Manali is from Mumbai, India and studied business administration and international relations at the University of Southern California.

Full Name: Manali Purohit
Age: 26
Degree Program: Master of International Affairs
Concentration: Economic and Political Development
Anticipated Graduation Year: Spring 2018
Hometown: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Undergraduate University: Univ Southern California
Undergraduate Major: Business Administration & International Relations
Undergraduate Graduation Year: 2011

What’s your professional background? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

After graduating from USC (University of Southern California) in  Business Administration & International Relations  in 2011, I interned with a micro-finance start-up – InVenture – based out of Santa Monica. I learned that micro-credit was not doing enough to help existing micro-businesses in developing countries (such as India) become scalable enough to expand beyond sole proprietorships. I grew more passionate about helping small businesses access financial, social and intellectual capital necessary to scale up and drive local growth. Upon returning to India in 2012, I joined CRISIL (a subsidiary of Standard & Poor’s) as an associate in their Institutional SME Department. Here, I prepared extensive due diligence and credit rating reports for small and medium enterprises to help them access formal credit facilities. Since 2014, I have been working with Teach For India in their National Alumni Team where I’ve had the opportunity to prepare case studies on Alumni, several of whom are trying to address socio-economic challenges faced by those in low-income communities.

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What are you currently doing at SIPA (School of International and Public Affairs)?

Iam doing my Masters in International Affairs at SIPA focusing on Economic and Political Development.

Did you apply to SIPA to change careers or to gain experience in a career path you already have experience in?

A little bit of both. My undergraduate degree and professional experience so far have helped build my understanding of several challenges (cultural and financial) encountered by small and medium enterprises. Most of my work rested on providing existing ways to access flexible capital to help micro-small businesses grow; capital that they could not currently access. I haven’t really thought about the system as a whole, finding newer and more innovative solutions to provide such capital and learn more about why this kind of capital didn’t exist. Through my education at SIPA, I will be able to delve deeper into some of these questions, understand more about the system from a global perspective, look for more innovative ways to support small business entrepreneurs (especially women) and eventually work with an organization such as Women’s World Banking.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted to SIPA?

My only regret is that I didn’t know how to cartwheel because I absolutely would have. I read the word “accepted” and started making frantic calls to all my close friends and family members. The confetti blast on my computer screen was such a nice touch!

Why did you say “yes” to SIPA?

One of the main highlights for me is the school’s location in New York City, which is not only one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world but also a hub of international development organizations. Plus, I had the opportunity to interact with several of SIPA’s Alumni during my application process and they all had great things to say about the school, the program, the city and their classmates. One of them sent me a beautiful, hand-written post card too!

What do you most look forward to as a graduate student at SIPA?

Making new friends from all over the world and being in a learning environment where the class sizes are small. I learned that there are about 42 SIPA student groups, and they host 12-15 events each week which is quite exciting. I’m also looking forward to living in NYC.

Do you have any apprehensions about starting graduate school?

Not so much with regard to the school and the program, per se but I haven’t experienced an east coast winter before and I definitely haven’t encountered snowfall. I’ve heard that winters in New York can be quite challenging so that’s one of my biggest apprehensions right now. In fact, the biggest tip one of my close friends gave me was around selecting an apartment building that has laundry facilities because walking a few blocks in the winter just to do laundry can be frustrating.

What are you doing currently?

Iam a Project Manager at East West Management Institute where i Serve as the focal point within the organization for assigned countries and programs, liaising with all departments in the HQ to provide support and ensure successful program implementation. I Prepare subgrants to local organizations, draft consulting agreements with international experts,track expenditures against budgets, ensure compliance with donor rules and regulations and document program accomplishments.

My career goal is to find ways to counter barriers to women’s greater participation in the financial sector and focus on building opportunities for women in the developing world. I’d really like to work with Women’s World Banking upon graduation.

If you could change one small thing about your community, country or the world, what would it be?

One of the most gut-wrenching books I’ve read this year is called Ash in the Belly which describes India’s hunger problem. I learned that the real challenge isn’t lack of food but making food consistently available to everyone who needs it. So if I could change one thing about the world, it would be towards the efficient allocation of surplus food (from restaurants and homes, for instance) to the lesser fortunate sections of society.

Tell us something interesting about yourself:

I am a self-taught baker and have been one of the top 25 food reviewers on Zomato (India’s equivalent of Yelp). My love of writing aside, this can be attributed to two reasons: One, I grew up watching a lot of travel & living TV shows. Two, I spent most of my life living in metropolises like Mumbai and Los Angeles and had the good fortune of sampling foods from around the world. One of my latent desires is to own and operate a dessert food truck someday.