Tanvi Bikhchandani is a second-year MBA student at Stanford Graduate School of Business. She recently co-founded Tamarind Chutney, an apparel brand and social venture focused on empowering Indian artisans and craftspersons through product design and profit sharing. In this article, she shares her journey to B school and vision thereafter.
“If you’re interested in social impact, how come you chose to go to B-school? Has the MBA helped you learn what you wanted to? Do you want to go back to the social sector? These are questions I regularly get asked – and often ask myself too. Here’s my attempt to shed some light on them.
Why did I apply to B-school?
My coursework and internship experiences in college piqued my interest in the development sector, and after graduating, I ended up joining Central Square Foundation – a philanthropy fund and policy organization focused on school education.
As I considered options for graduate study, I started with policy school. The sectors and case studies of the curriculum — in topics such as livelihoods, healthcare, urban development —would have been relevant. I would be with a cohort that was also interested in the social sector. However, I realized that beyond the thematic alignment, I wasn’t really interested in a job that had a policy focus. I was more interested in being in an execution / operational role, and wanted to learn skills (finance, marketing, team management etc.) that would be relevant for this. MBA wouldn’t have a development sector focus in terms of career or academic content, the skills would still be useful and applicable. It was a bit of a trade-off between skills and sector, but I chose B-school.
Aside: For those who are interested, there’s also a new course called Development Management which may better unite both skills and sector. Also, many US universities offer a dual degree 3 year programme in MBA + MPP
How has my experience been so far?
Half-way through the programme, I’d say my experience has been out of my comfort zone, but rewarding. About ~10% of my classmates are from government / non-profit backgrounds, so I’m getting to meet and learn from amazingly smart people from diverse industries. In terms of coursework, the technical classes such as finance and accounting have been extremely useful, and there are also a number of interesting electives on impact investment, non-profit management etc. However, the highlight of the academic curriculum has been classes on personal development —experiential courses on giving and receiving feedback, figuring out how to be a better manager, setting personal learning goals and practicing behaviors to achieve them. They say, the learnings from these courses increases with time, but I’m already sold 🙂
From a careers perspective, there are options for jobs in development consulting firms, multi-lateral foundations, impact investment funds and social enterprises. However, most of these are unviable for international students due to visa restrictions. I spent the summer working on my own idea in India (thanks to a grant from my programme!) so it wasn’t too much of a roadblock, but it’s definitely worth considering.
This summer I explored the crafts livelihood space and co-founded Tamarind Chutney, a social venture that aims to improve artisan livelihoods. We’ve started by launching an apparel brand (check us out on Instagram!), but hope to do much more to work with artisans. I plan to continue working on Tamarind Chutney through the school year and after graduating as well. I’m excited to take start-up focused electives that will help us grow and learn!
Ok, so what’s the secret behind getting in
The million- dollar question. I have no idea. Just going to be very clichéd and say be authentic and good luck to everyone who is applying!