Harvard MBA Essay Samples: How Five Applicants From India Overcame The Odds

Lessons in Difficulty

Age: 28
Country: India
Industry: Consulting/Private Equity Recent Role: Associate
GMAT Score: 760
GPA: 7.00/7.00
Degree: Commerce
Years of Experience: 7

Analysis: This essay is a wonderful example of a traditional storytelling structure: introduction, conflict, climax and denouement. The introduction’s goal is to set up the character (you!) and the context of the story. In this case, the author describes how important tennis was for them. The conflict’s goal is to present what the problem to the protagonist was, why it was important and why it was difficult to solve. The conflict sets the stage for its later resolution. In this case, the author describes the difficulties experienced by their family with their family business, and how her tennis career was about to be affected by it. The climax is the moment of maximum tension and it helps the readers empathize with the author. In this case, the author had to give up their tennis dreams which, as learned in the introduction, was the most important thing in the world for them. Finally, the denouement’s goal is to resolve the conflict, bring all the strands of the story together and explain what the whole journey meant to the author. The bulk of this essay is on the denouement, as the author chooses to focus on what they learnt with the experience, which actions they took and what kind of person they have become. Drawing from thousands of years of story-telling, this structure is simple yet effective, and you can surely give it a try for your own essay.

The memory of my grandfather, dressed in tennis whites returning from his morning game, inspired me to pick up a tennis racket at the age of 8. What started as a hobby, evolved into a dream to represent [Southeast Asian Country] at Wimbledon. While my teenage years were demanding with countless hours spent on tennis courts, in train journeys and in hotels across [Southeast Asian Country], I relished the battle of skill and mental toughness, often fought in complete solitude.

My dream started to become a reality at 15, as I began to receive recognition on the national stage and broke into the world junior rankings. Just as I was primed to travel internationally and compete in larger tournaments, this reality quickly changed.

My family’s business, a once successful copper products factory, was forced to shut down due to the lack of capital required to keep pace with changing market demands. Seeing my parents struggle to support my coaching and travel, I desperately sought sponsors. After three years of financial hardships, I decided to hang up my racket at 18 and ease the monetary strain on my family. The agony of sacrificing my dream and witnessing my father’s struggle to salvage his factory and his employees’ livelihood made me realize the importance of capital at an early age.

Inspired by my father who was then charting a new beginning in his second career as a public markets investor, I switched gears to academics and chose to pursue Chartered Accountancy alongside my undergraduate business degree.

Early in my career, working at [Accounting Firm] as part of my Chartered Accountancy program afforded me exposure to business decision-making processes which piqued my interest. I realized that I wanted to work with businesses, just like my family’s, to define their strategies and help them succeed, a realization that led me to the [Consulting Firm].

At [Consulting Firm], my keen interest in family businesses landed me on an engagement to turnaround the retail division of one of [Southeast Asian Country]’s largest footwear companies. This division, like my family’s business, had failed to evolve and operated using obsolete tools and processes in an otherwise dynamic business environment. Replacing ad hoc decisions with data and analytics proved to be a challenging process of consensus building and change management. However, by setting small, tangible milestones, instilling accountability, and re-aligning targets, I led the division’s transformation into a data-driven growth engine. As the division turned profitable that year, I began to realize not only the untapped potential in [Southeast Asian Country] family businesses but also the satisfaction of helping companies avoid the same fate as that of my family’s business.

The company outperformed its peers and the 40% jump in market capitalization that followed enabled it to attract private equity capital, creating a virtuous growth cycle. This experience reinforced the power of capital and I saw the significant impact that an investor can make with the combination of capital and guidance. Armed with this insight, I decided to gain experience from the investor’s side of the table and joined [Investing Company].

In late 2018, an interesting pitch book landed on my desk. A family-owned packaged food manufacturer was looking to raise capital to revitalize its lagging business. The pitch book was promptly tossed into the bin by my Managing Directors as a seemingly outdated and underinvested brand did not make for a great investment thesis. However, my experience with the turnaround of family businesses at [Consulting Firm] compelled me to dig deeper. After researching the industry and forming a more nuanced view of the business, I formed a differential opinion, that of an untapped opportunity waiting to shine through brand repositioning, expansion into emerging markets, and professional management. I convinced the initially skeptical MDs of my investment thesis, and we spent the next six months evaluating this opportunity. Currently, we are in advanced stages of discussions with the family for what will be [Investment Company]’s first consumer investment in [Southeast Asian Country] in over a decade.

I am thrilled by how this business’ revival will positively impact the lives of its 5,000 employees. Family businesses employ 50 million people and drive 50% of [Southeast Asian Country]’s GDP! The magnitude of these otherwise mere headline numbers became real through this experience. My career’s purpose has been shaped by recognizing this opportunity to help family businesses realize their true potential and thereby play a role in [Southeast Asian Country]’s promising growth story.

My goal is to set up a fund to partner with [Southeast Asian Country] family businesses in their growth journey by providing capital and, more importantly, guidance. I have discussed this goal at length with my mentors, [Mentors’ Names], who have both established successful private equity funds in [Southeast Asian Country] after earning their MBAs from Harvard. Through these conversations, I have come to understand that beyond financial acumen and an ability to unlock value, to set up a successful fund, I need to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit and an ability to collaborate with founders and lead a talented team. I am eager to earn an MBA from Harvard to equip myself with these skills and build out my business toolkit.

At Harvard, I want to grow as an entrepreneur through the journeys of past entrepreneurs in Entrepreneurship and Global Capitalism and as a leader through interactions with, and the experiences of, my classmates in Authentic Leadership Development. Moreover, Demystifying Family Businesses will be an ideal platform to appreciate the challenges faced by family businesses while Negotiation will prepare me to effectively partner with these families and handle the complexities of deal making. The Warren Buffett trek and VCPE Conference will elevate my understanding of investment strategies and asset classes and allow me to bring the full stack offering to [Southeast Asian Country].

I am particularly keen to share with my classmates this brewing potential in [Southeast Asian Country] family businesses by organizing a career trek to [Southeast Asian Country] and inviting seasoned investors from global private equity funds to provide their perspective as part of VCPE events.

To this day, my father and I often wonder if, with timely access to capital and strategic guidance, our family business would still be flourishing today. My dream is to help other family businesses chart a different course and be their partner of choice in this journey.

Author’s Comment:I found it most productive to write/edit my essays over the weekend, and share with friends and family for comments during the week. It gave me a break in the middle to step away from obsessing over every word and ensure I was capturing the big picture well.”

Extracurricular Activities: Professional tennis player at the international level in juniors; Tennis coach and mentor at local club; Volunteer at an NGO.

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