Anju Bhatia (IE-SMU MBA, 2017) has lived a life less ordinary. By her own admission, she has "moved sixteen times and lived in four countries". A woman of the world coupled with a thirst for lifelong learning, she has worked in the banking industry, seen extreme poverty, actively aided the sick, the underpriviledged, downtrodden, marginalized communities through myriad charities or projects she initiated on her own, and embarked on an MBA*. On top of everything else, she juggles the demands of motherhood! Read on about this inspiring alumna who strives to better the lives of others, as well as wanting to learn and expose herself to new things, cultures and knowledge, no matter which part of the globe she is in.
*In partnership with IE Business School in Madrid, SMU launched the IE-SMU MBA in 2014.
Hi Anju! Tell us more about yourself; where did you study for your undergraduate degree? Upon graduation, what did you do?
I grew up in a small, very conversative city in North India. By the age of 21, girls in my family typically got married after attaining their college degrees. However, while pursuing my undergraduate programme in Commerce in India, I got selected in an exchange program and worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Calgary, Canada, for a year. When I came back to India and finished my degree, I started working in the banking industry.
What inspired you to sign up for the IE-SMU MBA programme?
I quit my full time job to become a homemaker raising my two gorgeous kids who are now fourteen and ten. My husband’s work relocated us to Thailand and now in Philippines. In spite of being an active social worker and learning multiple languages like Español, French, Thai and Tagalog, I felt a misfit when I interacted with the corporate world. I joined the IE-SMU MBA to fill this gap and attain my confidence while not compromising on what I was doing.
(Anju, center front row, with her IE-SMU MBA classmates during their stint in Spain)
The IE-SMU MBA programme requires a segment of the study to be in Spain briefly. How was that like? What was the biggest takeaway from this programme?
I enjoyed every moment of the IE-SMU MBA programme except one or two of the exams, haha!
The constant interaction with my peers on the online discussion forums, understanding different cultures, perspectives of different industries was very illuminating. We kicked off the programme in IE Madrid, Spain, and in spite of insane pressure, managed to have a blast inside and outside the campus. The diverse case studies in the program gave me an amazing perspective of the corporate world. The accompanying academic knowledge of the IE-SMU MBA programme and correlating it with the cases was very insightful. I got the opportunities of meeting some very passionate and energetic professors. The icing on the cake was the lifelong friendships with my peers from across the world.
(Anju with her family at her IE-SMU MBA graduation in 2017)
What inspires you to actively volunteer aiding underprivileged children in Manila, families living in slum areas, disaster victims, victims of child trafficking and women in prison?
Growing up in India, I had exposure to extreme poverty. The feeling of gratitude that I felt ignited passion to help others. As a student, I started volunteering at the ‘Missionaries of Charity’, an institution started by Mother Theresa. When we relocated to Thailand, I started teaching English to boys who were rescued from human trafficking. Working to uplift the women was always a passion which led me to work with inmates at the women prison in Thailand. I befriended few prisoners and inspired them to make the right choices in life. I also volunteered at the immigration centre in Thailand where there were lot of women refugees and I counselled them. Additionally, I facilitated other volunteers with translations as most refugees did not speak English. I also helped looking after abandoned women suffering with cerebral palsy. My husband’s work brought us to The Philippines. I witnessed unimaginable poverty here where even leftover food is collected from garbage bins and is recycled. Since I am against handing out charity, and am a firm believer that education is a strong tool in moving forward, I had initiated a project called 'Back To School', raising funds and sending underprivileged children to schools.
(Anju with boys rescued from human trafficking in Thailand)
You currently reside in The Philippines - it must not be easy living in a foreign land?
In my lifetime, I have moved sixteen times and lived in four different countries all over the world. To put it simply, I thrive on it! It is extremely interesting to meet different people from different cultures. Yes, it's challenging and you have to start your life from scratch. Your career suffers too. However, the personal growth is phenomenal. I have learnt discipline from Germans, patriotism from Thais, contentment and happiness from Filipinos, love for food from Italians.. the list is endless. This is my third year in Philippines and I am anxiously waiting for our next move.
SMU recently announced that all undergraduate students from the graduating Class of 2022 must have completed an overseas exposure stint at least once. In your own opinion, how can we encourage students to participate in such overseas activities (e.g. exchange programme, overseas study missions, overseas internships, overseas community service programmes etc.)?
In my opinion, overseas exposure is a must for undergrads and even postgrad students. I am extremely impressed with SMU for putting this as a stipulation for graduation. Education is not only about academics, but also about evolving all aspects at a personal level. Students need to understand that evolution can be highly facilitated by global exposure. Our interaction beyond our comfort zone makes us versatile and also very resilient in the dynamic world we live in. I also feel that videos and live testimonials from alumni will greatly help in motivating current students to desire some form of global exposure!
Cool! We'll be tapping on you for a video testimonial! (kidding!) What’s next for you on the personal or professional front?
This is a very tough question. We are expecting our next move anytime soon. I have a personal motto of living in the present and giving it my hundred percent. I am currently raising funds to buy a steriliser for baby-feeding bottles for a human milk bank run by a maternity hospital for the under-privileged. I am a life coach and am coaching two inmates from the Manila prison. I enjoy raising my two kids very much and my evenings are devoted to their homework and learning about all the wonderful things they are being taught.
(Anju with children from her feeding programme in The Philippines)
Last updated on 15 Apr 2018 .