Karan Gupta is an alumnus of Harvard Business School and has degrees in Psychology, Business and Law. He is the founder of Karan Gupta Education Foundation (KGEF), Karan Gupta Consulting (KGC) and the Managing Director of IE Business School – India & South Asia. Since 1999 he has counseled and and given career guidance to thousands of students in India and around the world. Below are the excerpts of his interview conducted by PaGaLGuY.
1. How did you succeed in getting into the world’s leading B-Schools – Harvard?
Harvard was impressed with my experiences of giving back to the community and the exemplary leadership skills that I displayed throughout my academic and professional career. It was a challenge getting in to Harvard as I was the youngest person in the class, but seeing my determination and achievements, I was accepted to their global programme.
2. What were the factors you considered while shortlisting the B-School and the country?
I wanted to explore different fields and see which one suited me the best. The US is probably the only country in the world that allows students to take classes in different fields in the first two academic years and then decide one’s major. This was the primary reason why I decided to pursue my undergraduate degree from the US. At the Master’s level I wanted an institute that focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation and that is why I chose to study in IE in Europe.
3. What were the major contrasts on the academic front in Europe and USA? What was the method of study and how is it different from Indian education system?
The US is by far the most flexible education system in the world that allows you to switch fields and pursue multiple majors in different subjects. On the other hand, Europe is a lot more focused and rigid in choosing majors and subjects. The quality of faculty, infrastructure and availability of resources is far superior in the US and EU as compared to India.
4. European vs American MBA?
It really depends your goals after completing the degree. If you wish to stay back and work in the country after your degree, the US is a good bet. Europe is great if you are looking for diversity and to complete your course faster. With this said, it is wiser to compare individual institutes than comparing countries. For example, if you get admission at a top European school and an average US school, you might be better off choosing Europe school.
5. What impact do think Trump elections will have on Indian students?
I believe that Trump is in favour of bringing Indian students to the US and ‘stapling’ green cards to their passports when they are done studying. Trump knows and speaks about the value addition from Indian students and the huge talent pool that we have. In my opinion, in the long run, the number of students who wish to study in the US will increase dramatically.
6. What advice would you give students who are just starting to study abroad?
Don’t just go for brand names and top ranked institutes – understand the DNA of a school and what it stands for. You must know your reasons for selecting a school and what that school can offer you.
7. You are one of the very few who did not choose to work for a billion dollar company. What prompted you to choose career counseling as a profession?
I always wanted to be in a profession where I can make a difference in the lives of people. My education foundation, Karan Gupta Education Foundation, works to empower women and children. We run several skill development programmes for the youth, women and even physically and mentally challenged people. In fact, we just finished a mobile repairing course for people with disabilities and those suffering from leprosy. I believe that by giving people specific skills, you are setting them up for success for life. This kind of satisfaction of giving back to society does not even come close to working for a billion dollar company.
8. Tell us a story about your efforts to study abroad.
When I first thought of studying abroad back in the early 90s, internet was not easily accessible and each day I would visit the VSNL office to send emails to universities abroad. The next day I would get a call from VSNL asking me to come and collect a printout of the reply to the email I had sent. While this was tedious, it was the only way to be in touch with universities. I visited US libraries in India and spoke to as many people as I could to learn more about the American education system. Universities sent me brochures and application forms by post and I made paper applications comprising of my academic documents, certificates and test scores. I remember the look of shock on the postman’s face when I said that I wanted to send 15 heavy packets to the US. In the early 90s, registered post took 1-2 months to deliver packages abroad.
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