First Reliance Dhirubhai Fellows Named for Stanford MBA Program

Five students from diverse regions of India selected from among 1,500 fellowship applicants.

April 20, 2009

Five compelling individuals from diverse regions throughout India have been selected as the first-ever class of Reliance Dhirubhai Fellows. They will receive full financial support during their two-year MBA studies at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, starting in September 2009.

The Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship was established in 2008 to support promising Indian students with financial need who earn admission to the Stanford MBA Program based on merit, and who are committed to contributing to the development of India. The Fellowship program, made possible through a generous gift from Reliance Industries Limited under the leadership of its chairman, Stanford Business School alumnus Mukesh Ambani, will cover such costs as tuition, course-related fees, living stipend, and travel allowance — an estimated total value of $170,000 per Fellow.

Honored at a private reception at Reliance Industries offices in Mumbai April 17, the 2009 Reliance Dhirubhai Fellows are Nitish Bandi, Namita Dalmia, Arvind Iyengar, Varun Jain, and Aditi Pany. Commenting on the initiative, P.M.S. Prasad, President and CEO of the petroleum business of Reliance Industries Ltd., said, “We take pride in supporting these outstanding young minds from India who will be able to learn and grow as they engage on the global level. The Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship is an integral part of our continued endeavor to support education-based initiatives across various levels. We wish the youngsters the very best in their academic pursuits and also all success in their future endeavors.”

“We are grateful to have had a tremendous response to our call for applications in this inaugural year of the fellowship,” said Robert L. Joss, Dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “Selected from more than 1,500 applicants, the accomplishments of this first class of Fellows speak to the excellent caliber of Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship applications, and we look forward to the diversity of viewpoints, experiences, and backgrounds they will bring to the classroom in the fall.”

Background of the Students

Nitish Bandi describes himself as a small-town boy from a farming family in Vijayawada, in India’s southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Now living in Bhopal in central India, he is vice president of operations at Big India Farms, a food supply chain company serving central and western India. He studied agricultural and food engineering at IIT Kharagpur, receiving both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in technology in 2005. Among many achievements, Bandi received a merit certificate from the Central Board of Secondary Education for outstanding performance in mathematics, and was honored with various awards for his volunteer work in the area of the welfare of underprivileged children. An avid basketball player, the 6-foot-2-inch Bandi played throughout college, and shares his love of the game with those he encounters, from villagers back home to underprivileged children.

Namita Dalmia is a research associate with the National Knowledge Commission, an advisory body to the Prime Minister of India. She has worked on various areas including vocational education, engineering education, and entrepreneurship. Passionate about making a difference in the lives of the masses, she cofounded an NGO working for underprivileged children, as well as a social venture that aims to bring technology to social sector organizations. Dalmia was also awarded the Certificate of Excellence by the National Service Scheme in 2006. Consistently ranked among the top in her classes, she received her dual bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 2006 at IIT Bombay, where she majored in electrical engineering. An avid outdoorswoman who hails from Faridabad near Delhi in northern India, she completed a 10-day trek in the Himalayas in May 2008.

Arvind Iyengar fulfilled a childhood dream to pursue a career in sports when he competed against 10,000 participants and finished in second place on the reality show “Dream Job,” landing a sports reporting stint with ESPNSTAR Singapore/India. Iyengar received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from IIT Bombay in 2006. While a student he enjoyed taking part in cultural competitions, winning over 100 inter-collegiate events in debate, dramatics, word games, and other literary contests. Prior to his star turn on TV, he worked as a strategic consultant at McKinsey & Company for two years. At the intersection of his interests in sports and strategy, he created a computer-based cricket strategy game, simulating more than 1,000 games. He is currently a freelance sports writer living in Bangalore.

Varun Jain grew up in Hardwar on the banks of the Ganges River in northern India’s Uttarakhand. Currently finishing his undergraduate studies in electrical engineering at IIT Kanpur, Jain was among 150 students around the world honored with the Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Award in 2007 for demonstrated leadership potential and academic achievement. In his junior year, he took leadership of the college magazine, becoming editor of Meander. A voracious reader driven by a desire to help the underprivileged, Jain volunteered with a student-led initiative at IIT Kanpur working toward the education of underprivileged children.

Aditi Pany was the first woman elected president of the Students’ Union at Birla Institute of Technology and Science, where she completed both a bachelor of engineering degree in electrical and electronics, and a Master of Science degree in economics in 2005. As president, she launched several new initiatives, including the formation of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. Based in New Delhi, Pany began her career at the social enterprise TARAhaat, developing IT-enabled services—such as skills development programs — for rural communities. Currently a program associate at Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, she facilitates business-social partnerships to provide housing and healthcare to low-income communities. She credits her upbringing and experiences in Bhubaneswar in the coastal state of Orissa, home to some of India’s finest artisans, for her aspiration to promote India’s rich tradition of handlooms and handicrafts that are intricately linked with its diverse culture, people, and natural environment.

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