Roshni Nadar Malhotra ’03, ’08 MBA on the power of possibility
By Scott Steinberg
If there’s a throughline in the many pursuits of Roshni Nadar Malhotra ’03, ’08 MBA, it’s the sense of curiosity, discovery and wonder she brings to tackling some of society’s biggest challenges. Named to Forbes’ 2022 list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, Nadar Malhotra was the first woman to lead a listed IT company in India and serves as chair of the $12.3 billion giant HCLTech, which her father, Shiv Nadar, founded.
She also serves as a trustee of the family’s educational philanthropy, the Shiv Nadar Foundation, which has established some of India’s top colleges and schools. Furthermore, Nadar Malhotra founded and serves as trustee of The Habitats Trust, a coalition of individuals working to protect and preserve India’s natural habitats and indigenous flora and fauna. With so many responsibilities across such diverse areas of interest, what keeps her motivated?
“I think what gets me out of bed every day is the smell of possibilities in my cup of tea,” she muses. “It’s the same whether it’s HCLTech and what’s happening next in IT and revolutionizing how people work, or what’s happening next in education or the environment and climate change. It’s a very wide spectrum. Sometimes I wonder how I actually balance all that!”
Some days, she’s helping guide HCLTech’s 222,000 employees across 60 countries toward helping solve next-generation engineering, software and cloud-computing challenges. Other days, she’s overseeing millions of dollars in philanthropic efforts and the development of K-12 schools and universities in major cities such as Delhi and Chennai. But whatever’s on her docket at the moment, she’s always drawing on lessons learned from her time at Northwestern University, where she earned her undergraduate degree before entering business school at the Kellogg School of Management.
“A lot of students in my MBA class had come from the consulting, investment banking, and financial worlds,” she recalls. “But for me, previously having been a communications and film student, everything was new and exciting. Every day, I’d meet new people and learn new things — beforehand, I’d never even worked on Microsoft Excel. I made amazing friends during my time in business school, and it really strengthened my foundation for what I wanted to do when I came back to India in the field of nonprofits. As a Kellogg alum, you hold onto those experiences and those learnings, but more importantly, you hold onto those relationships. And for me it was an amazing journey.
“I loved my experience at Kellogg because it offered the right balance of a brilliant education and a very humble foundation,” Nadar Malhotra adds. “More than anything else, it teaches you to be high-impact, low-ego, and that sometimes you lead from the front, and sometimes you have to stay back and let others take the lead. A Kellogg leader is an amazing team player.”
These learnings have served as crucial underpinnings as she’s pursued her social enterprise and entrepreneurship efforts, Nadar Malhotra says. Moreover, they directly map to her efforts to bring on the right team leaders for projects, institutionalize winning work systems and develop operational and business models that work cost-effectively at scale every day. The youngest person in many boardrooms, she further commends the school for showing her that the best way to navigate the business world is to always keep learning and growing.
“You’re always going to be surrounded by people who are more experienced than you are and have different skill sets,” she says. “That means that you have to be a constant learner and never stop listening, absorbing and building your own skill set. And partner with others wherever you can — I consider myself a team player more than a leader.”
That motivation extends to her philanthropic work, which has given thousands of students — especially those from low-income families — the tools they need to succeed in business as part of her organizations’ various outreach and development efforts. She says it’s all part of her passion and commitment to giving back to others and doing her part to serve the communities that she loves.
“Giving to an institution is much more than the actual act — it’s also a state of mind,” Nadar Malhotra notes. “Giving can mean providing scholarships or spending precious moments with others, like fellow Kellogg alums or prospective students. The definition of giving is quite broad: Money is important, but so are time and commitment.”
This issue, we are proud to highlight winners of this year’s With Gratitude Awards. Nadar Malhotra is the recipient of this year’s Schaffner Award, given to alumni who exemplify Kellogg values through significant contributions to society.
More from this year’s With Gratitude winners