On his website, Vikram Shah says, "I am a marketeer, a story teller, a writer, a coach, a teacher and a consultant. I like helping people achieve their goals. I am very straight forward and am brutally honest with feedback. I work very hard and set very high standards." After having known him for more than a year now, I would say just the same for him or even more!
Let me give you a background of how I happened to find him. I stayed in Mumbai and in December 2012, I was done with my GMAT and wanted to begin with the process of applying to business schools in the next couple of months. Having done a lot of secondary research online and having known no one who had pursued an MBA abroad, I knew that the process of selecting business schools suited for my profile and career goals and subsequently applying to them all alone without any support would be both confusing and tedious. I felt the need of a coach who would help me channelize my efforts in the right direction. So, I started hunting for admissions consultants. There are typically 2 kinds of admissions consultants I came across:
1) Generic Admissions Consulting Firms: These were consultants who ran huge admissions consulting firms and provided consulting for all kinds of foreign education programs right from undergrad to Ph.D. and in all fields. These consultants charged a hefty amount for initial interactions with them and later left it to their assistants to help clients. Moreover, no one from these admissions consulting firms was an MBA. On interacting with them, I also found them a little rigid in their thoughts and procedures. This really made me skeptical about the value they would bring in.
2) MBA Focused Admissions Consulting: The next
category of admissions consulting firms were those who were
focused only on MBA admissions consulting. However, all the
services they provided with were either through the internet or on
phone. In addition, they quantified and set a limit not only on
the time but also the number of times (i.e. fixed number of essay
edits) they would help us with various application deliverables. I
found these services too impersonal because:
a. They focused on restricting their efforts and not on achieving a goal
b. They had multiple advisors speaking to you during the entire process
c. Most of the advisors were top-notch MBAs with full-time corporate jobs and so would be available to help you out only part-time and only during defined hours
I literally dreamt of having a guide - someone who would understand me as a friend does, someone who would provide me with personalized attention, someone who would walk along with me through the entire process encouraging, pushing as well as supporting me, someone who wouldn't count the time he spent on guiding me but tuned his efforts based on my envisioned goal, someone who would patiently answer all the queries which came to my mind during the entire process…
Then one fine day after having spent countless hours on finding an admissions consultant, I found what I sought – www.vikramshahconsulting.com. I read one page on the website. It left me interested. Then I read the other and ultimately managed to read his entire website. The content of his website was so captivating and really matched my requirements. I hadn't heard of Vikram ever before. But when I contacted him, he provided me with a list of some of his most recent clients with their contact details so that I could get a first hand feedback of his services. After speaking to them, I felt confident about him and enrolled for his services. Even then at the back of the mind I felt that whatever he claimed to do on his website was too perfect to be true. However, now I can completely vouch for Vikram's words.
Though his website truly talks all about the quality of his
services, as an ex-client, I would like to highlight and validate
a few of his strengths:
- 1) Client Understanding: Vikram put in a lot of time and effort in order to understand me. He made me document the entire history of my life right from my childhood days. This really gave him an understanding of my inherent personality and how I had been shaped over the years due to certain events in my personal, academic and professional life. He understood my thought process, my aspirations and my goals. Moreover, he came up with a list of my strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, skills, attitudes and values. This was really helpful in selecting business schools for application.
- 2) Story-Teller And Marketeer: Vikram has the knack of converting the mundane sounding events of your life, be them personal, academic or professional, into interesting and crisp stories without altering the facts or using flowery language. At times you shall be left feeling good about certain events in your life and the actions you took then, even though you didn't think much about them earlier. Moreover, since he has understood you well, he can come up with stories from your life which perfectly suit what is being asked in the application essays or in the interviews. Sometimes, even you may wonder why you did not think about these stories earlier!
- 3) Honesty: As said earlier, Vikram is brutally honest. He gives you a reality-check. If he doesn't like your work, he will tell you without any hesitation. He also appreciates you when he really feels you have done well. Having an honest guide is crucial, because you are alone in the process, and you really want to be measured against a realistic scale at all times.
- 4) Hard Work And Attention To Details: Vikram expects you to work extremely hard, because he himself works so hard! He is a perfectionist and does not like average work. He critically examines your application essays and brings out various perspectives with which they may be interpreted. This really helps in tying up loose ends or eliminating assumptions which would communicate something other than intended. He pays utmost attention to details and by details I mean not only the overall content of your resume and essays, the sentence construction and the choice of words but also the font style, font size, font color, line spacing, page margins, page alignment, etc. He will ensure that you go through as many edits as possible, sometimes even more than 15 edits till both of you are satisfied with the content as well as the look and feel of your resume and essays. He also minutely checks all the fields on your online application form so as to ensure that there is no scope for error. Hence, he says that he sets very high standards. His hard work, superior work quality coupled with his dedication and ownership can justify the relatively higher price he charges for his services.
- 5) Availability And Flexibility: This is one of Vikram's unique strengths. He is extremely flexible with the communication medium used. He is fine with personal meetings, Skype calls, phone calls or even Whatsapp! This makes the process really convenient, especially because most of us are working professionals. Even if you decide to meet, he will choose a place which is convenient to him as well as to you. Moreover, he makes himself available at a time convenient to you. I have spoken to him in the mornings, afternoons, evenings, night and sometimes even post mid-night, when it was extremely crucial and urgent. He is extremely prompt in responding to your texts, emails and phone calls. He can get a lot busier when application deadlines are near. Even then, he sees to it that neither your deliverable is missed nor the quality of your work is negatively impacted. He informs you well in advance if he is going to be busy on certain specific days. Moreover, he will push you to get your application done much before the deadline approaches. He manages his time well, though he himself feels that he is awful at time-management! This again talks about his high standards.
- 6) Adaptability: Vikram adapts his consulting style to suit your needs. This is not only demonstrated by the flexibility he shows in the timing and mode of communication but also in the way he changes his communication style so that the right message reaches you and the work does not suffer.
- 7) Interview Control: Vikram prepares you for interviews. He helps you in envisaging all that could be possibly asked and how to deal with various possible questions. Moreover, he teaches you how you can subtly control the flow of your interview. This helps you in communicating your key strengths and achievements to your interviewer and staying away from your weaknesses. It also helps in avoiding awkward moments or uncomfortable silences during the interview. Moreover, if feasible, he will try to conduct mock interviews in the same location (say the lobby of a particular hotel) as your actual interview a few days before the interview. He will give feedback on not only your content but also your voice tonality, pace, body language, grooming, etc.
- 8) Professional Integrity: Vikram provides personalized advice. But he keeps his client information private. He does not circulate the application material created for one client with another, not even that of an older client who has already been admitted to business school. Only if needed, he may sometimes share relevant experiences of other clients without disclosing their identity.
Let me also tell you what you should not expect from him:
- 1) Helping You Without Knowing You: Vikram cannot help you succeed with your application if you are not honest to him about yourself. He has to know you if he has to help you sell your personal brand. As a doctor cannot solve your health problems, if you are not open to him about your symptoms, Vikram may not be able to do wonders for you. Having said that, Vikram respects your privacy and would not coerce you to reveal stuff if you don't want to.
- 2) Writing Your Application: Vikram converts the events of your life into interesting stories, but he will neither create your story on his own nor write your essays. He will simply keep editing them till he is satisfied and will give you qualitative feedback after each edit on how you could improve your essay. He may rephrase your sentences and restructure your essays so that they read well.
- 3) Taking Decisions For You: Vikram gives you suggestions so that you can objectively weigh the pros and cons of the various options available to you whenever you hit a road block. But he won't take decisions for you. He will simply facilitate in helping you arrive at a decision.
- 4) Making False Promises: Since Vikram is realistic and honest, he shall not make false commitments. He does not guarantee admission if he feels so. I was a much younger candidate and Vikram thought that getting admitted to a good college would be challenging considering my young age and a slightly lower GMAT. In the first meeting itself, he told me that I may not be able to make it easily and stood a much greater chance if I worked for a few more years.
Lastly, I strongly feel that Vikram has been more than an admissions consultant to me. He has been a teacher as well as a friend. Thanks to Vikram, the application process was not a mundane procedure in the journey of getting admitted to business school but an insightful learning experience which has changed my thought process as well. As I now work on my resume in business school, I can still hear Vikram's voice in my head telling me what to do! This may sound dramatic, but to quite an extent it is true! I wish you all the best for the application process and trust that you too will have a rewarding experience with Vikram. You are free to contact me in case you wish to know more or simply want to validate whatever I have said here!