2022 MBA To Watch: Nidhish Balaga, Imperial College – Poets&Quants

“Optimistic individual committed to drive a positive change in the world through problem solving.”
Hometown: Cape Town, South Africa
Fun fact about yourself: If you’re in London, you may occasionally find me singing as I stroll with friends on a Saturday night across places such as Leicester Square and Carnaby Street. This vibrant city brings out the best in me! You can’t help but sing your heart out.
Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Cape Town, Bachelor’s in Quantitative Finance and Analytics
Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?
Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? I started my Full-Time MBA journey at Imperial College Business School in September 2021. Prior to this, I was working full-time for Allan Gray Ltd and was a member of the reporting committee board of ASISA (Association of Savings and Investments South Africa)

Where will you be working after graduation? I am still completing my studies, but I’m currently interested in strategy-based roles within Asset Management and Fintech.
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I’m involved in several clubs within Imperial College London such as Algorithmic Trading, TEDx, Astronomy, Finance Club, and other sports related pursuits such as Squash and Badminton. I am currently participating in the inter-university mock investment challenge which involves applying investment strategies to maximise returns for a portfolio in a one-month simulated environment against students from universities across the UK.
I’m also a Student Content Creator for the Business School, covering a variety of topics relating to the key experiences at Imperial.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While I’m proud of achieving my academic goals and averaging well for a degree with distinction, including strong scores in Finance and Economics, I’m most proud about working on co-founding a business with my highly capable fellow cohort member and friend, Gaurav Mehndiratta, on an idea to make student financing simpler and more affordable for exceptional individuals within emerging markets seeking to pursue an education in the UK.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My biggest satisfaction has come from developing my junior analysts and mentees into high impact individuals within their respective roles. It is incredibly satisfying to help them convert their gaps or inexperience into strengths and help them drive valuable changes within business.
I’m also personally proud of contributing towards better reporting standards across South African Financial firms in my time at ASISA based on some of the requirements for data collection of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).
Lastly, I’m grateful to my previous employer, Allan Gray Ltd, through which I had the opportunity to work on key product changes that remove the burden of legacy systems, which in large financial institutions usually requires a lengthy and often complicated process. Examples of this include reconstructing corporate actions and implementing new systems to create better omni-channel efficiencies.
Why did you choose this business school? Simple – diversity and entrepreneurial focus.

Imperial College Business school attracts some of the brightest, yet humble minds from a variety of regions across the globe. In my current cohort alone, I can learn from individuals from Columbia, Mexico, USA, Japan, China, Malaysia, Greece, India, Nigeria, Thailand, Australia, Peru and more.
Entrepreneurially, Imperial houses a great support mechanism and drive for innovation, especially having been recognised for its STEM capabilities. Students have the opportunity to collaborate with individuals across various programmes and make use of spaces such as ‘hackspace’ which houses a variety of tools, 3D printers and more for students to flesh out their ideas. Given that I’m a strong believer of the philosophy of being entrepreneurially-minded even within organisations, this presented a great learning opportunity for me while I do my MBA.
What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favourite would be the upcoming Global Experience Week that is scheduled as part of the Imperial Full-Time MBA. The Global Experience Week involves our whole cohort going overseas and working in teams applying all the skills acquired thus far in solving a consulting-based problem that is related to the strategic themes of the school. This year, the theme involves energy and sustainability. This reflects the school’s aim to provide global exposure to its students and an opportunity to learn how to apply the skills acquired in solving problems relevant to the world.
The Imperial Innovation Week Challenge. This Full-Time MBA event takes place for one week, whereby teams of MBA students in collaboration with the Royal School of Arts work on fleshing out business ideas using an available set of deep technology ideas currently within Imperial’s innovation hub. Students can work with deep-tech founders and learn about how they can use one week to accelerate some of the technology commercialization process. This reflects a core part of our Business School – innovation!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? “Time flies” – I have never felt how quickly time passes by as I have in the MBA programme. If given a second chance, I would spend more time with my amazing cohort. I will never forget the brilliant minds with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work. We respect each other, support one another, create long-lasting friendships and work on innovative ideas together. I will certainly miss the cohort when we pursue our respective goals post MBA.
What is the biggest myth about your school?
Myth: “Imperial is only STEM focused”.
Reality: While Imperial’s strong suit is STEM, it also offers a strong faculty and opportunities linked to other industries, especially Finance.
What surprised you the most about business school?The extent of support structures available to help students with their specific journeys craft their own path for success. The Business School has a splendid Programme team that I personally rate 11/10 on all aspects, a dedicated Careers team to help you boost your career goals, and an incredibly helpful alumni network that is invested in your success.
What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? In my application, I focused on my personal journey and clearly articulated why an MBA is useful to me and what I bring to the class. In an application pool of candidates where everybody has high GMAT scores and strong academics and work experience, your personal story is the unique differentiator and being genuine goes a long way.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It is very difficult to choose only one, as I admire many of my classmates, especially my syndicate group which constitutes of some of the most talented members I’ve met.
However, I am always awed by the parents of our class who are managing the pressures of a full-time MBA programme and the needs of their children. All of them excel academically and are involved in many initiatives within the school. An example classmate I’d name is Varsha Danthuluri.
Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father was a key influence in my decision. Being my father was an MBA himself and my mentor, I am always inspired by his ability to think strategically. I also further picked up that the senior executives I admired the most for their ability to think at my previous place of work possessed an MBA and had acquired the skill to use it effectively. Hence began my journey to pursue an MBA.
What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? The first is to be in a position where I can craft organisational strategy and provide direction that will generate long term benefits for the company and society at large. The second is to cultivate entrepreneurial thinking within organisations to drive innovation in a rapidly changing world.
How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? While the pandemic has had costly impacts on businesses (especially SMEs) and has taken a personal toll on families impacted by COVID, it has also accelerated the need for businesses to be more rapidly adaptable to change and has sparked a great opportunity for e-commerce. Given the rapid change of the world, I don’t think this type of change will be isolated to the pandemic alone and in a world where such rapid change will become the new constant, strong leadership will become essential and individuals will move to a mindset of managing skillsets that allow them to pivot to areas of adding value than a mindset that wishes to manage one selected career.
What made Nidish such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?
“Nidhish Balaga is an exceptional student in many ways. Coming from South Africa, he provides a very interesting perspective on how business operates. He was a delight to have in the two finance classes that he took with me. His questions and comments were always insightful and useful contributions.
I have also interacted with him outside class. He is involved in a project to develop a Non-Fungible Token Index that can be used as the basis for an investment vehicle. I was very happy to agree to be the academic advisor for this. I have also spoken to him about another project. This involves developing loans for people from emerging countries to undertake advanced degrees. The key feature of these is that repayment is based on a percentage of income rather than a fixed amount. This project is not part of the MBA, but is something they are pursuing because they perceive a need.
I have no hesitation in recommending Nidhish for the P&Q Best and Brightest MBAs.”
Professor Franklin Allen
Professor of Finance and Economics
Vice Dean of Research and Faculty
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