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Meet the Indian who won top honours at Brain Triathlon Challenge 2011

Last updated on: August 8, 2011 11:20 IST

Meet the Indian who won top honours at Brain Triathlon Challenge 2011

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Divya Nair talks to Harshvardhan Shah who recently finished third at the Brain Triathlon Challenge 2011 in Singapore.

Harshvardhan Shah, a second year IB student from Chinmaya International Residential School, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu was the second runner up at the Brain Triathlon Challenge 2011 organised by S P Jain Center of Management in June this year.

Shah shared the honour with Jeffrey Wang of Shanghai High School, China (winner), and Peerakarn Manakit (first runner up) from Concordian International School, Thailand.

In its first year of inception, the Triathlon challenge is an annual contest for International Baccalaureate students worldwide conceptualised by S P Jain Center of Management that aims to test potential students for their business management skills.

Shah who competed against students from 11 different countries including UK, USA, Australia, India, China, Singapore and Qatar was also the only Indian to make it to the top.

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Image: Harshvardhan Shah

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'I was holidaying when I got a call'

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How does it feel being the only Indian winner? Did you expect it?

It feels great. But I did not expect to win at all. I was just plain lucky to clear the initial round.

In fact, I did not know about the contest at all. We were asked to write an essay on the lines of 'How can education help today's young generation cope with the business environment'. We were given 30 minutes for that.

I was holidaying when I got a call from the authorities informing me that I had qualified for the second round. I was not even expecting a call.

What were the various rounds of the competition? How many students had participated along with you?

The first was the qualifying round where students from IB schools across the continents had to send in their entries. 20 students from my school had participated.

The competition judged us on three key skill areas.

We had to write an essay, which tested us for our business analytical skills. Then there were a set of questions that evaluated our logic and reasoning skills. The third section was dedicated to general awareness where we were quizzed about current affairs and events.

I was selected among the 29 finalists for the second round, where we had to go through the same process, this time facing a different subject for essay and more difficult questions in other sections.

The final round in which eight finalists participated took place at Singapore, where I finished third.

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'I had never seen a business boardroom in my life before'

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What were the most challenging areas of the competition?

The difficulty level for each section increased as we moved closer to the finals.

In the second round, we were asked to write an essay explaining three universal skills an organisation should have that will make it an internationally approved organisation.

My suggestions were environmental awareness, identification of local culture and adherence to it and financial integrity, which ensures that they are aware of the market trends and are financially equipped to meet the demands of necessary resources.

However, in the final round, we were given an essay, which was written by a renowned professor from the University of Michigan who contradicted the purpose of our essay in the last round. In fact his essay explained about the futility of corporate social responsibility.

We had to deliver a presentation that analysed the essay and explained the loopholes. Since it was written by an expert it was difficult to come up with logical explanations (to counter it).

Besides, we had to present our findings to an elite panel of judges, who were the best in the business. It was a challenging task.

I had never seen a business boardroom in my life before. And here I was dressed in a casual t-shirt and shorts presenting my findings before a group of business directors who were in smart suits.

Initially, I was nervous, but as soon as I started talking, the nervousness gave way. The experience of facing the jury gave us newfound confidence.

What did you learn from the competition?

It (gave me) great exposure and I got to interact with students from different countries. In the four days that we were in Singapore, we became good friends, we got to exchange our ideas and learn new things from each other.

Also, participating in the contest was a great experience. I learnt to make business presentations and how to effectively present my views and communicate my thoughts on paper and through words.

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Image: Harshvardhan interacting with a fellow student at the competition

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'My dream is to work at Wall Street some day'

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Tell us about your Singapore experience. What did you do there?

We were in Singapore for four days. For two days, we were busy with the competition. The other two days, I went sight-seeing.

Singapore is a great place for tourists. I quite liked the city planning; the roads are so clean and well maintained. Even the people are very hospitable.

How did your parents and teachers react to your achievement?

All my teachers at school were very supportive throughout. As all doting fathers are, my father congratulated me, at the same time also advised me to do better next time.

What did your friends have to say about it?

Of course, they are very happy and feel proud about my achievement. Some of them have also demanded a treat from me (laughs).

What books do you read?

I love reading autobiographies. I also update myself about business trends by reading magazines like Fortune and books by Jack Welch.

What are your hobbies and interests?

I am an extrovert and I love taking part in extra curricular activities. I love playing football and watching English movies. The Godfather is my favourite movie.

What are your career goals?

I would like to pursue my masters in Business Management. But I'm not sure whether I should major in Marketing or Finance. My dream is to work at Wall Street some day.

What suggestions would you like to offer to young graduates in India?

(Laughs) I have just won a competition. I don't think I have achieved anything extraordinary, but yes, I would suggest my friends to realise their goals and work hard towards achieving them.

The competition is getting tough by the day, and you need to be ready to face the world. Networking skills are very important for a business student. Also, you need to read and brush your knowledge about what's happening around you.

I have always believed in the saying 'Remember to work hard to achieve what you love, otherwise you will be forced to love what you get'.

Image: Harsh (4th from left in the lower row) with the 8 finalists who qualified for the final round

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