2018 Best MBAs: Varun Chandak, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Varun Chandak

Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Friendly, helpful, dog-loving guy with a passion for investing, accessibility, and food.”

Age: 26

Hometown: Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Fun fact about yourself: Every time I’ve taken the road less traveled, it has led me to some of my best stories – the top of a waterfall, the bottom of a dam, a rock outcropping 100 ft above the ground, and a little stream at the bottom of a valley.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • Chartered Accountant, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India
  • Bachelor of Commerce, Indira Gandhi National Open University

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? (List Company and Role)

  • Equity Research Analyst at Trefis (a unit of InsightGuru Inc.)
  • Senior Investment Analyst at Srinidhi Investment Advisors, a private equity fund

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Global Valuations Group, RBC Capital Markets, Toronto

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Community work and leadership roles:

  • Founder and President, Access to Success Organization, a not-for-profit coalition of graduate business schools to promote accessibility and inclusion for MBA students
  • Founder, Access to Success, a student club for empowering Rotman MBA students with disabilities by providing support and resources
  • Diversity and Inclusion Director, Graduate Business Council
  • Co-Chair, Community of Practice, a committee of student leaders from all equity-seeking student clubs
  • Member, Rotman Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the school’s overarching D&I committee

Awards and honors:

  • Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award
  • TorQuest Scholars Award
  • BMO Capital Markets Lime Connect Scholarship
  • Mary Jane Felker Fellowship
  • Rotmanite Award for Diversity & Inclusion
  • Graduate Community Development Fund Equity Award
  • Rotman Entrance Award
  • 1st Place in Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Portfolio Management Competition

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of launching the Access to Success Organization, a not-for-profit coalition of graduate business schools that will promote accessibility and inclusion for MBA students with disabilities. The coalition will provide leadership, mentorship, and recruiting opportunities for students of member schools. Securing Rotman as a founding member and establishing the inaugural C$5,000 Access to Success Fellowship was the cherry on the cake. The initiative started off as a student club at Rotman, raised over C$43,000, launched successful industry mentorship and peer support programs, and impacted over 250 students to date through events and workshops, including a recently concluded 2-day national conference and case competition. It is fulfilling to have brought accessibility into the fold of diversity and inclusion, to have meaningfully helped my friends and classmates who have a disability, and to have got many others interested in accessibility and universal design by making every event exciting and relevant for everyone.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Leading a $1 million private equity investment in a food processing and retailing company in southern India, a mere year after graduating was a key highlight of my professional career. It was intellectually challenging and satisfying to have led nearly every aspect of the investment – be it designing the post-investment growth strategy alongside the promoter, creating a transaction structure that reduced the original downside risk by 20%, or talking to floor workers to understand the minutiae of the bakery process to identify any operational inefficiencies. The entire experience was an incredible learning and growth opportunity that I look back upon fondly, despite the grueling 18-hour workdays.

What was your favorite MBA Course Top Manager’s Perspective, taught by Professor David Beatty, stands out as one of my favorite classes at Rotman. Prof. Beatty brings with him a wealth of experience and insights through his work with the Boards of some of the biggest companies in the world. Combined with class visits to and from some of the most well-known leaders of Canada’s business and not-for-profit world, the class was a blueprint for how to think and communicate as the leader of large organizations. Prof. Beatty’s rule of 3’s, BCQ logic structure, and insights into making presentations are some of the most valuable things I’ve learned at Rotman.

Why did you choose this business school? Rotman is widely considered to be the best business school for finance in Canada. As a financial services professional interested in returning to the industry, I was immediately attracted to Rotman’s stellar faculty, deep alumni network, and proximity to the heart of Canada’s financial industry in downtown Toronto. Rotman also offers innumerable opportunities to spread your wings, with resources available for nearly every topic under the sun. These aspects, along with Rotman’s reputation for a collaborative, welcoming community, made it my first choice of school.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Focus on having a well-rounded profile and not just on grades and the GMAT. Rotman loves to see people from all sorts of backgrounds and diverse interests – so make sure you let your life outside of work and school shine.

What was your biggest regret in business school? It would’ve been nice to have some more spare time – to hang out with my friends, travel, or take some classes outside of the usual suspects.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’m going to have to name three classmates – my teammates and partners in crime at Access to Success: Mahe Davar, Nikitha Ramesh, and Natalie Eckler. The determination, grit, passion, and sheer force of will they have for everything they do continues to astound me to this day. Access to Success, and now the Access to Success Organization would not have reached where they are today if not for their hard work. I have learned almost as much from them as from the MBA program itself.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents. They encouraged me to consider a career in business, even though they were extremely supportive if I were to choose another path. My dad had always encouraged asking questions, and I naturally gravitated to basic financial questions relatively early on.  

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…an entrepreneur.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would introduce electives into the first year of the MBA program as well, as opposed to just the second year. A number of the core-curriculum classes in the first year may not be useful for every student, in which case the students should have the option to pick a subject that they would find more useful. This way not only would students have more chances to take popular electives that often run full, they could also utilize it as a chance to explore classes outside of their core area of interest.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Skydiving in the Swiss Alps and canoeing in Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A cheerful guy who is always happy to help someone when he is not working on moving the needle on accessibility or cracking dad jokes.

What would your theme song be? ”Lose Yourself” by Eminem

Favorite vacation spot: Bahamas

Hobbies? Hiking, reading, cooking, and Netflix-ing

What made Varun such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

As the Director of Student Life & International Experience at the Rotman School of Management I have the rare privilege of working with many student leaders. Getting to know (and be mentored by Varun) has been an absolute gift.

Varun joined Rotman from India in 2016 and within six months of arriving to Canada he had already taken it upon himself to launch a first-of-its-kind student initiative called ‘Access to Success’ to raise awareness (and ensure a level playing field) for students with a visible or invisible disability. Varun spent countless hours recruiting a team of executives, working with faculty, staff and students to launch this initiative. Not only was he successful in launching this student club, realizing its potential impact for MBA students across Canada (and the globe), after a year of piloting it, he took it to even greater heights by incorporating it as a non-profit organization. This required him to navigate tax laws in a new country, recruit board members, secure pro-bono legal advice and build a coalition of schools across Canada who would also agree to offer fellowships to newly admitted students. Varun had achieved in several months what would ordinarily take several years. What’s even more impressive is that Varun did this all while maintaining a strong GPA, being elected as the school’s first Director of Diversity & Inclusion and representing the student body on our Dean’s committee on Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

Varun has demonstrated remarkable leadership and is committed to improving himself and the people around him. This year at orientation, we invited Varun to share his personal story with the incoming class. Varun shared his experience of applying to business school while having a hearing impairment. He was courageous and willing to be vulnerable to help his fellow classmates better understand the need for universal design. Varun shared that had Rotman not offered a video interview, he may not have been with us as doing one over the phone was quite difficult. His insight on this and other aspects of accessibility and inclusion have enriched our community. Every time I meet with Varun, I find myself learning something new, he has a remarkable way of making people around him feel included and he’s introduced conversations at Rotman that may not have taken place otherwise. His work ethic and relentless pursuit for excellence is inspiring. Varun will be dearly missed at Rotman but his significant contribution to the school (and country) will continue to benefit others. This spring, Rotman will be announcing our first Access to Success scholarship and we couldn’t be more grateful and proud of Varun for making this possible.”

Neel Joshi

Director of Student Life & International Experience


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