Deepak Punwani, Founder, MBA Exchange
An MBA graduate of INSEAD (France and Singapore), Mr. Punwani currently heads the Asia practice for MBA Exchange (www.mbaexchange.com) , an entrepreneurial MBA admissions consulting firm . Mr. Punwani has been directly involved in the admissions process over last 5 years . He worked closely with the INSEAD Admissions Committee on briefing alumni interviewers and has been interviewing MBA applicants himself over past 5 years. YourStory spoke to Deepak on MBA Exchange and his entrepreneurial journey.
Mr. Punwani also provided assessments and advice for applicants to top schools in Europe and the US. His professional background includes sales management, corporate strategy and brand development in China, India and Singapore for consumer goods companies Colgate Palmolive and Goodyear. In addition, he served as a management consultant for strategy formulation, due diligence and process optimization for corporations across Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Previously, Mr. Punwani gained entrepreneurial experience in Europe. In addition to his INSEAD MBA, Mr. Punwani has a business management degree from University of Mumbai. Born in Spain, he speaks fluent Spanish as well as Hindi, and has traveled to over 40 countries worldwide
Tell us more about The MBA Exchange, Ltd.
Founded in 1996, The MBA Exchange ® has helped more than 2,500 applicants – including hundreds from India – to gain admission to the world’s leading business schools. The firm’s consulting team features former admissions officers as well as experienced MBA graduates from top-tier programs including Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, INSEAD, London Business School and others. For more information or to request a free evaluation, visit The MBA Exchange website at www.mbaexchange.com.
What are the services that MBA Exchange offers?
- The MBA Exchange is the premier global admissions and counseling firm. Its main offering is advising applicants from around the world seeking admission to top global business schools . Since its inception in 1996, a wide range of applicants has used its services to gain admissions to the most selective programs globally. In addition to its core offering related to MBA admissions counseling, The MBA Exchange also facilitates additional services to its clients including:
- Financial aid coaching
- Test preparation coaching
- Test anxiety counseling
- Interview preparation
- Quantitative skills improvement (non-GMAT)
- Accent-reduction coaching
- Immigration advice and support
- Pre-application background screening
- Audit of social-media profile
- Waitlist consultation
- Career advisory and support services
At any point, did you feel like giving up and finding a regular job?
Hasn’t happened till now. There is so much excitement in growing MBA Exchange practice Never – I feel that the best is yet to come. The accessibility of top global MBA’s has grown for applicants from Asia . In addition with the economies of these countries growing, a lot of students want to come back after they graduate . This venture offers me the chance of being at the confluence of these trends . That’s a unique opportunity and there aren’t too many opportunities that can surpass this
What drives you to stay buckled on the rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship?
The fact that I am making a fundamental difference in the lives of applicants. A top MBA can be a life altering experience and if I can help in applicants gaining that experience – it gives me much satisfaction . I keep this big picture in mind to deal with uncertain life of an entrepreneur.
What makes MBA Exchange different from the other MBA consultancy services?
? The ONLY firm that offers you CPA-reported success and BBB-accredited satisfaction:
Any consultant can claim a high success rate and client satisfaction — and most do. However, without independent verification, such unaudited claims should be ignored. Our performance is independently verified and reported by a respected Certified Public Accounting firm that is a member of the BDO Seidman international alliance (www.BDO.com). They surveyed our clients for written confirmation of results. We are the first firm in the admissions consulting industry to provide such proof of performance. The MBA Exchange’s success rate is the one you can believe and trust. Furthermore, we are fully accredited by the Better Business Bureau and have been recognized by them each year for a perfect, complaint-free record of client satisfaction. We also implement a client satisfaction survey to ensure that our service lives up to even the highest expectations; the vast majority of our clients tell us that they would proudly introduce The MBA Exchange to their friends, relatives and associates. And that’s exactly what they do!
? 100% focus on YOU instead of your competitors:
Unlike other popular firms, we don’t blast free individualized advice daily to your competitors via blogs, podcasts or online forums. We don’t publish cheap guides, videos or books that reveal to the masses our proven strategies and tactics. Such self-promotion only dilutes the effectiveness of admissions advice by helping thousands of other applicants. Ask yourself, “How can I succeed if I look like everyone else?” and “Why would I select a consulting firm that helps everyone else look like me – for free?” At The MBA Exchange, our sole focus is on you and your admissions success. Our expertise becomes your competitive advantage in truly differentiating your candidacy. We put our customized guidance and experience to work exclusively for the benefit of each client on our limited roster, not thousands of their competitors via the Internet.
? Experience in admissions AND admissions consulting:
Our consultants include former admissions officers and graduates of Columbia, Wharton, Kellogg, Chicago, MIT, Tuck, Fuqua, Cornell, Indiana, Ivey and other top schools. And, collectively, we have decades of practical experience that relates to your past, present and future. Unlike most other consulting firms, we proudly list names of our consultants on our website with summaries of their credentials and experience. So, you know in advance the caliber and quality of our team. These experienced professionals are committed exclusively to The MBA Exchange and to your admissions success.
? The accountability of a lead consultant and the school-specific knowledge of a team:
At The MBA Exchange, you get the best of both worlds – the continuity and accountability of a dedicated lead consultant AND the school-specific knowledge of an entire team. Based on background, goals and chemistry, each client is matched with a lead consultant who has experience and success with the schools being targeted. As confirmed by our verified performance, the best results come from working with one lead consultant who knows you and your candidacy intimately, advising you on how to refine your positioning and messaging for each targeted school. Otherwise, your candidacy can become fragmented and unfocused as you are shuffled among less experienced, less committed “specialists.” At The MBA Exchange, your lead consultant has access to colleagues anytime that a second opinion would be beneficial to your candidacy.
? Broad business background and cross-cultural savvy:
Our team includes seasoned professionals with the knowledge, maturity and experience to help differentiate you from your competitors — even applicants with similar career and academic histories. Regardless of your industry or function, our consultants have either worked in it, consulted to it or helped applicants from it to crack the top b-schools. Furthermore, we have served clients from over 30 countries worldwide. Our practical insights and candid feedback leverage your strengths and neutralize your weaknesses to enhance and elevate your entire candidacy.
? First and only strategic audit of your online social-media presence:
The MBA Exchange has experienced, online research specialists find and examine how MBA admissions officers, recommenders, interviewers, alumni, students and other “influencers” would perceive you based on your presence at Facebook, LinkedIn Twitter and other sites. It’s not just what you post, but also what has been posted about you by others that could hurt your chances for MBA admission. The MBA Exchange is the first admissions consulting firm to offer this valuable, confidential service for MBA applicants.
? Extensive, proprietary knowledge base of applicants since 1996:
From thousands of prospect assessments and client engagements, The MBA Exchange has created a huge, dynamic knowledge base of aggregated information on the applicant pool. Because we are the only admissions consulting organization that has offered such assessments and services over such a long period, the quality and value of our applicant data is unmatched. The MBA Exchange knows what works and what doesn’t, and we put that knowledge to work for your success.
? Proprietary frameworks, customized strategies, and proven tools to optimize and customize your candidacy:
When you work with The MBA Exchange, you get more than just our time and experience. Clients also have access to proprietary tools, frameworks and resources that we have developed and refined over the years based on actual results. These assets ensure that your candidacy is compelling, targeted and differentiated for optimal results. Our success rate confirms this efficacy.
? Global network of resources:
We are far more than an “admissions consulting service.” As our name implies, The MBA Exchange is a true network. Based on the high-trust relationships we build with our clients, most of them choose to keep in contact with us during and even after b-school. This gives us a real-time pipeline into current trends and practices in admissions — actionable information that benefits our current clients. As an MBA Exchange client, you instantly become a beneficiary of this valuable network.
? Daily access and responses in 24 hours or less:
We know that you have a full-time job, a family and a social life. So, The MBA Exchange remains accessible seven days a week, including evenings and holidays. Client emails are responded to within 24 hours, typically within just a few hours, and often immediately. Phone appointments can be scheduled as needed. Bottom line: The MBA Exchange is here for you!
? Complete, comprehensive, ethical services:
The MBA Exchange offers the total process for admissions success: from critical assessment of your candidacy, to strategic positioning, to action planning, to recommendation strategy, to essay advice and refinement, to interview preparation, to final application review, to on-going coaching after applications are submitted — even through waitlist. We have been scrutinized for membership in the top professional associations and adhere strictly to their ethics codes. We help you optimize your profile with clarity, differentiation and impact. Anything less limits your chances for admission and puts your candidacy at risk. We are the only admissions consulting firm that meets the standards of every major professional association for membership or accreditation. This list includes: National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (www.nagap.org); Association of Independent Graduate Admissions Consultants (www.aigac.org); Higher Education Consultants Association (www.hecaonline.org); Independent Education Consultants Association (www.iecaonline.org); National Association of Professional Background Screeners (www.napbs.com) and the Better Business Bureau (www.chicago.bbb.org).
? Free guidance and support for a spouse, partner or significant other:
The challenges surrounding admissions, and the b-school experience itself, can be stressful for those around you. At no extra charge, The MBA Exchange provides a one-on-one consultation with your spouse, partner or significant other about the application process.
? Superior value at a competitive rate:
Our one-time, flat fee ensures all of the time, attention and access that your candidacy deserves. Unlike consultants who charge an hourly rate, we don’t “keep the meter running” or push additional services you don’t need. And unlike others who may promise “unlimited” access, we don’t disappear when you need us most — as application deadlines near. At The MBA Exchange, you know from day one what you will pay and what you will receive. Clients consistently tell us that our Comprehensive Consultation is the best value in the admissions consulting marketplace.
Why did you choose to be an entrepreneur rather than stick to a regular 9-to-5 job?
The MBA Exchange offers me the opportunity to help a range of individuals gain the lifelong benefits of a top MBA education. This is very gratifying as most of these talented applicants may not have access to relevant information; I see myself as a bridge between their dreams and their reality. This venture also offers me the opportunity to grow awareness of The MBA Exchange in the Asia Pacific region, which is one of the most dynamic areas in the world. This kind of impact and resultant satisfaction is impossible to replicate in a regular 9 to 5 job
Can you share with us recognition that MBA Exchange has got?
? The MBA Exchange has earned five consecutive “Zero Complaint Awards” from the highly respected Better Business Bureau.
? We have been recognized and promoted in leading media including BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Hong Kong Career Times, and Washington (DC) Business Journal.
? We have been invited to meet with the admissions staff from 15 of the world’s top 20 business schools, including Harvard, INSEAD and the Indian School of Business.
? We have been selected by leading companies to share our perspective with their pre-MBA professionals. These organizations include Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Deloitte and Boston Consulting Group.
? We are ranked #1 in admissions among all flat-fee-only consulting firms on www.admissions411.com.