The Telegraph
Monday , August 11 , 2014
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Harvard ahoy! Gamble & homecoming

- Calcutta youths make it to US B-school’s MBA Class of 2016

Mahima Swarup, 26, and Tanvir Singh Madan, 27, of Calcutta have qualified for the Class of 2016 at Harvard Business School and are headed for the hallowed B-school on Monday for a two-year MBA course.

Vipul Chanjjer and Tarang Kumar are the other two from the city to make it to Harvard’s Class of 2016.

For Tanvir, “it is like going back home” since he had spent four years in Worcester and two in Massachusetts.

For Mahima, who has grown up listening a lot about the B-school, it’s like following in her father’s footsteps. “In my house there was no other option… I took the gamble and applied only to Harvard,” she said.

Father Gaurav Swarup from the Class of 1980 believes “Harvard is still the best”, and maintains strong links with his alma mater which includes attending reunions.

“In those days it was difficult but I had read about Harvard Business School in TIME and aspired for it. The only condition that my father had set was either it’s the top American university or the Indian Institute of Management… no second-tier university in the US,” said Swarup, the managing director of Paharpur Cooling Towers. He got through IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Calcutta but he had set his eyes only on Harvard.

“Thirty years on, I would see my dad picking up the phone and talking to his friends from across the world and it is just a testament of the bond that they share,” said Mahima who completed ICSE from Loreto House before going to Calcutta International School.

The girl, who had been collecting rocks since seven, graduated in geology from Carleton College, Minnesota.

The young exploration geologist began her career with the Calcutta office of mining consultancy firm HDR Salva and after a year went to Australia to work in the coal basins of central Queensland.

She was among a handful of women working 15-16 hours at a stretch with no weekends in a male-dominant workplace and dealing with burly Australians — “some of who had served jail terms”. “Workers in the drill crew weighed 300 pounds and towered over me. I had to earn my respect and get them to co-operate,” she said.

A tough call for a woman and that too an Indian! “The biggest thing is to adapt and to try and find ways. Being a huge cricket fan I would find cricket connections and maybe bet over a carton of beer or hold team meetings over dinner,” she said. “She would also tell them to teach her kickboxing,” mother Parul added.

“I would give them a feeling of ownership by involving them more in what is going on in office,” said Mahima.

Though she gives credit to her parents for letting her pursue her passion, Parul said the experience made her daughter stronger.

“While working for her thesis in Turkey she would live in a village which was an hour’s drive from Istanbul and the only vehicle she had access to was the tractor of the person where she was living as a paying guest,” Parul said.

Tanvir comes from a family of engineers. He chose electrical and computer engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute before going to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for his masters and his thesis and research was on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

He returned in 2012 and worked at Reliance Jio, a transition from energy space to digital technology and got hooked to it. In fact, he did his internship at a renewable energy firm in Gurgaon in 2011.

“Back in the US, we would hear things like ‘India shining’ and opportunities in India. But it’s difficult to judge that sitting there in the US. So I decided to come back to explore after my degree from MIT,” said the former student of La Martiniere for Boys.

Between Harvard and Stanford, Tanvir chose the former.

“At Harvard, the focus is on general management rather than specifics or opting for a major. Plus, there is diversity of students coming from finance, luxury, retail and the best way to learn is from the experience of people.”

Though Calcutta hasn’t figured in his career map so far except for his schooling, Tanvir would “want to come back to India and start an entrepreneurial enterprise and run my own business”.

But not immediately. “There is a lot of action in Bangalore, Mumbai or Gurgaon in the kind of industry that I was interested in such as digital and mobile technologies. I haven’t come across opportunities suited to my interests in Calcutta,” he said.

Mahima said she would use her MBA degree “to explore all options”.