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Sriram Raghavan (E13), Head of ESSEC Alumni’s India Chapter: “1 in 4 alumni in India have started their own ventures”

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India is home to more than 200 alumni, both Indian and non-Indian. Sriram Raghavan (E13), Head of ESSEC Alumni’s India Chapter, tells us more about the local community.

ESSEC Alumni: How many alumni are there in India? 

Sriram Raghavan: There are over 200 alumni in India according to the ESSEC database, a bit more according to LinkedIn. Our alumni are spread across the country but the majority reside in Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai. The numbers are largely tilted towards Indians. We do have quite a few expats, such as Dominique Causse (E74), a former Consul General of France at Bengaluru.

EA: What jobs do they do?

S. Raghavan: Alumni are spread across sectors and functions. A number of alumni occupy leadership roles in hospitality. I had the pleasure of meeting Abhijit Mukerji (H93) at our last meet at the French Ambassador's residence. He is an Executive Director at Indian Hotels Company Ltd and used to manage the global operations of the Taj Group. What is worth mentioning about the alumni network in India though is the number of us who have taken the entrepreneurial plunge. Almost one in every four alumni have started their own ventures. Some of them are doing incredibly well. 

EA: Can you share some success stories?

S. Raghavan: Padmanabhan Balakrishnan (E11), founder of Vogo, was recently in the news for securing funding from Tiger Global. Vogo had previously secured USD 100 million from Ola. The former President of ESSEC Alumni in India, Anoop Tandon (M07) created a venture in the area of mineral supplements for soil health. Ranjita Ravi (E13) has a leading venture in electric vehicles, Chetan Sharma (E09) and Durgesh Maru (E15) in solar power, Radhika Gupta (E16) in defense, Kunal Nandwani  (E05) in fin-tech, Rishab Suresh  (E09) in luxury, Neha Dwivedi (L13) in brand consulting, Karan Bose (E13) in manufacturing, to name just a few.

EA: Is ESSEC a trademark in India as it is in France? 

S. Raghavan: The ESSEC brand is well-known in the fields of hospitality and luxury. In other sectors, it elicits less high a recall. This should however change very rapidly with the increasing number of alumni coming to India. We bring along with us specific mindsets and skills that are not easily available locally. Our independent perspectives, open-mindedness and cultural fluency, a certain boldness and decisiveness in the face of uncertainty differentiate us. Good Indian organizations are savvy enough to notice the unique attributes we bring to the table.

EA: What opportunities are there in India for expats? 

S. Raghavan: In a recent HSBC survey, India was ranked 18th, just below France as an expat destination. In terms of career fulfilment, income and reaching potential, India is ranked among the best destinations. 58% of professionals who moved to India shared that India's work environment is a good place to pick up new work-related skills. Indian firms are open to hiring expats as advisors, in leadership roles and mid-level management roles that require global exposure.

EA: What advice do you give to people settling in India?

S. Raghavan: The advice I would have for ESSEC alumni – particularly the younger ones who are more mobile – is that if you get an opportunity to work in India, grab it with both your hands! Even if you have a short stint in India, you will in all likelihood have an immense learning experience and this is bound to propel your career forward. Personally, I recall meeting at least a couple of senior leaders in top French companies (Sodexo, Credit Agricole) who worked in India and they kept speaking of their fulfilling experiences in India. In all probability, this experience propelled them to leadership roles when they moved back to France. 

EA: What is the offer of ESSEC Alumni's India Chapter? 

S. Raghavan: The alumni network is active in organising meet-ups amongst its members in various geographies of India. The goal is to have at least one major national-level alumni get together every year. Subsequently city-wide meets are organized by city chapters (see below). These meets are usually planned to coincide with visits of ESSEC delegates from other geographies to foster engaging and fruitful discussions.

Each city chapter also supports the alumni network by facilitating hiring of ESSEC alumni in local corporations, assisting in the orientation and integration of expat alumni to India, and representing the ESSEC Group in India. The whole network is connected on LinkedIn group ESSEC India.

EA: What is the latest event you organized?

S. Raghavan: Most recently, we were invited to the residence of the French Ambassador HE Alexandre Ziegler, in Delhi. This was a collaborative effort from ESSEC Alumni International, ESSEC’s Urban Economics Chair and the French Embassy and saw the participation of over 100 attendees including alumni, incoming students, Urban Economics Chair students, and other special invitees. Aarti Ramaswami, the Academic Director of the Global MBA programme gladly accepted our invitation and spoke of various strategic initiatives at ESSEC.

EA: How did you become ESSEC Alumni’s India Chapter's President? 

S. Raghavan: As a student, my natural tendency was to participate and contribute in student associations ranging from Le Pouce to ESSEC India. Whenever there is a gap, why not step in and fill in with your ideas and action! So, when I met India Chapter’s former President, Anoop Tandon, I offered to help him engage the alumni network in India. 

EA: What do you feel is your mission? 

S. Raghavan: My mission has been to have alumni from different programs engage with each other more frequently, challenge each other on whether they are achieving their true potential in having a net positive impact on business and society. Over the last couple of years, ESSEC Alumni in India has become more cohesive, supporting each other in aspects ranging from marketing surveys to jobs references.

EA: How much work and time does this require? 

The work I do for alumni ranges from a few hours a month to many hours a week. For instance, the last Alumni meet I organized with the support of Henri de Rocca Serra (E05) from ESSEC Alumni International at the French Ambassador's residence took a lot of coordination. What I get out of this is the satisfaction of having contributed my bit to the Essec community.

Living in India? Reach out to your city’s chapter’s team!

Chennai and HyderabadHarjeev Sabherwal (O13)

BengaluruRanjita Ravi (E13)

MumbaiDurgesh Maru (E15)

CochinAlexandre Person (E19)

JaipurChirag Gupta (O12)

KolkataDebayan Kumar Chandra (O17) 

DelhiRadhika Gupta (E16) 

Gurgaon: open to nomination!

Want to read more? Please join ESSEC Alumni for us to be able to bring other contents about ESSEC’s community to you.

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