Changing Horizons: On Harsha Desai, Ph.D.

Awais Akbar, MBA '08, on Harsha Desai, Ph.D.

April 2, 2012
Desai and Akbar

In 2006 Awais Akbar was working in residential property management in Baltimore and feeling he wasn’t getting anywhere. He quit his job, enrolled in Loyola’s MBA program, and decided to focus on international business.

One day while he was on Loyola’s website, he saw something about an inaugural field study trip to India. Even though Akbar was just in his first semester and taking core classes, he contacted Harsha Desai, Ph.D., professor of management and international business, who was leading the trip to a country Akbar had never seen. “It’s an emerging market,” he remembers thinking. “How can I possibly be a part of this?”

Desai also helped Akbar get the approval to participate in the field study, but make connections with a professor in India so Akbar could serve for two months in an internship there before the trip.

“He inspired me to take the risk, to see something new,” Akbar said. “I spent essentially seven weeks in India doing a case study of a start-up company, meeting an entrepreneur who was starting this company, trying to get an understanding of the challenges that they were facing—challenges with their labor, quality issues with their products, branding, all of these issues they were trying to work out. Beyond that, I really learned how business is done in India.”

Then Akbar joined the field study, traveling to Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Bangalore, and Mumbai and meeting with business executives there.

“That trip was really an eye-opener. That opportunity changed my horizon. He said, ‘Take a leap. Go outside your comfort zone,’” said Akbar, who completed his MBA in international business and marketing in 2008. “It really broadened my knowledge.”

Today, Akbar works as project manager for business development and strategic alliance for Johns Hopkins Medicine International in Baltimore. He has stayed in touch with Desai and still turns to him for advice. And he often reflects on how the internship Desai created for him in India opened his eyes. “It was a transformational experience.”

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