2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Harita Byluppala, IMD Business School

Harita Byluppala

IMD Business School

“Ever curious, adventure- seeking poetry lover who wants to use technology to make this world equitable.”

Hometown: Hyderabad, India

Fun fact about yourself: On every birthday for the past 4 years, I have been adopting an animal facing extinction. So far, I have an elephant, a panda, a turtle and a tiger. This year, my MBA friends adopted a polar bear from WWF as a gift.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Sri Venkateswara University, India; Bachelor of Technology

Oklahoma state University, United States; Master of Science

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Nestle R&D, Digital Manufacturing Specialist

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? I opted not to do an internship

Where will you be working after graduation? Boston Consulting Group, Switzerland; Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Class Representative: I was chosen by my classmates as one of the two ombudsmen.

Recipient of Hilti Scholarship for gender diversity in the construction industry

Recipient of Merit scholarship

Graduated with Honors: Awarded in top 10% of the class for academic as well as leadership performance.

Finalist in Yale healthcare case competition

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While I thoroughly enjoyed classes, case competitions and activities during the year, representing the class was an unrivalled experience, especially in times of COVID. It gave me a taste of what it means to lead in times of uncertainty and continuous crisis mode. I learned that leadership is defined not just by a couple of big moments before everyone, but by a lot of consistent hard work behind the scenes.

IMD MBA is a small and a personalised program with 100 students from 40 countries going through an intense one-year program while adapting to Switzerland, a country that prides itself on its rules and regulations. Leading such a 100-member team in a mentally and emotionally intense year means understanding cultural adjustment issues, listening to personal problems, sensing class morale, anticipating needs or issues, negotiating with the Dean and the class, giving critical feedback, finding ways to build psychological safety, and (more than anything) leading by example. There is no one moment, but every day I showed up, had an open mind, gave my best and kept my head above water no matter what: this is what I am proud of. Despite a tough year, we travelled for our discover trip, finished the year successfully, and bonded so well that we call ourselves an extended family of IMD MBA 2021. I am grateful for the appreciation I received from both the MBA office and the class.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Digital Transformation and Industry 4.0 are some of the most used buzz words in the recent years. As a digital manufacturing Engineer at Nestlé, an organization with around 400 factories, I was able to separate the buzz from these words and bring real value to not only Nestle but also the industry. While we were figuring out how to digitize our factories across the world and where to start, I formulated a project with a bottoms up approach of grass root transformation. I started at the shop floor level, laid out a road map to bring factories at various automation levels to a digital standard, and led the execution. From pitching to C-suite, securing funding, assembling team to changing production lines, I felt like an entrepreneur breathing life into my ideas.

Separating the hype and finding real value out of digital transformation was quite difficult three years ago. This project not only saved several millions in costs, but also helped establish a business case for digitalization in the F&B industry. Having moved the needle on digital transformation in the largest F&B company in the world, I feel good. Manufacturing is still a male dominant industry. Having been one of the few women who could present to the CEO of the world’s largest F&B company as well as work with technicians on the shop floor, I am proud to have positively influenced the mindset of both men and women in this industry.

Why did you choose this business school? I believe IMD attracts talented people with not just an ambition to succeed in the business world but also a deep desire to lead. I chose this school to be in an environment where learning the complexities of being a leader is imbibed in every activity. Being a process control engineer, I strongly believe in feedback. At IMD, I would get feedback on my leadership potential, my innate skills, and areas of improvement — not only from peers but also from professors, the Dean, the MBA team, professional coaches and a psychoanalyst! Where else could I find such a leadership lab?!

In fact, during the year I learnt that my deep voice and ability to succintly articulate well thought ideas help me in establishing trust and respect. However, I realised that not showing vulnerability impedes my ability to connect with people. The year was a masterclass in “How to connect and then lead”. Though I achieved the top percentile in all the coursework, I am sure that what has stuck with me most is my leadership journey.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I sought out this one year to be in the presence of the brightest minds from around the world and to actually discuss the issues of the world and business. With classmates from 40 countries and almost all industries, I was looking for this unique opportunity to get a diverse set of perspectives on critical issues. Ralf Boschek, our Economics Professor, enabled such discussions. He challenged us in every class, dared us to think beyond our biases and made us think of the most complex yet crucial questions of the present day: ownership of natural resources, the concept of free market, and capitalism in the current age. His class made me realise what responsibility a leader of an organisation holds these days.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Over the year, I had several passionate and mind-opening debates with some of my classmates and professors. I learned a lot during those discussions. In this information overloaded age, we all have our opinions and avenues to air them. Hence it is our primary duty to understand why we might have a certain opinion, where it stems from, and why others might have a different one. I believe it is necessary to constantly test our hypothesis and understanding before vehemently defending it. Therefore, if I were to redo the program, I would form a proper debate club.

What surprised you the most about business school? Coming into an intimate program like IMD, I knew I would be making friends. However, what surprised me is the depth of bonds I formed with several people over the year. I made friends of all kinds – 4 am peeps, sounding boards, advisors, mentees, mentors, travel buddies. It is intriguing how total strangers can become such integral part of your life in just a year.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Before choosing IMD, I diligently worked on WHYs – Why MBA, Why IMD, Why now, Why me. Having a clear understanding of my needs and of what the school had to offer, helped me in finding ways to make the most out of the year. Every time, I spoke to an alumnus, if they talked about the leadership stream, I would ask specific questions and get them to talk about details. This helped me get an idea of what the program was going to be like ahead of time and I prepared my own set of tools to absorb the tsunami of improvements and feedback that the year threw at me.

 Which MBA classmate do you most admire? In a class of such a small size, I came to admire a lot of my classmates. Today, I talk about Georges. I truly admire Georges Roessler for his open mind and his true spirit. Along with his troves of knowledge, he always brought an open mind and challenged us in a mutually beneficial way. Be it gender diversity, carbon tax, green finance, or our travel experience in Chile, I had wonderful discussions with him that went on for hours.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I grew up looking up to three women: my mother, Indira Gandhi (the first female president of India) and Indra Nooyi (ex-CEO of Pepsico). As I observed and learnt from these three women, I became more and more fascinated with what Indra Nooyi was able to achieve at Pepsico. The question of pursuing business in college became more of a ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. As I started to see how so much value is lost in translating commercial needs to technical operations, I realised it was time for me to pursue formal business education to understand both sides.

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

To become an empathetic and successful leader of a multi-cultural organisation in traditionally male dominant industries such as manufacturing.

To sit on the board of an NGO that uses technology to further girl child education in under-developed nations.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? With the pandemic, what became quite evident to me is that as technology becomes the powerhouse that fuels growth, people are the most important asset for any organisation. Understanding people is one of the core skills one needs to have and I am glad IMD is teaching that.

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

“Harita Byluppala was invaluable because she tackled challenging societal issues (for example ED&I) impacting the class (at the individual interaction and class climate levels). Her approach was to understand tension sources and resolve with dialogue. She did so with an impressive success rate. She also embraced those she felt were falling behind or somehow not being included so as to bring them back. The class experience was greatly enhanced by Harita.”

Professor Seán Meehan
IMD MBA Dean 2021


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