Khushboo Gakhar seemed destined for a move from India to China. Her father has lived there since 2010, and she recalls spending months at a time there during holidays, immersed in the Chinese way of life.
The country inspired her, and she says she was intrigued by the career prospects China had to offer. Not to mention the country’s growth trajectory, and the melee of disruption happening across the technology sphere.
Before she moved to China to pursue an MBA at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), Khushboo lived and worked in Delhi, India. She had studied engineering and information technology at university and was working for an IT solutions provider on cloud computing projects with clients in Europe.
After three years there, she coveted an expansion beyond her technical capabilities. “I understood if I carried on there, after a while I’d hit a glass ceiling,” she says. “I wanted to move beyond that and learn the business side of things; an MBA seemed to be a natural shift.
“All of this led me to apply to CEIBS, because amidst all this growth I, as an international student, would have a lot to contribute, as Chinese companies were going global.”
The CEIBS MBA, she adds, was an opportunity to attend the best business school in the country, and to develop a holistic understanding of China through the program’s ‘China Depth, Global Breadth’ mantra.
She arrived in China in 2014 with some understanding of the culture—India and China are similar in some ways, she explains. The level of competition in both nations means you must to learn to thrive to survive, she says.
On the CEIBS MBA, Khushboo says she soon learned that business in China is conducted around Guanxi—the building of close, personal relationships. “You see how building lasting relationships actually drives success in a Chinese environment, and you learn that when you interact with your classmates who are Chinese,” she explains.
There are also plenty of opportunities to undertake internships with companies during the MBA—Khushboo worked on Internet of Things (IoT) projects with American companies IBM and Baxter International Inc., where she says she was educated on how foreign companies operate in the localized, Chinese market.
She also interned with Chinese company Ele.me, where she and a fellow MBA classmate were the only two international people in the whole firm of 2,000 people.
“These experiences I believe were unique, and I learned a lot from them,” she asserts. “That cultural depth is something that has really helped me.”
All things IoT
All of this led her to her current role, as a senior business consultant for Huawei, in the South Pacific. She was promoted to this position at the start of 2017, after working as a solution sales manager with the company after graduating from the CEIBS MBA in 2016, working in IoT business development.
“During the MBA my thought process was always to accumulate experience where I could leverage my past technical expertise and then build this on to the business centered topics.
“All these experiences really helped me to display and convince other companies that even though I’m not from a business background I have the experience of working.”
When she reached out to Huawei, Khushboo says they were looking for someone with IoT experience, and they wanted a fresh mind to create new business models. The brand of CEIBS, she adds, stood out and made a big difference in the recruitment process.
Now, Khushboo is based in Malaysia, working across Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Australia. She works with large telecommunication operators to help businesses in energy, utilities, and mobility transform their companies through IoT and 5G technology.
So far, that has meant working in Sri Lanka with IoT connected cars, in Malaysia on smart water meters, and Australia with 5G.
“I saw how IoT can be used in different industries and what benefits the industry and consumer has,” Khushboo explains. “There is so much to explore, and I saw the business model creation side of it as something I really liked, and something I would enjoy doing in the future.”
Without the CEIBS MBA, Khushboo says getting a job at Huawei would have been tricky. She says the company’s different offices are made up of, approximately, 70% mainland Chinese employees; between 20 and 25% from the country in which the firm is operating; and between five and 10% international employees.
“Being a foreigner and getting into Huawei is very difficult. You have to have a China story behind that, cultural and language exposure,” she asserts. “Without the exposure of IoT projects and the MBA, I would have been mainly focused on very technical work.
“No matter where I go, the top executives understand CEIBS and see the value,” Khushboo continues. “You get a starting point and they recognize your potential.”