2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Nikhil Srivastava, IIM Ahmedabad

Nikhil Srivastava

Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad

“Dedicated civil servant, interdisciplinary thinker, and passionate storyteller with a drive to lead social change.”

Hometown: Lucknow, India

Fun fact about yourself: My wife and I won the badminton mixed double championship at IIMA. The crazy part is that we stepped on the badminton court for the first time in our lives just three months before the lockdown. Once we reached the IIMA campus, we took to the badminton court like a fish in the water. After having a lot of fun on the badminton court and making a lot of friendships, we also ended up winning the mixed doubles championship.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Technology (Information Technology) from Uttar Pradesh Technical University, Lucknow; Master of Public Administration from Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Prior to the business school, I worked as an Investigation Officer in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India. In this role, I worked primarily on two fronts: leading strategy and roadmap development for tax enforcement operations and steering organizational digital transformation by leveraging technology and data analytics.

Where have you interned during business school? Not Applicable

Where will you be working after graduation? Post-MBA, I will be working as a Management Consultant with Samagra. Samagra is an impact driven, top tier, governance consulting firm that combines a top-down management consulting approach with a bottom-up understanding of the governance ecosystem, and leverages technology and data expertise to drive large scale change.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Honors and awards: Graduated among the Top 10% of the class of 2022; Finalist – Level-Up Case Competition (IIMA)

Leadership Roles: Founding President – PolicyX (Public Policy Special Interest Group); Core member OpX (Operations Club at IIMA)

Community Work: Founding Member of the Pay-it-forward initiative. It is a voluntary initiative by the PGPX cohort to help prospective MBA candidates in their admission journey, starting from GMAT preparation, profile vetting, school selection, and interview preparation. The initiative impacted the journey of more than 200 students, and the proceeds from the voluntary contribution by the participants went to the frontline warriors fighting against the COVID pandemic.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the fact that I am the founding President of the Public Policy Special Interest Group (SIG). While IIMA is a school known for its top global leaders – both in the business and public sector – the PGPX program did not have a dedicated club or SIG for students interested in pursuing opportunities within the public policy area.

As part of the initiative, we tried to bridge this gap by organizing knowledge sessions on opportunities to explore different career opportunities, including government roles, advocacy roles, multilateral organizations, impact consulting, nonprofit organizations or foundations, impact investing, or social entrepreneurship. We organized industry interactions with top firms working in the domain to help the students explore various opportunities in the space. We also connected these firms with the career services team at IIMA to increase the employment opportunities for students interested in the field of public policy.

The Public Policy SIG worked with the IIMA Public Policy Alumni SIG in organizing a six-month long industry and expert interaction related to blockchains and cryptos. The findings and perspectives were released in December 2021 and later submitted to the Government of India. The SIG also worked with the upcoming JSW School of Public Policy at IIMA and organized web interactions, podcasts, and video interviews.

The entire experience has been rewarding in terms of what we have been able to achieve as a new SIG and the opportunity to grow and maintain a network with so many students and individuals interested in the field.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of spearheading the ideation to implementation of digital systems to improve organizational performance. When I joined my job at the Government of India, I realized that most of the processes were manual – based on different physical registers and files. This episode was before the initiatives of the Digital Indian campaign of the government started bearing fruits on the ground. The office faced issues related to lack of institutional memory because of missing or damaged records. Coupled with the regular transfer of officers, the office faced problems relating to losing critical information and missing important SLA deadlines. With my technology background, I saw an opportunity for value creation. Based on the work-study of the entire process, I developed a digital tool with features such as current project status, past findings of taxpayer investigations, and other related documentation. I also trained the staff to ensure maximum utilization of the tool. The revamped system improved the ability to track and monitor the real-time performance of different business operations of the organization. By increasing the accountability within the system, the tool helped improve organizational productivity and efficiency by increasing KPI compliance across the board.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose IIMA for two primary reasons. The first reason is IIMA’s focus on producing talent committed to creating a better world. This commitment is well encapsulated in the school’s motto — ‘Vidya viniyogadvikasa’ — ‘Development through the application of knowledge’. This culture of challenging the status-quo is so vital for IIMA that every admissions interview comprises of an extempore and engaging discussion on a randomly picked socially relevant topic. The school’s value of challenging the status-quo and creating a lasting impact resonated with my own life philosophy.

The second reason is the academic rigor of the school. It is famously said that the ‘A’ in IIMA stands for Academics, and rightly so. The case-based approach to active learning is at the core of this academic rigor. Throughout the year, over 200 case studies with a rich mix of past and present business cases are discussed and dissected by the cohort. Various group exercises, simulations, games, role plays, in-class discussions, and assignments supplement the entire experience. During the discussions, students are placed in the shoes of past business leaders and asked to take difficult organizational decisions under uncertainty and within tight deadlines. This not only helps develop analytical skills and absorb multiple perspectives but also enhance the ability to ask better questions to understand the underlying issues. The entire process enables students to develop critical thinking and transform into true leaders.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would like to try out entrepreneurship. I had zero business experience prior to MBA. This made me think that the entrepreneurial world is out of my reach, at least until I gain some business experience post MBA. However, I attended Professor Mukesh Sud’s entrepreneurship classes in my last term and loved the entire thought process. It opened a new world for me. I now kick myself for not even giving entrepreneurship a try in my time at IIMA. IIMA boasts of one of the highest numbers of founders in the country and has excellent low-risk, high-reward opportunities for the students, such as the MAVERICK program, CIIE tie-ups, and Alumni Endowment Fund. For future batches, I will recommend giving entrepreneurship a serious thought from the program’s start itself.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the business school you chose? For me, looking inwards and being self-aware about my career goals gave me an edge in the application process. I came from a non-traditional background and was suggested to tailor-make the application to fit a typical IIMA application. However, I focused on telling my story most passionately and authentically. I went into detail about the ups-and-downs of my career and talked at length about my motivations for doing an MBA after a successful career in civil services. Finally, I focused on the role that IIMA can play in empowering me to find answers to the developmental questions of my country. The interview panel focused on my aspirations to create real change, and we went on to discuss the philosophies and relevance of Karl Marx, Adam Smith, and everything in between.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business as a student? While I had many influences to shift my career path, my wife Ankita is my primary influence and the biggest supporter. She is a Consultant with Ernst & Young and understood my motivations to create large scale impact. She pushed me for an MBA with the belief that an MBA would help hone my leadership skills and open new professional doors for me. Once I decided to take this path, she stood right beside me throughout the whole struggle and gave me endless support throughout the GMAT preparation, school selection, and application review. After I got the admission, she was the one to convince our parents about the decision to leave a well-paying civil servant job, take a student loan and get back to student life. We spent the good part of the year at the IIMA campus together, and she was very patient with my hectic B-school schedule. I can proudly say that she has been the backbone of my entire MBA journey, and I would not be on this path of professional growth without her support.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • To start and run an impact investing firm focused on funding social enterprises and projects that can bridge India’s income inequality and its various facets.
  • To write an interdisciplinary book drawing upon my learnings and experiences from science, technology, liberal arts, and behavioral psychology.

What made Nikhil such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Being an ex-bureaucrat, Nikhil brings a significantly different perspective to a management class. From hunting down (economic) offenders pre-MBA to joining a non-profit organization post MBA, Nikhil’s journey is truly transformational. He contributed to the institute significantly by starting a public policy special interest group.”

Viswanath Pingali
Chairperson of the PGPX Program

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