Niranjan Suresh






Social Impact



By Niranjan Suresh

A time to reflect

It’s a week before my third term at Oxford starts. I’m still struggling to come up with clear thoughts on writing this blog post, summarizing my time over the last three months. Hilary term, the second term at Oxford, is named after the feast day of St Hilary falling on 14th January. Like many other students, I found myself settling into the Oxford routine after the first term. I had consciously decided that I would try out new experiences in Hilary to push myself out of the comfort zone.

For my coursework, I had Strategy, Micro-economics and GOTO in the first block. In Strategy, I learnt a lot of frameworks to assess industries and their non-market external environment. Additionally, I gained insights into importance of diversification, pitfalls of going into new markets and consolidating existing ones. Having no previous background in economics, I enjoyed reading about supply-demand curves, ideas such as rent-control, government subsidies and taxation, price-discrimination that are increasingly relevant in today’s context. GOTO is a project-based course where we are divided into teams and pick a specific challenge that we map out and identify critical levers of change. The theme for this year’s GOTO was Climate Change and our group picked an interesting topic – Carbon Emissions caused due to data-centres in United States. We understood the nuances behind a complex bunch of stakeholders holding a system in place. Digging into the problem, we uncovered layers behind a seemingly obvious problem and learnt to apply techniques of systems analysis, a technique I find extremely useful. I’m also taking part in a competition called ‘Map the System’ to understand the problem of unemployment in India in greater depth.

During mid-Feb, we had an assessment week followed by our second block, comprising GOTO continuing and two electives – Innovation Strategy and Impact Strategy. Innovation Strategy was a particularly interesting class as it provided a glimpse of a real Oxford-like theory-based class, with less focus on case and more focus on longer readings. Classes were interesting as there was a lot of diversity of opinion and heavy discussions. We covered intriguing topics like “How do new innovations come about”, Tech4Good, issues behind Kidney transplants and organ-donation, how ‘ice’ as a commodity came into being, among others. In the other course – Impact Strategy – I learnt about different social enterprise models, types of organizations beyond public-private such as co-operatives, benefit corporations, and glimpses into impact measurement and management.

Apart from my coursework, I continued doing other things that I enjoy. “Pongal”, the new-year festival for my community in India was in the third week of January. I cooked authentic rice-based dishes and shared it with a few of my college friends. I was also happy to join my Chinese friends in celebrating Chinese New Year at the business school, making dumplings for the first time.

Dumplings during Chinese New Year

The weather up until March was pretty cold, and I was lucky to witness snowfall during my time. I also started playing a sport close to my heart – football. A bunch of us met on weekends to play under an hour of 5-a-side football. These were really good moments and helped keep the spirits up in the otherwise cold weather. I also used the facilities at the college gym to try my hand at rowing and running on other days. Weekends were mostly spent at London visiting my wife and cooking. I also enjoyed sessions with the Impact Lab where a small group met weekly, checking in on each other through a unique action-based learning method. A highlight in the Impact Lab was also going up on stage and giving a 4-minute tedx style talk in front of a warm, encouraging audience.

Giving a talk at the Impact Lab

I was fortunate to attend talks by Arunchalam Murugananthan, a famous Indian social entrepreneur, Arundathi Roy and Prof. Amartya Sen. I fondly remember being part of a lovely Oxford college tradition, having a private dinner with our Academic Supervisor. It was a small-group and we got a chance to meet people from different backgrounds and share experiences.

Oxford Union talks

Covid-19 has disrupted normal life. Classes are online now, mostly likely for the foreseeable future. I am trying to establish a routine and taking the time to reflect, speak to family and friends and continue doing things that I like. I’m fortunate to be close to my loved ones, live in a relatively safe environment and not worry about basic necessities. Compared to millions in the world, I am extremely privileged. I recognize this and will strive to put in my best in the coming few months, make the most out of my education and remain positive.

Finally, I want to end this blog-post thanking the millions of NHS workers in the UK and health-workers in other countries putting their lives on the frontline to save us, the people still continuing to open-shop to serve common-people like us. We are eternally grateful!

Dinner with my College Advisor

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