Students of IMT Ghaziabad and Kellogg School of Management create magic through collaboration

Separated by thousands of miles, there was no way that Eric Mercep and Niladri Majumdar should have met … But then, destiny has its own ways.

By a strange twist of fate, Eric entered the iconic Kellogg School of Management, USA -at more or less the same time as Niladri entered IMT Ghaziabad, one of the top management institutes of India. This was just around the time that these two world-class institutions were inking a strategic partnership, of which the Peer Learning Internship Programme happened to be an integral part.

By the time the first six pairs of students (6 each from IMT Ghaziabad and Kellogg School of Management) had completed their projects in India in 2011, Eric had already decided to get a first-hand feel of working in the rural space of an emerging economy. As luck would have it, the immense success of the programme in 2011 had led to an increase in the number of host organisations to eight. This effectively meant that there would be 8 students each from IMT Ghaziabad and Kellogg School of Management for the Peer Learning Internship Programme 2012. Eric applied.

“The process is fairly simple at Kellogg School of Management. We were required to fill out an application which consisted of an essay-question asking us to discuss our interest in social enterprise. This was followed by an interview with Pallavi, the programme coordinator, and one of the participants who was at IMT Ghaziabad last year.”

For Niladri, it was completely the reverse. This project, and the people associated with it, were considered the ‘cat’s whiskers’ at IMT Ghaziabad! Only students with a CGPA above 7 were allowed to apply; which meant just the top 30-35% at IMT Ghaziabad. The applicants were then further shortlisted on the basis of numerous parameters like job experience, statement of purpose, international exposure, contribution to society in the past, etc. Finally, it all boiled down to a panel interview headed by the Director of IMT Ghaziabad.

It was a long shot, but on the 23rd of June 2012, Niladri Majumdar and Eric Mercep were under the same roof at IMT Ghaziabad. Of the eight students each from IMT Ghaziabad and Kellogg School of Management, USA, Niladri and Eric were chosen to collaboration Action Research for ‘dLight Energy’for a duration of 10 weeks. Little did they know then, that it was the beginning of a journey… and of a great friendship.

“Our fieldtrip to Bihar was absolutely amazing,” gushes Eric. “Niladri brought a rigour to our interviews with village-level contacts that helped ensure we were capturing accurate information. It was enlightening to see first-hand the rural environment which our work was focused on. It made me more driven to make an impact through my work. I think the two of us barely stopped talking about our cultures, our countries, our projects, our families, etc.”

“There was this school we had been invited to in a remote village in Bihar,” recounts Niladri with a naughty twinkle. “When we reached the school, Eric was blushing red because a bunch of 50 students gave him the complete VIP treatment; a welcome song, a plethora of garlands, a series of roses and an Aarti! There was even an official photographer to capture the momentous visit of Eric Mercep the Great! Some kids even took his autograph.”

For the other seven pairs, the stories are different; what remains the same is the mutual respect and will to understand the rural space in India - and make it better.

“Earnest Sweat, my partner from Kellogg School of Management, USA, hasa dual degree in Economics and Political Science,” says Abhishek Makker, one of the eight representatives from IMT Ghaziabad for this programme. “He had rubbed shoulders with big-shot investment bankers in Manhattan for 6 years before Kellogg School of Management happened. I’ve gained immensely from him.”

For his part, Earnest feels that Abhishek has been a natural at pulling out stuff from the internet.

“We’ve made rapid progress. Even before setting out for India, I knew this would be different. I felt that I could return to the private sector full-time after Kellogg; coming to India was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I see a lot of scope for growth after this.”

In another case of great team-work, thanks to Rahul Dutta Gupta's ‘double shifts’ at IMT Ghaziabad, his partner from Kellogg School of Management, Justin, has had the time to go down to Agra and admire the Taj Mahal.

“I now know why the people from the previous batch at Kellogg who were here in India last year for the same programme enjoyed it all so much,” offers Justin. “Yes, there is the immense challenge of working in a foreign country and getting to know the local context and how business is done here. But in India, it’s working in an emerging market that is absolutely unique.”

“There is vast potential in the healthcare market as of now,” believes Rahul. “If we are able to create a technology platform which can act as a one-stop solution for all healthcare related queries and information which an Indian consumer may be looking for, it’ll revolutionise things.”

Neil Patel, an NRI from Kellogg, who was paired with Aparna Vyas of IMT Ghaziabad, is just back from a week of soul searching and beating-the-heat in beautiful Leh, Ladakh.

“Aparna has been absolutely fantastic in reaching out to her network and collecting examples of financial models used by her peers who’ve worked in venture capital in India. Before this summer, I had not travelled much around India. So my main objective was to see as much of India as possible.”

On her part, Aparna feels that working with Neil has been really cool. “I’ve gained a lot from Neil’s style and culture of working. He has helped me look at things from a different angle – from dealing with clients, to the kind of knowledge that matters more in his context.Success stories in e-governance have been few and far between, and we are working towards making one.”

This year, there has been an immense buzz about the good work that this collaboration between IMT Ghaziabad and Kellogg School of Management, USA is creating. It is clear that this programme is one of those associations which put IMT Ghaziabad in a class of its own among the top Indian B-schools.