“Everybody was seeing my disability, but I was focused on my ability” – Nitesh Pasari, ISB ’19

Nitesh Pasari

(Admin Note – We treat client confidentiality very seriously but since we think this is a story worth sharing widely,  we received special permission from Nitesh  Pasari to post it on our website. The interaction was conducted over email and highlights in text below are his.

 To offer context, Nitesh battles a rare genetic syndrome everyday but hasn’t let that interfere with his life plans. Among his various achievements, he has:

– designed his own wheel chair

– fought tuberculosis in his spine

– worked at both Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank in India pre his MBA

– gained admission to Indian School of Business (ISB) (with a scholarship) and his presence made their  Hyderabad campus more wheelchair friendly

– achieved top rank among 450 students

– gained offers for full time position from Mckinsey and Bain both)


Transcript of an interview by Deepak Punwani (Managing Director and Principal Consultant – MBA4India) with Nitesh below.

1) When did you first start to think of getting an MBA?

The thought of an MBA started after seeing so many entrepreneurs in my family. Seeing some of my close ones struggle to adapt to a changing business environment motivated me to gain a formal business education at some point in time. During my college days I had two options, either to try my luck with CAT or to appear for CA examination. After a lot of introspection and talking to several people in my network I realized work experience is of utmost importance to gain the full benefit of a course like MBA. Hence I decided to pursue CA first and then go for an MBA after gaining at least 3 years of work-ex.

2) What did you think was the biggest challenge in your profile for a top MBA?

 I want to break this down into two parts, one from application front and other from personal front. From an application point of view, since I was already a CA and CFA(US), had ~4 years of work ex from two bulge bracket investment banks, had volunteered for causes I was passionate about, my profile was quite diverse and competitive so all I had to do was to focus on getting a good GMAT score.

The main challenge was on the personal front. Due to a rare medical condition I have certain limitation around mobility. Therefore while applying for any top global b-schools I had to consider various factors such as wheelchair accessibility in school, probability of getting visa for my Indian care-taker, probability of getting a caretaker in foreign country and several other permutations and combinations for which there was no direct answer or support.

3) So, I know firsthand that you have faced many challenges.  Overcoming which of these challenges was the toughest and gives you greatest sense of satisfaction when you look back today?

After passing Class X board examination, I got an infection in the spinal cord. Doctors said that I may go blind or be half paralyzed. That day, I was devastated. I started to question my existence asking myself,” why am I even alive?”. However, it was my mother who gave a second meaning to my life. I still remember asking my mother – “why me, will I ever be able to get out this bed and run?” I remember my mother saying to me that “Nitesh you may not be able to run but you will fly”.

God has a greater plan for you. I don’t know what it is. But he surely has. And all in that distress and grief, mom’s those words were so magical that they kept me going. I decided that even if there is the slightest hope to recover, I will make that happen. I ate all the right kind of food, exercised regularly, read positive books and then magic happened. I finally got out of bed but had lost the independence to walk.  I was still relieved to come out of the 4 corners of that one room. Everybody was seeing my disability, but I was focused on my ability, my academic abilities to transcend physical limitations.

Coming this far from a stage where I was almost fighting for my life gives me an immense amount of satisfaction and reinforces my belief that we as individuals need to focus more on our abilities than our dis-abilities.

4) When people doubt your ability to do something, what is the first thought that crosses your mind?

This question is quite tricky! But I will try my best to answer it. To be very honest initially I used to get frustrated and angry when people used to judge or doubt my ability based on my disability. But over time and experience I have learned that most people in this world are good and their opinions are simply a reflection of what they have seen, so whenever I get misjudged I take it as my own responsibility to show them something which they have not seen, not through the words but through my actions.

5) How do you know whom to trust?

This is again very tricky question. This cannot be answered without answering ‘to do what’? Just like we rely on economist to give advice on general economy outlook, authority to decide whether a person is guilty or not, similarly I tend to rely on the credibility of my instincts to decide whether or not to trust an individual. This is very subjective but with enough experience I think one can develop a powerful instinct to make a right choice most of the time. So when I first interacted with you and MBA4India I knew intuitively that it was kind of firm I wanted to work with and that trust has been reinforced over a period of time (Admin Notethis feedback is highly cherished by us, but we also know that Nitesh is being very generous ).

6) How you maintain a calm composure all the time?

I would not say that I am able to maintain a calm composure all the time :), but yes most of the time I try to stay calm and composed and the secret to that is 80-20 rule a.k.a. Pareto Principle. I break all the events in my life into controllable and non-controllable events and irrespective of the situation, I only focus on things which I can control/influence and tend put all my focus or energy into that thereby leading to reduced stress and more happiness.

7) How did it feel to be on ISB Dean’s list, merit list, getting a merit-based scholarship and a prestigious ISB Torchbearer Award?

Nothing gives more pleasure than being rewarded for all the hard work you put in. Getting into a prestigious business school like ISB and getting an opportunity to complete my MBA was itself a dream come true. And  these awards were just a cherry on top. After getting rejected from almost every school I applied to in 2018, I never thought that my fate would give me such wonderful gifts.

8) How did it feel to have all 3 big consulting firms fight for your attention?

This was a completely exhilarating experience, something that I would have never dreamt also. I would be happy if only one of those firms would have offered me a role but receiving an offer from two prestigious firms and not being able to interview for third one due to paucity of time was beyond my imagination.

When I was admitted to the school, few people from the admission committee doubted my ability to get placed. I consider myself blessed that through my actions I was able to change their belief and prove that a person is not disabled by physical limitations but by their own attitude.

9) What is your long-term goal?

Professionally, I would like to grow organically as a consultant and gradually move towards becoming a venture capitalist and on a more social level, I want to inspire more of people like me to fight the odds and make India a more accessible country to live in

10) Do you think B school recruitment process is the best it can be?

During my orientation week at ISB, one of the survey result showed that 70% of the students quit their first job after graduating within 9 months to a year and the story was same across most schools.  This shows that most students at B-schools end up taking a job that they didn’t want. Or that  they were merely doing it to mark time, save some money and pay off their educational loans, before taking the plunge into something that they really cared about.

It’s high time now the media and other stakeholder move beyond  B-school placement record and starting packages and focus more on creating an eco-system where we talk about not just building personalized career plans, but also how to live a life of authenticity – free of masks, poses and pretense.

11) What do you know now that you would have liked to have known before starting at ISB?

ISB has a very rich set of faculty members  who visit the campus from across different countries. Though I was aware of this fact before joining, the relevance of it became only clearer after experiencing their  classes. Today after having graduated from school I have added in my network at least 30-40 different professors covering different subject areas- something which I can treasure all my life.

12) What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

As Steve Jobs rightly mentioned “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward” I have seen this quote manifesting in my life time and again. As a 20-year-old it very easy to get overwhelmed with setbacks and disappointment at various stages but the key is always to be fearless and focus on your actions and not on the results-

To quote a verse from Vedic text Bhagavad Gita

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 47 ||

Translation – You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.

(Bhagavad Gita | Chapter 2 | Verse 47)

(Admin NoteThanks Nitesh for sharing your insights and sprinkles of wisdom! We believe your story is still in its initial chapters. Over time, we hope it will play out on much bigger stages and in the process inspire many more people just like it has inspired us !)

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