A Unique April 4 Event For Indian MBA Applicants

The idea stems from a disturbing conversation Kishore Kothandaraman, an MBA student at Harvard Business School, had with his sister back in India. A gynecologist at a hospital in Pondacherri, she shared what it was like to deal with the coronavirus pandemic from the front lines.

“She was telling me about how difficult it is for hospitals without resources that are unable to get masks, ventilators, and staff right now,” he says. “She was working throughout the day and night.”

As a first-year MBA from India at HBS, Kothandaraman and his 31 other Harvard MBA students with Indian passports are often getting requests via social media to chat with current and future applicants from the country. “We get a lot of LinkedIn messages from people asking to talk to us for 30 minutes about how we went through the MBA application process. But we don’t have enough time to respond to everyone all the time.”


Kishore Kothandaraman of the Class of 2021 at Harvard Business School

Kishore Kothandaraman of the Class of 2021 at Harvard Business School

Kothandaraman put those two things together to come up with an extraordinary event: a two-hour online seminar for future Indian applicants who want to crack the code on a Top ten MBA in the U.S. So with his classmate Palash Soni, the pair organized Indian MBA students from Stanford, Wharton, MIT Sloan, and Northwestern Kellogg. They will appear to describe their journeys and answer questions on the MBA application process from attendees at the event, sponsored by Poets&Quants.

The session, broadcast via Zoom, will take place on April 4, Saturday, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Indian Standard Time. The first 75 minutes will be devoted to a panel discussion moderated by Rajdeep Chimini, a Kellogg MBA and India’s top MBA admissions consultant. Last year, Chimini topped Poets&Quants’ list of the best-reviewed admissions consultants in the world. Then, attendees will be divided up into groups of ten and sent to breakout rooms with individual panels for more personalized questions (you can register for the event here).

“Zoom is a good enough platform for people who don’t have access to us across schools,” reasons Kothandaraman, an IIT Madras graduate who has worked for BCG and DaVita Kidney Care before going to HBS. “But also it can be monetized someway to give it back to the hospitals in India. We want to pay it forward that way. That is the whole idea behind it.”


Palash Soni is the Class of 2021 at Harvard Business School

Palash Soni is the Class of 2021 at Harvard Business School

He and Soni estimate that Indian passport holders who are MBAs at Wharton now total between 50 to 60 students, while at Kellogg the number is between 40 to 50; MIT Sloan and Stanford each have fewer than 10 Indian passport holders in their MBA enrollments, they estimate. 

The session is not meant for current applicants. Instead, the ideal attendee is an Indian who wants to apply either in the 2020-2021 admissions cycle or in the 2021-2022 timeframe. “This year would be tricky anyway due to the health crisis,” says Soni, “but next year will be fine,” says Soni, a former senior product manager for InMobi who did his undergraduate and graduate studies in electrical engineering from IIT Kanpur.

At first, the event was going to be limited to only 80 participants to allow for more personalized attention in the breakout rooms. Now, Soni and his friend are thinking they could possibly entertain as many as 200 by enlisting more of their MBA classmates to handle the breakout sessions.

The two have corralled an impressive group of current students to share their stories and counsel attendees. They include:

  • Ayush Bhargava, a former McKinsey analyst who also worked as an investment associate at LGT Lightstone and will get his MBA from Harvard Business School in the Class of 2021.
  • Parul Chachra, a Ph.D. from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai who worked at GE Healthcare before going to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business for her MBA. She will graduate in the Class of 2021.
  • Gayathri Gururajan, who had worked with KPMG and ITC Ltd. before joining Wharton’s MBA Class of 2021. A chartered accountant with two levels of CFA certification, she earned her undergraduate degree in finance and accounting from Christ University in Bangalore.
  • Shouvik Das, who brought work experience from ITC Ltd., Abbot and Amazon with him to MIT’s Sloan School of Management. An electrical engineering graduate of IIT Kharagpur, Das is the co-president of MIT Sloan’s India Business Club and will graduate this year.
  • Garima Sharma, who worked in business development and product innovation for LetTransport.in as a member of the founding team. A chemical engineering graduate of the National Institute of Technology at Warangal, she is getting her MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in the Class of 2021.


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