- Programme: LBS Sloan Masters
- Nationality: Indian
- Job Pre-programme: President, Birla Tyres (BK Birla group)
- Job Post-programme: CEO, Century Pulp & Paper (B.K.Birla Group)
After completing a Bachelor of Engineering from IIT Roorkee, India, Ashwani worked for Tata Steel, one of the top ten global steel companies. He then joined ITC as Head of Engineering, progressing rapidly through a number of senior management roles before taking up his current role as President of Birla Tyres. Ashwani joined London Business School’s Sloan Masters in Leadership and Strategy in January 2009.
Latest academic thinking
I was looking for something that offered a true crosssection of students in terms of profession and nationality, and that had a standout finance and entrepreneurship faculty. London Business School provided both these things, and of the wide portfolio of courses on offer, it was Sloan that targeted the senior executive level content I wanted.
For me, studying was more about taking time out to reflect on where I was heading than any specific business challenge. I wanted to improve and update my knowledge gaps across a number of academic areas – economics, finance and accounting, balance sheets and brand marketing specifically – but my main motivation was to refresh my leadership thinking and decide on my next course of action.
Sloan offers a fantastic array of core courses and flexible elective choices. I loved Strategic Innovation and Corporate Strategy – it was relevant and contemporary to current day business. I successfully expanded my knowledge base in Financial Statement Analysis and Corporate Finance, but I also found some of the extra short courses like handling media surprisingly useful.
The lectures provided a continuous challenge and focused on real-life situations and case studies, while the interactions with classmates from different disciplines gave me the chance to benefit from other professional perspectives.
For me, the true value of Sloan lies in this exposure to different viewpoints. It was an incredibly diverse cultural experience, and as much about meeting a new network of high-achieving colleagues as it was about academic learning. Everybody in my cohort was already successful in their own right, so classes provided numerous thought-provoking discussions and debates.
A more strategic approach
I didn’t realise at the time just how much my Sloan experience changed me, but looking back I can see that it has given me a clear-cut competitive edge. I am much more strategic in my approach at work, and I now have the capacity to relate my academics to real-life business challenges. Tasked with setting up a new business after Sloan, I was able to apply my learning straight away.
Although fast-tracking my career was not my immediate post-Sloan objective, there is no doubt that it has accelerated my progress, as I’ve recently taken on a new role as President of Birla Tyres. Having greater confidence in my own abilities has enabled me to excel individually, and at an organisational level there is greater recognition of my ability to handle senior management roles.
Learning to take risks
London is a wonderful, vibrant city that adds a real depth to the international aspect of Sloan. The School is a beautiful place to study, and the highly respected brand name has been instrumental in helping me build new global business connections. My Sloan group is still very much in touch – we interact on a regular basis, and as I have expanded the business in APAC and SE Asia, I’ve had a lot of help from local classmates. In India itself, I now have a tremendous alumni base to fall upon.
Like everything, the more you put into Sloan the more you get out of it; personally, studying alongside so many successful leaders has given me an invaluable blend of humility and confidence, and a greater willingness to take risks. Combined, the knowledge and experiences I learned have already helped me take the next step.