10 Aug 2020

MILE Alumni Profiles: Pallavi Bajaj

The format of the MILE teaches you everything you need to know about accurate, well-informed, comprehensive solutions to everyday disputes, and policy concerns in trade, under pressure.

MILE 10 graduate Pallavi Bajaj, International Trade Policy Consultant, and Partner at TCube Consulting LLP, talks about her professional journey and the benefits she gained from pursuing the MILE programme at the World Trade Institute. This interview is part of our Alumni profiles series.

Tell us about the work you are currently doing?

My current work life is predicated on the intersection of trade and technology. As an International Trade Policy Consultant, and Partner, TCube Consulting LLP, I work on providing clients sound, practical advise and in-depth research and analysis, both economic and legal, on trade policy and regulation in trade in services, digital trade and e-commerce, and with special emphasis on MSMEs.

As an entrepreneur enabling digital transformation, I run, as Director, Ballistic Learning Pvt Ltd, Asia’s largest certified MoodleTM partner, and an industry leader engaged in innovative technology-enabled learning solutions; and as Managing Director, Little Yellow Beetle Media Pvt Ltd., a 360 degree digital solutions media studio, which aims to digitise the branding narrative in India, to deploy the digital medium effectively to spread the right message, and to take technology and its benefits to the last mile. While technology enables my work as an entrepreneur, as a business person in the ICT-enabled space, I am poised to provide better, more targeted, better-informed, practical recommendations, analysis and assessment on trade policy, both from an economic point of view, and from the legal and regulatory. I really enjoy, and find myself professionally enriched by the overlap and natural complementarity of the ‘digital (MSME) entrepreneur’ and the ‘trade policy consultant specialised in services, digital trade and MSMEs.’

What did you do before the MILE, and what was your career path after you graduated?

I joined MILE on a whim, which feels almost prophetic in hindsight. After completing my MSc Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science, I was working with an industry chamber in New Delhi, at the time, writing on trade negotiations for environmental goods and services from the Indian perspective. The deeper I went into research for the paper, the more the role of the law, and political science in economic analysis and trade policy, seemed omnipresent. I knew then that a trade policy expert is no good without a sufficient background in law and political science, and vice versa. Luckily, the MILE has the same philosophy. When I discovered the MILE programme, almost by accident, I knew it was the perfect next step. And it was. Not only did I hone all the skills I had hoped to, I had the opportunity to work closely with some very bright, stimulating colleagues, discussing issues of trade policy not just in the classroom, but also over coffee, benefiting from each other’s vast experience, and expertise, and diverse opinions - elements of robust, resilient, effective trade policy. This, in addition to the vast experience and knowledge of the faculty, of course.

After MILE, I immediately transitioned to working with various divisions of ITC, WTO and UNCTAD, in Geneva, discovering the nuances of effective trade policy and negotiation, with the opportunity to advise Member states on various aspects, both economic and legal, of trade policy. Once I moved back to India, (for what was meant to be a year-long sabbatical, but here we are today, several years later), to set up and run the digital media studio, Little Yellow Beetle, I continued to work with my former teams, industry chambers, international organisations and governments as a trade policy advisor on services, digital trade and e-commerce, with an emphasis on the role and growth of MSMEs. Last year, I founded TCube Consulting LLP, a platform to enable international experts to consult, and to participate in dialogue and research towards effective strategy and skill-enhancement, at the intersection of trade, taxes and technology. In the meantime, my quest to use technology and use my experience at LSE and the WTI, using digital learning, to add value to education and skilling led me to my second venture, in e-learning, Ballistic Learning. Today, my role as a digital entrepreneur and my work in trade policy complement and inform each other organically, interfacing trade with technology, and allowing me to make policy recommendations that emanate from my own experiences as a business owner in the provision of digitally traded services.

How do you think the MILE helped you in your career?

I have to start by emphasising what I have said before - the MILE is all that it aims to be - a platform to bring all stakeholders in international trade on the same page on trade policy and regulation. The process, however, is not just an academic year, it is altered lifestyle, of trust, commitment, excellence, and teamwork. Which is why I always say my number one takeaway from MILE is actually the people - the amazing friends you make through the year, both with colleagues, researchers at the WTI, and the faculty. A circle of a healthy co-dependence and trust is built as a result of the nature of the programme, and the kind of people it attracts. The power of the MILE network is everything, as you go forward in your career (and in life), and it continues to multiply.

Of course, the quality of education that took a non-lawyer and honed her into someone who today provides sound, pointed, well-informed advice on policy and regulation, is the strength of the programme. The faculty is hand-picked and are clearly the best at what they do. What is more important is that they are always happy to share their knowledge. The mix of academic professors, and visiting faculty from field makes the programme well-rounded.

The format of the MILE teaches you everything you need to know about accurate, well-informed, comprehensive solutions to everyday disputes, and policy concerns in trade, under pressure. It also compels you into working together with your colleagues from different backgrounds, both cultural and professional, to arrive at solutions informed by varied opinions and points of view. There is nothing more important than learning to do that, in life in general, and especially in the field of trade policy, where often negotiations fail because stakeholders are not on the same page, and don’t speak the same ‘trade language,’ and cannot marry the diversity of opinion and cultures.

Any advice for current students?

I’ll say to you what someone said to me when I was planning on going to MILE, ‘Bern is a small and beautiful city, but you’ll never have time to notice.’ I realised during the year that this is because the MILE is all-consuming. Yet, you will come out of the programme a better person and a solid professional. While doing your best is important, remember that the hidden message in the programme is to encourage better cooperation and knowledge exchange, and build a circle of cooperation and trust with colleagues who will be your peers in the workplace, and to benefit from the diversity of culture and opinions. Use this time wisely.

The faculty brings a wealth of experience with them, from real life problem solving. So do your colleagues. Never stop learning. Not just about trade, and the diverse view points on trade which emanate from different cultural perspectives, stages of development, economic fabric and so much more, but also about people, and about yourself and the person and professional you can become. While you learn, and gather diverse opinions, use the platform to build your own voice on the subject - engage in discussions, debates, simulations, as much as you can.

Your thesis is a great tool to showcase your interest and hone your expertise, and to pick from the small yet vast niche of trade policy going forward. Discuss it as much as you can with faculty and management, and use it to guide your career choices and vice versa.

Most importantly, Bern is a beautiful city, with so much to explore, and the people are the best takeaway of the MILE. Enjoy both to the fullest. You don’t know it yet, but this will be your favourite year for a long, long time to come - make sure that when you look back at it, you have built a million reasons to smile.