As a 24-year-old project manager working for the Indian government, Shatakshi Sharma felt privileged to frequently be in rooms where public policy was being shaped.
But as programs to help young people access education and other initiatives to improve life of Indian people were being formulated in those rooms, Sharma noticed that she was often the only woman — and the only person under the age of 30 — present.
“That lack of representation really hit me,” says Sharma, cofounder of Global Governance Initiative, a social for-profit venture looking to democratize higher education. “I also realized that a lot of people would want to trade places with me in the sense that they too would want to upskill themselves and be in a position to nudge public policies.”
55% OF GROUP’S ALUMNI WORK FOR GLOBAL COMPANIES LIKE BCG & McKINSEY
Sharma and Naman Shrivastava founded GGI in 2019 with a mission to “create an inclusive world for youth and women by rebuilding the 20th century higher education landscape through our innovative Masterclasses.” They are working to help young professionals break into management consulting, project management, and public policy. They’ve been invited to the World Economic Forum to talk about their initiative.
Shrivastava formerly worked in Indian government and in the United Nations, while Sharma is a former consultant with Boston Consulting Group and an ex-policy adviser with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. In just over three years, GGI has built an alumni network of more than 5,500 delegates — 55% of whom are working at global companies like BCG, McKinsey & Co., Dalberg, Amazon, and the World Bank, or with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — to improve lives across the planet. More than 3,100 of GGI’s alumni are women.
The education platform partners with top leaders in business and society to teach their Masterclasses in its three main programs: Impact MBA Scholars, MPP Policy Scholars, and Impact Fellowships. Its network of nearly 100 instructors include Rajat Gupta, the first non-American Indian global CEO of McKinsey & Company; Martin Reeves, global chairman of the BCG Henderson Institute, and Ivka Kaluls, managing partner of Prometheus Capital.
And they do it all for a tiny fraction of the cost of a traditional MBA.
DISRUPTORS IN THE INDIAN MBA MARKET
GGI’s Impact MBA Scholars program is for young professionals considering an MBA who want to strengthen their eventual applications, but also for professionals looking to pivot their careers. They call it a pre-MBA, and for many of their delegates, it’s a ticket to pivoting to their dream jobs.
The average cost of GGI’s pre-MBA is around $350. The company founders consider themselves disruptors to the traditional Indian MBA, which costs more than 100 times that amount — and without a guarantee of employment at the end.
“Let me give you an interesting fact,” Sharma tells Poets&Quants. “There are more than 5,000 business schools in India, but only 5% of them are able to make an MBA school student employable. That is the heartbreaking reality.
“That means that there are business schools, which are providing the degree, but are taking so much money on the name of ‘MBA’ from a gullible student who thinks that the MBA degree is the magic wand. We genuinely think these schools are going to have a hard time because of not just GGI, but because of all the disruptors like us in the space who are questioning the kind of education that is being imparted.”
Q&A WITH GLOBAL GOVERNANCE INITIATIVE’S SHATAKSHI SHARMA
Poets&Quants connected with Sharma to learn more about GGI, and to talk about why its pre-MBA could become the disruptor that shakes higher business education in India.
I read your essay about giving a presentation on incorporating digital reforms to a room of government officials in India. You looked around and realized you were the only person under the age of 25 and the only woman. How did that experience shape the Global Governance Initiative?
I was 24 at the time, and I was really excited to be nudging public policy as a youngster. The topics that we touched upon were very strategic in nature, but few of them were around women empowerment. Unfortunately, I at times found that I was the only woman in the room representing a class for whom the policies were being formulated. Very similarly, I also found that policies around employment and skill development were being formulated for youngsters, while I was many times the only person in the room who was below the age of 30.
My cofounder, Naman Shrivastava, and I wanted to do something about it. So the Global Governance Initiative started with our Pre MPP program. With time, we realized that the problem is not just limited to public policy representation. The problem is actually there in business positions as well, where youngsters and women are not getting a seat on the table.
What is the mission of GGI?
We like to think in terms of “reality privilege” which basically means that people like you and I, we will get to attend the best universities, get to work at great organizations, and get to dine at really great restaurants, but most people do not get the opportunity. In other words, 1% of the people get to experience 99% of the benefits. So our major mission at Global Governance Initiative, through our pre MBA fellowship program, is to bridge that reality privilege.
Reality privilege can exist because of multiple reasons. It could be because of gender, because of financial means, or because of caste systems in India, for example.
GGI is a social for-profit venture. That means, for us, impact comes first and profit comes second. And that’s why we have need-based financial assistance. I’m very proud to share that more than 55% of our cohort are women, and more than 20% of the cohort is on need-based financial assistance. Largely, our objective is to give more youngsters and more women a seat at the table–even if they can’t afford the formal MBA, even if they can’t crack the left-brained GMAT and GRE, which to my view, is a little skewed. I took three attempts to crack my GMAT.
NEXT PAGE: GGI’s pre-MBA program cost and structure + disrupting the traditional MBA