Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Akhil Pawar, London Business School

Akhil Pawar

London Business School

“Applying my talents, though meager, to transform finance into a force for good.”

Hometown: Mumbai, India

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am quite accident-prone and have so far broken eight bones in my body. Even more, unfortunately, I have no epic backstories for what caused these fractures.

Undergraduate School and Major: BITS, Pilani (Engineering and Economics)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Yunus Social Business (Project Manager)

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school, and why was it so important to you? The LBS MBA program is certainly a very flexible one, allowing each student the option to shape their MBA experience according to their needs. A secondary aspect of this flexibility, which really appealed to me, was how many of the outside-the-classroom activities at LBS are student-led. After speaking with students and alumni across many different business schools, I found that only a select few schools offer their students a true mandate to drive new projects and engagements entirely on their own, and none more so than LBS.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Diversity is, of course, a well-known aspect of any LBS MBA class. As the uniquely quarantined batch, my classmates have come together to host some amazing Zoom events that have helped us bond – across time zones and cultures – even before we step foot in London. For example, we have had “QuaranTEA” networking sessions, “QuaranBiz” to share sector-specific work experiences, “QuaranTUNES” for the musically inclined, and (of course) “QuaranFIT” for those working out at home during the lockdown.

What makes London such a great place to earn an MBA degree? Courtesy of my previous employer, I’ve already spent time as a short-term Londoner. Although steeped in history, London is also an evolving city and offers something for everyone – and I mean everyone. This becomes even more important in the current context, where all MBA students will have constraints on where and how they can travel. Living in London in this period at least ensures that me and my LBS peers will never be short of new experiences. Besides that, as an impact investing professional, London is par none for the opportunities it offers me to pursue new and exciting roles in the rapidly evolving field of impact finance.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My previous employer, Goldman Sachs (GS), organizes an annual competition for its junior staff wherein analysts in the firm can form teams and compete to raise funds for a non-profit of their choice. My friends and I participated in this challenge and finished runner-up in the 2017 edition. (Fun fact here, we delivered our final pitch to the entire senior leadership of the firm – including the current and ex-CEOs!) We raised over $75,000 to endorse the efforts of Educate Girls, an Indian NGO. Educate Girls is doing vital work in ensuring higher enrolment and attendance for girls as well as improved learning outcomes for all children in rural Indian schools. My team was glad that we had played a small part in furthering the amazing work of Educate Girls. In retrospect, that experience proved to be pivotal for me and prompted me to join the world of impact investing.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Having moved through three different roles within the financial value chain, I have developed a good grasp of the financing business. However, my understanding of other functions of a business is still fairly nascent. Working with early-stage social enterprises over the last two years, I realised that it’s crucial for me to develop a more holistic perspective of all aspects of business if I truly want to support the growth of such high-impact enterprises.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Apart from LBS, I had applied to a bunch of MBA programs, all in the US due to personal reasons.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Not really a question, but my interview process was quite unique. My alumnus interviewer (a splendid soul – huge thanks to him) opted to have my interview spread over two separate days. I haven’t heard anyone else in my incoming class mentioning anything similar yet. But that’s not what made it challenging! The challenge was, I had to undergo an emergency, albeit minor, surgery between the two interviews. Eventually having to negotiate an early discharge from the hospital and tons of help from my family to make it to the second interview.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? For me, a top priority was understanding the social impact ecosystem and culture that a school offers. Given my background and future goals, I was seeking a program that gave me the freedom to experiment on my own, had a range of social impact activities, and a sizeable cohort of peers who are similarly inclined. I find that these criteria are fulfilled by London Business School. In terms of how I researched, I relied heavily on interacting with students and alumni at every school I was interested in attending. I also researched websites like GMATClub and P&Q – especially this “Class of…” series which provides a good window into the makeup of the class at each school.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? Prior to starting business school, my mentor gave me the opportunity to join a new short term project – a secondment of sorts with the World Economic Forum. This Forum project was substantially different than anything I had done before and I’m glad I accepted this opportunity because it has expanded my understanding of the global social enterprise landscape and also taught me a lot of valuable project management skills, which I hope will be useful in business school.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? My defining moment overlaps with my ‘biggest achievement’ in that it helped me pivot towards a career that resonates more strongly with my values. Transitioning from a traditional investment banking trajectory to the impact sector was not an easy choice at first. But I’m very glad I made it. That’s because today as I am about to start business school, I have clarity on what I want to do afterward. As a direct consequence, I am more focused on what I should do during my time at LBS – i.e. to maximize my investment over the next two years – and position myself better to achieve my goals.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Business students can definitely learn a lot from my ex-employer Yunus Social Business (YSB). Co-founded by Professor Muhammad Yunus and embodying his principles, YSB is an impact-first organization, where “social impact” and “equality” are not just external rhetoric. The organization is female-led (more than 50% of the employees are female), is extremely culturally diverse, and runs digitally connected teams across the world. The company culture actively encourages everyone to focus their efforts on creating an on-the-ground impact. As leaders of the future, I think there’s a lot that business students can learn from YSB and try to emulate some (or all) of these aspects and values in the teams and conglomerates that they will eventually lead.

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