouldn’t put in an application in an earlier round if one believes that there’s a potential to improve the application. So, the first step is to build a strong application. Now, there’s not much difference between the first and the second round — both rounds will have a significant number of available seats for a good application to get selected. It gets slightly tougher in the third and the fourth rounds. This is purely a factor of supply and demand. The demand continues to be high, but the supply (i.e. available seats) is low in these later rounds. So, one should consider applying to one of the first two rounds.

For those who need data and statistics for further understanding on professional background, years of experience, and what LBS programme to choose, there’s some very useful information available here

That’s it. It’s pretty simple – (a) You don’t require any particular background to get into LBS – you need an application that demonstrates well-rounded personality, (b) You can consider applying to LBS with more than 2 years of experience – ofcourse, it’s harder to get in with low years of experience than average (5 – 6 years), and (c) You should consider applying in the first or the second rounds.

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Most common concerns

Posted by: AK

As a student ambassador, I keep receiving a ton of emails with questions and concerns on London Business School – these are mostly from potential MBA applicants. Now, over time, I’ve realized that most of these emails include similar questions and concerns. So these days, whenever I get an email with concerns that I’ve already addressed in past, I just hunt for my older response, and copy-paste that into my reply to the latest email. Sometimes, if am running short on time, I keep it very brief.

Today, I decided to start following an alternative approach. I’ve shortlisted the most common concerns that applicants have, and will ensure that there’s a blog post published on each of those points. That way, I can simply send the relevant blog link to the individual – a link which will not be brief, but will answer the question in detail.

Here are those most common concerns:

1. Budgeting for LBS – addressed here

2. Part-time work opportunities – addressed here

3. Right background, # years of experience and round to apply for LBS – addressed here

4. Importance of prior international exposure for LBS application – will be addressed soon

5. Scholarships / financial aid / loans – will be addressed soon

6. Course-related details, and experiences from the courses taken till date – will be addressed soon

7. Club-related details, and experiences from personal involvements – will be addressed soon

8. How do study groups work at LBS – will be addressed soon

9. Recent UK visa changes and impact on the international students – addressed here

10. Placements outcome (particularly during downturn) and available career services support – will be addressed soon

11. Finishing the MBA at the three available check points – will be addressed soon

12. Tips and tricks for an effective application – will be addressed soon

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Budgeting in London

Posted by: AK

I am almost certain that the ‘budgeting’ topic crosses everyone’s minds – ‘what is the estimated budget’ before joining the school, and ‘how to stay within the budget’ after joining the school. I get a ton of emails on budgeting (for the MBA course at LBS), and therefore decided to publish a blog post on this, so next time around I can be efficient and refer people to this blog.

To start with, you should look here:

http://www.london.edu/programmes/mba/feesandfinancing.html

http://www.london.edu/programmes/budgetinglivingexpenses.html

More detailed experience is this:
Tuition fee: £54-57K in total (based on recent years)
Accommodation: £750-1100 per month (in 750, you’d get a small room near the school — in most cases, without access to a living room; in 1100, you’d get a large large room near the school — in most cases, with access to a living room)
Food, Drinks: £400-600 per month (depends on how much you drink outside)
Utilities, Phone: £100-200 per month (depends on how many people you share with, what phone plan you sign-up for etc.)
Local travel: £50-200 per month (in 50 if you stay close to school and mostly use transport on the weekend; in 200 if you stay far)
Variable: Keep another 10% variable factor – for random expenses, such as black cabs, eat-outs etc.

Ofcourse, this is based on what I’ve seen for myself and for the friends I hang out with. Given the diversity of the class, the experience definitely varies from individual to individual.

 

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Recently, an MBA2014 student asked me for tips on packing for London. And I ended up compiling a quick list. Thought this may be useful to publish here (although, hopefully not too late for the new batch of students).

1. Although the only letter that the immigration guys (mostly) check is the LBS offer letter / CAS statement, it is always advisable to carry all of the following: offer letter and CAS; funding proof; transcripts and degree certificates

2. You’ll need light jackets for Aug-Oct, and heavier jackets OR pullovers+jackets for Nov and Dec. You will also need an overcoat starting late November but you can buy a cheap overcoat in London – so don’t worry about carrying the load

3. Not too many formals required in the early months (i.e. until December end) – there will be some events, but career services work won’t start until Jan and so you won’t need too many jackets and suits immediately

4. Bring an umbrella – it keeps raining all the time and a good umbrella is a great asset to have

5. Bring a windcheater – given it keeps drizzling, this is one thing you’ll always need (no one wears raincoats btw, just in case you thought)

6. Some people might recommend that you bring boots for the rain / snow days – but in my experience, very few people here wear boots. Sports shoes / sneakers are more than enough

7. Bring some notebooks, pens, pencils et al – they’ll be useful for notes et al in the lectures. Also bring a good scientific calculator

8. My suggestion is to not buy any books – I did buy few books here, but honestly, never studied them. College gives you a ton of reading material in binders – and that’s more than enough to prepare for exams and learn the course

9. Consider carrying a handset (unless you are planning to buy a new phone). You can just buy a sim-only plan here and use your old phone

10. Carry some medicines along – it’ll take time to get the NHS registration, so in the mean time, having medicines will help. What you should do is — get a prescription from any doctor for the most common medicines and then carry those medicines. You may be required to show the prescription for any medicines you carry

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The long silence…

Posted by: AK

…comes to an end as I publish this post. Today, when the workload at my summer internship workplace wasn’t too intense, I decided to take a step back and think of things I’ve been losing out on during all these past weeks and months. And the school blog was one of those things!

The reality is that:

1) Among other things, blogging trickled down to a lower rank on the priority list. As much as I want to say that my involvement over the last term was fairly all-rounded — clubs’ programs and conferences, competitions, student ambassador programs, sports, course work, London partying and get-togethers etc., the truth is that I did very little of any of these activities. I was mostly busy with the part-time work in London, and the rest of the time was spent doing assignments and course activities. <More on the part time work below>

2) When you see others posting on the blog, you feel less guilty for not having contributed. Some also term this as the social loafing. I soon realized that the blog remains active – irrespective of me posting or not.

3) In the early terms, like any other overenthusiastic kid, I ended up taking loads of responsibilities: overloaded myself with electives (in the attempt to front-load course work), joined several (well, more than several) clubs, organized and attended speaker talks, attended and spoke in the MBA information sessions, participated in competitions and social events etc. And with all of this – obviously the blogging frequency suffered. Gradually, all of this not only affected the lifestyle but also caused distraction. And what I eventually realized is that while variety is good, some degree of focus is equally important.

Last 8 months or so, I decided to focus. I came to LBS to learn new things in life, and therefore, in the attempt to diversify the resume and learn new things (not as much to make the bucks), I started working part-time in January, and continued to do that for six months — i.e. before I started my summer internship. Since a number of people have asked me to share experiences on part-time work during the first year at LBS, I decided to summarize my take here:

a) In the last one year, the best thing I liked about LBS is the level of flexibility it offers. And how one can juggle the courses alongside the part-time work. It’s actually quite simple, especially if you attend all the classes and do the assignments sincerely.
b) Juggling part-time work alongside summer internship process can be hard. Summer internship process starts around Oct-Nov, and until you have the final offer, it can keep you busy — depending on how many internships you run after. I was quite selective in what I applied to — applied to a total of 7 roles, and interviewed with 4 of them. I therefore had all the time for the part-time work — when most others applied for a large number of summer roles.
c) Depending on the work load, part-time work does mean that you lose out on social events and activities. That’s a compromise you need to make early on
d) A ton of part-time opportunities open up on the LBS discussion forums and career portal. Typically, there are more opportunities to work with start-ups, but there also are opportunities to work on bigger assignments once in a while – so it’s important to closely follow the platforms. Ofcourse, if you can source something through personal connections – that always helps.
e) Finally, how you source an opportunity, what you do and how much you make, significantly depends on your reason to work part-time – an attempt to diversify profile and learn vs. need for funds

Well – that’s it for today. I do hope that the next silence won’t be for long, and you’ll hear from me soon!

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Inaugural PE India trek

Posted by: AK

Ten students from across London Business School’s degree programmes were selected to attend the student-led trek, with a view to helping them understand the sector better, build connections in the Indian Private Equity (PE) space and explore future career opportunities. The trek was conceptualized and led by Manita Shinh, MBA2013, and was sponsored by the Private Equity and Venture Capital Club, the India Business Forum and Career Services. I was one of the trek members, and thought I’d quickly give you a download of what it was like to be a part of professional treks such as this.

The participants met with country managing partners and other senior professionals at KKR, Blackstone, Apax, Carlyle, Bain Capital, TPG, TA Associates, General Atlantic, Actis, 3i, Advent International, Warburg Pincus, Fidelity Growth Partners and Abraaj. Apart from the global majors, the participants also met with India focused funds such as Tano Capital, ICICI Ventures, Multiples and Faering Capital.

The trek was an opportunity to learn about the distinct investing styles of each of these funds both globally and in India. Practitioners shared their views of the macroeconomic environment, implications of the recently announced budget on the PE sector, their past and current focus investment areas, current trends and unique challenges and opportunities they were seeing in the space.

India is a growth equity market characterized by minority stakes, and it was interesting to hear from big buyout funds on their India strategy, as well as from those that had managed to close control based transactions in the market. Each fund took the time to explain their method of selecting investments and adding value, and many shared details of past investments to illustrate the same.

The Mumbai LBS Alumni Club scheduled Sundowners to coincide with the trek, and Thursday evening saw students mingle with alumni at Wink at the Taj. The event was made even more enjoyable with an exclusive wine-tasting conducted by the founder of Sula Vineyards. Apart from meeting alumni, the students also got the chance to interact with senior professionals from funds such as Tata Capital, Matrix Partners, Mumbai Angels and Kea Capital, who also attended the Sundowners.

Despite the hectic schedule that spanned meetings with 19 funds in five days, the participants had the chance to catch their breath, and a few drinks, at the famous Air bar at the Four Seasons, and enjoy some of the local cuisine between meetings.

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One more to go

Posted by: AK

Instead of waiting for the exams to end, I (for a change) decided to post something before the final – and the most dreaded – exam of Term 1. The exam is due tomorrow morning, i.e. in 19 hours and 20 minutes from now. Given the intensity of this course, counting every minute is actually pretty important.

Never thought reading financial statements will be that hard until I took the Financial Accounting course this term. Both the professors for my stream – Maria and Oktay – did make their best efforts to make the course content interesting and easy to understand. Am certain (and happy) that I have learnt quite a bit of accounting. Still deciding on whether I want to take Financial Statements elective (advanced accounting) in one of the next two terms of Year 1.

Sorry for the mum over the last month or so — had been keeping busy for most of the time, and for the rest, I was lazy. The month was eventful – started networking for internships, participated in one of the competitions (sadly, my team lost), got involved with some of the club and student association activities, attended MBA information sessions to share insights with prospective candidates, and last but not the least, worked on course work and assignments. Outside the school activities, Squash and outings with friends keeps me busy. London is cold now and days are shorter – so that is another discounting factor.

Over the next 3-4 weeks, I’d be traveling – really looking forward to be back home. Will (hopefully) not let the travel stop blog updates.

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Relevance Watch

Posted by: AK

Never did I understand any news article better than the one I read early this week. And I typically tend to read a lot of these articles. The biggest barrier to properly understanding an article is the “artificial” culture of immediacy around. My attention span has reduced so dramatically that I seldom take the time to understand “so-what” from any of these articles.

But then early this week, one of the courses at the school – Financial Accounting – forced me to read a news article thoroughly, and make sense of it. As a part of the course, every study group (group of 6-7 people that works together on all the assignments in the first year of MBA) is required to search and share articles that are relevant to the course material. We call this searching and sharing of articles as the “Relevance Watch”! And it was during one of these hunts, that I re-read an article – (probably) first time ever in my life – to make good sense of it.

The article was about Kingfisher Airlines in India. Kingfisher is facing declining business, holds huge debt (that doesn’t seem to be getting paid off), and is allegedly following bad accounting procedures. The business has been losing money year-after-year but the management counters the argument by announcing a positive EBITDAR. The long held operating leases, and other non-cancellable cash obligations, if added to the liabilities, make the company’s equity value negative. The management is taking steps to convert some of the debt (such as optional convertible debentures) into equity. Finally, the airline is capitalizing maintenance costs of engines of aircrafts that are under operating leases – which doesn’t seem to make sense. Although the company thinks that the accounting practise is in-line with other international airlines such as British Airways and Malaysian Airlines.

The article was interesting, but what I found more interesting was the fact that I took the time to read re-read the article and learn from it – something I should be doing more often. Am glad that the London Business School is changing my habits, which I hadn’t even thought of changing in a long time.

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Living London experience!

Posted by: AK

As a follow-up from my previous post , this post is to elaborate on one of the things that is keeping me busy – exploring the city.

During my time here, am taking the time to experience new things. One such thing that has had been on my to-do list for a long time was watching an Opera. And I finally did! A fellow classmate was kind enough to take me along (I wouldn’t have gone alone, really). The good things about the show were: (a) english language, so I could understand the most of it, (b) comic genre, so made me experience British humor. The not-so-good things were: (a) really long (3+ hours) — there were times when I found it over-stretched, (b) crunched seating space — probably apt for the money we paid. All in all, good fun.

There are a lot of other things too (will try to write about each of these later) that am experiencing for the first time ever: completing a round of 18-hole golf course, visiting pubs frequently, tasting new cuisines, eating at an international Gurudwara, learning to dance professionally etc.  This is my way of exploring the city and living the London experience so far!

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