Meet India’s Top MBAs From The Class Of 2019

What makes an MBA applicant stand out on paper? Simple: They are people who can identify a gap or an opportunity – and they possess the daring to take action. In a word, they have impact.

That is the quality that sets many of the top first-year business students from India apart. Take Namrata Rao, who joined the Class of 2019 at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business this fall. At an Ed Tech startup, she launched an experiential education program designed to help students make better career decisions. Three months later, she had launched 50 programs that touched 2,500 students – and earned her employer a ‘Best College Start-Up of India’ Award from the Economic Times.

Now, that’s impact!


Rao wasn’t the only MBA candidate to bring ideas to life and make an impact. After studying fashion design in Mumbai and New York City, Nivedita Kohli landed a spot with Ralph Lauren – and made the most of her opportunity. She launched two apparel categories that generated over $40 million dollars in sales. Now studying at Columbia Business School, this self-described “poet” concedes that her success was due as much to analyzing data and building relationships as creative inspiration. In the process, it taught her what was possible when these elements work together.

“Witnessing customers buy into my ideas, seeing the designs I had sketched on paper come to life on websites, in the windows of retailers such as Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, on TV shows, on people I’ve always admired and most importantly on the general public was exhilarating,” she tells Poets&Quants.

Prateek Gupta, UCLA (Anderson)

Prateek Gupta experienced that same exhilaration – but it came from trial-by-fire. Four years ago, he ran the team responsible for overseeing website traffic and custom offers for Flipkart. During the company’s biggest promotion – the Big Billion Day Sale – the analytics system crashed due to “unprecedented traffic.” While senior management was panicking, Gupta stepped up to coordinate efforts between different divisions and built an on-the-fly framework that kept the campaign afloat. Despite the calamity, Flipkart even beat their sales goals. Now a first-year at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, Gupta gained far more than confidence from his moment of truth.

“I learned no matter how much you plan beforehand, when you’re trying to do something brave for the first time, especially at a national scale, things will go wrong and when they do, you have to stay calm and focused,” he says.


These are just a few examples of the many India-born professionals who’d made a big impact in various industries before returning to campus to earn their MBAs last fall. Courageous, creative, and capable, they represent the sages, pacesetters, and risk-takers of tomorrow – the ones who’ll inspire their peers to be more and do better. Each year, Poets&Quants asks the top MBA programs to share a dozen of the students they believe will set the bar for the class to meet. From IMD to Berkeley, Indian students are among those leading the way.

What sets these students apart? For one, they bring a certain creative inclination. Kohli, for example, was a singer and actor in a Bollywood production. At the same time, Rao, is an Indian classical dancer who has appeared in 20 stage performances. They aren’t the only members of the 2019 class who are comfortable on stage. IMD’s Shubham Jain and MIT Sloan’s Kaavya Gupta both played in bands. While Wharton’s Suyog Karnawat comes from an engineering and analytics background, he also performs ‘Nukkad Natak’ (street theatre) for social awareness.

“A Quant AND a Poet,” he jokes.

They also bring an openness to adventure to campus. That spirit is personified in Rice’s Vishruti Jakhar. At work, she was a pioneer, a woman who’d lead a drilling team on an oil rig. On land, she was nicknamed the “mountain goat” – a nod to her skill and tenacity in climbing 20,000 foot mountains, which included burnt shoes to hypothermia, climbing for 15 hours straight to covering over 26 horizontal miles and 7,000 vertical feet distance in a single day.”


Indeed, this spirit to climb and build defines most of these top students. At Make a Difference, a non-profit that supports children’s shelters in India, Yale’s Rakesh Saha’s helped the program scale from 40 to 3,400 children, with its reach broadening to 23 cities. Not to be outdone, Oxford’s Sidhya Senani founded a school that boasted an egalitarian structure focused on enabling students to make their own decisions. At the same time, MIT’s Gupta has taken her passion for music online, launching, a platform that connects companies with creative talent. In fact, her concept was so strong that it was the only startup from India chosen to be part of Southeast Asia’s largest accelerator program.

Despite their credentials, it wasn’t necessarily easy for these stellar students to get into top business programs. For them, the best advice is to invest heavily in self-reflection and formulate what Saha calls a “roadmap” – a call to action to clarifies exactly what applicants hope to achieve after graduation.

Aditi Bhatia, Columbia Business School

“The rich picture I ended up creating contained not only the positions I wanted to hold or the organizations I wanted to work for, but more importantly, what I wanted to be able to “do” within the next 7 to 10 years.” Saha writes. “This, along with a roadmap that charted out the skills I needed to develop and the experiences I needed along this journey, helped me identify which business school was right for me. This process can get arduous and time-consuming but, for me, it was instrumental in creating a compelling application.”


Such reflection also comes in handy for writing essays as well, adds Columbia’s Aditi Bhatia. “The most helpful advice I’ve come across on writing effectively is that when it comes to communicating your stories, focus more on aspects like what you did, what motivated you to do it, how you felt, and what lessons you learned, rather than using a lot of your word count on providing contextual details.”

The best piece of advice may just come from Keshav Agrawal, who served as an assistant vice president at Credit Suisse before enrolling in the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. A physicist by trade, he was quickly humbled by the GMAT. From this experience, he warns MBA candidates not to be too hard on themselves.

“Do not give up,” he stresses. “Can’t stress this more. I excelled at the GMAT only on my third attempt. In my opinion, you just have to keep on improving and keep trying; the place where you belong will be calling soon.”

Wondering where some of the top Indian MBA students are earning their MBAs? Want to know what strategies they used to get into their target schools? Check out our in-depth profiles of these students below.


Name Hometown Previous Employer MBA Program
 Keshav Agrawal  Ghaziabad  Credit Suisse  University of Michigan (Ross)
 Anirudh Banarji  Delhi  Rakuten  Harvard Business School
 Aditi Bhatia  Mumbai  Temasek Holdings  Columbia Business School
 Vaidehi Bhatia  Delhi  Unilever  Cambridge University (Judge)
 Abhishek Bhattacharyya  Mumbai  Nautilus Solar Energy, LLC  Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)
 Anuj Chourey  Indore  Indian Oil Corporation Limited  Duke University (Fuqua)
 Atul Fotedar  Simla  Whirlpool  University of Minnesota (Carlson)
 Khushboo Gandhi  New Delhi  Edelman  Cambridge University (Judge)
 Kaavya Gupta  New Delhi  MIT (Sloan)
 Prateek Gupta  Jaipur  Rapido  UCLA (Anderson)
 Meghana Hegde  Vasco-da-gama  Credit Suisse  New York University (Stern)
 Shubham Jain  Noida  BMG Rights Management GmbH  IMD
 Vishruti Jakhar  Jaipur  Pacific Drilling  Rice University (Jones)
 Vishal Jha  Delhi  Shell  London Business School
 Suyog Karnawat  Maharashtra  Credit Suisse  Wharton School
 Kunal Khosla  New Delhi  Boxershorts  University of Toronto (Rotman)
 Nivedita Kohli  New Delhi  Ralph Lauren  Columbia Business School
 Mohit Maheshwari  New Delhi  JPMorgan Chase  University of Texas (McCombs)
 Ankit Malik  Jind  Suzuki India  Ohio State University (Fisher)
 Hargav Ram Dharnikota  Vijayawada  iRunway India  Ohio State University (Fisher)
 Namrata Rao  Pune  IntellinectsVentures  Indiana University (Kelley)
 Oriana Rubaina Sequeira  Bangalore  Goldman Sachs  Warwick Business School
 Rakesh Saha  Bangalore  Make a Difference  Yale School of Management
 Shashank Saurav  Bokaro Steel City  New India Assurance Company  Notre Dame (Mendoza)
 Sidhya Senani  Satna  The VITS School  University of Oxford (Said)
 Ashish Singh  Gwalior  iWMS  University of Virginia (Darden)

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