In 2006, Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi was working for American Express, based in Bahrain, with portfolio oversight of countries spanning the African Maghreb, the Nile Valley, Levant, and the Persian Gulf. That summer, cross-border skirmishes between Israel and the Lebanon-based non-state group Hezbollah erupted into full-scale war.
Chaturvedi, who had earned an MBA in finance and strategy five years earlier, suddenly found himself in a team trying to “ring-fence” the portfolio, to estimate business losses that could result from the war, and to explore ways to mitigate the company’s exposure—all while ensuring continuity in service for customers living in areas impacted by the war.
Unexpectedly, as they discovered, customers were more—not less—diligent about their credit lines, paying back their loans more punctually than in times of relative peace.
“Ultimately, we rose to the occasion—as my business experiences and education had trained me to do,” says Chaturvedi. “But we were reactive. A Fletcher graduate in my position would have been proactive and prepared—anticipating the potential for imminent war and putting together a contingency strategy well ahead of the event.”
That’s a large part of the reason why Chaturvedi, after nearly a decade of globe-trotting business experience, ended up in Medford: leveraging his business acumen to complete Fletcher’s innovative Master’s in International Business (MIB) degree in 2012. Today, Chaturvedi is a Research Fellow for Innovation and Change with the School’s Institute for Business in the Global Context (IBGC), Fletcher’s in-house research center focused on the connections between geopolitical, legal, financial, security, macroeconomic, humanitarian and environmental impacts on business.
“How the world of business interacts with the rest of the world is something they don’t teach you at most business schools,” says Chaturvedi. “As I took on more senior roles in emerging and frontier markets, I realized that there was a crucial gap in my contextual savvy. After a thorough search of the finest schools in Europe and on both coasts of the United States, I decided to apply only to The Fletcher School. Looking back, it was probably one of the most transformative decisions of my life.”
Digital Evolution Index
Chaturvedi’s ongoing research on the global digital economy, Planet eBiz, at IBGC is a perfect example of how and why context matters in the business world. Chaturvedi, together with Bhaskar Chakravorti and Christopher (Rusty) Tunnard, co-authored The Digital Planet Report and its associated index— The Digital Evolution Index (DEI)— to assess the readiness of 50 countries for a digital economy. The index is intended as a tool for governments and policymakers for benchmarking, improving competitiveness and attracting investment. For investors and corporate strategists, it provides actionable, data informed insights to facilitate market expansion and investment related decision-making.
“To our delight, our research has captured the attention of business leaders, global investors and governments around the globe. Its insights have sparked policy debates in a wide range of countries,” says Chaturvedi. Released at the World Retail Congress in Paris last September, the study has been featured in nearly 200 articles in 20 different languages across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. Study results have been cited in legislative discussions and deliberations in Hong Kong, Ireland, Australia, Finland, The Netherlands and other far corners of the world.
“The DEI research has been cited alongside coverage of Mark Zuckerberg’s speech to World Mobile Congress in Barcelona. Thought leaders like Bill Gates and the Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves have shared the study with their 21 million followers on Twitter,” says Chaturvedi. “But what’s even more fulfilling to our team is that developing countries like the Philippines have taken our recommendations to heart; its government and business leaders are implementing plans to accelerate their digital transformation.”
Chaturvedi started out his career with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Osmania University in his hometown of Hyderabad, India, in addition to a degree in culinary arts and hospitality management. After a three-year stint as a part of the team running one of Asia’s finest restaurants, he got an MBA from the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines in 2001. Upon graduation, he joined Standard Chartered in their International Graduate Program, with stints in different markets in Asia before joining American Express in 2006.
At the IBGC, during his formal studies and now as a post-graduate research fellow for innovation and change, Chaturvedi focused on international finance and banking and international political economy, building on his banking experiences in emerging markets. During his stints in the Middle East, he also served on the board for the Dutch-based international leadership training organization, AIESEC in Bahrain.
“IBGC is a place and an idea whose time has come. What happens outside the classroom is as important if not more than what happens in the classroom and IBGC bridges the two,” says Chaturvedi, who says he threw himself into every imaginable project at IBGC during his time as a student “despite a punishing academic schedule.” These included Sovereign Wealth and Global Investments, Inclusive Finance, and what he called his favorite project of them all — working with Dean Chakravorti on Fletcher Futures – a geo-economic scenario envisioning and pattern recognition exercise.
“Looking back at my own evolution, this entire journey has been about applying the Schumpeterian notion of creative destruction to my own career,” Chaturvedi said. “I’m disrupting myself, because that is the only way I can build resilience and ready myself for the future.”