‘My Passion For Microfinance Led Me To Quit My Job And Join A Budding NBFC’ – Pranav Mittal, MDI Gurgaon – Best30 – Class Of 2019

Born in a family of doctors, it came as a surprise to Pranav’s parents when he told them that he wanted to study management rather than pursue a prestigious engineering degree. It had not been many years since 3 Idiots had shook the nation, and a little glad that it was management and not wildlife photography, that his parents smilingly agreed. He went on to pursue management studies from Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (CBS), where he got a lot of opportunities to become the kind of student and kind of person he wanted to be.

When he joined MDI, he realized that it was going to be SSCBS, but on steroids. The deadlines were far shorter, workload unimaginably more humongous, time for sleep halved and competition – unbelievable. A lot of activities he pursued there were not extraordinary – organizing college events, doing live projects but much to popular disbelief, he owes his growth to college academic projects, yes, the boring compulsory academic submissions. In his first year, he made it a rule to include primary research in every project he worked on. Using the classroom concepts to solve problems by talking to people on the street, real stakeholders has helped him develop a long-lasting grasp over subjects.

Participating in competitions like the CFA Research Challenge, and strategy competitions like Flipkart Wired and Mahindra War Room certainly helped in keeping him grounded. His desire to leave behind a legacy of service led me to contribute to various student committees including the Alumni Relations Committee at MDI Gurgaon, where they implemented key initiatives that have helped the committee serve MDI’s 7000+ Alumni around the world, better than it used to. Occasionally, he takes a break from all of this, and wanders off on his motorcycle, and returns with a much clearer head.

Name an instance where you wanted something and went out of your comfort zone to achieve it OR Tell us the biggest risk you have taken so far in your life.

I always had a keen interest in finance but coming from a family of doctors, taking science in class 11th seemed like the obvious first step to success. After class 12th, I appeared for all engineering entrance exams and on the insistence of my childhood friend, I also appeared for the DU JET for admission to Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies which offered a course on Bachelor of Management Studies. 

As the results came, I got an admission offer from BITS Pilani for their mechanical engineering program, and my parents were overjoyed. But destiny had other plans, and I secured an AIR of 7 in the DU Joint Admission Test, which promised admission to SSCBS. BITS Pilani was certainly a safer option and probably also opened more opportunities, but my passion to study management led me to choose to study at SSCBS.

I have met a lot of people over the years who have told me that BITS Pilani would have opened more doors even if I wanted to pursue management later, but my years at SSCBS gave me the chance to learn the subjects I deeply loved, introduced me to problems that did not let me sleep at night and also led me to people who would spend days with me to solve those problems.

 

When was the last time someone relied on you? OR What did you do which was purely for someone else – a truly selfless act.

In the second term at MDI, just before our end-term exams, my roommate fell sick with Chicken Pox. While he was allowed to defer his exams, he could not go home since his family was not in the country. I was advised by the hostel warden to shift to another room, since I was vulnerable to the disease too. The day I shifted, my roommate’s health got worse. He started having bouts of very high fever, and he would start shivering in the hot month of July. Sometimes he felt too weak to even pick up the thermometer. 

I realized that the disease was communicable and was a little scared too, but I felt it was inhumane to leave my room-mate when he needed me the most. I shifted back into my room, and helped him as much as I could. There were small things, like reminding him to take the medicine, bringing him food from the mess but I still felt that they were necessary. 

As a courtesy, he would take care not to touch my belongings, or always wash hands before he even touched surfaces that I would touch too.  

A week after my exams, I got sick with Chicken Pox too. While I went home for the time period, my friend ensured I coped up quickly when I came back. 

 

What is the one thing you can claim to have some level of expertise or depth of knowledge in – it could be anything – a subject, a sport, a hobby, a venture, an initiative which has led you to do deep work in that field?

That one thing for me would be microfinance and rural finance. My college SSCBS was situated in East Delhi, and every day we had to travel through a slum area to reach college. That daily sight of poverty sometimes made me guilty for having a better life and one day, I decided to search for a solution to make those lives around our campus (located near a slum) better. After struggling for some time, I met a professor casually suggested me to read about microfinance.

Over the next few weeks, I read every book I could lay my hands on, about microfinance. My interest also led me to identify challenges in the industry like funding of microfinance institutions. After a lot of research, a friend of mine and I found a solution: mezzanine finance. In our research, we also met the management of various MFIs like Satin Credit, IFMR Finance. Taking their suggestions, we modified our solution and presented it at a conference. Our paper that year was selected to be published in a leading international journal.

Months later, even though I had got a campus placement, my passion for microfinance led me to quit my job and joining a budding NBFC. There, my role took me to the noisy streets of New Delhi where we analyzed hundreds of value chains for all types of SMEs from a hair salon to a juice seller, looking for opportunities to fund their growth using equity and debt. My experience on the road has taught me most of what I know about microfinance and micro-credit today.

At MDI, I have continued with my interest in microfinance and I am currently doing research on FinTech Lending startup under the guidance of a professor.

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