UPSC 2013 Civil Services Topper Interview: AIR 1 Gaurav Agarwal
UPSC Civil Services exam 2013topper Gaurav Agarwal attributes his success to his genuine interest in public service, clarity of mind during preparation and overall goal-oriented approach. The topper, who is currently undergoing training for Indian Police Services (IPS) at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad, is also a firm believer in hard work and focused preparation.
A computer engineer from IIT, Kanpur and a PGDM holder from IIM, Lucknow, Gaurav worked for four years as an investment banker in Citi Group in Hong Kong before taking plunge into Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) preparations. He says that he carried something positive with him at every stage of life and kept on learning all his way. Even during his IPS training, he was quite sure about his goal to be a part of Indian Administrative Services (IAS). With this level of clarity in mind he kept focused on his studies and finally managed an outstanding performance and secured the first rank in the list of 1,122 candidates recommended for the top job this year.
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In this interview with Careers360, Gaurav shares different aspects of his journey towards his imminent bureaucratic career. He also speaks on his professional background, his preparation strategy and his future goals.
Careers360: Congratulations for your outstanding performance in Civil Services Examination! How did you celebrate your success?
Gaurav Agarwal: Thank you. When I saw my name on the top in the list, I thought there was some kind of mistake in interpreting the result on their part or my part. I called 3 or 4 of my friends to just confirm and when they checked, everybody was interpreting the result in the same way. After assuring that I had actually topped, I called my father, my mother, my wife and we chatted. I also celebrated in the academy with my friends. Next day, my parents and my wife came to the academy to see me.
“When I was working as an investment banker, my background in computer science always helped me in my job. Now in IPS or even in administration my background in management is going to help me.”
Careers360: You first did Engineering from IIT. Then, you graduated from IIM and pursued a job in investment banking abroad. Last year you cracked UPSC civil services for IPS. And now IAS! How did your thoughts change while moving from one domain to other?
Gaurav Agarwal: After completing BTech from IIT, Kanpur, I worked as a researcher for 6 months. I then appeared for CAT without any preparation and the written exam was easier for me. Then I did MBA from IIM, Lucknow. My job followed after that.
But, whenever I changed a domain I always carried key learning with me. When I was working as an investment banker, my background in computer science always helped me in my job. Now in IPS or even in administration my background in management is going to help me. It will help me in building teams, managing teams, managing my people, interacting with them, and communicating with them.
It always helped me and I always carried something positive. I have observed the difference already during my IPS training. When people, who do not have an IT background, are assigned some IT-related work, they just switch off their mind. They do not become receptive of what the IT solution is. If we have to move forward we have to welcome IT. We have to embrace it. Time is changing and government and system has to be more receptive to such ideas. I am always open for IT as I always appreciate implementing IT solution.
Careers360: Reports suggest that your performance was not up-to-the-mark during your IIT days? How did it happen? And how did you cope with this towards completion of your Engineering degree?
Gaurav Agarwal: Everybody is good at something. I knew that I was good at academics. I performed well in my first and second year of BTech. But in third and fourth years of the course I stopped studying as I thought hard work was for less talented people. Later I realized it was my big mistake and understood that hard work is the only way. Watching movies or playing sports were just part of my life. But the main reason for my not-so-expected (negatively) result was that I just began to look down upon the hard work. I became arrogant and that was my big mistake. As I realized it, I never gave up on hard work.
Being grounded is very difficult. We never realize the worth of it when we are flying but we always have to realize sooner or later. As soon as we realize it, we should go to the ground again, start doing the basic things correctly and make away, as I did.
Careers360: You are going to be a bureaucrat. As an IAS officer how would you go further with your future goals?
Gaurav Agarwal: I won’t make any effort for jobs now but for my best development I will always continue to make efforts. For example I am very much interested in economics. I will like to do PHD in economics. In my first 10 to 15 years of field experience I will see what ground level problems are and also see whether I can do a Phd on it. I have an academic kind of mind and I will continue to be in touch with people from academic background. I will visit colleges to meet young students and I will always keep doing these kinds of things.
Careers360: What were the key factors behind your brilliant performance in Civil Services Exams?
Gaurav Agarwal: First key factor is the genuine interest in whatever I was studying and that was needed to sustain your high performance during preparation. The second one is clarity of mind. I was always very clear this is what my priority is. I kept other things like training in the IPS academy secondary. Third thing is just knowing that where you have to keep your head down.
Careers360: You were undergoing training for IPS while appearing for different stages of UPSC 2013. What was your preparation strategy and how did you divide your time between your official training and preparation?
Gaurav Agarwal: I was very fortunate that IPS training started after the mains examination. It started in December-end whereas the exams were over in first week of December 2013. I had to prepare for the interview only during my training days. I always had the clarity of mind that IAS is my main focus. I never had to face training activities obstructing my way towards my goal. I got time whenever I asked them. I did not appear in couple of exams relating to my IPS training. I even missed some classes to just prepare for the interview.
Careers360: What was your subject at mains level? Which were the easiest and the toughest part of your preparation?
Gaurav Agarwal: Economics was my subject at mains level. The easiest part was macro economics and the toughest part was some stuff like contribution of eminent economist in India. I could not find comprehensive content for it anywhere. For some of the topics like this there was lack of study material in the available space. Otherwise for most of the topics there are standard books and standard sources to study. It is important to develop an understanding about the concepts of economics.
Careers360: How did you divide your preparation schedule among the different subjects? Did you take coaching classes?
Gaurav Agarwal: During my first attempt I used to study 10 to 12 hours a day and during my second attempt I studied about 6 to 8 hours a day. Regarding the distribution of time, I would say that part was difficult. There were days when I studied all the subjects everyday and there were days when I studied only one subject for weeks. That really depends on the kind of interest one can generate. For preparation, first I joined some coaching institutes but later I realized self study was the best option.
Careers360: What are your other interest areas (obviously apart from academics!)?
Gaurav Agarwal: I love playing Cricket. I play cricket whenever I get time. I closely follow the national and international matches as well.
Careers360: You must have read reports on the level of corruption in bureaucracy. Does it worry you?
Gaurav Agarwal: Yes, it does. But I believe that nothing can stop me if I am determined to do well and work with honesty.
Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) declared results of Civil Services Examination 2014 on Jun 12 this year. As many as 1,122 candidates selected for India’s top jobs including Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS).
Gaurav Agrawal topped the list by securing maximum marks in UPSC Civil Services Examination 2014, while Munish Sharma and Rachit Raj secured second and third positions respectively on the UPSC Result list.
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