Meet the Oxford MBA Class of 2021-22: Rajeev Garg

6 minute read

We are excited to welcome the Oxford MBA Class of 2021-22 to Oxford this September. Get to know our incoming students in this blog post series as they prepare to join Saïd Business School.

Tell us about yourself:

  • Sector/Industry you worked in pre-MBA: Government
  • Sector/Industry you are hoping to work in post-MBA: Finance
  • Country of residence before coming to Oxford: India
  • College: Green Templeton College (GTC). The accommodation offered by GTC is near the School. Plus, the food offered at GTC is pretty much the best at Oxford.

In one word, how would your best friend describe you and how would your manager describe you?

  • Best friend: Meticulous
  • Manager: Dependable

Tell us about where you have come from and what has led you to Oxford and, more specifically, the Oxford MBA

I come from a place called Pondicherry in India. During my engineering days, I realised that I wanted to work in the social space and so I ended up taking the Civil Services Exam. I fortunately (?) managed to clear it and was inducted into the Indian Revenue Services. While one ‘planned’ that one would pause with academic study for a while, as part of the induction training, I completed my Master’s in Taxation and Business Laws.

My journey so far as a civil servant has been phenomenal and I have experienced a lot in the past decade. Finance, a subject I used to run away from, has become my bread and butter. The nature of my job and the profile that has come with it, have contributed exponentially to my learning trajectory. 

I have developed deep expertise in corporate taxation, tax efficient structuring, corporate valuations, international taxation and transfer pricing. I have administered important schemes for the Government of India, such as the Income Disclosure Scheme (2017), Demonetization of Specified Currency Notes (2018), Operation Clean Money (2018) and Vivaad se Vishwas (2020) in my jurisdictions. Amidst all this humdrum, I have also managed to complete my Executive Education in Public Policy and Economic Development from Harvard Kennedy School.

While I am extremely grateful for all these wonderful opportunities, there comes a time in everyone’s life when one pauses and takes stock of where one has been, what one has achieved and where one wants to go. This ‘pause’ has been defined in as many words in the Oxford (ahem!) English Dictionary as a ‘mid-life crisis’!

I took this ‘pause’ a year ago. And from the silence of that ‘pause’ came the answer. I wanted to learn something new – something that will take me deeper into the wonderland of finance, something that will challenge me to come out of my comfort zone and, finally, something that will give me back the same rush I experienced in my early twenties. This is the rush of having achieved a new ‘Everest’ in my life!

I was specifically looking for a one-year MBA programme and Oxford, with its focus on responsible business and the economics of mutuality, totally fitted the bill.

I gave myself a good break before stepping into the MBA. If the pre-MBA finance coursework is anything to go by, the one-year MBA programme will be tough and it will exact a toll!

Secondly, I have interacted with a lot of Oxford and School alumni and learnt from their experiences. I think such conversations help one hit the ground running.

What have you done to prepare yourself for the MBA?

I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the world of finance and make a bunch of friends to fall back upon at any point in my life. More specifically, I am looking into developing skills in change management, orchestrating turnarounds, problem-solving, strategising and sensemaking.

Best advice:

Rule 1: Prioritise at Oxford.
Rule 2: Don’t forget rule 1

Second best advice:

While academic study is important, people should be the priority.

Do you have any advice about the Oxford MBA application process for candidates thinking of applying?

I think every business school aspires to conjure up a cohort of students with unique experiences and perspectives. This not only adds value to the school but also the entire group and eventually to the alumni network itself. So, an appreciation of this aspiration is important.

With this in mind, my advice would be to focus on the question – who are ‘you’? Personally, if I try to answer this question for myself, I am a sum-product of all my qualifications, my positive and negative experiences, my achievements and failures, and my commissions and omissions. When one tries to arrange all these bitter-sweet experiences of one’s life chronologically, a pattern would emerge. That pattern will eventually be ‘you’.

Also, notice the duality. Most applicants focus only on putting up their best show (their achievements) in the entire process. I think such an approach is incomplete. Our life’s best lessons are learnt from our failures, and they deserve a place in our story because our failures are the hallmarks of our humility, courage, and resilience.

One doesn’t need an MBA to tell that these qualities form the very core of leadership.

What part of the programme are you most looking forward to?

My batchmates! While each one of them is an overachiever in his or her own unique ways, I also see in them huge potential. They are the business leaders of tomorrow – leaders who will change the course of our collective future.

Second on the list is ‘the Oxford experience’ itself – where else in the world would you get to do an MBA and dine with the dinosaurs (Museum of Natural History) or participate in the Creative Destruction Lab (the School hosts one of the ten global sites)? You can grab a drink at The Eagle and Child (past members include J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis) and socialise over dinner at the ‘Harry Potter’ Dining Hall (Christ Church) and dress up for exams (sub-fuscs)!

What do you think will be the most challenging part of the programme?

Frankly, the first apparent challenge for me is to get into the student mode again.

I also foresee that my decision-making skills are going to get tested a lot over the next year! There is so much going on in Oxford during the year that it is extremely important to prioritise what one wants to do and then make peace with that choice. Even at the School, the choice of electives on offer is mind-boggling. Choosing a mix of electives means that one must let go of the opportunity of immersing oneself in other courses. But I guess, all these hard choices will only make one wiser, because what is life if not a bunch of hard choices?

How do you plan to take the learnings from the MBA to influence positive change?

My passion for social work will continue to be my north star. I am sure that one year at Oxford will not only add a major thrust to it but will also help me in attaining my aim in life: to serve my country at the highest level.

Are there any sports teams, societies or clubs you’re hoping to become a member of?

As I have been engaged in the public discourse for years, I am looking forward to having engaging conversations at the ‘Mecca of Debating’ – the Oxford Union (lifetime membership is free for School students). I would also love to use my time at Oxford to indulge in croquet and the Oxford Croquet Club sounds like a great place to start!

I am also looking forward to participating in/organising an Oxford India Business Conclave – it will be my aim to bring in industry leaders to share their business journeys and experiences.