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Chemical Engineer to Strategy Consultant: A Journey of Persistence and Growth

 Chemical Engineer to Strategy Consultant: A Journey of Persistence and Growth 


Shaunak Aggarwal graduated from BITS Pilani (Hyderabad, ‘17) with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Material Science. He completed his PGP from the Indian School of Business (ISB) with a dual major in Strategy & Leadership and Marketing. He is a passionate individual working on Strategies across Business Incubation, Growth, Market Entry, and Technological Innovation. Mr. Aggarwal shared insightful knowledge about his journey to become a strategy consultant and how his perseverance led him on the right path. He also wrote a book on Life in Consulting and Case Interviews called "The Consultant's Mind Decoded.

Could you please tell us about your journey from studying Chemical Engineering to becoming a Strategic Advisor and Consultant?

I pivoted from studying Chemical Engineering to becoming a strategy consultant because I wanted to explore management beyond technical skills. During my studies at BITS, I took finance and marketing courses, which sparked my interest in how companies function. I was inspired by mentors who showed me the broader aspects of business. Working on projects, like creating 3D-printed kneecaps for hospitals taught me about the entire product lifecycle, and leading DOSM during fests taught me how to raise funds for marketing. After graduating, I worked on various consulting projects, from digital enablement to supply chain management, which eventually led me to pursue an MBA from ISB and transition into more strategic advisory roles.

Would you recommend this path for engineering students? What is something you recommend interested students to do to pursue a career in this field?

Of course, I most certainly would recommend this path for students. The hard and soft skills honed during engineering studies are invaluable in strategy roles. I would advise focusing on developing ‘analytical, quantitative, and interpersonal skills’. Engineering colleges, especially BITS, also foster creativity and critical thinking, essential in advisory roles. Additionally, gaining experience through internships, pursuing an MBA, and actively engaging with industry trends are crucial steps to enter this field successfully.

What strategies do you employ to stay updated on market trends and industry developments that may impact your clients' businesses?

I avidly read business news, follow emerging technologies on platforms like YouTube, and utilize news aggregation apps like InShorts to scroll through various domains and functions. Additionally, I engage in discussions with peers and attend conferences and webinars to stay updated on the latest developments.

Could you share memorable projects or client engagements where you played a significant role in advising on new business ventures or market entry strategies?

During COVID-19, I advised businesses on growth opportunities, starting with an FMCG firm at BCG to enhance their sales & distribution strategy. I transitioned to Ecom Express, leading efforts to enter the hyper-local market and integrate electric vehicles. My career trajectory then led me to Viacom18, where I was heavily involved in shaping Voot's five-year strategy and led the acquisition of animation studios. While at the Tata Group, I drove one of the biggest mergers in aviation history, viz, Air India, helped the central government improve India's primary healthcare ecosystem, and assisted our Chairman, Mr. Ratan Tata, in acquiring a Charitable Hospital. Currently, I am helping the group incubate and establish India’s 1st EV battery manufacturing company.

My career is centered on strategic insights, shaping my advisory role in business ventures and market entries.

Could you give us insights about your experience volunteering with WWF and Help Age India?

Volunteering with WWF and Help Age India was a deeply fulfilling experience. My love for wildlife and a desire to contribute to social welfare motivated me to volunteer with these organizations. My advice to someone interested in volunteering is to align with causes they are passionate about, research organizations that resonate with their values, and actively engage in making a positive impact in the community.

Now that you are working for the Tata Group, what motivated you to join the company as a specialist consultant, and what do you find most rewarding about your role?

I joined Tata Group as a consultant because I was motivated by the opportunity to contribute to nation-building initiatives and work on some super impactful projects. The most rewarding aspect of my role is seeing my recommendations implemented and translated into real business outcomes aligned with Tata Group’s goal of nation first and profit second.

Also, could you tell us what starting the BITS Hyderabad Consulting Club was like?

Starting the BITS Hyderabad Consulting Club was a collaborative effort. Students approached me after I graduated, and while the initiative was still in its infancy, it gained momentum with support from peers and faculty. We focused on fostering learning and collaboration within the community. Now, they have expanded and incorporated business aspects beyond consulting, such as product management.

What preparation tips would you give students motivated to join ISB?

As for joining ISB, it's essential to prepare thoroughly for the essays & interviews, with emphasis on academics, extracurricular activities, and a clear career vision. Engaging in leadership roles, building a strong GMAT/GRE score, and showcasing a diverse skill set can significantly enhance your chances of admission.

What would be the most essential trait you feel people should know and inculcate to succeed?

A trait I would like to highlight and include is being a lifelong learner with humility and taking ownership of your actions, good or bad. Never let success get to your head and develop a superiority complex or arrogance, but never let failure pull you down and make you give up on your dreams or ambitions. That’s all from my side, Thanks.

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