Poets&Quants’ Most Popular Stories Of 2021

Vanya Mishra is an accomplished professional with experiences deeply embedded in media, entertainment, entrepreneurship. Having won the coveted Miss India World title at the tender age of 19, she is now a student at IIM-Ahmedabad. Here she walks the runway at the India International Jewelery Week 2012 in Mumbai, India. Getty Images


Vanya Mishra, a former Miss India World, was first featured by Poets&Quants as part of a Meet the Class story on her cohort at IIM Ahmedabad, one of India’s top business schools. When that feature caught fire with readers, we asked Vanya to contribute an essay about her journey — and it became one of our most-read articles of 2021. She writes:

“Ask a 22 year-old me this question: What do you want to do?

“My response: ‘Change the world by building something that impacts millions of lives.’

“Ask a 12 year old me the same question…

“‘Change the world when I grow up after I win Miss World.’

“Sometimes change is the only hope we carry. I spent my childhood in the town of Chandigarh, raised in a single parent household as an only girl child. Growing up, I saw my mother wading through many social and financial limitations, giving up on her dreams in the process. Still, she always encouraged me to fight for mine. As a testament to her sacrifices, I yearned to break the shackles, succeed, and make a difference in life, always carrying this unflinching desire to change things. I hoped to change my life and the circumstances of those around me. Why? Maybe it is because I related to adversity a little more than my peers. Responsibility and struggle came early in my life. Somewhere while growing up, I just recall being insanely passionate about my dreams – one of those being winning the pageant. In retrospect, most of my goals revolved around doing extraordinary things that impact people’s lives.”

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How do you adapt your story to those two very different MBA essay prompts from Harvard and Stanford?


Harvard and Stanford.

Regardless of the results of the latest quirky ranking, everyone pretty much agrees that the MBA programs at these two schools are the best in the world. In a given admissions cycle, it’s estimated that as many as 4,500 candidates apply to both HBS and Stanford.

It’s not merely the difference between the East Coast and the West Coast, or between the Corporate Elite and the Entrepreneurial Elite. Or, for that matter, the large class size at Harvard vs. the smaller class at Stanford. Both schools ask MBA applicants very different essay questions.

Stanford’s prompt asks candidates to respond to this iconic question: “What matters most to you, and why?”

Harvard’s question seems more standard and lacks a word limit but can trip up many: As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?”

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Stanford MBA Abhishek Gupta and Yale law graduate Katherine Clark Harris at their recent wedding. Photo by Erik Ekroth Photography


Abhishek Gupta’s parents emigrated to the U.S. from India in the late 1970s. That momentous decision has allowed their son, now 39, to live a young life that fulfills the promise of the quintessential American Dream.

Gupta went to the elite Phillips Exeter Academy for high school, graduated from his bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University, where he was a member of the Lampoon satirical magazine. He landed a job at Bain Capital and then went to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business for his MBA, graduating in 2011.

Gupta used his MBA to launch and scale a Florida-based home health company to a dozen branch offices, more than 250 employees, and $25 million in revenue before he ultimately sold the firm. In 2015, he moved to Uber where Gupta became the global head of strategy and planning in San Francisco. Four years later, he moved to New York to become Vice President of global operations for Kustomer, a fast growing CRM business.

And to cap off his American Dream journey, now Gupta has gotten married to a woman who graduated summa cum laude from Harvard and received a law degree from Yale. His wife, 32-year-old Katherine Clark Harris is the director of the Reimagine New York Commission, which is focused on the state’s pandemic recovery for New York’s governor. She had been a senior aide in the Treasury and State department for the Obama administration in Washington.

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