Coronavirus Updates

“It goes back to Marvin Zonis’s class on empathy,” says Bharat Kapoor, ’10, when asked how he’s navigated 12 years of consulting at Kearney, where he is currently global lead at the firm’s Product Excellence and Renewal Lab (PERLab). “I believe hard economic data, which was easy to grasp because of my engineering background, layered with empathy, which was like Latin to me when I first took Zonis’s class at Booth, have been the guiding principles throughout my consulting career,” he says.

“I’d say my life has been full of course corrections, or may I say serendipities,” Kapoor says. He grew up in Mandi, a small Himalayan town, and his father ran an electronics business, where Kapoor started working in eighth grade. One day in 1988, while the elder Kapoor was away, a Samsung executive visited to propose a collaboration. Knowing that his father would probably not be interested, Bharat nevertheless offered the man the customary Indian tea. 

“We talked for hours. I knew I wanted to work with him,” he recalls. Kapoor’s father gave in on the condition that Bharat would handle the deal. It was a success for both parties. “At that time, I did not realize what had happened,” he says. “As I look back, it was about building a relationship with the executive, having the conviction that Samsung had good products, and being willing to take on challenges.” 

Another crucial relationship to Kapoor’s trajectory was the close friendship that emerged from a chance meeting on his first day of school after his family first moved to Mandi. “The lesson I learned from that move was that life is a team sport,” he says. “My friend and I competed for the same things and enjoyed each other’s successes. I ended up at my college because of his nudge to select what’s now called the National Institute of Technology Karnataka, and three decades later, he is again my neighbor.” 

When Kapoor got into NITK, he couldn’t even find it on a map. “It took a 12-hour bus ride to Delhi, and a 56-hour train ride to Mangalore, and then some,” Kapoor says. 

Once there, he was unexpectedly recruited to the photography club when some of the members discovered his familiarity with a film camera. When the school hosted a fashion show, Kapoor was the sole designated photographer. The prints flew off the shelves, and soon the photography club was raking in revenue from campus events.

A headshot of Baharat Kapoor against a gray background

“I'd say my life has been full of course corrections, or may I say serendipities.”

— Bharat Kapoor

After he shot a friend’s modeling portfolio, budding models in Mumbai came calling. “I started imagining myself in the company of the late Gautam Rajadhyaksha, the doyen of Indian fashion photography for decades,” Kapoor laughs. His journey into glitz and glamour ended abruptly when his parents found out and disapproved, but his foray had taught him something about his ambitions.

“Surrounded by geniuses at college, I sometimes questioned if I even belonged there. Well, I managed to graduate,” he says, “but the biggest realization I had during my undergraduate time was actually that, more than electrical engineering, I enjoyed business.”  

Kapoor moved to the United States to pursue graduate work in computer engineering. A professor convinced him to study supercomputing and security. After a stint at, a gig he got while collecting free T-shirts at a job fair, Kapoor was hired at Motorola—and quickly got to join one of its coolest projects: creating a phone that used the open-source operating system Linux. 

The project came with a “highly confidential” red stamp. “We were creating what the world calls a smartphone, a world of apps and app stores, bringing the power of technology into our palms,” he says. 

“The next seven to eight years took me on a ride that I had not even imagined,” Kapoor shares. “I worked on the first Motorola smartphone with Intel’s ARM processor, represented Motorola at the GNOME Foundation, and tried to develop a completely open-source mobile platform.”

Kapoor joined Booth’s Evening MBA Program in 2007, finally making a fuller pivot into the business world that had always attracted him. He loved his experience.

“Exceptional would be an understatement,” he says. Kapoor recalls emailing Jonathan Rosenberg, ’85, now an advisor at Alphabet and coauthor of How Google Works (2014), as a prospective student. “Within an hour or so, I got a response. That left a lasting impression on me about the family I was about to become a part of,” he says, “I have tried to follow in Jonathan’s steps of responding to any ask from a fellow Boothie.”  

“Not only did I leave Booth with an education, but I also made lasting friendships, dabbled in a startup, started my own consulting firm, and got to call a few Booth legends my mentors,” he says, listing James E. Schrager, clinical professor of entrepreneurship and strategic management; Harry L. Davis, the Roger L. and Rachel M. Goetz Distinguished Service Professor of Creative Management; and the late Zonis, who was professor emeritus of business administration before his death, as a few.

“Not only did I leave Booth with an education, but I also made lasting friendships, dabbled in a startup, started my own consulting firm, and got to call a few Booth legends my mentors.”

— Bharat Kapoor

After a short stint at his own firm, Kapoor joined Kearney in 2011. He cofounded PERLab, which helps companies improve by using product design as a lens—answering questions like how to make people love a company’s products.

“I started my consulting career as a deer in the headlights, and soon realized that consulting is not just about being a smart person with PowerPoint, but about putting yourself in your clients’ shoes,” he says. “It’s hard, with several forces at work—limited time, your own career, demands of the firm.” In a 2020 feature on Kearney’s website, Kapoor emphasized that being a good consultant means loving what you do—without which you won’t be able to put in enough for your client. From his small town to his work now in Silicon Valley, it’s clear he’s followed his heart. 

Some things have come full circle. Kapoor volunteered with the board of directors of the Chicago Booth Alumni Club. In 2013, he became a coach for the Strategy Lab, a partnership between Booth and Kearney, started by Joe Raudabaugh, ’80, and taught by Professor Davis. 

In the course, students work with Kearney consultants on real business issues brought in by clients, and learn to develop their action and insight skills. After Raudabaugh retired from Kearney, Kapoor became a sponsor for the lab. He also guest-lectured as part of the Executive MBA Program, which he attributes to Professor Schrager. “I still hold on to my first paycheck from Booth as a souvenir,” he says. “It was surreal to teach at the institution where I learned so much.” 

Madhur Singh

Madhur Singh