The Online Onset: Perks and Pitfalls of Having a Virtual First Month of MBA

-Navaneethakrishnan Unnikrishnan and Aditi Datar

While writing CAT 2020, most aspirants had absolutely no idea whether their MBA life was going to kick off in a grand hall with 400 other batchmates, or in the confines of their bedrooms. Such was (and is) the unpredictable nature of the pandemic being dealt with. So it wasn’t much of a surprise to Planet-i converts when there came an official announcement regarding the induction and classes being conducted virtually. 

Right from the pre-registration days (that kept the participants occupied throughout June) to SAC induction activities to placement preparation and commencement of classes, everything was implemented online. And so, for most part of the first month of the ‘quintessential b-school experience’, the 2021 PGP batch thrived virtually.

As we write this, halfway through Term-1, a good chunk of our batchmates have already settled into their hostel rooms. Before we ourselves leave for campus and get lost in the hubbub of a happening offline experience, we thought, why not look back at – and dig deeper into – this e-inception?

Was it a seamless experience? 

The induction processes were quite easy to follow, thanks to some great email communication and SOPs. Classes and exams being held online allowed us to gradually get used to the pace of the curriculum and relieved us of the intimidation of diving head-first into an extremely hectic and competitive environment. 

A flipside to that relief is that though the internet is a lot more ubiquitous today than it was ten years ago, the connectivity is still not reliable in many rural and semi-rural locations. For many, this came as a series of hiccups making them miss out on classes, club activites, etc. 

Was it an engaging experience? 

This one’s a no-brainer. Irrespective of the mode, the course has its way of getting it’s participants completely engrossed into it. Most days of July were quite eventful; it was a sea change to have after almost a year of lockdown-dormancy. And to a large extent, the feelings of excitement, tension and vigor among the students, were palpable. (Case in point, the energy that seeped into Whatsapp groups on the SAC election days!) These feelings gave us reason to feel invested in the course despite the lack of a physical common ground. 

While this overnight shift in academic and non-academic workload – and the many sleep-deprived nights that came with it – might have rattled some into believing that MBA is a two-year ticket to Hectic City, it is also important to note that the virtual situation helped alleviate the change. Having to dive head-first into the rigors of a new curriculum while still inhabiting the old familiar spaces of our rooms, was quite a bonus. 

Was it a fun experience?

Despite the rigor, we did not miss out on the fun. Thanks to SAC and the internal batch networks, there were ample meet-and-greet opportunities. Although we only half-met people (as their physical frames only half-fit into the Zoom window), these ice-breakers were effective enough to drive away the inertia and uncertainties that come with new beginnings. Having said that, there were definite downsides in terms of establishing a personal connection with peers, professors and the campus. We couldn’t kick off MBA week with goodies from Tuck Shop. We couldn’t run behind seniors to get our hands on Kotler and Besanko. A lot of us are yet to even arrive on campus! There was a palpable fear of missing out on campus life that permeated through the entire batch, and the news of campus being open for PGP-1 was welcomed with open arms. 

As the world battles this pandemic, our batch has experienced a one-of-a-kind virtual Term-1 which came with its set of perks and challenges. It has been intimidating, sure, but it has given us this unique experience that we all share. Ours has become a close bunch, all in this together. To more memories ahead!

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