B.Tech. from IIT, MBA from IIM, working in a Fortune-500 group with a rock star salary. All these achievements didn’t mean much form him. Working in an investment bank didn’t turn him into a hard-core corporate manager, instead he started thinking about common man.
After completing his four-year stint with Citi Group, he came back to crack the Civil Services examinations. In his very first attempt, he got IPS. He reached his goal i.e. IAS in the second attempt. He is none other than this year UPSC topper Gaurav Agarwal.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview of his with Sakshi...
My mother’s dedication
My home town is Jaipur and I am from a well-educated family. My dad Suresh Chandra Gupta is a senior manager in Jaipur Dairy and my mother Suma Gupta was a house-maker. My mother took a lot of interest in my studies. Her keenness and sacrifice made the man that I am today.
My aim was to serve people, so chose IAS
In 2008, I have completed my PGPM with the specialization of finance from IIM Lucknow. Then, I was recruited as an investment banker (trader) by the City Group. I have worked in Hong Kong as a Credit Trader between 2008 June and 2011 September. During my stint, I have seen a lot of world in my field trips and met people from different walks of life. After taking a close look at how the world being operated, my thoughts have turned towards my people. I felt IAS was the right path to serve people. So, I left my job in 2011 September and came back to India.
Preparation from September 2011
I came back to the country with only one goal in my mind – to achieve the position of IAS in the civil services examinations. I did not waste my time. I have started working towards my goal as returned to the country. I was quite focused and very much determined.
In 2012, I gave my first attempt
Every day I spent around 10-12 hours of my time with books. The second paper in prelims i.e. ‘aptitude test’ was very easy for me due to my past experience with CAT exam. For General Studies paper too, I have worked in a planned and meticulous manner. I took out previous years’ question papers, analysed the patterns, looked at the importance given to each topic and made preparation plans accordingly. I used my analytical skills here and have achieved a good score in the Prelims.
In 2012, we could choose two optional subjects. Due to my academic background, I chose Economics as my first optional. And because of my inclination, History became my second optional. For Economics, I did not take any coaching. But for History, I took coaching In Delhi.
On each topic I have studied for Mains Exam, I have prepared my own notes in a resourceful way. In this process, I have made use of the internet resources in the best possible manner. My thorough preparation has helped me to crack the Mains exam. In interview, I have answered the questions with my natural talent and got selected for India Police Service. After joining for IPS training, I have started my preparation for IAS.
Training and preparation went hand in hand
I wanted to get the IAS cadre in my second attempt. So, I started preparation for 2013 Civils exams, again with a solid time management strategy. I designed the strategy in such a way that I had 6-8 hours time in daily schedule for preparation. There was some gap between the IPS foundation course and Mains exam. I used this time to rectify my mistakes I had committed in my previous attempt. By now, my daily schedule settled down well. So, there was no clash between the preparation and training.
Don’t have to worry about the new pattern
The new pattern was introduced in 2013 for Mains examination. In the new pattern, importance for General Studies has gone up and number of optional papers came down to one. A new paper “Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude” was introduced. The new changes, particularly the increased importance to General Studies had unsettled a lot of aspirants.
However, the point that is to be taken not of is, the UPSC had divided the same old topics of General Studies into several new divisions. If you pay attention to this small detail, you wouldn’t worry about the new pattern. Some aspects of Public Administration were introduced in the Ethics paper. In this way, the new syllabus was only a kind of old wine in new bottle. After understanding this equation, I have started preparing again for the second time and I reached to the interview level.
Interview mostly concentrates on our academic profile
I was introduced by the team that was lead by Dr. Kilam Soongla. My interview was rather a discussion, rather than a question and answer session. I was asked questions on the topics such as - the current economic challenges that the nation is facing, ways to overcome them, inflation, SEZs, worthy economic policies, the land grabbing problem and environmental protection policies.
In this way, most of my interview time, was consumed by questions related to economics. After these, they covered topics such as the behavior of media in the current societal conditions, the role of media, the advantages and disadvantages of social media, etc. The extra-curricular activities that interested my college days were also discussed. I gave satisfactory answers to all the questions. The difference between national bio-sphere and national wild-life sanctuaries was the only question that stumped me. After the interview, I felt that my performance would fetch me a rank that would be enough to get the IAS position.
Never expected top rank
I never thought that I would become the all India topper. There are no words to express my feelings. My family is the reason of my success. I cannot forget the help that I received from my well-wishers. Most importantly, although I left my job at Citi Group, my family never discouraged me. On the contrary, I received constant encouragement, with a ‘go ahead’ slogan ringing in my head.
Grasp of fundamentals is the first step
My suggestion for the Civils aspirants is – you must start you preparation at least one year before the exam. First of all, we need to get out of the feeling that civil services examination is a high-hanging grapefruit. We need to increase our self-confidence by mastering the fundamentals of all the subjects.
If you have completed this task, then you are already half-way there. You need to have a strict preparation pattern, which is systematic and logical. In this regard, you need to have a certain grasp on the previous years’ question papers as well as the current syllabus.
When choosing the optional, you need to be very careful. As there is only one optional that you need to study pay attention to the scoring nature of the subject as well as your interest towards the subject. In this regard, taking the suggestions of the senior students is advised. When you start your preparation for Prelims, also start direct your preparation for Mains in an analytical way.
All the best!!
The books he read:
History: Bipin Chandra
General Studies: Insight IAS Academy Notes
Polity and Constitution: D.D. Basu
For the basics of Geography and History: NCERT books of 11th and 12th standard
Biology & Environment: NCERT books of 9th and 10th standard
Current affairs: Daily newspapers and magazines
The Academic Profile of Gaurav Agarwal:
- Completed his Class X in 1999
- Completed his +2 (MPC) in 2001
- Achieved the 45th rank in IIT-JEE in year 2001
- Completed his B.Tech. from IIT Kanpur in 2005
- Scored 99.3 percentile in CAT 2004 exams
- Scored 99.8 percentile score in CAT 2005 exams
- Worked as an intern at IBM Research Labs as a Project Trainee between December 2005 and June 2006.
- Completed his MBA in Finance from IIM Lucknow with 9.25 GPA and won the gold medal (2006-2008).
- Worked as an intern in Citi Group Hong Kong for two months in the year 2007. It was a pre-placement offer.
- Achieved the 244th Rank in 2012-13 Civil Services Examinations.
- Achieved 1st Rank in 2013-14 Civil Services Examinations.