GMAT Tests, Building Successful Businesses and Accepting Uncertainty: An Interview with Ankur Warikoo
Perhaps you have read one of Ankur Warikoo’s books, clicked on his videos or heard him speak at your place of work. Warikoo runs multiple businesses of his own, with an entrepreneurial career spanning nearly 15 years, always guided by his message to help people make important life and business decisions with awareness, not ignorance. Despite now being one of the most recognizable and successful entrepreneurs in the Indian startup and business space, his business venture success didn’t land on his lap. He began his entrepreneurship story like many others, with a lot of ideas, and a split-second decision.
Our team sat down with Ankur to discuss his journey from science loving teenager to business school student to now running his own business and helping others to become successful entrepreneurs too.
The Start of Ankur's Journey
“I am doing something that I was not meant to do. My plan in life was to become a scientist, and settle in the US, and work at NASA, that was my happy plan when I was growing up. And then I went to the US for my PhD programme, spent two years there, realized it was not something I wanted to do, came back to India, completely reset my life, and then joined an MBA programme”.
An MBA program is often the first step for individuals looking to pursue a business career, either as a part of a major corporation or going it alone with their own idea as an entrepreneur. Ankur came from a science PhD program, fundamentally a different way of learning and even viewing the world than a business degree. The shift to an MBA can take some adjusting, but one of the best assets a business school has is its other students. Ankur agreed, “I was a geek science kid who knew nothing about the real world: how sales work, marketing, finance, IT, HR, anything of that. So, for me to spend time in that business school, surrounded by kids who had real work experience was just such an absorbing time because all that I had to do was just listen and keep noticing”.
“That one year was fundamentally a very decisive journey. For me, it shaped me up meaningfully. After my MBA, I was a management consultant for three years. And then in 2009, I became an entrepreneur”.
GMAT test taker
Prior to engrossing himself in the MBA program at the Indian School of Business, Ankur, like all other prospective students, had to take the GMAT test. He took his first test with zero preparation, and was disappointed in his result, now he advises others that rigorous preparation is key to a successful GMAT exam.
One piece of knowledge Ankur is keen to impart is identifying your studying method, understanding the way you learn best is key to gaining success and achieving a high score. Ankur recalls only having textbooks to study from and reminds GMAT test takers to make use of all new technology available as study resources: "There was no YouTube to rely on, to watch somebody else speak about it, there were no podcasts to listen to - there's none of what it is today. And today learning is just so much more joyful". Ankur also notes that he was able to recognize his weaknesses and study gaps. When he was studying for the GMAT test, he found some areas easier to understand and others more of a challenge, so dedicated his time to improving the missing skills.
Advice for taking the GMAT test and beyond...
Whether it is preparing for the GMAT, working through an MBA program, or establishing a new business, Ankur has the same advice for all: maintain an ability to become a student. “In our culture, we believe that education ends once college is over. But that's not true. Because if you really think about it, you never really stop learning. And the day you do it's game over. For example, in the last six to twelve months, AI has just completely taken over. And for a lot of people, it's completely new. Now you have two choices. You can either close your eyes and say, it doesn't affect me, I'm just going to turn a blind eye, or you can say, this is something which is so wonderful that I need to learn it”.
Ankur told us the student environment of the Indian School of Business was the place he learnt critical thinking, gained new business knowledge, and understood varying markets and industries. He credits learning alongside his peers as a key reason he absorbed new and exciting information that ultimately helped him become successful in his chosen industries. When touring schools for your own MBA program, be sure to pay attention to the way current students and alumni describe the skills they learnt, and the community of the business school.
An MBA program is often an incubator for many entrepreneurs who work together to build a future business plan and go on to succeed in securing investors and cracking into their chosen industries. Ankur identified three key skills he recognised in successful entrepreneurs he has met in his own company and beyond:
- Accept uncertainty – "Find comfort and a certain level of ability to diagnose and understand uncertainty."
- Practice active listening skills – "It's listening to observation. it's listening through absorption. What is the world trying to tell you?"
- Learn to nurture talent in your team – "Raise talent, to identify it, to groom it. Delegate and trust them."
Ankur's current entrepreneurial success
Where is Ankur professionally now? He is working on multiple projects concurrently, which he says brings him great joy and chances to meet a range of people doing exciting things in new businesses.
“Today, I also create content in addition to running startups and investing in and mentoring them. So, it's almost like a circle that's come back around, where I get to give back to the ecosystem that in some way, raised me up professionally”.