Prineeta Kulkarni
Home Region

Mumbai, India

Undergrad Education

University of Pune, Biology, 2012

Previous Experience

Cipla, Universal Consulting (L.E.K. Consulting India)

HBS Activities

SA Chief Development Officer

“I realized I could do better if I understood the fundamentals better.”

Prineeta Kulkarni originally "dreamed of becoming a scientist." She completed a dual biotechnology BS/MS at the University of Pune, but when it came time to launch her career, she shifted direction. "I wanted to see the real-world impact of my work, something that would make a difference in real lives beyond publishing papers in journals."

In the midst of her degree program, she volunteered with an NGO in Cote d'Ivoire that promoted HIV/AIDs awareness. "It showed me how much of a difference medicines can make," Prineeta says. "Lack of access not only interfered with survival, but also with how patients integrated into their communities."

After graduation, she took a position with a boutique consulting firm, L.E.K. Consulting, that concentrated on a portfolio of life science, pharma, and health care companies. She contributed another three years to an Indian pharma, Cipla, that was specifically "focused on access and affordability," says Prineeta. Through her work on the acquisitions team, Prineeta helped Cipla expand access to inexpensive HIV medicine to more countries in East Africa. She was motivated to work with this organization that had worked since the early 2000s on "changing the paradigm of how HIV was seen in Africa. AIDS did not have to be a death sentence, but something people could manage and live with."

Pursuing a more formal study of business

Prineeta's experience with Cipla exposed her to the greater possibilities inherent in the life sciences while simultaneously revealing her limitations. "My entire education was technically intensive and focused on scientific research, not management practices," she says. "I realized I could do better if I understood business fundamentals better. How do you think about risk versus return? How do you value opportunities or identify shortcomings? I was missing business intuition and rigor. I wanted to apply depth to the job I had."

Through the case method and the diversity of its student body, HBS has increased Prineeta's business sophistication. "Anyone can apply an analytical tool such as WACC [Weighted Average Cost of Capital]," she says. "But case study has taught me the right situations for applying a WACC. What are the nuances you need to keep in mind? What are its limitations? I've learned when to use a particular approach, and how to adjust it for real-world constraints. That's the true magic of being at HBS."

Fortunately, there's a lot of magic to go around. "HBS is one of the only business schools with research centers around the world, and the cases we study reflect this global diversity," notes Prineeta. "This gives students a vivid feel for what local cultures are like, rooted in a real context."

In the summer, Prineeta will intern with Genentech in San Francisco, "a dream company that I have studied since I was an undergraduate." Eventually, she'd like to "work with a multilateral organization to improve health care around the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries."