Meet London Business School’s MBA Class Of 2020

Priyanka Ahuja

London Business School

“A life explorer driven by passion for new experiences in the form of startups, travel, cuisines, life stories and spirituality.”

Hometown: Bhilai, India

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am always thinking startup ideas – even at 17000 foot altitude in the Himalayan range. I sold roughly 500 pre-paid camera straps online from the remotest tiny artisan shop, generating enough money to get the artisan’s daughter enrolled in a city college.

Undergraduate School and Major: VTU, INDIA – ENGINEERING in COMPUTER SCIENCE.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Uber, Head – City Sales.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Building the B2B arm from scratch, for an Indian startup, taking it from 0 to a 45% contributor to the organizations revenue that developed the foundation to launch India’s only IoT-enabled fresh-brew tea vending machines.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I haven’t met my classmates yet, but have had interactions on social groups and individually and I can easily say that a high collaborative spirit is what stands out. Even though we haven’t met each other personally yet, everyone is willing to connect, share relevant information with the whole community and help each other out if anybody is stuck in a certain process as simple as figuring out accommodation, oyster card or even a local sim. I am very excited to meet my classmates from such diverse backgrounds and immerse in the global LBS spirit of learning and collaboration.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The global diversity of the class was definitely a great pull for the kind of perspectives and networks it would offer. Aside from that, the global recognition of the school and its location (especially in the global startup ecosystem) and the strength of its alum network back in my country, India (since I want to go back and start a venture in India) – were important to me in my selection.

India is a powerhouse of a startup ecosystem currently. My past experience gave me an opportunity to not only delve deep into this ecosystem but also realize how much I loved the spirit of entrepreneurship. I was clear I want to plunge into my own entrepreneurship journey. At this point, I wanted an ecosystem that empowers me with a global context and in itself also gives access to a powerful and progressive global startup hub. LBS offered a program that is truly global, highly-ranked and set in one of the fastest growing entrepreneurial hub – London. These factors speak of a holistic development program set in a place that is strongly pacing with the fast-changing business world while fostering innovation and disruptive value-creation through startups solving challenging real-world problems. The ecosystem is perfect for my goals. Adding to this, was the strong alum network of LBS in India. I was inspired by a lot of alums who have started their own ventures within India and in UK. Their stories underlined the entrepreneurship resources that LBS and London provide.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Entrepreneurship Club and Women in Business Club.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? As a core team member of an Indian startup, I experienced the strength of immense tenacity towards realizing a large vision and saw the company grow from scratch to India’s largest tea retail chain worth multi-million dollars. In the process, also realized how it is easier to create a brand but much tougher to create a “loved” brand that strikes a chord with consumers on an ongoing basis in the dynamic business landscape. Further, at Uber, I saw how globally scalable processes empower global companies to surpass cross-border growth-challenges but also act as bottlenecks to local innovations and disruptive strategies against home-grown competitors.

Having worked at a local and a global consumer business driven by technology and innovation, I am now seeking a powerful ecosystem to hone my perspectives in a global context, evolve my own leadership style, and develop a much larger vision for myself and for the venture that I aspire to build. From being a “founding team member” to being a “founder” required me to pause and re-invest in my holistic learning and hence an international MBA at this point that will propel me towards my next big stint.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I want to pursue my own entrepreneurship journey. To add-on to my prior professional experience, I wanted a learning platform that not only propels me towards my goals with collaborative learning, global perspectives, an exceptional network and holistic self-development, but also prepares me to fulfil my dream of building an Indian startup that will make its mark on the global map. Towards this goal, an MBA from a global school like LBS is an investment that offers everything that I needed at this time to create the future that I aspire for.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford, Wharton, MIT

How did you determine your fit at various schools? An entrepreneurial spirit, collaborative community, world-class faculty and a global peer group are the factors that mattered the most to me while selecting schools. I used the school website and various MBA blogs to determine the top two things that stood out in the schools own vision, curriculum, and faculty – as well as from the perspective of aspiring and current students. Post this, I reached out to 10 alums of each school from different batches working in industries of my interest. The responsiveness of the alums and their ways of speaking about the school; the schools culture that they shared through various experiences that mattered the most to them; and their vision post-school and their view of how and if the school will be a solid bridge to my career goals – all of these combined made a huge difference in final school selection. I have to say this about LBS alums: not only they were the most responsiveness, but were also very quick in connecting further to more relevant alums basis my career goals. This was something I only saw in the LBS community and was a huge pull for me. I instantly knew I fit into this collaborative spirit as I could relate very easily to the same spirit with which I engage in the Indian startup ecosystem. I was also convinced by the professionalism and research prowess of the faculty and global nature of the academia. Apart from these, the focus on entrepreneurship both within the school (through the nature of activities in the entrepreneurship club) and outside (through the entrepreneurial ventures of alums) was a big factor for my school selection.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are?  The defining moment of realization of the uncertainty of life and death defines me as a person and keeps me going as I strive to answer 3 questions in every pursuit: “Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?”

The defining moment of my life was by the side of my father while he was taking his last breaths. I sat beside him in those last hours, holding onto every moment even though it meant aimlessly watching his dropping pulse rate. I had never paid attention to a breath so minutely – while counting each breath he took until his last, I unknowingly started, in parallel, counting mine. And for the first- time, I consciously appreciated the truth of being alive. His life ran like a movie in my head and in that moment, I realized that the biggest gift he bestowed me with, one that matters most to me – to always live beyond myself – to work with purpose, to contribute, to give, to lead, and to love till I have this blessing of life.

The most transformative phase of my life was seeing my father through a battle with cancer for three years and trying to understand the meaning of life for the next three years after losing him. Talking to other cancer patients and their families, I developed a spiritual bent inside me – from questioning the meaning of life, I transformed into experiencing every moment, good or bad, in its entirety and giving back moments of kindness wherever and whenever I can.  I traveled solo to far-off places, living in the mighty Himalayan terrain or trekking the Cherrapunjee Rainforest, initially to heal myself of the trauma of losing my father but eventually appreciating the myriad forms of life through life stories of people from across the world. In the process, I developed empathy and embracing the connectedness in human spirit beyond filters of religion, country, social status, cultures and more.

In the same spirit, I realized the importance of pursuing a work that gave me happiness more than the salary figure. I left my corporate job to join the founding team of a young startup, Chai Point, when startups were not the flavor of the town. I felt deeply for their vision of re-imagining “tea” in a nation that is literally fueled by this beverage. Luckily, I also found a life-long mentor in the founder – Amuleek who imbibed in me how to lead with a larger vision. Sleepless nights and multiple prototyping failures later, I built the B2B arm of Chai Point that disrupted the Indian beverage industry, creating an impact that lasted beyond me! This business today contributes 45% to the organizational turnover and has launched India’s only IoT-enabled fresh tea vending machines for corporate companies.

Most importantly, despite a busier schedule, I consciously started spending more time with my mother.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? My prime effort during school would be to figure out the pieces for my own startup idea and be ready to pilot it by the time I graduate.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I envisage building a consumer-centric Indian venture that makes it mark in the global business map. And in 5 years, I see myself anchoring this home-grown venture towards its global journey.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.