Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Neelabh Singh, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad

Neelabh Singh

Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad

“A perseverant and optimistic individual who is not afraid to take the road less travelled.”

Hometown: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Fun Fact About Yourself: A true Cules, I watch each and every football game of FC Barcelona. I am also a self-trained singer and guitarist, with the choice of music ranging from Classical to Thrash Metal.

Undergraduate School and Major: IIT(BHU), Varanasi – B.Tech in Chemical Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India, Assistant Section Officer

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of IIM Ahmedabad’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? It is a popular saying at IIMA that not just A but even IIM stands for academics. IIMA’s rigorous pedagogy, as a principle, trains students to be future leaders. It has a culture of challenging the conventional thought processes, building consensus through debates and dissent and bringing in new ideas. In the case-based pedagogy, you have to take key decisions as the chief protagonist of firms ranging from non-profits to corporate giants. The discussions in the syndicate groups and in the classes are highly enriching and you learn to appreciate multiple ways to look at any single problem. We understand how to optimize our decisions by weighing the trade-offs in analyzing the available choices backed by data. This factor was of critical importance to me because I truly enjoy challenging my thought processes, widening my thinking spectrum, and appreciating the nuances of decision-making. Considering this key aspect and numerous other factors, IIMA was always my first choice.

What has been your favorite course or extracurricular activity at IIM Ahmedabad? What has been the most important lesson that you have learned from it? I have relished studying the Strategic Management course by Prof Chitra Singla and Prof. Amit Karna in Term 2. The cases in the course range from corporate giants like Starbucks to SMEs and startups – and every case contains immense learnings. Both the cases and class discussions help one to arrive at data-driven decisions through the lenses of the protagonists of the case, seeing beyond the conventional frameworks. I believe subjects on strategy formulation and implementation are critical to any industry leader and IIMA PGPX has numerous courses to offer in this area. I am very excited to learn Strategy planning and execution in the later terms of the course.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: While working in DoPT as an Administrative officer, I got an opportunity to work on one of the most important government initiatives: Mission Karmayogi. It is a pan-India competency building initiative aimed at transforming the civil service from ‘rule-based’ to ‘role-based’ of over 20 million Government servants. While the formalities to acquire resources for the initiative were still in process, I volunteered for the responsibility of planning the competency mapping strategy along with my Division Head and Department Head, in addition to my duties as an Administrative Officer. Through intense research and discussions with the stakeholders, I was able to kickstart the pilot project in the Department of Personnel and Training following agile methodology. I developed a comprehensive document on Domain Competencies of mid-management officers in DoPT and liaised with the technology partners from designing to operationalization of website tools and portals. The significance of this initiative was that the strategical execution of the pilot was critical, the scale was huge, and the achievements were unprecedented. It helped create a blueprint for Mission Karmayogi, thus laying the foundation for the successful rollout of the project at scale. The many ‘firsts’ in the project brought immense learning experience of managing multiple senior stakeholders, learning from very senior bureaucrats, and using tech-driven project planning and implementation.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far: A general statement from MBA students is that they don’t get adequate sleep in the course. IIMA + PGPX is easily a recipe for sleepless nights because the course is very rigorous and fast-paced, with daily cases, readings, submissions, and quizzes. You always need to be on your toes. So, you need to learn to ‘prioritize’ and be disciplined with your time. The fact that I can now find time to get adequate sleep, complete the daily cases and readings, and squeeze in some time for playing my guitar and reading a newspaper is what I would have found difficult to do before. I have learnt to be disciplined and allocate time slots to the activities I want to do. This also means I won’t be able to do everything in the given time.

PGPX is a buffet and you can’t have it all. You need to live your journey and for that – You HAVE to ‘Prioritize’. I believe developing this efficiency and time management is critical to both professional and personal growth in life.

What is your class’s favorite hangout away from school? Why do you gather there? IIMA is an all-encompassing ecosystem within itself and we love to spend most of our time inside the campus, be it hanging out at Louis Kahn Plaza or having a cup of tea at legendary Ram Bhai.

If I were to pick a place away from school, it would be the Sabarmati River Front. The calm, cool breeze there provides the much-needed respite from the grilling routine of IIMA and the scorching weather of Ahmedabad. It is a peaceful getaway from the daily B-school life and gives you an opportunity to contemplate and introspect, which is much needed in this fast-paced environment.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Throughout my career, I have always been passionate about learning, upskilling and contributing to nation-building. After two years of experience in an MNC and 4.5 years in the government, I felt that I had gained enough perspectives on the varied decision-making processes and was now placed perfectly to transition into a leadership role where I could contribute significantly more to my team, my company and the society. An MBA would equip me with the necessary business knowledge and skills and open multiple doors quite early in my career. I see IIMA PGPX as the program which will accelerate my career to a decision-making leadership position.

Post-MBA, I wish to work at the intersection of Government, Tech and Business and build capabilities to solve numerous societal problems. I want to leverage my experiences and skills to progress as an empathetic and growth-focused leader.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into IIM Ahmedabad? First of all, don’t reject or underestimate yourself. Just try to put your best foot forward in every aspect of your candidature. Try to gain clarity on why you want to do an MBA and why from IIMA. Connect with as many people as you can to gain their perspectives on how an MBA can help you achieve your goals. For the application part, dig deep into your career and life experiences and try to figure out the various aspects of your personality. Be authentic in your applications and your interviews. Unlike many other programmes, PGPX has a window of 3-4 days for writing 3-4 essays which requires prior clarity of thought around the major MBA essay themes. The interview consists of extempore and that needs to be practiced well. A couple of mock interviews are always helpful.




Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.