Lucky Number Eight

September 17, 2018. Shanghai – In 2010, three strangers from different parts of India enrolled at Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) in southern India. Moving into the same floor of the same dormitory building, the three undergraduate students had zero knowledge that their lives from that day forth would intertwine on a path leading them all the way to Shanghai. When Yash Jangid, Rishabh Ralhan, and Kashish Yadav enrolled at VIT, it was the #8-ranked engineering school in India. Eight years later, all three have reunited to start their MBA journeys at CEIBS, on the programme that is currently ranked, you guessed it, #8 globally by the Financial Times.

The auspicious qualities of number eight in China are not lost on the three MBAs, who believe that both luck and the support they have for one another will stand them in good stead for the challenges ahead. Yash, an entrepreneur at heart who, in his own words, founded two ‘successful failures’ during college; Kashish, a business intelligence analyst from Accenture who writes a travel & food blog with over ten thousands followers; and Rishabh, a quality assurance analyst at AIG turned start-up product manager with a passion for children’s education, are joined on campus by a fourth member of the VIT alumni network, Abhishek Srivastava. Two years the senior of his fellow VIT graduates, Abhishek is here to pursue his passion for harnessing technology to further rural development.

Yash sharing his MBA admissions journey with current VIT students 

Yash Jangid, Kashish Yadav, Rishabh Ralhan and Abhishek Srivastava took time out of their term one schedules to sit down with MBA Admissions and share their experiences in India and China so far.

Q. What were your expectations about doing an MBA in China? Did anyone provide you with any solid advice about getting the most out of the experience?

YJ: I feel that growing up in major cities in Oman, Kenya, and India has filled me with qualities that make me a citizen of the world. Over time, I have learned to adapt fairly well to change. I approached the decision to do an MBA with hesitation, although the words from an alumnus gave me a good handle on what to expect: “The MBA is like a game — and a rather expensive one. It is designed in a way that you cannot do everything you desire to do. It demands clarity of thought and razor sharp focus. Be quick in finding what you love and focus on what will help you to build on it. This is the only way you will get the most out of the journey — but most importantly, enjoy the game,” he said.

KY: “Embrace diversity” were the two words I clung to on my flight over to Shanghai. From my time at Accenture helping Costco expand into Europe, I faced challenges in terms of language, diet, and transportation. But in Europe, cultures are mainly low context, so black is black and white is white – so I knew where I stood. China on the other hand, is considered a high context society – there are more grey areas, which means both more to explore and more challenges. From writing my food & travel blog for example, I had a great time at my first hot pot experience. It’s a simple concept involving simmering meat, vegetables, and noodles in a spicy broth, but in China this is much more than a culinary experience – it is a cultural and social one too.

Kashish and Rishabh prepare for their first game for CEIBS football team

RR: The best piece of advice came from a current MBA student who told me, “Do not come to China and CEIBS if you only want a degree at the end. Come if you want to learn about China. Every business school can give you an MBA degree, but no other school in the world can give you this understanding of how Chinese markets and businesses are run.” I have worked with Americans, Germans, and even Irish, but I have never worked with Chinese people. I hope to understand China and its culture through my classmates during my MBA and my time in China.   

AS: People in India lack information about what is really happening in China, and the thinkers who are interested in China lack the resources to understand what is developing here. What do I tell people, even after the two short months I have been here? China is the start-up of the world right now – come take a look and see for yourselves!

Abhishek at CEIBS MBA 2020 opening ceremony

Q. Starting with the Chinese language pre-course in the summer, you have been on campus for nearly two months now. What are you looking forward to most about the journey ahead?

YJ: From orientation until now, every day has been exciting and enriching. I don’t want to look too far ahead. I’d rather savour each day. I actually wrote down what I am looking to get out of the MBA experience, sealed it in an envelope and gave it to the MBA Office for safe keeping at orientation. I will be immensely proud when the day comes that I can open the envelope, look back and connect the dots to see how far I have travelled.

Yash getting to know his MBA 2020 classmates

KY: Our professors have said multiple times that you will learn not only within the classrooms, but also from your classmates. In light of this, I have recently taken up the position of Vice President of the MBA 2020 Student Committee. I believe this is the right medium to enhance my connections with my classmates, alumni, and the MBA office, so I am really looking forward to starting work with the rest of the committee. This will not only refine my leadership skills, but also will give me a better opportunity to learn from my classmates and at the same time understand them better. Because these are the friends you don’t just make for 18 months, these are the friends you make for a lifetime.

Vice President Kashish with the MBA 2020 Student Committee

RR: VIT brought me together with Yash and Kashish. I am looking forward to the CEIBS MBA programme amplifying this experience, so I can build lasting friendships with classmates from different nationalities and backgrounds. I want to know as many people as possible and have a memorable time at CEIBS. Twenty years from now, when I sit back and think about my journey at CEIBS, I want to remember all the fun I had here with a huge smile on my face.

Rishabh and Yash preparing to move to China with their Mandarin language teacher in New Delhi

AS: Beyond getting my teeth stuck into classes, I am looking to run for President of the Consumer’s Club. I am hoping that the connections made from bringing industry leaders to campus for sharing sessions will help me to secure an internship that will expose me to the real China.

Q. At what point did you decide to do an MBA at CEIBS?

YJ: The major takeaway from my entrepreneurship ventures is do not execute without developing the right skillsets to do so. I now want to enhance my knowledge and develop the right skillsets to be able to foresee the wrongs that in the past looked right. Passion alone will not help me achieve my dreams. Now, I look forward to building a structured understanding of broad business disciplines, so that I have fewer ‘successful failures’ and more ‘successful successes’.

Serial entrepreneur Yash at the New York Stock Exchange attending a start-up conference

KY: At Accenture, working with Costco in their warehouses in Spain, I was somewhat restricted to working on the technology side of the business, whereas the core focus on retail is what intrigued me most. I had worked on the Costco European and North American expansion and I knew that Asia was next on the agenda for Costco’s global expansion, with Shanghai first on the list for next year. An MBA from CEIBS will put me in a great position to capitalise on both of these opportunities.

Kashish taking a break from helping Costco's global expansion, representing Accenture at a corporate football tournament

RR: I’ve been working in a technology function since graduation, building applications and fancy products. I knew them inside out from a technical perspective, but in terms of business knowledge, I clearly remember feeling out of my depth. This came to a head one day during a client meeting and that was my first step on the journey to pursue an MBA. Since my long-term goal is to be an entrepreneur, the business acumen I will acquire at CEIBS will enable me to become an effective decision maker.

Rishabh as a tech intern for Deloitte working on the ObamaCare project

AS: From the many stories my father shared with me about a farmer’s life in India, I have always harboured a passion for rural development. When I came back from studying abroad, my partner and I established a start-up to connect farmers with multiple markets in India. To make a long story short, we failed, and it was heart-breaking. I then took a related job working for an incubator in New Delhi, but promised myself on the walk to work that first morning that I would not lose my passion. I would work for three years, do my MBA, and then have another crack at entrepreneurship. 

Abhishek working with rural communities in India, helping to empower farmers through access to multiple markets  

Q. What opportunities do you see yourselves being a part of between India and China?

YJ: Although there are many entrepreneurship projects that could tie my experiences between India and China together, I think Xiaomi has set a benchmark by doing a fantastic job in penetrating the Indian market. India is a very unique market that is yet to mature and to understand the benefits of many premium products. We demand high quality at very competitive prices which, given Xiaomi’s positioning, is exactly what helped it to become an overnight sensation in India.

Back together again in Shanghai. Yash, Kashish and Rishabh at the MBA 2020 orientation 

KY: Having helped Costco to open five warehouses in Europe, I have seen the potential impact that industrial robots can have. In India, robotic integration is so far mainly limited to the manufacturing, pharmaceutical, packaging, and FMCG sectors. Meanwhile in China, the government is investing billions to make China the world’s innovation centre for AI by 2030, so I am excited to have a foothold in both markets. At the same time, having worked on retail strategies in India, China is melding the best of both the in-shop and online experiences. The China retail sector is also not torn between propping up legacy businesses and trying something new, whereas India is still taking up significant space in the investor wallet and mind.

RR: There was no CSR team when I joined AIG, so I got together with some likeminded colleagues and we established one. By the time I left, the CSR team was comprised of 55 members who were all committed to bringing a change. Part of this experience led me to collaborate with Habitat for Humanity, which led me to roll up my sleeves and help to build 70 houses across India. I firmly believe China’s largest achievement to date has been lifting 400 million people out of poverty. There are a lot of lessons that India can learn from this experience. I am just at the start of the journey but look forward to joining the CSR club at CEIBS to see on the ground the different approaches that are executed here.  

Rishabh volunteering at a children's education workshop during his undergraduate days at VIT

AS: In China, the tech penetration in agriculture and the rural economy is much more advanced than in India. There is a lot happening here in terms of online-to-offline integration, but also the consumer behaviour is different. I haven’t had the chance to visit rural China yet, but truly developing an understanding of the dynamics of what is happening here will get me a step closer to my long-term goal of re-establishing an agribusiness start-up.