In Just 3 Years, This Disruptive Indian Pre-MBA Has Graduated 5,500 Alumni

GGI cofounders Naman Shrivastava and Shatakshi Sharma founded their social for-profit company in 2019 to democratize higher education.

Tell us about GGI’s pre-MBA program.

The program is structured into three categories: One, upskilling where students learn. Two, our employment partnerships where students get to tap into the leading management consulting, product management, and policy houses. And, three, is networking.

In the upskilling category, we have renowned master classes in GGI, and these master classes are all case based and led by top industry professionals. For example, the chairman of BCG,  the current chairman of the BCG Henderson Institute, and the Indian Global CEO of McKinsey & Company have all led master classes for us. And by master class, I don’t just mean that they came, gave a webinar, and left. They simulated a business case that they had solved themselves. I’m particularly proud of the fact that, typically, when a professor at Harvard teaches a case, the professor has never solved that problem. The professor is never the protagonist.

At GGI, the person who’s teaching the case was also the protagonist at some point of time. I typically describe this way: It’s like if Steve Jobs was helping students solve an Apple case. The knowledge Steve Jobs will have on that is unparalleled. It’s discussion based learning rather than lecture based learning.

Then comes the second lever which is our employment partners. We have more than 20 employment partnerships with the leading management consulting, public policy, and product management organizations in India. All of our cohort students and alumni get exclusive opportunities from our employment partners.

And, last but not the least, are our networking opportunities. We are moving hybrid because I do understand that people are getting tired of being on Zoom. So for example, we’ve recently had networking sessions in Bangalore, in Delhi, and in Bombay. We’re planning a Boston get together for all the U.S. folks who joined GGI and similarly in the UK as well. While they are less than 10% of the entire cohort, because we are the Global Governance Initiative, we always want to have an international community.

What does your Pre MBA program cost and who is your ideal candidate? What kind of student are you targeting? 

The average cost is around $349 which is less than 1% of the cost of an Indian MBA. So at 1% of the cost of an MBA, you get to have the same employment opportunities and all the upskilling and networking opportunities.

GGI co-founder Shatakshi Sharma

In terms of the ideal candidate, the typical median age of a GGI candidate is very young, about 24 1/2. That means, to my mind, someone with an average two to three years of work experience after college. Maybe you will take your sweet time, in five to six years, to do your formal MBA, but you are now stuck in your career and you want to get that kickstart.

In terms of professions, we serve people from a variety of backgrounds–from chartered accountants, to data scientists, to private sector bankers from Deutsche Bank, to strategy consultants, to government and NGO professionals. So it’s a very very diverse classroom. In fact, we select candidates so that there is a very diverse classroom that comes together so that people learn from each other.

To apply, candidates can go to GlobalGovernanceInitiative.org. There is a 10- to 15- minute application form. The application fee is just $3, and that is to ensure that only serious applicants apply.

And how long does the program last?

We have both three-month and six-month programs, but 80% of the people choose our six-month program because they are taking in while working full-time in their current jobs.

It’s a weekend-only model, so Monday to Friday, they are working, and Saturday and Sunday they spend their time with us.

On alternate weekends, the master classes take place. So for example, in the previous policy consulting masterclass, a United Nations professional led the class, and in the upcoming management consulting masterclass, a partner from BCG is coming to teach a case.

In between, there are job fairs and info sessions by our employment partners. So for example, the Clinton Health initiative will come and do a session for GGIians, and right after, the employment applications will open. Finally, they get access to our internal artificial intelligence case interview tools. That is self paced, so they can take their time to actually prepare their cases. They also get mapped to a buddy every three weeks who comes from a different background to practice cases together.
So is the pre-MBA program meant to prepare students for a full-time MBA later on, or to help advance their current careers?

I think there is no one right answer from the student’s point of view, but there is one right answer from our point of view. So, my co-founder and I strongly believe that the formal education ecosystem is becoming a little less relevant in today’s day and age. I went to ISP and I also took a few classes at HBS. Of course, HBs is leagues apart, but I started to form the opinion that the curriculum is still redundant. I think more CEOs and leaders are coming to the idea that the MBA curriculum really needs a change. The MBA has become a status symbol, and that’s why everyone is going to do an MBA.

Our goal is that if someone has joined the GGI Pre-MBA program, they should not feel a need to do a formal MBA. From our side, they should feel sufficient in terms of return on investment. A few of our students have gone on to study at INSEAD, Kellogg, and ISB Hyderabad, which is where I graduated from. But our narrative has been very simple: The education sector is changing faster than anyone can imagine. People like Elon Musk, people like the Microsoft CEO and whatnot are questioning the value of that education. That means that, as founders, we are not disrupting the space if we just create a pre-program to a formal degree.

Having said this, we have a partnership with Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy so that anyone who becomes part of GGI gets a strategic advantage at Fletcher School, not just in terms of admission, but also in financial terms. Without releasing the name of the school, we’re also in touch with one of the top Ivy Leagues in the U.S., and they’re very keen to tap into the potential of GGI to have that diversity in their classroom.

But once again, being very candid, the objective is to provide that really high-quality education to someone who may not be able to either afford a formal MBA, who may not be able to get into it because of the left-brained GMAT GRE exams, or who may not be able to shift countries because her father doesn’t allow her to move out of India, for example, because of certain gender issues. People have gone on to do a formal MBA, but from our side, we want to say that we should be sufficient for you to pivot your career. We want to eventually replace the Ivy League’s of the world.

It’s a very bold mission. I do understand that it’s going to be very difficult. But for someone from Nairobi, from Nigeria, from the deep underdeveloped pockets of India who cannot afford these degrees, I think it is frankly a travesty that people take millions of dollars of loans to study at these institutions. I know these institutions are doing great work, but our objective through this Pre-MBA is to make sure that students understand there are alternatives. There is no one ticket to fame.

How many students have gone through the program?

We’ve had more than 5,000 alumni who have gone through GGI at large, but there are 2,000 people who have gone through our MBA and MPP and fellowships.

Do you report your employment figures? How many of your candidates get new jobs after completion of your program?

More than 88% of them, within six months to one year, get jobs in management consulting, public policy and product management. So I’m a management consultant myself, so I can live without data. That means after six months from the graduation, we touch base with them about whether they were looking for a job or not? If yes, were they able to pivot or not? If yes, which sector?

More than 88% of them got back and said that they were able to pivot to their dream sectors. That is actually the data point that speaks the highest volume about GGI.  That’s why we don’t do any unnecessary marketing. The word of mouth is our strongest referral–70% of the new people who apply to GGI are through referrals. That to me is an indicator of success.

What is your admissions schedule?

We have rolling admissions which means we’re always accepting people. A new cohort gets started after every two weeks because of the master class model.

Tell us about your fellowship program. 

Our fellowship program is specifically for someone who wants to get into management consulting and development consulting. We have a handful of mentors from McKinsey, BCG and Bain, and we want to map limited people to each mentor for a good experience. That’s why we have only a handful of GGI fellows. It is for anyone who has a very sharp clarity that they want to get into either management consulting or development consulting.

Fellows also get to advise real NGOs. We also partner with the nonprofit organizations who cannot afford the McKinseyes and BCGs of the world to get advice. Actually, at BCG, a part of me was struggling with that. Like, ‘Hey, this guy’s already rich, why am I advising him on how to become richer?’ So our fellows work with NGOs like Teach for India and others, to truly learn by doing. At the same time, they get to make an impact on those NGOs who also need intellectuals but just can’t afford those intellectuals.

So, you guys think of yourselves as disruptors to the traditional MBA? 

Absolutely. I think that is where we sit and that is where I get my fuel to drive GGI every day. I’m genuinely a believer of the fact that there are three levels of business schools: the Ivies and the Financial Times’ Top 30. Then anyone below 30 to, say, 100. And everyone below 100. We genuinely believe that schools below the rank of 30 or maybe 50 are going to become obsolete in the next 10 years, because they’re going to be able to charge a lot of money, but they will not be able to justify that return on investment.

I think the top 30 schools will be able to innovate themselves. They are already keeping an eye on us, and that’s why there are curriculum revisions that I see happening, which is good. For example, I saw the happiness curriculum that has been introduced by HBS. I think it will take some time for disruptors like us to shake them a lot, but I think they’re smart to keep an eye on us.

What comes next for GGI?

As founders, one thing we are focused on in 2022 is internationalizing our cohort further. In the current cohort, as a few examples, we have an Indonesian diplomat from New York, a Hong Kong University student, and a working professional from Nairobi. In 2022, we are looking largely at the South Asian markets like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia.

Learning doesn’t just take place through the Harvard case method or projects. My thought horizons were opened a great deal when I was in Boston, surrounded with people who were from France, from Spain, from Mexico and Japan. And we questioned and challenged our thought leaderships. That is what we want to build at GGI.

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