The British summer is luring everyone to don their swimsuits and have a pint by the river. It is 30 degrees and a cool breeze flows in from my window in Oxford. I see horses grazing at Port Meadow on the banks of the river Thames. They are slowly getting outnumbered by people carrying sling bags and backpacks, which I can only imagine to be full of beer, sunscreen and snacks. Social distancing is a buzzword everyone understands but I won’t put my money on its compliance when the sun is out.
Even as I zone out looking out my window, I count my stars for being in a magical and relatively “safe” place in the midst of a pandemic. There is chatter that the scientists working on the “Oxford vaccine” just a few blocks away are going to save the world. I sincerely hope they are not distracted by the holidaying grad students nearby.
As I think about the unfolding scenario, I realise that my urge to stay at Oxford and sunbathe my summer away is equally matched by my urge to contribute to tackling the COVID-19 crisis. I tell myself that this time at Oxford is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but then again, isn’t a pandemic causing a global socio-economic-health crisis also once-in-a-lifetime? I sure hope so!
These reflections are post facto because I have taken the call. I am going back to India. This is as logical to me as it is emotional so allow me to elaborate.
An MBA is a crucial time to reflect on some personal foundational questions –
What am I doing with my life?
What do I want to do with my life?
What motivates me and provides meaning to my life?
It’s not that these questions can’t be answered any other time but a global MBA provides the intellectual stimuli through its diversity of people and academic rigour to make these reflections deep and rich. I had the opportunity to discuss such personal dilemmas over and over again with peers and mentors from around the world – listening to their hopes and fears, their aspirations and their experiences.
Inspired, I decided to go back to work in India. I believe that India is at a crucial juncture today where we have a unique opportunity to create value for everyone. Be it through building a tech product, creating content, opening an enterprise or doing research. The combination of an (almost) enabling environment, inflow of capital and a globally competitive and aspirational talent base has the potential to move the needle for India and I am excited to play my part.
I will be going back to Samagra Transforming Governance which works in the domain of governance consulting. This is essentially “management consulting ++” – top down management consulting principles with a bottom up understanding of governance at the grass roots with an appropriate dose of technology and data. The work entails working closely with the top political and bureaucratic leadership to strategise on governance problems and then supporting the government machinery to implement those strategies to achieve impact outcomes.
Most top tier consulting firms specialise in the first three steps illustrated above. “Strategy” becomes the buzzword as the answer to all problems that firms face. However, governments face another critical challenge of implementing those strategies in a time bound and sustainable way. Going from strategy to implementation with an efficient feedback loop helps convert activities and outputs to initial outcomes.
To be able to observe initial outcomes after a few years of hard work is indeed a sweet feeling and it is natural to want to move on after tasting success. However, the systemic transformation projects we are involved in require scaling the depth and breadth of impact sustainably. Unless the new strategy and its implementation are institutionalised through effective policy and behavioural change management, sustainability of impact remains under question.
We work on systemic transformation projects across the social development spectrum in areas such as digitisation, skilling, agriculture and education, striving to move from problem definition to sustained outcomes. I am excited to work with talented and passionate peers to work on complex systemic problems and create impact at scale. Let’s do this!
“It takes the same effort to think big or think small. So, then I might as well think big.” – Nandan NilekaniBack to top of article