At 21, Aparajita Bharti (MPP 2012) was one of the youngest members of the first Master of Public Policy (MPP) class at the Blavatnik School of Government.
Yet before this she had already gained experience in two policy fellowships. She was first an inaugural fellow in a scheme offering young people the chance to work with an Indian member of parliament, and next, she worked on inter-faith collaboration towards positive social action at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
Both Aparajita’s parents had worked in the public sector in India. She therefore had been exposed throughout her life to how government has the potential to improve (or worsen) people’s lives. Public policy as a discipline of study and employment, however, was still a largely unexplored avenue in India.
“I knew I really liked the field of public policy and wanted to make a career there. But my formal education had been in business management, which is why I started looking for courses. Oxford had just launched the Master of Public Policy and I knew I had to go there.”
When she arrived at the Blavatnik School of Government, Aparajita felt an immediate synergy with the environment given Oxford’s long tradition of educating future political leaders – not just from the UK, but from India too. Though her time at the School was at times intense and overwhelming, she built deep connections with her class, which included just 38 students with 17 different nationalities represented. For her summer project she was placed at Rio Tinto in London.
“This time at Rio Tinto showed me how things work in the policy team of a company. Because I came from a business background at undergrad but also studied policy it gave me a chance to combine the two.”
When Aparajita finished the MPP, she knew she wanted to return to India to be involved in policy. She was first employed at the e-commerce start-up Snap Deal, working as a policy liaison between the company and the government.
“I joined their government partnerships and corporate affairs team at a really interesting time. Tech companies are changing the nature of all economies, but especially in a developing country like India. Even though I was very young, so was the company, which meant I got to do really exciting things such as high-level meetings with ministers and drawing up recommendations for the government’s e-commerce policy.”
Whilst in this role, Aparajita launched with her husband Young Leaders for Active Citizenship, an initiative aimed at engaging people aged 16-30 in India’s policy process. The initiative targets in particular young people from more elite families to attempt to engage them on social issues and develop their advocacy skills.
“There is a huge disconnect in India – there are many people with a lot of privilege who may want to do something with that privilege but don’t know what to do or how to do it. There is also a tendency in middle-class Indian families to not interact with the government unless you really have to.”
Aparajita has also since launched a consulting firm, The Quantum Hub, which works at the intersection of public policy and communications, supporting clients along the entire policy formulation process. These two streams of work she has found complement each other wonderfully, and she often finds herself using examples from her consulting work in her educational outreach.
Aparajita sees huge potential in both organisations. Given her time working on tech policy in India her profile is only increasing. And as collaborative projects between government, the private sector and civil society becomes more popular in India, further opportunities for impact seem on the horizon.