2023 MBA To Watch: Siddhant Pawar, Rice University (Jones)

Siddhant Pawar

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“An easy-going individual striving to be better and be a positive influence on the world!”

Hometown: Nashik, India

Fun fact about yourself: I was an assistant campaign manager for my father’s election campaign – he is a full time doctor, who happened to contest an election. During this period, I got to interact with over one million people from all walks of life and experienced complex facets of human psychology such as greed and betrayal when I was only 19! At times, I would also deliver speeches to groups of 50-100 people, and there was no greater satisfaction in anticipating applause at the end of a sentence, hearing it happen and pausing for a few seconds longer to let it play out!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Bachelor of Commerce, University of Mumbai

Master of Commerce, University of Mumbai

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Manager – Business Development and Operations, E.B. Enviro Biotech; The company provides total waste management services to civic bodies in India.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Co-founder at Red Stryng, Houston; Red Stryng is a business-to-business networking platform designed to help small-to-medium enterprises grow through collaboration in the form of joint ventures.

Where will you be working after graduation? Red Stryng and Real Estate Entrepreneurship

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Social Chair, Rice Business Student Association. As social chair, I am responsible for coming up with the fun stuff in a rigorous MBA program. This involves organizing distinctly themed partios (a party on the patio) every Thursday, two sporting events – ‘Owlympics’, a holiday party, a graduation party and a gala! Thank goodness for my co-chair Daniel Petterway who takes quite a bit of the load off my shoulders.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In Spring 2022, there was a bubble soccer tournament in business school, where teams play soccer while players are encased inside inflated zorb balls. Having never been a part of an activity like that, I set out to make my own team. Since this is a co-ed tournament, I first went after the one resource that would be scarce – females from the cohort that were willing to participate. Next, we set out recruiting guys to complete our roster.

We were trailing 0-2 at half time in the first game and decided to unveil tactics that worked well for the kind of personnel we had, effectively ‘bumping’ the opposition out of games and winning the tournament quite convincingly. Assembling a team and winning the tournament while having a lot of fun was immensely satisfying.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As a business development associate, I identified that the town of Sinnar (population ~400,000) was ideal to help recycle legacy waste present in the existing landfill site and free up that land for the civic body to use for public good. The local authorities weren’t convinced about the project when we first went to talk to them; however, I persisted and made several presentations. Eventually, we got the project running and even completed it in record time, freeing up the entire landfill site of waste. Towards the end of the project, the local authorities told us they planned to erect a waste management facility on the site that will help process waste better, and keep the town cleaner and healthier. The facility has been commissioned since and I couldn’t be prouder knowing my efforts affected — and continue to impact — lives of several thousand people on a daily basis.

Why did you choose this business school? Growing up, I have always aspired to be an entrepreneur and never saw myself working for somebody else over the long term. Thus, when I was looking at potential schools to pursue my MBA, learning about entrepreneurship during the program was high on the list. Among top B-schools, Rice Business was one of the best places to focus on entrepreneurship, and so it naturally caught my eye. After reading about LILIE and Rice Alliance, my interest had peaked. Finally, after talking to students who told me about the rich entrepreneurship culture at Rice, and courses such as New Enterprise, Enterprise Acquisition and the Experiential Labs, I was sold and decided this is where I want to be.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Brian Akins taught us Financial Accounting in our first year and Financial Statement Analysis in the second. He has an ease with which he teaches his classes; his slides are detailed and immaculate; and he will answer any question we ask – even if it’s not related to the topic at hand or even the subject matter! Brian is also extremely easy-going and will often joke around with individuals in his class, making everyone comfortable and fostering a better learning environment.

Coming from India where teachers are always addressed as ‘sir/ma’am’, he was the first professor that asked me to call him Brian – which I thought was pretty cool! At times, I see him working out in the gym. Even though he is always approachable, it can be intimidating to do so because of the kind of weights he is lifting.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? New Enterprise was the best course I took at Rice Business. Uncertainty of entrepreneurship compared against the safety of a job can be quite nerve-wrecking and yet I have always wanted to learn about entrepreneurship and walk on that path. This course not only taught me the steps an entrepreneur must take before launching their enterprise, but also gave me the confidence to evaluate any business idea that comes my way, and helped reduce any ‘anxiety’ I may go through as a future entrepreneur.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Partio! Every Thursday evening, Rice Business has an informal gathering of students, staff and faculty where everyone has a chance to get to know each other outside class and over dinner and drinks. The last partio of the year is called International Partio, where students set up tables from different countries to serve delicacies from that country, and there are some cultural performances to go with it. This event is followed by Follies, an hour-long skits-and-awards show where the student body looks back on the year, makes (harmless) fun of certain events that happened during the year and where awards are given for several categories such as ‘Best Dressed’ or ‘Dynamic Duo.’

Both these events are a reminder that we are one big Rice family and we share the joys of life as a community. That we can laugh at, and make fun of each other, and come out of that experience as a tighter knit group. But most importantly, it instills the confidence that no matter where you are from or what your background is, you belong here!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would definitely spend more time with professors, asking them about their field, the work they do, and (in the process) hopefully pick up a thing or two. Through my journey with Red Stryng and as a social chair, I interact with professors more than the average student does. I have seen how welcoming they are to students approaching them for help, and they provide fantastic insights into problems one may not have thought about. This is one resource that is underutilized by most MBA students and looking back, I wish I had done this aspect differently.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Houston is known for its oil and gas industry. So naturally, there was this myth that the school and curriculum was mainly catered towards ensuring students had successful careers in the oil and gas industry. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Although Rice will set you up for a career in oil and gas (if you so desire), there are so many other concentrations and courses to choose from, you could practically make a career in any field you wanted.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Houston is not a city that you instantly fall in love with, but it definitely grows on you over time. I love the diversity that Houston has to offer. You get to meet people from all walks of life and experience their culture through various festivals, events, and food. As a foodie, I also love the fact that the city’s diversity brings with it a multitude of cuisine options and hence, you never get tired of eating out.

What surprised you the most about business school? Before coming to Rice, I was told by multiple people about how prestigious the university is and how people refer to it as the Harvard of the South. This, along with the general notions of an MBA program being extremely professional and how you’ve got to be on your toes all the time, made me think the school environment was going to be quite uptight. Funnily enough, the first week was all about people wearing suits and being courteous. Networking was the talk of the town. However, soon enough, the fabricated walls of courtesy disappeared to reveal people all around were actually quite affable. Networking paved way for relationship-building among peers in the cohort, staff, and faculty alike. This camaraderie and the family environment at school has lasted ever since, and that was the biggest surprise for me.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? The most important part of my application process was being authentic and letting the real me come out through my essays and during my interview. There are hundreds of others with similar backgrounds and GMAT scores, but there is only one person just like you. So I made that my competitive advantage and let my qualities show, without trying to conduct myself in a manner that wasn’t true to me.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? If I absolutely must pick only one, it should be Arwa Hasanali. Arwa started the MBA program as a mother of a 4-month-old baby and now, she has another 3-month-old to take care of. Yet she manages to carry out all of her roles with aplomb! She is an outstanding student who used to be a 1st year class representative. She is a terrific teammate and, having worked with her on a few projects, I can say she’s a great leader too! Arwa doesn’t miss out on the fun stuff either. She attends networking events on campus, goes on lunches with friends in the program and even attends partios! She organizes her life so well and that is why I admire her.

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

1. Be influential enough to be on a committee that provides input for Urban Development policy.

2. Provide fair and fulfilling employment to 100,000 people and hence by extension, help support their families.

The idea with both is to try and uplift people’s standard of living.

What made Siddhant such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“The Rice Business tagline is “You Belong Here,” and Siddhant is a stellar example of a student who brings that motto to life for us. In his role as the social chair of his program’s student government board, he is charged with hosting a weekly networking event for the entire Rice Business community (with an average attendance of 350). While in the past, these events had been a simple happy hour, Siddhant and his co-chair reimagined this program to make it more interactive and inclusive – changes that impressed our students and our school’s senior leadership alike. While these tireless, unmissable efforts alone would be enough to qualify Siddhant for this honor, it is the smaller, daily acts of service that make Siddhant a truly standout student leader in my mind. Whether it’s lending a helping hand to our staff, offering a warm welcome for prospective students, or going out of his way to help clean up after an event, Siddhant embodies the best of Rice Business.”

Sarayu Sundar, Ph.D.
Associate Director of Student Experience, Office of Academic Programs and Student Experience


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