I have been at Oxford for a week now, and I still feel like I am floating, unable to fully absorb the reality of where I am. I come from a small town in North India called Aligarh, and if I were to go back in time and tell my younger self that I would be heading to Oxford with a full scholarship, she might have laughed it off as a fanciful dream. Yet, dreams have a way of morphing into reality, and here I am.
In fact, there have been many such events in my life to which my previous self could go back and wonder – were you also capable of this? And how did you not know you could do this too? One such major event of my life is being a social entrepreneur.
I am an entrepreneur by chance (is this even a word? But we are in Oxford – let's make our own) and never intended to start my own organization. In fact, when I finished my graduate degree in 2015, I didn't believe that I could actually start my own organization. But fast forward to today, I am co-founder of an organization called Gramhal, that democratizes data for farmers in India and empowers them to make data-driven decisions. We work with 300,000 farmers across the country and have answered more than ten million queries.
A huge part of this transformation in my self-belief came from being with the right people. People who were dreamers, audacious, non-conformists, and unrealistic. People, who were mentors, friends, and colleagues, who saw and believed in my capability even before I did. Their courage and dreams rubbed off on me, and I found some in myself too.
After four years of running the organization, I felt I had hit the ceiling. I wasn’t growing as fast as my organization did and my skills didn’t do justice to the growing needs of my organization. I felt the need to go back into the ecosystem of the right people who would, once again, teach me and inspire me. Given my context of social impact, there was no better place for me to learn about business and impact together, other than Oxford.
It could sound bizarre, but Oxford was the only school I applied to. I was looking for three things in a business school and Oxford was the only one that ticked it all. First, a business school with a very strong impact curve and a record of creating impact leaders. Second, it has a fantastic international cohort to learn from, and finally, a one-year program that builds on my previous learnings and fills the existing gaps.
Oxford Saïd offered me all of the above, and here I am sitting in a class of 338 students across 63 nationalities with 51% of amazing women in the cohort!
As I keep working on myself, I have learned from my journey that choosing your ecosystem, your community, your people has the power to put you on a transformational path.
As Angela Ahrendts recently said in our MBA launch week, ‘You need to put your dreams out in the world for it to happen’. I am here at Oxford, ready to embrace the journey ahead and hoping to surprise myself once again.
Until the next post...