Career Series – Pratik Poddar: Morgan Stanley, Blackstone and Beyond
As a part of our on-going Career Series, we are covering the experiences of several recent alumni who joined various companies and universities after their stay at IIT Bombay. If you are interested in contributing a piece, please feel free to get in touch with us.
The content on this website is strictly the property of Insight and the Students’ Gymkhana IIT Bombay. If you wish to reproduce any content herein, please contact us:
Chief Editors: Anshul Avasthi, Chirag Chadha
Pratik graduated from the Computer Science and Engineering Department of IIT Bombay in 2010. He joined the Quantitative Modeling group at Morgan Stanley, straight out of the institute. After 2 years at Morgan Stanley, he switched to Blackstone, a Private Equity firm. He worked there for four months before quitting to pursue a startup he was passionate about.
When preparing for placements, you had the option of pursuing higher education as well. Why did you opt for a job?
I was more inclined towards Mathematics than Core Computer Science. Hence, the options that I had were to either pursue a doctorate in mathematics or to get a math-related job. I chose not to go for a PhD due to personal reasons. Morgan Stanley had a great team, which I could relate to, working on good math problems, so I joined them.
I was more excited about mathematics than I was about learning business or computer science.
Among the companies at campus, I had options to join software firms, quant/trading desks and consulting companies. I was shortlisted in almost all consulting and quant firms, but was more excited about mathematics than learning “business” or “computer science”. I opted for Morgan Stanley because I could relate to their team the most. I could see that I would make best friends at this company and learn what I wanted to.
How was your experience at Morgan Stanley?
It was brilliant. Morgan Stanley is a great company. There are two things about great companies, such as Morgan Stanley – a) the peer group is extremely intelligent b) you get mentors for life as experienced people help you grow your career and help you become a better leader. I enjoyed being part of such a group because it led to continuous learning. The work was great too. Since I had been in contact with the immediately senior batch at Morgan Stanley, I was very clear about the kind of work I’d be routinely dealing with. There was absolutely no mismatch between my expectation and the real day-to-day job. I built strong relationships with my boss and colleagues which have been very helpful to me. The relationships I could develop and the life learning I had during the initial couple of years is very valuable to me and close to my heart. Of course, the brand name that Morgan Stanley offered was also very valuable.
I also had this internal doubt about whether I needed “business experience” before starting up.
Blackstone is a very niche group of perhaps the most business-savvy and smartest people in the country, and carries a great brand name. Thanks to the successes of the past analysts in their career, its a great firm to be associated with. I still feel honoured for having been a part of this esteemed institution. I wanted to start-up after 2 years at Morgan Stanley. Just when I was about to quit MS, I got a call from a senior at Blackstone (BX) to interview. I was skeptical if I was the BX type of guy. But I wanted to at least meet them to explore the field and get a perspective of that world. I also had this internal doubt about whether I needed “business experience” before starting up. During the interviews at BX, I had a great time. I saw the most hard working and passionate people I have ever seen. If you think IIT is full of passionate, energetic and hard working people, BX was 100x denser than that. It convinced me that starting up could wait for a couple of years.
It was an offer I could not refuse. I had support from senior management and explicit communication, that unlike other analysts who go for an MBA after the analyst program, I would quit and work on building a startup. The team was fully supportive of that. I believed that Blackstone, being a Private Equity firm, could give me much needed business insights for a startup. But few months into the job, I realised that the best way to learn about how to build a business is building one. No school, no company can teach you the intricate details about building a business. I had a chat with the management about my thoughts. Thankfully, the team supported me with everything. They were super-generous with connections, references and bonus. I even discussed my initial business plans with the BX team.
The BX office feels like home now. After every minor failure I face, I feel like going to BX office, where I can talk about everything openly.
When did the idea of doing a startup develop? And did a job at Morgan Stanley / Blackstone serve your purpose of getting business insight?
Even during my time at IIT B, I was inclined towards starting up. But then I decided to wait and watch and join Morgan Stanley instead. In terms of purpose being served, I think the great firms I worked for provided me with three things:
a) Access to senior people as life-long mentors
b) Ability to think on scale
c) A Brand name
What are you working on now?
I tried out two start-ups before working on the current one. The first one was a social e-commerce platform, Clipr (pinterest for ecommerce for India). The second was Tomonotomo (http://www.tomonotomo.com – a friend-of-friend dating website). Now I’m working on Spiral Content Solutions (a Content Marketing startup). It started with a news summarizer app (http://www.zippednews.com) and it has morphed to a content curation + marketing engine.
I am much more open to failures than I was earlier.
It has been humbling. You have to be emotionally tough and be prepared to give in whatever it takes. I am much more open to failures than I was earlier. It takes your sweat and blood to build a company. So, overall tough and humbling experience, but great learning.
In hindsight, what are some things that you think you should have done differently?
In hindsight, it would have in best interest for me to join a tech-startup. I had an opportunity to interview with few Silicon Valley startups like Twitter and Facebook. These were not very big names back then and they didn’t come for campus placements. From the perspective of doing a tech startup in future, it would have been a great decision had I joined these firms. Also, at that time, Zomato was an early stage startup and I was really excited about it. I really wanted to join it, but I rather chose to go to Morgan Stanley. Anyway, it is very easy to say what would have been better and what not, but very difficult to choose at that point in time. So, I do not regret any decision.
Every rat race produces some winner rats, and many loser rats, but only rats.
The same advice that I was given back then. Every rat race produces some winner rats, and many loser rats, but only rats. But you are human beings. You are not rats. Do not be part of the rat race. Create your own path. Don’t just follow people for the sake of following. Acquire skills that you want to acquire. Be the best at that skill. Everything else will follow.
Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Credit Suisse and several other companies also recruit students from IIT Bombay regularly. Keep following Insight for more interviews written by alumni working in different sectors.