Himanshu Kataria overcame the prejudices of the Indian caste system to make an unbelievable academic journey. Now he's ready for the next barrier-breaking stage in his career as a lifelong dream comes true. Himanshu is a recipient of the prestigious MBA scholarship awarded by utbildning.se, part of Educations Media Group - EMG.
As a teenager, Himanshu dreamed about pursuing higher education. Fascinated by the foreign university's shiny application form, he sat in the parents' home in Delhi, India, and made plans to one day earn an MBA. There was only one problem. His family belongs to Dalit, a social group where a higher academic education is almost unthinkable.
"As Dalit, you are despised and discriminated against by other communities. Future prospects are often limited to working with cattle, cleaning, funerary services and other professions considered unclean by the higher classes, says Himanshu.
Although the caste system has been officially banned in India for many years, the prejudices are still deeply rooted in society, and today the Dalits are considered among many Indians as untouchables in some areas of India.
Discriminated against by teachers
Nevertheless, education has been valued in Himanshu's family where his parents, both of whom were university educated, encouraged their two daughters and son to continue on the same path.
''Education is the only way to have a place in this society. My parents knew that. If they had not been educated they would have probably stayed in their small village, and I would most likely have grown up to become a buffalo herder just like my cousins.''
For Himanshu, it was clear early on that he wanted to become an engineer, just like one of his sisters. But the path towards his goal would be long and fraught with adversity. During his four-year engineering studies, he encountered teachers who actively discriminated against him by rejecting his tests and trying to tell him that he was not sufficiently intelligent or suitable as an engineer because of his background.
How did you struggle with such resistance?
"You know, the resistance actually just spurred me on! You say that I can't do it? I'll show you that I can! I refused to accept the perception that you have a worse functioning brain just because you were born into a certain social class.
A few years later, Himanshu took another big step in overcoming prejudice when he studied his Master's degree in Electronics and Electrical Engineering at Glasgow University in Scotland. In the summer of 2010 he came to Sweden to study Microelectronics and Applied Physics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.
He quickly learned about the polite Swedes and the cool climate, a welcome contrast to the 50-degree summers in Delhi. It was also here that he saw an advertisement for an MBA scholarship awarded annually by utbildning.se, Dagens Industri (a Swedish news organization) and Handelshögskolan (Stockholm School of Economics).
"I contacted the School of Economics directly to hear more about the application requirements and they advised me to get a little more work experience.
"I called my mom in Delhi and just cried"
Himanshu began working at IRnova in Kista in 2015, developing advanced infrared technology for the Swedish Armed Forces and commercial use. After just two years in the company, he was promoted to team leaders for engineers in the industrialization team. But he still had a dream of studying his MBA. His CEO encouraged him to focus on his dream and last spring he submitted his application to the MBA scholarship at the Stockholm School of Economics.
"I had already acquired all the highest academic education possible within my field, and now I had also gained more work experience. What I was missing was breadth and a deeper perspective. I think that more representatives at decision-makers level need to understand both the technology and the financial aspect, and at the same time think about it through a perspective of sustainability. I want to be that kind of leader and be able to make more rational and well-founded decisions.''
When Himanshu learned that he was the recipient of the MBA scholarship, and had won out over fierce competition, he broke down into tears.
''I almost never cry. Men from my culture 'shouldn't cry' but when I learned that I had won the scholarship, I called my mom in Delhi and just cried! It was such a big dream come true.
Are you proud of your journey?
"I feel very happy and grateful and know that my family is also proud of me. At the same time, I have difficulty showing it outward. I still carry some complexes from my childhood [EMG 13 - 1] that say "who do you think you are really?"
But instead of letting it hold him back, Himanshu has turned it into one of his biggest driving forces. In his field, he has already achieved a rare academic level compared with others from similar social classes.
"I have never sought to be better than anyone else, I just want to be treated equally. And to me, a key to equality is being at the same academic level.''
More Swedish than Indian
This summer he became Swedish citizen after living in Sweden for seven years. This was a big decision because it required him to give up his Indian citizenship. In January, 2018, Himanshu begins his long-awaited MBA studies at Stockholm School of Economics. The program, equivalent to one year of full-time studies, is spread across 18 months of teacher-led lessons and independent studies. This makes it possible for Himanshu to continue to work at IRnova.
With an MBA education, Himanshu hopes to drive his leadership to a higher level, both strategically and operationally. He plans to one day start his own company in advanced technology and also has a dream of being able to inspire and help more people from the lower social classes in India dare to invest in and educate themselves as engineers.
''I already have the ideas, now I will get the tools!''
Family: Girlfriend in Stockholm, parents and two older sisters in Delhi.
Background: Data Engineers Degree in India, Master in Electronics at University of Glasgow. Doctorate in Microelectronics and Applied Physics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.
Hobbies: Weight training, running, experimental Indian cooking, and singing.
Läser just nu: Corporate Finance - Theory & Practice by Aswath Damodaran.
About the MBA Scholarship
The scholarship is announced by Dagens industri, utbildning.se (part of Educations Media Group - EMG) and the Stockholm School of Economics.
The fellow student receives a paid place at MBA Executive Format at the School of Economics for a value of 465,000 SEK, approximately 55,000 USD.
The program lasts for 18 months and corresponds to one year of full-time studies. It consists of ten weeks of lessons and tutorials. All students are working professionals in parallel with their education. To apply, you must be a Dagens Industri subscriber, have at least one three-year academic degree and at least five years of relevant work experience.
The jury consists of Carl-Johan Bonnier, Chairman of Bonnier AB, Lotta Edling, Chief Editor of Dagens Industri, Mattias Säker, CEO of utbildning.se, Karin Wiström, Program Manager at the School of Economics MBA Program, and Lena Flykt-Rosén, Head of Operations, Telia Zone.