An Interview with Shruthi Harikrishna, PGP 2009 by Aakash Parikh

1. Could you please briefly describe your background and why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

I am a Computer Science Engineer, who graduated in 2003. I joined a startup, wide-eyed, and ready to take on the world – I was employee number 6 in the startup. We were a bunch of really smart engineers who could code very well and had a fabulous product. I worked on the product development side of the startup, trying to build a world-class CRM product for the Semi-Conductor industry. However, things went kaput and we were not able to sustain the business and had to shut shop even though we had an excellent product and a really smart team. This was a moment of reckoning where I realized the importance of understanding business and management. That’s when I changed my plans from wanting to pursue a Masters’s in Computer Science to doing an MBA – and the rest, as they say, is my story.

2. How was your campus life at IIMB? What activities and events were you active in?

Borrowing toothpaste from a friend, seeing a disheveled face in pajamas knocking on your door at 2 in the night – these were all so new and exciting for me as I’d never stayed in a hostel before. But it must’ve been some magical toothpaste we shared because it ‘’cemented’’ our friendship, which has journeyed along with us these last twelve years.

It wasn’t just our batchmates that borrowed our toothpaste, even Bollywood stars borrowed them! Our batch was very special in the sense that the movie ‘3 idiots’ was shot on campus in 2009, during our second year. We considered ourselves very lucky to have been a part of the whole experience of making the movie and also interacting with some of the super stars and director of the movie. The room that they built where most of the movie shots were taken was just below my room in C block. It was a really cool experience to have Rajkumar Hirani, Aamir Khan, Madhavan and Sharman Joshi mingle with us – play badminton & chess, walk by the hostel blocks as students of IIMB. In addition to all the things that were awesome on campus, we also had this additional spark during the time which made college life a memorable experience. Alas! The borrowed toothpaste didn’t work its magic on the superstars though.

As far as extra-curricular activities were concerned, I was very much into sports – I was the captain of Table Tennis, Badminton, and Throw ball teams. Nothing builds more character and camaraderie as inter-IIM sports meets– We were even taught a few swear words in Hindi we’d never heard before! We had a really strong contingent and won almost all the competitions. I wanted to pursue strategy consulting after graduation, so when I wasn’t playing, I was busy solving case studies with my batchmates. If you knocked at my door at 2 am, I’d either give you a shuttle cork or a printout of Porter’s 5!

3. How did you decide to pursue any particular field after your MBA?

I did my summer internship with Bain Consulting in Australia. I was based out of Sydney, but my client was in Melbourne. So I would travel four days a week to client site and come back to base location during the weekend. I learnt a few very essential lessons, the biggest being “The best way to learn swimming is in the water”. No matter how many lessons you take, how many videos you watch, real learning comes only when you take the plunge and jump into the water. I remember they made me present someone else’s analysis to the client CEO on Day 2 of the internship! It was super scary and exciting at the same time. The exposure to varied fields of a business, the structured manner in which problems are approached, the ability to influence a business’decisions, being surrounded by super-smart passionate problem solvers – all of it made consulting a very attractive field.

4. How has been your post-MBA career. Key takeaways and learnings from that.

I received a PPO from Bain Consulting, however I wanted to work from Bangalore as my husband and family were based in the city, and hence, did not accept the offer. It took a lot of courage, self-belief and a deep rootedness to make that decision. I was able to take this tough call as I always think about what is the best decision for me holistically – balancing my professional and personal needs. This is what guides me when I am at difficult crossroads. I joined Tesco outside the campus, and did retail consulting with them for about five years. As the travel involved in consulting got too hard once I had a baby, I switched streams into another area that needed data-based problem solving – Analytics. I worked with Flipkart during their Big Billion Days, getting a real-time sense of what was selling in my country (so exciting!), watched a world-class hardware company make structured decisions at Dell (so humbling), and currently work with a firm that balances the creative and analytical like no other company – Adobe (so satisfying!)

5.What advice would you like to provide to current students?

I live by the theory of “The Basket of Life”. As a retailer, I’ve spent hours analyzing a shopper’s basket – what items does she buy at various points in her life, how much does she spend on them and so on. Now, what if life were also similar? As a shopper, you have a finite resource – money; as a human being, you have two finite resources – time and energy. As a shopper, you want to maximize the items you can buy with the money you have; as a human being, you want to maximize your happiness and contentment with the time and energy you have. You determine what you put into your basket, and how much time and energy you want to pay it. Do you want to put just a career in your basket or do you want to add family too? What about that soft packet of hobbies or that crisp packet of money? Or that eco-friendly wrap of spirituality? There is no point in looking at the “shopper” beside you and analyzing her basket. Each takes those items that maximizes their own happiness and contentment.

Neither career nor life is a hundred-meter sprint; both are marathons. When on campus, it is easy to get sucked into grades and placements and worry about not being first in the sprint. But stepping out and thinking about building stamina and working towards that marathon is key. Asking yourself how you’re growing as a person and checking if you’re a better version of yourself than you were the previous day: be it in areas of expertise or in developing relationships and empathy – that will really help. These two years on campus will hold up a mirror-like nothing else will, so use that mirror well!

This interview is taken and documented by:

Aakash Parikh, PGP 2021