Meet The Indian Institute Of Management Ahmedabad MBA Class Of 2023

Every student enters business school looking to learn. They know where they want to go and what they want to do. Too often, they assume the experience will cover their gaps in technical mastery. Soon enough, they discover other lessons are far more significant.

That’s because business school requires students to change…in a profound way. This means being placed in uncomfortable situations and challenged by different viewpoints. Over time, business students grow more strategic. Working in teams, they accept when classmates may be better – so they step back, embracing their roles and picking their spots. Short on time, they set priorities, providing maximum effort where they’ll reap the highest returns. Ever open-minded, they can stitch together an array of ideas that balance the present with the future. Business school may involve a humbling series of trials and errors, but it often ends with an exhilarating sense of achievement. That confidence carries over to graduates’ careers when they stay poised while facing down what seems insurmountable to others.

New campus

A PROGRAM WITH “KASH” VALUE

That’s the foundation of the one-year PGPX program at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. Yes, students study all the business formulas, models, and theories. However, the program isn’t for the “faint-hearted” – notes Anchal Agarwal Jain, a Class of 2023 member who recently finished her third month in the program. After all, as the joke goes, the A in IIMA stands for “academics.” However, the school doesn’t rely solely on a demanding curriculum taught by world-class faculty.

“From the get-go, IIMA’s commitment to bringing the real world into the classroom shone through,” observes Shivani Choudhry, another 2023 class member who was most recently a clean energy project manager. “Its culture of intense inquiry and open dialogue makes every class a mind-bending experience. Indeed, IIMA’s rich legacy famously imbibes these qualities.”

By reputation, Choudhry likely means how IIM Ahmedabad consistently ranks among the top business schools in India – with alumni who include General Atlantic Vice Chairman Ajay Banga and Harvard Business School Dean Sukant Datar. Before joining the Class of 2023, Yamini Dave reached out to several alumni. During these conversations, they hammered home the “KASH” value of IIM Ahmedabad’s case-driven approach, one that cuts across a wide range of industries and roles.

“Today I think like a Tech Start-up founder, and tomorrow I will be the CFO of an FMCG company,” she tells P&Q. “This structured learning process instilled in us the Knowledge, Ability, Skills, and Habits (KASH) required to solve complex business problems promptly and effectively. After going through more than 100 cases in the past three months, I am confident that I have made the right decision by joining IIMA. The KASH I have acquired has helped me identify problems and build solutions after assessing alternate perspectives, not just based on my life experiences.”

MAKING THE CASE FOR THE CASE METHOD

Indeed, the case method requires students to simulate the problem-solving and decision-making models used by seasoned executives. That means investigating situations, interpreting data, formulating alternatives, and weighing outcomes. In the classroom, students must sell their solutions to classmates. Along the way, they answer questions and defend their positions – often resulting in them re-evaluating their suppositions and incorporating more holistic elements into their approach. For Fraze Tasnim, a Hajipur native, the case method was a big reason why he chose IIM Ahmedabad.

“Case-Based teaching fosters critical thinking and turns managers into authentic leaders. It facilitates the development of analytical skills, the absorption of diverse perspectives, and the ability to ask better questions to comprehend the underlying issues better. Students can develop critical thinking and become genuine leaders due to the process.”

Best of all, the case method requires students to repeat the process – over 200 times at IIMA – so it becomes second nature. More than repetition, adds Yamini David, one of the differentiating features of the IIM Ahmedabad experience is its reliance on reflection as students continue through the program.

“PGPX professors constantly ask us to re-evaluate our professional experiences based on the knowledge that we were gaining from their classes. In this activity named “reflections”, we are asked to upload our respective reflections in a shared location. It is an exciting and eye-opening experience to look back at my past through the lens of my recently-acquired knowledge. However, it is even more interesting to read up and get inspired by the reflections of my batch’s distinguished and diverse cohort.”

Halloween Celebration

POISE UNDER PRESSURE

That includes Saumya Upadhyay, a Scientific Officer for India’s Department of Atomic Energy, who worked on projects in the Nuclear Fuel Complex designed to make the country more “self-reliant.” “My biggest achievement milestone is my selection in the BARC OCES [orientation program] to serve the Department of Atomic Energy as a scientist,” Upadhyay tells P&Q. “In this one-year program, I was trained by the best scientists in India and got an opportunity of field visits to many innovative, advanced, and classified nuclear establishments in India. This has been the best learning experience in my life to date.”

Pranav Murari could probably act as a protagonist in an IIM Ahmedabad case discussion. Before business school, he served as a Lieutenant Commander in the Indian Navy. His big moment was literally a trial-by-fire. In 2019, he received a message that read the following: “Terrorist attack at Pulwama. First responder for border patrol. Authorized for war action.” Not only had the suicide bomb killed 40 people, but it ratcheted up tensions with neighboring Pakistan – a nuclear power like India. With his crew riddled with “confusion and restlessness,” Murari responded with communication and structure.

“I immediately met officers and some seasoned men for strategy formulation. The agenda was to divide the ship into 3 parts with each part being capable of operating independently. Post-plan formulation, I informed the entire crew of the situation, the ship’s strategy, and their responsibilities. The briefing gave the men sense of purpose and they began functioning without supervision. The streamlined planning led to a motivated team that intercepted several hostile targets and thereby averted several threats to the nation’s security.”

MAKING PREPARATIONS FOR AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT

Beyond a nuclear scientist and naval commander, the Class of 2023 also features a chef, Ati Alok Kumar. She goes by the nickname “Mowgli” for knowing the names of the cats and dogs on campus. And she writes poetry too.  Her claim to fame? She helped prepare a meal for American President Donald Trump.

“I was leading a part of the team at Taj Palace that catered to the visiting President of the United States back in February 2020,” she reminisces. “The pressure to manage even the most minute task to achieve culinary perfection is by far the most outstanding achievement in my career. The expectations were high and the image of both the brand and that of the nation were at stake. To be able to successfully lead the team to deliver upon the same was indeed something I accomplished. The Taj Palace team was applauded by the Office of the President and the Indian Prime Minister for the impeccable experience.”

Fraze Tasnim could hardly be described as a traditional PGPX student, either. He heads up design at Rohit Bal Design – whose namesake is a two-time Designer of the Year at the International Fashion Awards and whose clients range from Cindy Crawford to Naomi Campbell. Tasnim himself won the National Vogue India Design Contest in 2010, recognition that enabled him to enter high-end fashion – an industry that seemed out of reach when he was younger.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had a thing for interesting shapes and how they can change,” Tasnim tells P&Q. “Acting and developing on this enthusiasm, I enrolled at Symbiosis Institute of Design, Pune and completed a bachelor’s degree in Fashion. The path out was not that easy. In the small town in Bihar where I come from, a career in the fashion industry is not considered a realistic option at all. Most residents are unaware of the fashion industry itself.”

Old Campus Harvard Stairs

FROM INTERVIEWING TO MANAGING

You’ll also find the entertainment industry – and entrepreneurship – represented by Debanjali Sen. The head of film production at A Nineteen Films, she handles everything from client relationships to profit-and-loss. At the same time, she is the founder of Matinee Pictures – a venture Sen had to completely overhaul in the wake of the pandemic.

“With my drive and passion for entrepreneurship, I decided to start my own firm, Matinee Pictures. COVID-19 had hit India within a few months of starting off. Just when I was converting pitches to confirmed projects, lockdown started, and shoots were completely stopped. With a bit of introspection and observation, I took a couple of months to diversify my venture from just film production to an advertising and designing firm along with film production.”

Of course, every class has a journalist looking to move from reporting news to creating it.  That impulse also brought Parisha Tyagi to Ahmedabad. Before business school, she was busy interviewing CEOs, cabinet ministers, celebrities, and even a Nobel Laureate. Most recently, she served as Standard & Poor’s associate editor in price assessment – even building the firm’s Asian shipping team “from scratch.” Still, Tyagi could hardly resist the lure that there was something bigger than ornery editors and unforgiving deadlines.

“As a business journalist I got a chance to understand and analyze the intricacies of key sectors like aviation, telecom, e-commerce, start-ups, and automobiles,” she writes. “My profession gave me an intuitive understanding of market trends and business strategies. While in my career as a journalist I often talked and wrote about the challenges and possible solutions to business problems, I decided to pursue MBA to take my learnings a notch higher and be able to contribute to the management side of things.”

Page 3: Profiles of 11 IIMA PGPX Students.