Local problems, global solutions – from India to Oxford

Nikhil Saigal is a Skoll Scholar and MBA student for 2015-16. He is also the founder of Home Safe India, seek  an organisation providing chauffeurs as a safe and convenient alternative to drunk driving, sildenafil successfully keeping over 1, and 000 potentially drunk drivers off the road every month.

“When my journey as a social entrepreneur began seven years ago, I couldn’t have possibly imagined where the path would lead me, certainly not to becoming a Skoll Scholar at the Saïd Business School. I was as convinced then as I am today about the dire need for road safety to take center stage as a national priority in India, but the ways to achieve this goal have become a lot clearer to me over the past few years of running my start-up Home Safe, partnering with the traffic police on awareness enforcement, and focusing holistically on partnerships and policy change. It was this knowledge, conviction, and vision that led me to put forth my application to the Saïd Business School earlier this year.

At that time, earning an MBA from Oxford University had seemed like a distant dream, and even writing this blog from the University today feels almost surreal. It makes me reflect on how much has happened in the past few months and how excited I am to explore my field of work through the opportunities present at Oxford and the U.K.

The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is also the second oldest surviving university in the world and has been home to the likes of Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and C S Lewis. When I found out close to 100 days ago that I was getting a chance to be a part of this fantastic institution, my foremost thoughts were of gratitude – to family, friends, and the experiences that I had been fortunate to have that allowed me to make it this far.

My first morning in Oxford was spent finding my way to my college, St Catherine’s, and as would be fitting, trudging through the infamous British rain. In the 45 days since, I have learned the tricky and fun art of Punting, what Sub Fusc is and that Quidditch has become an actual sport outside JK Rowling’s books. The magic of this city, its people and hidden gems is only augmented by its diversity. Being in an MBA class with 340 students from 55 different countries is a learning opportunity that very few people will have in their entire lifetimes, and one that I consider a great privilege.

One of the main things that has always attracted me to Saïd Business School is that along with being one of the youngest business schools in the world, it is also one of the very few that incubates social impact based work in a focused way. As a result, student initiatives are always met with encouragement and support. When I arrived in Oxford, I instantly noticed the prevalent cycling culture in the city. Coming from a country where cycling as an urban culture is only just emerging and remains fairly dangerous, I wondered how safe it was to be riding a bicycle on roads that were shared by buses, cars, and motorbikes. Taking a closer look at the situation, I found that close to 20% of all accidents in the city involved cyclists. This got me thinking about why this was the case and how an issue relevant to a large number of residents in the city could be addressed.

At a roundtable organised by Saïd Business School, I met a representative of the Oxfordshire City Council and shared my initial thoughts and ideas around engaging the university and county council to increase cycle safety. This happened to align with their plans and was met with positivity and the potential for support. I also met with Adam Bows, the manager of Sustainable Transport at the University of Oxford who shared many interesting challenges and unique initiatives that his office is working on and suggested ways for me to get involved. Over the course of the next few months, I will be working with a few local organisations and the University offices to try and gauge feasibility and roll out a few of these plans. These conversations, and many more over the past few months, have been truly inspiring and invigorating.

Oxford, with its mix of academic prowess and practical opportunities provides an unparalleled platform for students to learn and grow in the direction of their choosing. There is always enough for students to be engaged in, across many focus areas. Having narrowed down a few areas that I would really like to explore to supplement my MBA degree, I am filled with excitement regarding upcoming collaborations and exchanges, and am eager to see what the remaining months have in store.”