No one expected Swati Agrawal to get very far. In rural Sikar, women sewed and farmed. They didn’t take entrance exams to become rocket scientists. However, Agrawal trusted her dream and made the sacrifices. She biked 10 miles a day to high school, translating scientific concepts from Hindi to English at night. Against the odds, she completed the IIT exams and earned a degree in aerospace engineering. Eventually, her tenacity took her to the CEO’s office of a chemical manufacturer, where she oversaw corporate planning.
This fall, Agrawal raised the stakes, moving across the world to join Chicago Booth’s MBA Class of 2021. Her goal, she says, is to build a “world-class healthcare company,” one that brings diverse solutions ranging from prosthetic limbs to low-cost medications to the masses. To do this, Agrawal adds, she needed to deepen her expertise and widen her network through business school.
“[I] realize that to bring an impactful innovation I should create a holistic understanding of the healthcare and business ecosystem and build a great network of professionals who are driven to make a difference.”
A STARTUP SENSIBILITY
Agrawal isn’t the only Indian-born MBA student to have already made an early impact during her career. In fact, she isn’t even the only rocket scientist! Take Jyoti Singh, who grew up in Jind. Before enrolling at Duke Fuqua, she was busy restoring missile testing equipment. At the same time, Rahul Sekhar Rajasekharan Nair worked as a systems engineer at the Indian Space Research Organization.
“I have been a part of more than 35 launches and each was a great feat in itself,” writes the Texas McCombs first-year. “However, my biggest accomplishment is that I had the opportunity to be a part of a high-level team to facilitate, analyze, and document best practices from different domains of rocket operations. I authored a report on it, which has since served as a reference for zero-defect delivery programs.”
True to their entrepreneurial spirit, this year’s students weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. At Stubhub, HEC Paris’ Anshul Garg created a ‘Festival Pass’ – providing users with access to the biggest musical festivals in the United States. Before Yale SOM, Abhishek Agarwal assembled what he calls a “first-of-its-kind urban water, hygiene, and sanitation community center that provides solutions to sanitation needs of catchment areas in slums.” On top of that, Alokik Bhasin built one of India’s largest electronic medical records platforms thanks to an idea from his mother’s clinic.
“I started out without any business plan, just a problem that I really wanted to solve,” admits the Stanford GSB MBA. “Developing the product, launching in 20 Indian cities, and enabling thousands of doctor-patient consultations every day has been an extremely fulfilling journey.”
A GROUP THAT CAN SELL!
When the Class of 2021 weren’t launching new ventures and models, they were busy growing new markets. Before Wharton, Sanya Ohri forged a partnership between the Khan Academy and India’s largest public school system, connecting the educational giant to 1.2 million students. At Deloitte, Indiana’s Aditi Sharma turned an initial client engagement into a $14 million dollar effort. Think that’s salesmanship? Meet Anuradha Gadre, a first year MBA at the University of North Carolina. At Garmin, he pushed the company to take on a custom GPS project for an automotive manufacturer. Soon enough, it became the navigation provider for the Indian Defense System. With his Midas touch, he took a niche heart rate tracker and made it into a million dollar a month sensation in Asia.
Nakul Arora’s classmates at Dartmouth Tuck may want to dub him, “The Natural.” A mining engineering major, his first taste of business came in hotel management. Sure enough, he quadrupled occupancy and revenue in just 18 months! Speaking of achievements, how about Mallika Saharia?
“I was the youngest manager, and the first woman in 40 years of the business to lead commissioning and operations for a new $100M manufacturing line,” writes the Harvard Business School first-year.
THE GREATER GOOD
Others pursued the greater social good. Mihir Mehan, a Berkeley Haas MBA, previously worked on the Internet Saathi program, an initiative sponsored by Google and Tata to bridge the digital gender gap. Four years ago, just 1 in 10 internet users were women. Four years later, Mehan reports that number had quadrupled. Shaivya Vashishtha took an equally hands-on approach to social enterprise. In the Himalayas, she introduced new crops to farmers to help boost their yield and prices.
“I was able to get more farmers to join the movement, which increased production by about 100%,” Vashishtha explains. “And the farmer’s income on those products rose to as high as 100% as new markets and demands were identified.”
Away from campus, Anuradha Gadre is a marathon trainer and Adidas ambassador who once ranked among the best badminton players in India. London Business School’s Prateek Gupta actually played on the Indian National Basketball Team. However, INSEAD’s Anuj Karkare may have both of them beat.
“I can swim 4km, ride a bicycle for 180km, and then run a full marathon…back-to-back-to-back.”
TWO DOZEN IN-DEPTH STUDENT PROFILES
Of course, Naveen Srikakulam could speak seven languages when he arrived at Emory University (and plans to add another by the time he earns his MBA). The University of Toronto’s Rohini Muthuvelan earned her first professional degree at 14 for Bharatanatyam dance. And how about Anuj Karkare? In college, his team built a life-size solar-powered house for the Solar Decathlon Europe.
“We also lived in it for a few weeks! We had to dismantle it, ship it to Paris, and rebuild it over there in 10 days’ time while competing with 20 other international universities. It was a tremendous feeling when we finished it.”
These students are just a few examples of the Indian-born MBAs who’ll be assuming leadership roles at top MBA programs…and far beyond. This year, P&Q profiled over a dozen first-years from 46 of the top MBA programs worldwide. 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? Curious about what they plan to do after they graduate? Go to the next page to click on profiles of 25 of the most promising first-year MBAs from India.
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