Search results: wharton

Summer at Wharton: My ‘dream come true’

27 Mar

Summer Program at Wharton School of Business, UPenn

Every student who aspires to study in the US probably has Ivy league dreams—an opportunity to be taught by uniquely talented professors and experience life in one of the US’s most prestigious institutes. My dream came true when I got selected for the summer program hosted by Wharton and BrainGain Global called Global Young Leader’s Academy (GYLA).

I attended the program last year from 2 June 2018 to 16 June 2018 and I won’t be exaggerating when I say that those two weeks were of the very best of my life. My perception of college changed with the opportunity to experience Ivy league life and interact with Wharton professors. Being taught by one of the finest and most experienced professors in the US, was nothing short of a fantasy getting fulfilled and has made my desire to study abroad in one of the finest colleges of the world, even stronger.

Over the two weeks, we were taught about various business principles such as accounting, marketing designing the product, and public speaking. These skills are important in shaping an entrepreneurial mindset and contribute to one’s growth as an entrepreneur. I also had a spectacular experience meeting the Wharton alumni and making friends with my fellow students. I have never spent a summer more productively, not only picking up key entrepreneurship lessons but more importantly, essential life skills.

Over these two weeks, I felt I grew as a person more than I ever had during the last two to three years in school. This was one of the best and most valuable experiences of my whole life.

Thank you, Wharton and BrainGain Global for this experience of a lifetime.

by: Chaitanya Kabra

If you liked this check out:
Making my move to study in Australia
What to expect when you’re expecting to attend Bond!
How studying in New Zealand is helping me in my career

How a Wharton summer school alum is helping save the planet

28 Sep

Aniketh Khutia studies at DPS, Ruby Park, Kolkata. After participating in the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy in the summer of 2016, he teamed up with a friend on the latter’s environmental initiative called Stopwatch. As a Member (Operations), he discusses how far the fledgling venture has come in just over a year, plans for its future, and the need for young people to act urgently to save the planet. BrainGain Magazine wishes Aniketh and Stopwatch every success! 

Photo illustration from maxpixel


After coming back from my summer at Wharton, I was dying to do something constructive. Business competitions in Kolkata helped keep me busy for a few days, but there was no sense of fulfillment in winning them. I couldn’t find a reason to pitch imaginary companies to imaginary investors week after week. Even though the Wharton program had sharpened my problem-solving and public speaking skills, I could not find any direction for applying myself. That’s when I met Yash.

Yash Khumbhat founded Stopwatch in the summer of 2016. Stopwatch had humble beginnings – its first few projects were community clean-ups and environmental education drives. But after spending his summer attending former US Vice-President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project training and the Yale Young Global Scholars program, Yash was able to make Stopwatch one of the successful high-school student-run environmental organizations in the state of West Bengal. Yash was selected to be a keynote speaker at INKYOUTH 2016, and later in the year Stopwatch was featured in The Telegraph on Earth Day.

Aniketh Khutia (far right) on the University of Pennsylvania campus during the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy, 2016

Aniketh Khutia (far right) on the University of Pennsylvania campus during the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy, 2016


From joining Stopwatch in November 2016, to managing its operations now, I finally feel as if I belong somewhere. Not only did Stopwatch give me a purpose, but it also gave me a family.

Since it’s student-run, we have faced a lot of problems while kick-starting projects. People don’t take a bunch of ambitious kids seriously enough sometimes. But we powered through, from running around trying to set up meetings with government officials to standing up against local goons while cleaning lakes – we’ve seen and done it all.

Since we are all school-going students, we allocate a fixed amount of time to Stopwatch. We use this time to come up with new ideas and ways to get funding for the same. Currently, we are starting the second phase of The Brighter Tomorrow Initiative, which takes us to the rural areas and urban poor communities to electrify homes using solar panels.

Our first phase was a success. We set up a communication line between representatives of the Piyali Learning Centre, a free school funded by American benefactors. They gave us a list of families in the village who had no access to electricity. We got our first round of funding – almost US $1,000 – from another student-run American organization called Young Change Best Change, to support our efforts in Piyali.

After receiving the money, we got the panels from Tara Solar, an Indian alternative energy company based in Kolkata. Our plan reached fruition in March 2017, when we went all the way to Piyali and electrified almost a dozen homes. Finally, after four months of hard work, it all came through.

The success of the first phase led us to start work​ on the second phase. We have begun the ground work and initial fundraising. We have set up a Generosity account to raise funds (any amount is welcome).

We at Stopwatch believe that the clock is ticking, and that the time to act is now. The youth needs to come together and take the initiative. This world is ours and it’s our duty to protect it. In the words of Robert Swan, “The greatest threat to our planet Is the belief that someone else will save it.” So we at Stopwatch strive to take action before it’s too late.

By: Aniketh Khutia, Member (Operations), Stopwatch


Summer programs broaden horizons – check out the links below!
Why I worry about President Trump’s exit from the Paris Agreement
Two weeks that changed my life completely
Inspiration from the dabbawalas of Mumbai
How a summer program made me fall in love with a university
Learning to embrace the impractical and think more creatively
Choosing between an Ivy League offer and a full scholarship
Two weeks at the Oxford Scholastica Academy’s summer school

The Great Wharton Adventure

26 Aug

Wharton Adventure – in our enthusiasm about joining a thrilling summer-camp at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania, that was the name my friends and I gave our Whatsapp group. Counting down weeks, then days, then hours, finally we were at JFK Airport, amid lots of apprehensive, bright faces just like us.

Oops! We don’t know eachother here J.

Knowledge@Wharton Session C students gather at JFK airport

As we shook hands with each other, I instantly I felt it, and I’m sure many of my friends did too: we were going to have a rollicking adventure together, the kind of experience that lingers in your mind all your life.

Arriving at Penn, we settled down in our apartments, little knowing this place was going to be our second home. Our walks around the huge campus left us impressed. We chatted along Locust Walk, ate tacos and ice-cream, bought Penn merchandise at the great bookstore, played card games and pool, and formed our new families.

We were very lucky to meet each other: everyone was extremely friendly and kind, which resulted in hours of chatting and laughing every day.

Mr Kerzner’s lessons were very informative and fun at the same time.

In class with Alan Kerzner

Our days at Knowledge@Wharton High School were filled with rewarding lectures that would help us develop our business plans. With Alan Kerzner’s witty humor and his references to his career, we gained valuable insights on how to successfully market a product. Megan De Lena’s lectures strengthened our knowledge of financing and investment.

It was an honor to get such precious lectures from amazing people who are successful professionals in their fields, and I would like to thank them for everything they taught us on our KWHS journey.

This program became an intersection for lots of cultures. My Indian friends told me about their daily lives back home. I also got to learn Canadian vocabulary, Brazilian dances, and how to say my name in Bulgarian. And I taught my friends Turkish.

We got to visit downtown Philadelphia, and see attractions such as the Philadelphia Museum art and the US mint . We watched a fun baseball game. On our Washington, DC trip, we visited the elegant US Capitol, and got a glimpse of the the White House. Our last two days were spent in the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of”, as Alicia Keys sang about New York City. Times Square was fantastic.

So KWHS not only taught us a lot about business and economics, it also made us acquainted with diverse cultures. And we had fun together!

A great picture with great people. Credits to the Photographer Can!

A great picture with great people. Credit to the photographer Can Conger!

Our group’s final business plan was about an electricity-generating bicycle that you can also make fitness adjustments on, with its innovative app. Having learned how a corporation works, we announced our company as Subchapter S, and presented our balance sheet, pricing options and marketing plan.

I can honestly say that this program has taught us about the business world step by step, and gave us the chance to be members of the executive team. As Chief Communications Officer, I talked about the mission of our corporation, “Safe & Swift”. It was a great experience creating our brand, and we all learned a lot, regardless of which team won.

As I said on our last day at Penn, it was very precious to see how we struggled to pronounce each other’s names on the first day, and now it was like we had found our long-lost families. It was great being in this program. I am extremely grateful for all friendships I’ve formed here.

I also want to thank our amazing chaperones Saloni, Amardeep and Rishabh, for always keeping an eye on us and also adding joy to this program.

Besides learning in and outside the classroom, we dabbed and dabbed and dabbed. So if you’re reading this, DAB one last time for Session C of the KWHS Global Young Leaders Academy: it was a great adventure, guys!

We dab everywhere everyday!

We dab everywhere, every day!


By Ezgi Okutan (16 years old, student at Robert College, Istanbul)


Click here to find out more about the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy!

Day 1 of the Knowledge@Wharton High School summer program

2 Jun

Group of students on UPenn campus for KWHS summer program 2016 Session A

Students tour the University of Pennsylvania campus at the start of Session A of the 2016 summer program of the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy

May 29, 2016, 9 a.m. A Sunday and a sunny day. Soft landing. Rapid baggage claim. Great weather outside JFK Airport.

When we left Abu Dhabi airport, we were all excited to see the dual-deck Airbus 380, with its spacious seats and delicious food.  But after the 14-hour flight to New York, everyone was tired.

Pavan Sir and Skendha Ma’am welcomed students who had taken other flights to JFK. After a grand American breakfast at the Central Diner, our group of 15 set out for Philadelphia with Dunkin donuts in hand.

We appreciated the New York City skyscrapers, for they shielded us from the glare of the sun. Cool breeze through the open window filled the bus with zeal and zest. Mr. Jetlag was nowhere to be seen!

After a 3-hour bus ride, it seemed as though Harnwell College House at UPenn had been taken over by the students attending the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Youth Leadership Academy. We got the best welcome.  Cards, codes and keys handed out to all. Off to our rooms. Dump luggage. Rush for the briefing.

The KWHS organising committee kept the session short. Then, finger-licking pizzas in the 9th-floor common room. After that, we were free for the rest of the evening. We were able to step out of the house and go around exploring the campus. The rain would have left us drenched had our Packing List not instructed us to carry umbrellas.

The campus was declared beautiful, stunning and huge!

Curfew time: 10.30 p.m. Students get into their tall and comfortable beds. Alarms set for 6 a.m. the following day. Insomniacs stay awake till 1 a.m. Mr. Jetlag reappears…


By Shivang Singh (Scottish High International School, Gurgaon)


Click here to find out more about the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy!

Summer Programs for High School Students at Wharton

19 Jan

As Lao Tzu famously said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” A short duration of time spent at a summer school program, like at the ones run by the Wharton School of Business, can make a lasting impact on the character and career of a student.

The Wharton School, founded in 1881, is the collegiate business school at the University of Pennsylvania, and one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world.

Wharton school is internationally celebrated for its outstanding finance education. It is frequently ranked #1 on various surveys, be it the QS Global 200 Business Schools, the New York Times or the Bloomberg Businessweek. In research as well as influence, the school’s track record has proven to be hard to emulate.

Summer Programs for High School Students at Wharton

Wharton offers not only undergraduate, post graduate and doctorate degrees, for which the acceptance rate can be less than 10 %, but also summer programs in business and leadership for rising high school seniors.

Its high school summer programs answer the academic needs of the participants and also present an outstanding academic challenge. Their USP lies in providing the students a foretaste of college life at an Ivy League institution. This unmatchable experience can ingrain an international approach to work and life.

LEAD (Leadership, Education and Development Program), for example, is a four week introductory program which focuses on key areas of business.  Leadership in the Business World, is another pre-college summer program for high school seniors, which offers classes at Wharton as well as company site visits.

Knowledge @Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy is a two week intensive, summer leadership program. It offers classes on business studies and practical workshops. The program also includes field trips and socio cultural activities in historic Philadelphia, a city central to the founding of the USA.

To sum up, a summer course at the Wharton School can prove to be not only the experience of a lifetime, but the start of something big!

6 digital publications every young adult should check out

25 Jul

6 digital publications every young adult should check out

At BrainGain Magazine, we thoroughly appreciate well-written, interesting and funny articles. (Hopefully, we write some ourselves.)  Thanks to the internet, it is entirely possible to delve into history, the future and fiction all in the span of half an hour. But in the era of clickbait-y titles, half baked thought pieces and covert marketing, it can be difficult to find insightful, compelling and educational articles from sources you can trust. Fear not, dear reader! The following six publications are perfect for young adults like you to read on that long commute or winding down after a long day. They are guaranteed to impress the teacher you want a recommendation from and your friends at the party next week.

History Today
Did you know that picnics were originally elaborate feasts held indoors by the elites of France and England? Or that white women are largely responsible for the popularity and propagandist nature of the Klu Klux Klan? The widely celebrated magazine History Today digs up interesting and overlooked topics just like these for you to discover. Think of it like Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist history, except the range of topics is much wider, and the voices more varied. The articles published are also heavily vetted by scholars and journalists alike, so you’re guaranteed good quality work.

The Planet
This award winning magazine is housed under the Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University.The Planet has been printing quarterly magazines since 1969, and started digital publications in 2014. It is the only magazine undergraduate magazine dedicated to the environment in the U.S. and is entirely student run. Topics covered range from the decline of swallows, to harassment in the agriculture industry and the carbon tax initiative. All its content is accompanied by stellar photography, which in itself makes it a must read., and a bend towards saving the planet.

Discover Magazine
Launched in 1980 by Time Inc. Discover Magazine covers all things science and technology. While they write primarily for an American readership, they cover many fascinating topics that will not only make you sound smart but understand the larger context of the universe, both around us and in our minds. Whether its travelling the universe through black holes, Elon Musk’s nearly ready mind reading AI implant, or how a zombie fungus iskilling ants, Discover Today has truly fascinating articles about the vast, the weird and the newest in science and technology.

Munchies- Vice
A subsidiary of Vice, Munchies explores the wondrous world of food by combining eclectic topics with the thorough passion of its writers. Whether its a hilarious story about sommeliers tasting Mountain Dew flavours or an in depth look at chain restaurant menus. My personal favourite is a somewhat voyeuristic, but nevertheless fun series that features the personal fridges of professional chefs. Whether you need a laugh or want to learn about a specific food, this tongue-in-cheek approach publication is the one for you.

Electric Literature
This journal turned not-for-profit digital publisher actively tries to explore the corners of literature often overlooked in the mainstream. That means celebrating female, queer and writers of colour who are experimenting with prose and verse. Electric literature offers insightful and beautifully written essays, conversations, reading lists and news in the world of literature. Their Recommended Reading section publishes short stories and novel excerpts, while The Commuter features flash fiction, poetry and graphic stories. It is the most complete and freshest space online for both lovers of literature and the casual reader alike.

BrainGain Magazine
Yes, we may be a bit biased about this one, but BrainGain magazine is one of the leading online sources on international higher education. It covers the basics of admissions and scholarships, but also delves into the deeper aspects of student life, including resources concerning safety, mental health, politics and culture. As a magazine, we consistently strive for a diversity of voices. Whether its student accounts of summer programs or life in university, innovative professors offering advice and discussing their research, tips for a balanced student life or saving money, we’ve got you covered!

By: Anandamayee Singh


If you liked this, check out:
Ten iconic books that will change you
5 podcasts to binge before you go to college
4 cool science podcasts you should check out

KWHS alumna gives TED-ed talk on valuing young voices

19 Mar

A student ambassador for BrainGain magazine, Ananya Grover studies at Amity International School in Noida. She thinks of herself as a nerd with a head full of questions about existence and experience. Ananya has an artistic side too – she loves dancing and calligraphy.

In 2017, she attended Session A of Knowledge@Wharton Global Young Leaders’ Academy.

In the video below, Ananya talks about why every teenager’s voice needs to be heard. And how, to make this possible in her own small way, she has started an online magazine at school. The first issue, titled ‘Reflections’ released on 15th August in 2017. Its theme was freedom.

Watch Ananya give a TED-ed talk on how important it is to value young voices below.


Two weeks that changed my life completely

20 Sep

Fifteen-year-old Parthsarthi Suri is a student at the Emirates International School – Jumeirah, in Dubai, UAE. He participated in the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, in the summer of 2017. Here’s what he had to say about the experience.

I have often heard this famous quote by the world-renowned motivational speaker and author, Zig Ziglar: “There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” I didn’t quite understand what he meant by this. I thought he meant success will take a long time to achieve and one shouldn’t give up. However, once I signed up for the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy (GYLA) at the University of Pennsylvania, I just knew I took my first step on the stairs.

I know I sound like some philosophical kind of guy, but it’s true – those two weeks changed my life completely. When I first applied for this course, I didn’t know what to expect because I had never done a summer course before. Looking at the previous class of GYLA, I knew that people from all different backgrounds and cultures would be joining me in this short two-week journey, and I was nervous because I didn’t know any of the other participants. But once I entered Harnwell College House (the dorm where we all stayed), met my roommates and the 45 ambitious young minds, I knew I was in the right place. Meeting people from all over the world helped me understand different cultures and beliefs, and made me a more open-minded person.

While at UPenn, I learned a wide range of vital skills from each of the different lecturers we had. From learning about the nature of technological innovation with Dr. Saikat Chaudhuri, to learning basic public speaking skills with Ms. Susan Brake, living life as a UPenn student (even if it was just for two weeks) was absolutely fantastic.

Now, you may be wondering what makes this course different from any other summer program for high-school students. Well for starters, while attending lectures by some of the best academics in the country, we are all competing with each other in a business plan competition. For the competition, we were divided up into groups of five or six, and had to work the theories and skills we learned in the lectures into our presentation. So in two weeks’ time, I went from being Parthsarthi Suri, student, to Parthsarthi Suri, CEO of IntHSchool, an online platform that connects high-school students to internships in the comfort of your home.

Two weeks was all the time we had to prepare a pitch for our idea before a panel of judges and prospective investors. So, we had to fill in the shoes of CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, etc., and decide on the strategies we would implement to ensure that every investor chooses us over the others. Even though my team did not win the business plan competition, I can not thank my lecturers, the RAs, and the chaperones enough, for the help they provided us while preparing to pitch our idea.

The four RAs were UPenn students, so I learned some quirky fun things about UPenn from them. For example, I learned that you should never cross the compass that in the center of Locust Walk, or else you will fail your midterms. I blame my team for not winning because one of us must have walked on the compass (just kidding!).

The Compass on Locust Walk, on the University of Pennsylvania campus

The Compass on Locust Walk, on the University of Pennsylvania campus

On the weekends we had the opportunity to sightsee America. The first weekend, we explored Washington, D.C., where we visited the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument. We went to the Monument mainly because Spider-Man climbed it in the new movie. No luck for the rest of us, however, as the elevator to go to the top is under construction until 2019 L.

The next day we visited the Garden State, New Jersey, specifically Six Flags amusement park. The experience can only be described in one word: AWESOME. From riding the second fastest roller coaster in the world to acting like James Bond in an obstacle course, it was FREAKING AWESOME.

At the Washington Monument with the squad

At the Washington Monument with the squad


At the Lincoln Memorial with the Wharton squad

At the Lincoln Memorial with the Wharton squad

The second weekend, we went to the ‘Big Apple’ and visited the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center. Then it was time to say goodbye to the people who really changed me for the better.

We didn’t have torches, so we used water bottles instead. Behold the statue of Parth and Dasha!

We didn’t have torches, so we used water bottles instead. Behold the statue of Parth and Dasha!

Checking out the view from atop the Empire State Building

Checking out the view from atop the Empire State Building

I would like to thank every person involved in organizing this two-weeks summer course, and a special thank-you to BrainGain Magazine and Knowledge@Wharton High School for making it happen. This two-week journey was something I will never forget, along with my fellow travelers, who are now like my family.

By: Parthsarthi Suri

A student draws inspiration from the dabbawalas of Mumbai

13 Sep

Uday Bansal, a high school senior from Delhi Public School, RK Puram, traveled from his home in New Delhi, India, this summer to participate in the KWHS Global Young Leaders Academy at The Wharton School in Philadelphia. While there, he learned about how entrepreneurs work to identify needs in society in order to develop successful business models. That lesson struck a chord with him and became the inspiration for this article that he wrote about Mumbai’s dabbawalas. Not sure what that is? Read on!

In January 2017, I had the opportunity to participate in the Global Sustainability Summit at Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University (a Mecca/Vatican for business students). The summit brought together students from more than 16 countries with guest speakers ranging from journalists and parliamentarians to social activists and business leaders.

For me, one presenter really stood out. Dr. Pawan Agrawal is an international motivational speaker and a self-made man. Dr. Agrawal’s thesis for his PhD degree is titled A Study of Logistics and Supply Chain Management of Dabbawalas in Mumbai.

For those who don’t know, dabbawalas, dressed in white uniforms, provide a lunch box (dabba) delivery-and-return service in the Indian city of Mumbai that delivers home-cooked food from clients’ homes to their offices, and then returns the empty lunch boxes back to clients’ homes.

Dr. Agrawal can best be described as a dabbawala scholar. During his summit session in January, he detailed the operations of the Mumbai dabbawalas, from the number of trains they have to change in a day, to how they code and decode the lunch boxes. It was fascinating to learn about dabbawalas from someone who has closely studied them from a business perspective and now teaches the world about how they operate. I admittedly have not spent a lot of time in Mumbai, but I became fascinated with this simple, yet highly effective business model that originated in my country. I wanted to share what I’ve learned.

Dabbawalas at CST station, a major railway terminus in Mumbai (photo by travelwayoflife, used under CC license)

From 100 to 5,000

Mumbai’s dabbawalas have been operating for more than 125 years. They have perfected their business brand through hard work and commitment. They are ubiquitous. Many people couldn’t imagine the streets of Mumbai without them.

As the story goes, about 125 years ago, a Parsi banker wanted to enjoy home-cooked food in his office and gave this responsibility to the first-ever dabbawala (delivery guy). Many people liked the idea, and the demand for dabba delivery soared. It was all informal and individual effort in the beginning, but visionary Mahadeo Havaji Bachche saw the opportunity and started the lunch delivery service in its current team-delivery format with only 100 dabbawalas. As the city grew, the demand for dabba delivery also grew. Now an army of 5,000 dabbawalas in their signature Gandhi caps serve a clientele of some 200,000 Mumbaikars.

You may be wondering why people can’t carry their own lunch boxes from home. Is India still full of spoiled Maharajas (Indian kings and princes)?

Nope, that’s not the case. During my participation in the Global Young Leaders Academy at Wharton, I learned about the significance of identifying a need, a demand in society that successful entrepreneurs seek to satisfy through their products and services. Dabbawalas meet a great need in Mumbai, and their approach, however simple, is brilliant on many levels. Here’s why:

1. Mumbai local trains, the lifeline of the city, are over-crowded, which makes it difficult for anyone to carry even a lunchbox. Trust me folks, this is not an exaggeration. You can’t board the trains without a struggle when your hands are empty, so carrying a bulky lunchbox while vying for train space is out of the question.

2. Dr. Agrawal explains the second reason as follows: “For a man to reach his office at 9:00 a.m., he has to leave at 6:00 a.m. (because of the long train routes), which means that his wife or mother would have to cook the boxed meal at 5:00 a.m. To avoid this inconvenience, the dabbawalas collect the tiffin [an Indian word for lunch box] at say 9:00 a.m. from the house, deliver it to the office before the lunch hours and then collect the empty lunch boxes to deliver back home.”

3. The third reason this model is especially effective in Mumbai is that home-cooked food is preferred by the masses because of health, emotional and financial reasons. Eating food from restaurants is expensive and street food, though delicious, isn’t considered especially healthy for regular consumption. Also, in my culture home-cooked food is the ultimate way for a wife or mother to express her love and affection for her husband or son. Dabbawalas tap into all these needs and have created an industry that — even after 125 years — has a growth rate of as much as 10% per year.

A Day in the Life of a Dabbawala

You can’t explore the dynamics of this unique business model without considering the logistics. It’s a simple and streamlined distribution system.

The first dabbawala picks up the tiffin from home and takes it to the nearest railway station.

The second dabbawala sorts out the dabbas at the railway station according to destination and puts them in the luggage carriage.

The third one travels with the dabbas to the railway stations nearest to the destinations.

The fourth one picks up dabbas from the railway station and drops them off at the offices.

The dabbawalas rely on low costs to get the job done, using cycles, wooden carriages and local trains and very little technology to meet their daily goals.

Several groups work independently and network with each other to cover service areas.

Of Tiffins and Takeaways

I felt compelled to write about these workers because I was amazed by their level of success and commitment. So many lessons for anyone who wants to make his way in the business world! Here are my top nine:

Passion and Practice. Some 35% of dabbawalas are illiterate, and the average education level of their workforce is 8th grade. Even so, they have created a sound and reliable delivery model that could easily go awry for even the most highly educated worker. Initially, they developed a color-coding system for the lunchboxes, but as the city and the demand for their services grew, this developed into an alpha-numeric system. Many dabbawalas can’t read the alphabet, but can recognize and differentiate the letters and numbers on the basis of their distinct shapes. On average, each dabbawala carries a weight of 130 to 150 pounds. The workforce includes dabbawalas as old as 75 years who take pride in their ability to support themselves with their hard work. “No excuses” is their motto.

Dedication. It took more than 100 years for dabbawalas to get the recognition they deserved. In our success-hungry world where people think of perks before performance, we should learn to uphold the dabbawalas’ high level of service and job performance.

Execution and accuracy. In 1998, Forbes Magazine conducted a quality-assurance study and awarded the Mumbai dabbawalas a Six Sigma efficiency rating of 99.999999! That means they have an error rate of 1 in every 16 million transactions. Mumbai dabbawalas are the second organization in the world and the first in India to earn this distinction. In the words of Dr. Agrawal, for dabbawalas “error is horror.”

Commitment to quality service. Dabbawalas depend on the local train system where they travel in the luggage compartments, but the trains are hardly ever on time. Does that mean the dabbawalas also face delays in their delivery? Never! They have made a commitment to timely delivery, and they make sure they keep their word. Dabbawalas believe that if they miss lunch hours, then clients will go without food. Dr. Agrawal explained that at times housewives pack their husbands’ medicines along with the lunchbox. If the delivery is not on time and something happens, the dabbawalas would feel responsible.

Time management. Dabbawalas believe that since they can’t control the train schedules, they have to follow strict discipline to make timely deliveries. A dabbawala works for eight to nine hours a day, which includes a three-hour period of so-called “war time” in the morning. This is because they have to adhere to the lunch timings of the offices of their clients and make timely deliveries no matter what happens. During their hectic nine-hour workday, dabbawalas only get 20 minutes to eat their lunches while their clients finish their meals.

Strong, experienced leadership. Each area is divided into several small distribution sectors, and each sector is handled by a person known as a mukadam (group leader). The elder-most member of the group gets the job of the mukadam, which comes with no extra pay, but the management of 12 to 14 other dabbawalas and an opportunity to lead the men in white. Many new employees work for months under the guidance of their seniors.

It’s all about work and customer. Dabbawalas charge around $10 per month per customer. They will only charge customers for the months of service, and not if they take a month-long vacation. Since their inception in 1890, the dabbawalas have never had a police case or legal dispute in court. They didn’t go on a workers’ strike until as recently as 2011, and that was for one day to support a movement against corruption and not to make personal demands, which is the case with most labor union strikes. Apart from their salary, dabbawalas expect one month’s salary as an extra ‘Diwali bonus,’ but they will neither complain nor quit their services if their customers deny them the bonus. When Prince Charles visited India in 2003, he wanted to meet the legendary dabbawalas. The dabbawalas agreed, but only if he would meet them between 11:20 a.m and 11:40 a.m. in front of the railway station when they were eating lunch and temporarily free from their duties.

Trust. On payday many clients keep their salaries in their lunch boxes, which are safely delivered home by the dabbawalas, in order to avoid the risk of pickpocketing on local trains. Dabbawalas add value in other ways. In one story I read, a dabbawala recounts this tale of a feuding couple: “The husband left in a rage for the office. I collected the lunchbox from his wife as usual and delivered it to the husband. When the husband opened the box, he found a letter which read, ‘I am sorry. Don’t be angry and please eat your food. I love you.’ Now the husband had turned from one angry young man to one hungry young man. He finished his food and kept two movie tickets in the lunchbox along with a letter that read, ‘I am sorry and I love you too.’ That’s why I believe that we dabbawalas don’t carry just food. At times we also carry love.” Dabbawalas have built brand loyalty and trust in Mumbai society.

Corporate social responsibility. ‘Share My Dabba’ is a dabbawala initiative that gives leftover lunch food to the underprivileged. Clients with little red share stickers on their lunchboxes participate in this community program. Roti Bank is another dabbawala initiative to address food waste at big events like marriages and at restaurants. Dabbawalas collect excess food and make sure it reaches the needy.

I’m excited to have explored the Mumbai dabbawala business model so deeply. Their work ethic and operational efficiency provide timeless lessons for success in business and entrepreneurship. Sometimes the greatest messages of strength, character, quality and perseverance come from the most unlikely places. The men in white are in many ways role models for the next generation of workers.

This article was originally published by Knowledge@Wharton High School. Reproduced here with permission.


For more wisdom from high-school students, click on the links below!
What does it take to be a topper? Q&A with Shivang Singh
ISC topper from Mumbai shares the secret of his success and some advice
Learning to embrace the impractical and think more creatively
Why I worry about President Trump’s exit from the Paris Agreement
Advice from a girl who worked hard and got to choose between an Ivy League offer and a full scholarship
A taste of what it’s like to study at The Wharton School

How Trump’s election has affected my application decision

How a summer program made me fall in love with a university

31 Aug

I must admit, when I first signed up for the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy (GYLA) at the University of Pennsylvania, I wasn’t expecting to make any serious, long-term connections with anybody there. Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from the program. Given that GYLA is an international program, I knew there would be great diversity within the group. With everybody being from such different cultures, I was nervous that I would not be able to connect with others. Yet, by the end of the program, I found myself having trouble fighting back the emotions as I hugged my friends goodbye. That was when I stood there and took a moment to reflect upon what had happened in the past two weeks.

It is amazing how people can make such an impression on you without you even realizing it. To my great surprise, I was able to connect exceptionally well with the other students. This program gathered some of the best and brightest young minds from around the world, and it turned out to be a pleasure to network with them. Everybody had a story behind them. These stories showed me what youth nowadays are capable of. Being able to bounce ideas off of such inspiring individuals, and to build relationships with them, was just a wonderful experience. Even now, much after the program, I am still in touch with many of them.

As the program is led and run by Knowledge@Wharton High School, four UPenn students stayed with our group for the whole time, as our advisors. Over the two weeks, I was able to build relationships with not only my fellow students but also these advisors. Thanks to them, I learned about student life at UPenn – one of my dream schools – and saw it through a new lens. I learned about the values of the school, and about some long-standing traditions like throwing toast at its sports matches. Those quirky details only made me fall in love with the school even more.

Of course, I also gained first-hand experience of what being a student at Penn is like. The opportunity to be immersed in The Wharton School’s environment and culture is perhaps the most valuable part of this experience.

The part of this program that I appreciated the most was the lectures by teachers in or around UPenn. In those two weeks, we learned a massive amount about innovation, international business, and entrepreneurship, just to name a few things. As a student who goes to a school that doesn’t offer a lot of business courses, I found these lectures extremely beneficial.

Apart from the lectures, GYLA gave me the opportunity to connect and communicate with the professors after class, many of whom have truly inspiring stories behind them. Talking to them really made me re-evaluate my life as well as my future.

I just want to say a huge thank you to all the teachers who took time out of their summer to come in and speak to us. You made a deep impact on me and many others, and I deeply appreciate it.

In the background of all this, we were continuously working on a project. At the beginning of the program, we were challenged to create a business plan for a company that will solve a problem in the world. I’m not going to lie, because we were all strong leaders, there were conflicts within the group. Yet, I for one am a strong believer in beneficial conflict. Although we had our ups and downs along the way, in the end, with compromise and a lot of hard work, we really came together as a team and pulled off a presentation that I was proud to take part in.


Posted by KWHS Wharton Summer School on Friday, August 4, 2017

Session D: Final Business Plan Presentation Winners

This may sound cliché, but in the end, when they announced us the winner in the business plan competition, I felt like all the work was worth it.

Lastly, I want to say thank you to BrainGain Magazine and Knowledge@Wharton High School for working tirelessly to make the program happen. It was a truly inspiring experience that made a lasting imprint on me. It opened my eyes, gave me a first-hand experience of the Penn culture, and made me fall in love with the school.


By Megan Zhu

Megan is 16 years old, and studies at Victoria Park Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Canada. She participated in the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, in the summer of 2017.