Student Voice: Karan Nimrani, MBA ’21

Karan Nimrani isn’t just one of the youngest people ever admitted to the HEC Paris MBA—he’s also one of the most eloquent. The soon-to-be graduate of the Class of 2021 first stepped up to the podium at 5 years old. By age 13, he’d won the first of many formal speech competitions.

“My mother was a radio jockey with ‘big city’ potential, but she gave it up to raise a family in rural India,” the Adipur native explains. “Like most parents, she lived vicariously through me, and encouraged me to take on different activities. You’d never believe it today, but I’m naturally an introvert. Public speaking was a way that I could be someone else.”

By age 18, Karan was ranked the 2nd best speaker in all of India.

“It became part of my personality–I was the guy who speaks on stage. Once I got there, it just snowballed into something bigger than I could ever expect.”

Whether it’s captivating an audience or in his professional life, Karan knows how to make big things happen. During his 16 months at the HEC Paris MBA, the undergraduate engineering major served as the President of the MBA’s Consulting Practice, helping four new clients navigate COVID’s turbulent waves. He completed two intense internships, including one in French, his fifth language.

But perhaps Karan’s most striking accomplishment during these past 16 months has been masterminding the 4th edition of TEDxHECParis. “Public speaking has had an incredibly positive influence on my life,” he explains. “I wanted to share that experience with more people.”

Thanks to his silver tongue and diverse skillset, Karan has been offered a wealth of jobs, from working as a radio jockey as an undergrad—which he didn’t accept—to an exciting post-MBA position at Amazon. He starts at the company as a Senior Program Manager for EU Transportation in August.

To learn more about Karan’s past, present and future, we recently interviewed him on campus.

You’ve had an impressive career for someone who started the MBA at 23 years old. What were you doing before the program?

I was working for HSBC in their Financial Risk Department. As a software engineer, I was part of the team that was responsible for ensuring that HSBC cleared the US Department of Justice’s financial-reporting regulations. If the bank had been found non-compliant, it could have faced fines in excess of €17 billion. My work in that department capitulated me into the limelight, and I was promoted to a business analyst position, where I worked exclusively with teams in the UK and Singapore on commercial banking projects.

Even before that, you co-founded a startup.

It was during my undergrad–I was 15 at the time. I launched a company with a friend of mine who was an accounting major. We created a dynamically priced logistics platform for restaurants. The way it worked was if you had 40 kilograms of potatoes that were going to go bad, we would adjust your pricing through our algorithm to help you get rid of those potatoes. It was a complicated project that we didn’t really know how to sell, and we were boot-strapping it the entire time.

Right when we were about to hit some KPIs and potentially get some funding, my friend’s family told him that he needed to find a stable job. We ended up selling it for parts. At the time we approached it from a financial angle, but by exploring sustainability at HEC, I realized that there’s a whole other angle to it. I kept the startup’s IP (Intellectual Property), and I’m hoping that HelloFresh will take a look at it.

Why an MBA?

I did question why I wanted another degree. I told myself that if it was only to get to somewhere else–a stepping-stone in my career path–then perhaps another degree wasn’t the most efficient way to get there. When you come from a developing country, the investment in a degree abroad has to mean something. The magnitude of it just compels you to go beyond material gain.

I wanted to meet different people who’d tried different things and had failed and succeeded. Along with exposing myself to things that I normally wouldn’t be able to access in my home country, I also wanted to be exposed to a peer group who would make me question everything.

I wanted the people around me to challenge everything that I thought. “Why do governments do XYZ, why should corporations be run this way, who stands to benefit from the economic activity that we do?” I was 22 years old. There were lots of things that I hadn’t formulated an opinion on back then. I was hoping to meet a highly dynamic group of people, in a neutral political climate, where I could form my worldview. That’s exactly what happened to me at the HEC Paris MBA.

Has the MBA changed you as much as you had hoped?

One of my first experiences in the program was listening to the CEO of Netflix, who came to campus to talk about the future of the company. He was talking about aspects of business that I hadn’t even considered before. The entire experience has been like that. Every professor has forced me to question what I thought was possible. I think one of the best decisions I made was not choosing a school that has a strong reputation regarding one industry or one function because there’s so much to explore here.

I’ll use Professor Ghez’s Managerial Economics class as an example. He has a unique worldview on consumption and the changes we can expect. I admit I was a bit scared at first, because he was telling us that if you don’t run twice as fast, then you’ll be lost. But then he also tells you how to run twice as fast.

It would be very difficult to pick out any one aspect of my personality and say, “this wasn’t changed.” My political views, my social views, everything–something at HEC Paris has created a change.

You came to the MBA determined to go into consulting.

For me, the attraction to consulting was that I am at an early stage of my career, and I want exposure to lots of different things. So yes, I was case cracking from my second month on campus.  Whiteshield Partners came recruiting early on, in October. I ended up getting a summer internship with them doing public-policy consulting in Dubai. The impact I had working with governments to help shape their COVID-19 response strategy was eye-opening, and I was glad I was able to do public service. But I realized that I would rather stay in Europe and build my career in another way.

How did you secure the offer at Amazon?

I served on the board of HEConnect, where I started a mentorship program for experienced students (mostly MBAs & EMBAs) to mentor HEC’s pre-experience Grande Ecole students. My mentee was Camilla Zappala, whom I’m incredibly proud of. She was an intern at Amazon, and is now interning at Google. At the end of her Amazon internship, her manager  told her he was looking for a more experienced person to join their team, someone who was “just like her” – and she connected us. I spoke to her manager and he asked me to apply for the position. And they ended up making me an offer. I’m incredibly excited to say that I’ll be joining them in their Luxembourg office in August.