Question: The mission of the Yale School of Management is to educate leaders for business and society. In this context, tell us your career goals and your plans for achieving them. Please be specific. Describe how your previous experience will help you to reach your goals.
I grew up in a small suburb of Bangalore, and had an engineer father and a teacher mother. It was a family I felt fortunate to be a part of because a focus on being well-rounded and stress on academics was gently encouraged in my home from the beginning. I was encouraged to be independent in my thoughts and take responsibility for the choices I make.
When I was 9, my father moved us to Riyadh, and we stayed there for the next 5 years. Riyadh was the place where I started to become aware of my society - of things happening around me. I took for granted all the material amenities that come easily to such a place. I also took for granted that my father could not vote to change the government, or that our social freedom was limited. Coming back to India after 5 years was, therefore, a sea-change for me in terms of personal experiences. I realized, for example, that it was safe to criticize the government if you want to do so, but also that the many material things I had taken for granted in Riyadh were luxuries here, and not only did people not have these things, they didn’t even know about them.
This first cross-cultural experience was also one of the most formative ones of my life. It made me realize the importance of giving the people relevant choices - choices they might not necessarily be exposed to, choices on health, education, social issues, business or leisure - and also of having a medium of information which could reach the people living in the farthest corners of a big country and provide them with information in a highly personalized, relevant way about things that matter most in their life. This belief was further reinforced when, while contributing to several community development and rural education projects as a member of the Mumbai Institute - the Indian arm of Charity International (a global NGO) - I was exposed to the problems in information dissemination in the public domain in India - a long drawn process fraught with bureaucratic apathy, lack of reachability of many regions due to terrestrial considerations, non-targeted content distribution by the traditional media (TVs, Newspaper etc) and excessive red-tape. So, I also wanted to explore whether the medium of information we use could also reduce the dependence of the common man on the bureaucracy, spawn entrepreneurship on a people-to-people basis across distant regions, and connect the consumer with services like education, banking, entertainment or health without any (unnecessary) government interference.
This fascination with improving the mode of information dissemination and hence driving transparency into the system led me to explore the benefits wireless and mobile communications technology can have on society. I was intrigued by the fact that unlike traditional media (like TV, or Newspaper), this medium can reach people at their convenience with highly targeted information, could be ubiquitous without being a bother, and can also be easily used for commercial applications. Also, unlike the "wired" internet, this medium can reach the people through the most difficult terrains, enmesh with the customer’s natural lifestyle much more seamlessly, and is potentially far more cost-effective.
For example, because this medium is universally accessible, it can be used to foster greater transparency in the government by mobilizing public opinion from the farthest corners of the country through applications like wireless voting forums - which can reach more people than possible through existing means, and are also relatively much easier to participate in. Furthermore, novel mobile commerce applications can help promote trade and regional integration throughout the country by overcoming traditional barriers to commerce like red-tape, and connecting mutually distant, or, inaccessible areas, thereby helping in creating a fast-moving world where even "Internet-time" seems downright sluggish. If used innovatively, it can also be used to spread awareness about and initiate positive social change in other critical areas like health and education.
A wireless medical services company I started and ran in college, HomeDoctor, stands as a good example (A little bit about this company: In my fourth year at college, I realized that well-to-do people from the small towns and villages surrounding our university town traveled long distances to visit our campus hospital - rather than going to the local quacks. Along with 3 other friends, I realized that this could mean a large unmet need among these areas for good medical service, especially among those people who can't afford to come to the campus regularly for medical check-ups. Once we were able to concretely identify such a need, we started a wireless medical services company, HomeDoctor, in Dec '98 to connect the people living in these rural areas with competent medical professionals in our university hospital through an inexpensive wireless paging device – for a small monthly rental. While our venture succeeded commercially and later we also received global recognition for our efforts, what was most satisfying was the realization that a good technology, if backed with a holistic business strategy and a good implementation plan, can also be successfully used for the benefit of society).
After college, over the next four years at Global Information Systems, Inc. (GIS), I was able to substantially enrich my learning curve by working across various industries and functional areas, but also gained a consistent exposure to relevant issues within the mobile communications and data services industry - in various analytical and leadership roles in design, implementation, strategy and market-research oriented projects – and was consistently ranked within the top performance band. My work experience has given me in-depth insights into the technological aspects, the business value drivers, and the crucial challenges facing the industry from its present state of offering a simple voice-based service to a transition into a richer, more enhanced content oriented necessity. And I have also been able to vastly enhance my understanding of this global industry by working internationally, through the uniquely special scope of three different countries. My conviction that innovation in this industry is increasingly shifting to value-added content and data services also led me to propel my career forward from GIS to NetCo Mobile, where I now work in a more focused functional role, tackling the challenges in commercializing innovative mobile content applications from a strategic perspective.
Over the years, a culmination of these professional and personal experiences has also helped me to crystallize my career goals. In the long term, I want to obtain a position of leadership in the mobile communications, content and commercial data services industry in the emerging markets (like India and parts of Asia), so that I can bring more "relevant and personalized" choices to the people, and, by leveraging the wireless industry in this way, help both the public and private sectors in these economies to foster greater transparency in the government and increase commercial and social growth among the people.
Building upon my work experience to develop a seasoned professional expertise in the wireless communications and data services industry is therefore the natural progression of my career. I intend to pursue this goal by strengthening my grasp on those functional areas in which, till now, I have had a limited exposure, and leveraging that knowledge as well as my existing work experience to work on more strategic "big-picture" issues within this industry in the future. Its also necessary for me to work in the US in the short term, specially right now, not just because the scope for innovation and business development in this industry, and hence learning, is greater here than in either the completely saturated western European markets or the still immature, though growing, most Asian ones, but more importantly, also because I believe that the wireless landscape in the emerging South and South-East Asian markets (which is where I eventually want to be) in the next few years would resemble the current "business-user" oriented wireless services scene in the US. For accomplishing this, I plan to work in a strategic planning or a business development role, perhaps in wireless communication, product or service businesses like Nextel, Cisco or Virgin, or in the mobile industry practice of a management consulting firm.
Therefore, in light of my short-term plans and long-term goals, I believe a well rounded business education becomes the critical next step for me because it would not only help me consolidate my existing experience in strategy and process consulting (change management, supply chain, logistics, outsourcing and technical SAP architecture) and relate it better to the business aspects of mobile content production, distribution and delivery, but by helping me gain a better understanding of several other broader functional skills which I will need throughout my career - like those in strategic marketing and pricing, financial management in growing or high-risk industries and commercializing and managing innovation - it will also enable me to transition into the role of a wireless industry specific professional, and thus help me build a rock-solid foundation for the successful accomplishment of my career goals.
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