Meet Columbia Business School’s MBA Class Of 2020

Shrey Gupta

Columbia Business School

Curious and Action-oriented learner passionate about shaping the future of cities and city-dwellers.”

Hometown: Gurgaon, India & Varanasi, India

Fun Fact About Yourself: I found encouragement to make my singing talent known outside of the bathroom by singing impromptu at weddings in India! Hope to get into a studio and record an album someday. In New York, maybe?

Undergraduate School and Major: Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University – Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting, Finance and Marketing

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: I was most recently an Associate Vice President at OYO, India’s largest and fastest growing real estate and hospitality startup with operations in 200+ cities in 5 countries (and growing) with investors like Softbank, Sequoia and Lightspeed. I spent four years, since seed stage, in roles across operations and supply acquisition, new market expansion and most recently in Product Marketing and Growth.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Working at OYO was gratifying beyond measure given the high degree of ownership the company gives its employees. Tough for me to pick one accomplishment, but I’d consider my role leading new city launches where our team launched OYO in 100+ cities in India in under 10 months as the most successful. Spearheading the growth of the business from 100 hotels in five cities to 2000 hotels in 100+ cities in less than a year was a resounding feat for our business. Realizing that OYO had touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of travelers in such a short span was an unbeatable feeling.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The classmates I’ve met so far demonstrate a strong ethos of community and humility with a fierce hunger to learn. This is reassuring because I often feel we are living in a time where people are becoming increasingly ‘I’ focused and disengaged from their surroundings and community. I look forward to meeting with the broader group of classmates who, I am sure, will bring a strong sense of community to the school and help each other go forward.

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 key reason for my choosing the Columbia MBA is its deep linkages with the global finance and real estate ecosystem in addition to its unparalleled academic reputation. New York is at the core of any innovation and transformative change in real estate and finance and with its fast growing reputation as an epicenter for tech startups, I believe this is the best combination of school and location to give me the exposure and network I can lean on for a career in real estate.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Business School is literally like a buffet meal and I Iove the thought of being able to sample varied opportunities. The CBS Real Estate Association and the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organisation are two clubs I’m really looking forward to participating in. It’d also be great to indulge my love for the performing arts as a member of the CBS Follies group!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I felt that after having gathered deep operating experience in India, working across Real Estate and in Consulting, now was a great time for me to take some time off to reflect on my experiences, learn from the lens of others from around the world, and come back to a career in Real Estate – potentially from the capital markets side. Switching geographies and roles might have taken a few years longer were I to continue in my career as is. All of these factors came together and having spent the last seven years working, I realised I am ready to take a different direction. Call it the 7 year itch!

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I realised that the potential payoff over both a five and ten-year period – from the career opportunities business school would give me access to, combined with a lifelong network of friends, mentors and supporters that a top global school like Columbia will enable – would easily be several multiples of the cost I would incur on getting an MBA. This is true both in monetary terms and as a function of time. What’s better than investing in oneself and reaping the payoff over a longer period?

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to a handful of the top US MBA programs, especially those with a strong reputation in Real Estate, Finance and Entrepreneurship. I was clear about wanting to be part of a large class with a sizeable International community and in a metropolitan area. I also used the lens of a robust non-business school infrastructure so I could participate in other areas of study, especially Public Policy and Urban Planning.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I used the following parameters to assess schools and my fit at those schools:

  1. Location of the school – I’m a city person through and through and was clear of wanting to be in a big city based school.
  2. Depth of the school’s network – the spread of the alumni body across the world (especially in Asia) as well as opportunities to engage with Corporate America.
  3. The range of activities & infrastructure – social and industry affinity clubs and the kind of work they do, as well as access to infrastructure in the form of an entrepreneurship center, a venture lab, and a real estate center

To research culture, I reached out to my own network of friends and acquaintances who attended any of my target schools. I also reached out to local alumni (based out of India) and attended the admissions information sessions in India. All of this helped me validate my hypothesis of the schools I must apply to.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I spent the first half of my life so far in one of the world’s oldest cities: Varanasi. An essential on most international tourists’ India travel itinerary, the city had very little new age infrastructure and held on to its millennia old ways for most part.

When my family moved to Gurgaon, previously a suburban village outside of Delhi and now home to many of the world’s largest corporations, I saw a rapid change in both life and the landscape around me. From less than three hundred thousand people in 2002, the city now has nearly two million people living in and around it. This was a stark contrast I witnessed – living in Varanasi and then Gurgaon. I’ve come to truly appreciate the positive impact of urbanization to the quality of people’s lives but am also wary about how countries like India will manage this transition sustainably.

This experience has been foundational to my interest in urban development and real estate.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? On graduating, I intend to work in the Real Estate industry with an international developer or financier, so I can learn how the capital markets and the real estate industry interact with each other.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I see myself in Asia, working towards transforming cities and the quality of life people lead in those cities by working at the intersection of real estate, technology and capital markets. We are seeing signs of a massive wave of transformation hitting urban life, from how we move from point to point to how we work and live. With a huge population migrating to cities in Asia and the developing world, these cities will struggle to support this population. Technology and capital will play a pivotal role in shaping the quality of life in the cities of tomorrow and I intend to be in the thick of that action.

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