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It’s never too late to get your MBA

Avesh Singh
When Avesh Singh finished school, he needed to find a way to fund his studies, so he went to work to facilitate that. The job was an entry-level one at a call centre, working on the phones. 25 years later he is busy building an international Global Capability Centre (GCC) from scratch in South Africa that will be one of the most modern in the world – and wholly virtual – creating hundreds of jobs in the process.

Singh never got the chance to complete his tertiary education as a young man because his ambition and talent were rewarded by promotions in a career that would take him all over the world. It would also ultimately lead him to Henley Business School Africa.

“I kept growing in the industry until finally I was a Vice President of a company yet with no tertiary education. The birth of my daughter in 2004 had awakened a desire in me to be the best possible role model for her that I could be and that included having a tertiary education.”

He began looking around for a top-level qualification that would complement and enhance his professional status as a global business executive, but also for an institution that would offer him a flexible study option.

“I looked at the Henley programme and thought ‘this is ideal for me’. I registered for the MBA and was accepted on the basis of my professional experience and started my MBA journey.”

Several months in, the flexibility that Henley offers came to the fore.

“I was moved to Bucharest in Romania; managing BPO centres in Poland, China, Romania and India and literally doing my MBA on aeroplanes, in airport lounges and hotels. The flexibility offered by Henley was absolutely world class in terms of the structure, the assignments and the timeframes.”

He was headhunted during his studies bringing him back to South Africa but forcing him to change his dissertation on customer experience and the reasons why customers cancel as the result of it, to focus on the new company.

“I wanted the dissertation to be related to the work I was doing,” he says.

He received his MBA in 2018, with the full gown, cap and parchment graduation ceremony watched by his family.

“I was 42 when I finished my MBA which means it’s never too late to get your tertiary qualification. People often say that they can’t study because they’re too old, or that they are working and already earning a good income, but those are just excuses.”

Singh is very grateful for the support of his family who encouraged him to see the journey through and to Henley which made it possible, but that was not the end of his story. After graduating he was headhunted again in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, this time by US headquartered information and insights company TransUnion to set up its brand new virtual Global Capability Centre servicing first Africa, and then its Canadian market in French and English and then later this year, the US market.

The company’s first global capability centre was set up in Chennai in India three years ago and has since expanded to the city of Pune in the country. The South African centre is unique; there is no office, instead the staff whether working in the call centre or in marketing, HR, finance or IT all work from home. TransUnion provides them with fibre to their homes and all the back-up tools they need from battery packs during power cuts to Sim cards and routers to ensure they have all the infrastructure they need.

“What’s important to note is that we’re not just a traditional contact centre. We’re doing a range of non-voice and back-office work, including project management, quality assurance, and data analytics. We’ve also integrated a range of new technology innovations, including the ability to provide asynchronous chat into the voice environment. Our virtual model means we’ve been able to scale at speed to accommodate the increased demands of the global markets we operate in,” says Singh.

Now Singh is reaching out to Henley to find the talent. He’s paying back the debt he feels for the experience he received, but it’s also an incredible opportunity especially for people on the lower rungs of Henley’s unique ladder of learning, allowing them to study in the mornings and then work for TransUnion in the afternoon and early evening, because of the Global Capability’s Centre’s North American focus, meaning the working day starts at around 2pm South African time.

Singh also wants to share his MBA experience with other Henley Africa hopefuls.

“I remember going to a workshop before enrolling and listening to people speak. Everyone’s nervous before they embark on their MBA journey. I want to share my story and help attract students into the school. The aim is to put something back. I’m extremely proud of my tertiary qualification, and I’m extremely grateful for what Henley has given to me. I’m tempted to start exploring studying beyond the master’s – that is when this job has settled down a bit!”

For Jon Foster-Pedley, Dean and Director of Henley Africa, Singh’s journey is precisely the kind of story that should be told in class – physically or virtually.

“It’s wonderful to hear how the MBA helped unlock Avesh’s natural talents and enabled him to continue his impressive trajectory in the BPO sector, but it’s also incredibly heartening to hear his passion for Henley and his determination to pay it forward by creating opportunities especially for other Henley students.

“We have always set out to build the leaders who will build the businesses that will build Africa. Avesh is doing just that – and more – and we look forward to uplifting him wherever we can, including harnessing the greater global Henley alumni community to achieve his personal dreams and his career goals.”

Useful resources:
Henley Business School
At the core of Henley’s philosophy is the belief that we need to develop managers and leaders for the future. We believe the challenge facing future leaders is the need to solve dilemmas through making choices. We work with both individuals and organisations to create the appropriate learning environment to facilitate the critical thinking skills to prepare for the future.
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