Sanjay Reddy, Vice Chairman of a leading Indian conglomerate known as GVK, was one of the youngest students in his MBA class at Michigan. He’d come straight from an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering at Purdue University, hoping to receive a broad-based management education before returning to India to join the family company.

Now the new Chairman of the U-M India Advisory Board, Reddy said he “looks forward to contributing to and furthering the cause of the university in whatever manner possible, as far as India is concerned.”

Pursuing an MBA at such a formative stage in his life made the experience all the more impactful for Reddy. Specifically, he remembers being impressed by the accomplishments and pedagogy of his professors, especially the late Dr. C.K. Prahalad.

“[Dr. Prahalad’s] classes were always full,” Reddy recalled. “I would sit in on his classes even if I wasn’t able to officially enroll that semester.”

“I was exposed to people who, from a global standpoint, were at the forefront of their fields. Because of this, I was quite impacted, especially by Professor Prahalad, whose basic teachings included creativity, innovation, and learning to dream.”

Reddy described grad school as “one of the best times in [his] life.” A week before his first semester final exams, he flew to India to marry his wife, Pinky Reddy. Nine-to-ten thousand people attended the wedding ceremony.

“We returned to Ann Arbor and moved into a new apartment just days before my first exam,” Reddy said, laughing. “That period of my life—being young, newly married, and exploring a new town and region—was so memorable for me.”

He reconnected to the university when his son—Keshav Reddy, now a U-M engineering alum like his father—was applying to colleges.

“Around the same time my son chose U-M for undergrad, I was invited to attend the Michigan India Conference and to serve on the Ross School Advisory Board,” Reddy said. “I also, of course, became a part of the India Advisory Board.” 

Since returning to India about 30 years ago, Reddy has had management experiences across sectors. He led a hotel construction project in his hometown of Hyderabad, took a key role in developing India’s first private power plant in the early ‘90s, started GVK Biosciences, and led construction of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai, which recently received an American Institute of Architects award for best contemporary architecture.

He is also involved in the conglomerate’s non-profit organization—GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute, or GVK EMRI. A recent partnership between U-M and GVK EMRI strives to reassess trauma care in India.

“[GVK EMRI] is currently running the world’s largest ambulance service, with more than 12,000 ambulances. It employs more than 55,000 people and covers more than 800 million people out of India’s population of 1.3 billion,” said Reddy. “It’s a phenomenal social enterprise.”

Even with an impressively robust list of professional accomplishments, Reddy still considers his 2015 Ross commencement address—which has about 150,000 views on YouTube—one of his proudest moments. Watching the inspirational speech, it’s easy to see why.

“While we’ve been trained to look for solutions outside [ourselves], I can assure you the real solutions lie within us,” Reddy said in the closing remarks of his address. “If you’re clear about what you want, you will find a way to get there.”