Harsh Bhatnagar steals regular glances at a news portal he has open on his Gurgaon office terminal — not to check cricket scores as many Indians do, but with ‘Rajat Gupta’ as his keywords.
Bhatnagar graduated last year from IIT Delhi, where Gupta — an alumnus who went on to become the first non-American MD of consultancy giant McKinsey — has for years been a role model to emulate.
Charged with insider trading by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Gupta’s fortunes are being closely followed — at IIT Delhi and at some of the world’s top B-schools, students, faculty and administrators at these institutions have told HT.
“He set a mark we all wanted to emulate or better. I’m hoping he is found innocent. It would be de-motivating…to find that someone you’ve considered a role model could be guilty of a crime,” Bhatnagar said of Gupta, who also rose to the top at Goldman Sacchs and is an advisor to the UN.
Bhatnagar’s friend Rajiv Shekhar is currently a third year student at IIT Delhi and said he and his friends were struggling to believe the charges against Gupta, who graduated in 1971 from the Institute before pursuing his MBA at the Harvard Business School. “At IIT, Gupta is a legend you cannot avoid hearing endlessly about,” Shekhar said.
But it is not just the IITs, but top B-schools including Harvard Business School (HBS), Kellogg’s School, Wharton School, apart from Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB) where Gupta’s story is creating ripples.
A friend to faculty members and administrators at these schools, Gupta has at different times been on advisory and governing boards of all these Institutes. A co-founder of the ISB, Gupta remains on the Hyderabad school’s Board.
“The news came as a shock. I have known Rajat and know how much Indian students look up to him. Given his association with us, we feel personally affected,” a senior Wharton faculty member said in an email, requesting anonymity.
A former HBS administrator echoed these views, insisting he still had faith in Gupta. “One of the many things he has stood for is an ethical approach. I would like to believe in what I know of him,” he said.