Posted on April 24, 2020

Indian Doctor Turned Civil Service officer’s Journey to Kellogg at Age 31


Introduction: Rohit, a Chief Executive Officer in the Govt of India, had applied to four of the M7 schools, namely Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and Kellogg. His greatest challenge was his unconventional profile (doctor+ civil servant) and his age (31 years old). Learn how he overcame these challenges and received an admit offer from one of the M7 schools- Kellogg.

In a candid video interview with Poonam, Rohit talks about:

  • His background    01:01
  • Planning for GMAT 02:10
  • Application Strategy, Planning, Preparation 03:55
  • The most challenging part of  the Application Process  07:08
  • Advice to other MBA prospective applicants  08:43
  • Most Memorable Leadership Experience 09:54
  • Interests and Hobbies  11:30
  • Thoughts on the Impact of COVID-19 as an International Student  13:25


Poonam: Hello, Rohit! How are you doing? Thanks for taking the time for the meeting at this critical time. I know your work responsibilities as a Civil Services Officer must have increased as the entire country is under lockdown.

Rohit: Greetings Mam. Thank you so much for having me. I was looking forward to this, Mam.

Poonam: Congratulations on receiving the admit offer from Kellogg. How does it feel?

Rohit: Mam, the feeling is yet to sink in. Because the times were already tumultuous when it happened on March 25, it feels good to finally land up somewhere because I was on this path and this journey for a while. It is a very nice feeling.

Poonam: Rohit, you have a unique profile. Please tell our viewers about yourself. Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What do you do now?

Rohit: Hello Viewers. My name is Dr. Rohit Singh Malan. I come from a village called Kamalpur in the Aligarh District of India. I studied Medicine at the University of Delhi. After completing it, I had an ambition of expanding my horizon; therefore, I decided to become a Civil Services officer. I competed in a very competitive examination in 2014. I was selected and landed up in the Ministry of Defense. I started my career as Deputy Assistant Director-General. Currently, I am working as a Chief Executive Officer of the Cannanore Cantonment Board in the State of Kerala.

Poonam: From a cardio physician to a civil services officer, you have had a unique and successful professional career. Could you throw some light on your decision to switch from the medical profession to Civil Services?

Rohit: I wanted to touch more lives and have a larger impact on society, so I decided to join the coveted civil services and passed UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) Civil Services Examination. It was a long three-step process starting in 2014, culminating in my selection in 2015 (1,000 out of 960,000 applicants selected), and joining the ‘Indian Défense Estates Service.’ When I supervised a multi-specialty hospital treating thousands of poor patients, I realized that as a physician, I would have treated only a few hundred patients in a year (that, too, of my specialty). I felt I had made the right decision to join the civil services. I ensured that surgeries, deliveries, including cesarean, and emergency services started operating in the hospitals and made the generic medicines available. With the result, we treated 31,000 more patients than the year before, including a 150% jump in ‘In Patients’.

Poonam: When did you start thinking about an MBA? Why now?

Rohit: The nature of healthcare problems in India demands global approaches and solutions. As a civil servant, I need a global perspective and network to overcome market dynamics and practical nuances. Through international exposure, I want to widen my perspective and gain new skills, allowing me to collaborate with governments and business houses across the globe, accessing novel innovations and business models. I want to gain skills to work in the field of medical tourism and technology-based healthcare for which I need a management education.

Poonam: What are your career goals, Rohit?

Rohit: My short-term goal is to forge personal growth further and acquire a greater influential workspace, geographically, and scope-wise, by working for Medtronic in tech-based healthcare. After five years, I will associate with global firms to foster medical tourism and related solutions to insurance penetration, telehealth drug resistance, and generic medication, primarily aiming to bridge the existing socio-economic-political gap in India. Long term, I see myself as a consultant to the National governments of Asia and Africa and multilateral organizations: WHO and UNICEF.

Poonam: Can you tell us your GMAT prep? Given your super demanding job as a civil service officer, it must have been challenging for you to find time for GMAT prep?

Rohit: Definitely, it is true because my office is a public office, so we daily interact with the public, and it is my job to cater to public needs and demands. Apart from my regular job responsibilities, attending to the needs of the people is a crucial and challenging aspect of my job. So, finding time was a little difficult, but I decided to be slow and steady on the path. I do not think that I can state that I was committed to the number of hours every day because I had to balance a lot of things. But I was regular in my studies, and there was a rhythm. Though that rhythm was slow, I stuck to it for the entire duration. It was challenging, but I was committed to it, I was liking what I was doing, and I was getting the hang of things. I made sure to take adequate breaks while studying, understand the concepts, and internalize them. I did not try to overload myself with a lot of information, so I enjoyed the process.

Poonam: It paid off. You scored a 760. Can you share your application strategy, planning, and preparation with our audience/ readers?

Rohit: I would like to state first that I took my GMAT quite late in the process. The admission process was already underway, and the deadlines were hardly ten weeks away from where I was able to start my application process. So, there were time constraints. I had certain important personal and family-related commitments as well that could not have been postponed.  Again, from one challenge of GMAT to another challenge of the application process. I tried to be committed and regular and avoided being overwhelmed with many things at a time. Juggling with work, family commitments, and the application process was challenging. Sometimes, it used to get overwhelming a lot. In those times, you were there for the handholding I needed, which I truly appreciate. I used to thank you at that time as well.

As for the strategy, it needed a lot of reflection. I figured that because the application was so elaborate and comprehensive, not something that could be limited to two or three pages. creating the B- school application questions needed a lot of introspection on my part. I needed to reflect on the choices I had made in life, the decisions I took in life, the process that I went through to land where I am today, and the way forward. The introspection not only impacted my understanding of the entire process, understand better what the business school was asking me, but it also lowered my anxiety and gave me the headspace I needed to frame my application. This is given the fact that I am working in a relatively remote place, I did not have direct contact or informative session with somebody who had been through the process, so there were a limited number of people who could guide me. It was important to have clarity and headspace, and for that, a lot of reflection was required.

Poonam: Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the school admission process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?

Rohit: The most challenging part of the application was making a strong case for my candidacy because of my unconventional profile. I am a medical doctor who chose to be an administrator and was giving consultation to the Government of India and other various organizations. It was obvious that through the application, I needed to convince the B Schools that my plan made sense. It was a ‘make or break’ kind of case in the application because things needed to make sense. That is where myessayreview and you personally came to the rescue. You were a part of the entire reflection process. We had extensive discussions. and you made me better understand a lot of things about the entire process. So together, we correctly and thoroughly did things in a streamlined manner, and it eventually paid off.

Poonam: What would you advise other MBA applicants who are facing similar challenges? Would you like to give some pointers to the prospective applicants?

Rohit: One must be very clear about goals because B-School is a big investment of time and money. One must be very sure that the destination does have a path that needs a B- school in it. If not, the admission committee is going to see through it. So, you have to break your long-term goals into something short-term and medium-term for things to make sense, for the dots to connect. If you can do that, you will not only be less anxious but will also be able to make a good case for yourself in your application as well as the interview.

Poonam: As a civil services officer, you come from an unconventional background. Would you like to share your most memorable leadership experience as a Chief Executive Officer in Jhansi?

Rohit: I would like to say that in the last four years, the Government of India has given me immense experiences to recollect and share with a lot of people. The experience that is close to my heart is a particular law enforcement activity that I undertook in Jhansi, in which we had to take action against a black market run by a local mafia there. It was extremely challenging because we had to act against a slum, an illegal market, and we needed to act to rectify the loss of revenue to the Government. I was leading a team of around a hundred people from my own office, another hundred people of police, and the auxiliary services. Finally, we were able to recover the taxes which were due to those people and established the right of the Government. It was good for them as well as they came under the social security net of the Government and started receiving health and education benefits for their family. That was a memorable experience.

Poonam: Despite a demanding job, you have been involved in extracurricular activities. Can you tell us about your interests and hobbies?

Rohit: It is not about the time. The hobby rejuvenates a person. I have always been the kind of person who is interested, curious, and is looking to improve his skill in a particular area. In the last three years, I have bettered myself at swimming, which got extrapolated to scuba diving. I am a licensed Scuba diver. I am authorized to conduct unsupervised scuba diving in a particular depth anywhere in the world. I think if you are scared of something and you are not comfortable with it, you need to get out of your comfort zone, which makes it very special. Apart from that, I have been a badminton player for a long time. I used to play for my school, college, and I have continued to pursue this hobby. Apart from that, very recently, I have picked up Air Rifle shooting as well.

Poonam: Sure. You will get a chance to pursue some of your hobbies at Kellogg. Finally, as you know, COVID-19 had turned lives upside down globally. Given the current turmoil and uncertainty created by this international health crisis, what challenges you are anticipating in your MBA experience as an international student in the US.

Rohit: From what I have come to understand by having chats and discussions with the current students and the faculty, the situation is not yet clear to anybody. Nobody could give any definitive answers yet. Based on the data that is coming in and the extrapolation of that data in the short-term and medium-term, one should just wait and watch. The degree of interaction and networking, which is part of the B-school curriculum is going to be adversely affected. I sincerely hope that in-person classes will start in August as planned.

Poonam: Have you received any updates from Kellogg?

Rohit: Kellogg has been regularly in touch with all the admits via e-mail, webinars, and interactive programs. They are in the process of monitoring the situation and are pondering over various issues marked by the prospective applicants and the admits. Hopefully, in another four or five days, we will hear concrete decisions and answers from them.

Poonam: Is there anything else you think I should have asked?

Rohit: Apart from what we discussed, I would like to give a message to the audience is that no dream is difficult to fulfill, one doesn’t need to be a champion all through his life to do something like this. Perseverance and clarity of thought will get us through these trying times.  If one is stuck and is hustling with a particular problem, one should seek help.  An MBA application is a very elaborate and long process; first, you have to prepare for the GMAT test and take it, then prepare for the application, and interview, etc. I would once again like to say that it was really nice that you had the kind of patience you had because we went through so many edits so many times. You were always a part of the overall reflection that I had to do. I remember, so many times, you helped me achieve a better perspective on the things to make a strong case for myself, given the word limits, and other challenges of the application. Again, thank you so much for that.

Poonam: Thank you, Rohit. It was my pleasure to assist you in your application process.  I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing your story with us. It was nice chatting with you. I hope things get better soon. I wish you good luck with your Kellogg experience and continued success in your career.

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

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