Case Study | Beating the Odds: How Saket Secured a Spot at INSEAD with Less Than 2 Years of Experience

Saket, an Indian applicant with under two years of experience, aimed to join INSEAD's 1-year MBA program to quickly enhance his family's e-commerce business. Despite being younger and less experienced than typical candidates, he leveraged his international experience, stellar academics, and impactful role in his family business. Facing initial deferral, Saket successfully appealed to secure a January intake. Graduating as a top student, he now leads his family business's retail division to new heights. This case highlights the power of strategic planning and perseverance in overcoming admissions challenges.

Indian applicant with less than 2 years of experience

Application Round: Round 1 (Sept Intake)

Saket came to us with only one goal in mind: attending INSEAD. Working in his family business, and with the need to return to it at the earliest to develop their e-commerce capabilities, he had a very aggressive timeline to keep: it had to be a 1-year MBA and he couldn’t delay the start of his MBA. 


Because he needed to attend his MBA program in the upcoming cycle (or not at all), we understood that the challenge was substantial. He was significantly younger and less experienced than most of his peers. INSEAD is known for favoring candidates with more extensive work experience, with an average of 7 years compared to 5 years for most US programs. With only 2 years by the start of the MBA, Saket had to beat the odds to make it. Additionally, despite his extensive international experience, Saket had returned to India upon graduation, placing him in one of the world’s most competitive applicant pools: Indian, male, engineer.

Strategic Approach

Recognizing the challenge from the outset, our coach swiftly devised a strategy to overcome the odds. The candidate's extensive international experience from studying overseas was a key asset. Additionally, his academic excellence, demonstrated by a perfect GPA in one of the most challenging undergraduate courses and a 760 GMAT score (99th percentile), further strengthened his profile. Crucially, his role in the family business allowed us to highlight his impactful achievements more effectively than if he had been working in a corporate environment. 

Vision Crafting

At the time of his application, Saket was overseeing the setup of a massive manufacturing plant in India, managing the project end-to-end. Despite his young age, he was responsible for significant CAPEX investments and led the recruitment of over 500 factory workers. His MBA was endorsed by his firm’s COMEX and was essential for his professional development. Therefore, we aimed to strongly connect his family business background with his future aspirations.

INSEAD did not have a word limit on the post-MBA career goal essays at that time, which allowed us to thoroughly define his vision as the third-generation leader of the family business. We emphasized his focus on social impact, detailing the enhanced safety measures, housing policies, and educational benefits for workers' children that he implemented while establishing the plant. This comprehensive narrative showcased his potential to drive meaningful change and perfectly aligned with INSEAD’s newly launched campaign promoting “business as a force for good.”      

Beating the odds twice

Although his application was initially successful, it was only a partial victory as INSEAD offered him a deferred admission. He received a personal email from the Director of Admissions, explaining that while they were impressed with his accomplishments, they felt he needed more relevant experience before starting the program and recommended a one-year delay. This was not an option for Saket or his family business’s COMEX, so we decided to appeal the decision. We updated his CV, secured additional letters of support from regional government agency leaders, and crafted a compelling appeal argument. After a few weeks, Saket was offered deferred admission to the January intake (instead of the previous September) - something that had never been done before. 


Despite having just over two years of work experience at the start of his MBA, Saket graduated as one of the top students. He significantly contributed to strengthening INSEAD's entrepreneurship ecosystem by spending two months working with various startups on go-to-market (GTM) strategies and mapping the French tech landscape. Today, he is taking the retail division of his family business to new heights, having built some of the most robust e-commerce capabilities. 


Saket's admission to INSEAD demonstrated that overcoming the odds requires a great deal of perseverance and audacity. It also highlighted that average metrics alone shouldn't be misleading. We believe there is always a path to success; it just needs to be strategically engineered.

Words from Saket:

Thank you so much for your guidance along the journey from an underconfident prospective MBA candidate to a beaming INSEAD student. Your 24x7 availability helped make up for my erratic work schedules and ensured we met every deadline ahead of time. Our in depth conversations made the essay writing exercise a cakewalk (for me, you still had to do the heavy lifting!). Lastly but most importantly, your faith in me was the most essential push for someone with 1.5 years of experience in a family business to confidently apply to and get accepted by the best 1 year MBA programme in the world. Thank you for all of this. It has been a genuine pleasure and honour to work with you!!” 

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