Meet Our Alumni

Ameya Naik @kianayema, our Graduate Certificate for Public Policy (GCPP) alum talks about his journey from law to a fulfilling career in public policy.

“I had finished law school & was taking a gap year to the write the UPSC exam. My goal is a career in diplomacy and transitional justice. So my choices were basically, clear the exam with a rank for the Indian Foreign Service, or find a job that lets me apply to graduate school. Either way, a better understanding of policy analysis would be an asset – especially because there were very few places to study international relations in India short of taking up a graduate degree in political science. For me, GCPP did three really valuable things at the time:

First, it was my introduction to applied policy analysis. A lot of it was familiar, from my BA (I majored in psychology, with minors in economics & sociology) & law school – but studying it is not the same as being able to use it to generate options for solving a specific problem.

Second – and I think this was useful coming after law school, which makes one think in categorical terms – either something is legal/allowed/correct or not – it was a good time for me to be reminded that there is no policy without politics and there is no politics without power. I see a direct line between framing of policy and my decision to specialise in negotiation studies. Even now, a lot of my pet research topics are about how institutions and negotiating structures constrain the use of power & how people with power try to escape those constraints.

Third, on the most productive level – the GCPP made me write for publication. Mostly on my own blog, but with the guarantee of an audience. And an informed, intelligent, passionate audience is the best incentive to work hard and write well. So that process helped me develop a voice of my own in writing, become a more concise writer (& continue practicing editing & giving feedback, which has been an important part of all my jobs ever since), and have writing samples to show people.

As it happens, In 2012, I got a job soon after I finished the GCPP course, with Dr. Shashi Tharoor. I sent in my application letter on the bus home from the second workshop! It relied heavily on writing skills. Then, when Dr. Tharoor was appointed to the HRD Ministry, I got to move to that office and see the policy process from up close. He was (& is) also very supportive of my goal to work on diplomacy & gave me a very generous recommendation when I applied to grad school.

I’ve got to watch, research, & participate in policy analysis, design, implementation & evaluation processes in government, academia, and international organisations. And a really solid grounding in the basics of policy analysis & writing has been useful throughout.

Currently, at Tata Sons, my role mainly looks at big, fuzzily-defined, wicked problems – the kinds of issues where you need the public, private, and social sector to all pull together & do lots of different things.”

Aditya Dash @adityadash_bbsr is an aquaculture industrialist who completed our GCPP course and is now spearheading capacity building for shrimp farmers in Odisha.

“I graduated from George Washington University in 2006. And that university was very much into politics and public policy and international affairs. But at that time I had absolutely no interest in all of that. There was always this ambition and drive to work in development. Especially the development of Orissa where I’m from. And I still think the best way to go about that is through industrialisation. By creating a big company. So when I came back to India, Bhubaneswar didn’t have a lot of things to do and not many people to interact with. Especially people with my educational background. So the Internet was of big help, and blogging was really taking off at the time.

I decided to sign up for the GCPP course because I thought the course might give me a bit of structure and help me plan and show me how to go about bringing about India’s development. How to contribute – and what is useful and what is not useful. So that was the primary motivation. It was mainly curiosity. The course was extremely helpful.

Our family business is basically a vertically integrated shrimp exporter. So we follow through with the life cycle of the shrimp – that is from producing the baby shrimp in a hatchery to growing the shrimps in a corporate farm or through a network of farmers. We also sell the farmers the feed and buy it back. Then we process it and then export it.

Seafood and aquaculture is my main line of work. You have these industry events where you talk with IAS officers and the commerce secretary and joint secretary and ministers and you try and express your point of view. If you’re a businessman or industrialist, I’d advocate taking this course. Because we definitely need to engage in public policy. The old model is sort of shifting away. We need to be familiar with concepts like narratives and building the story and so on.

Take aquaculture for example, it’s such a labour intensive sector, it’s rural-based but it still doesn’t get the priority in the economy. India is such a big country and such a big economy, and the aquaculture industry doesn’t mean that much for India. We don’t have the same clout as say the steel industry does. But look at these small economies, like Thailand or Vietnam or Equador. The shrimp industry is a really big deal for them. The energy and effort they put in into trade diplomacy is huge – that turns out to be a big handicap for us here in India.

Making government outfits understand what our industry needs is still a work in progress. I can’t transform the industry on my own. If somehow I could convince more people in my own industry to take the public policy approach, that would be even more beneficial.

I’m trying to do something similar for shrimp farming. I’m working on capacity building for the shrimp farmers on Orissa. I’m also partnering with NGOs – there’s the Solidaridad Network from the Netherlands. They are the guys who came up with the fairtrade concept. I might even rope in other aid agencies such as US Aid and these are all in the pipeline. Right now with Solidaridad, it’s just a capacity building programme to try and promote sustainable aquaculture practices with the shrimp farmers and to improve their productivity.”