It would seem that the name chose her, for Prerna Baid has become an inspiration at 44 years of age, and especially so for women who believe that they help but resign to their fate, giving up on their personal aspirations post marriage and believe that the best of life is over once women reach the age of 40. After topping from the Indian Institute of Management–Visakhapatnam (IIM-V) at the age of 44 years, Prerna, whose name translates to ‘inspiration’ in English, has just started her life, as if.
In fact, Prerna, who secured dual gold medals in two courses — a 2019–2021 MBA programme and a 2018-2019 certificate course for experienced professionals), resumed her full-time academic pursuits 22 years after completing her BBA from the University of Rajasthan.
Going back to school
Always a rank holder and an academically brilliant person, Prerna was fully prepared to sit for the IIT-JEE exam when a family tragedy veered her off from writing the exam, she tells us. “Later, I enrolled for BBA. I was married off in 1997 even before completing my graduation and I came down to live in Visakhapatnam with my husband’s family,” recounts the topper.
After the birth of her two sons, she started assisting her husband as a director in his company, ACN Infotech. “However, I am an avid reader, who even reads my children’s textbooks while coaching them. I always desired to learn new things, to read, to keep myself well-versed with my surroundings,” says Prerna.
Then in 2018, when her elder son Aranav had just left for the US to do his graduation, she chanced upon the certificate course offered by IIM-V.
“I’ve always been fortunate to have a supportive family. My husband, sons, in-laws and parents have always helped me realize my dreams. They encouraged me to enroll for the courses and helped me devote even my weekends to the classes,” she remembers.
Support and support systems aside, writing an IIM entrance examination after 22 years of academics and then facing an interview panel for the first time in life was a daunting experience for Prerna. “But both the entrance exam and the interview went off pretty well and I thoroughly enjoyed my three years in IIM with a diverse group of batch-mates and a helpful faculty,” she adds.
Not only was her family pleasantly surprised at her results, but also she could sense that her getting two gold medals for an MBA first rank and scholastic performance renewed her sons’ respect towards her.
Starting up an idea
Prerna is someone who never lets age get the better of her. “I’ve noticed that especially in India, women feel mentally old very soon,” explains Prerna. “They think that once they hit 40 years, their prime is over. And their lives revolve around their family and children. In fact, for most, marriage means the end of achieving personal dreams and goals.”
However, Prerna staunchly believes that age should never be a deterring factor to start or renew one’s interests in something. “It’s never too late to start and topping the IIM courses indicates that another facet of my life has just begun at 44,” she says with a chuckle.
Despite her repeating her age to us, Prerna’s looks belie her biological age so much that she can still easily pass off as someone fresh-out-of-college. “Even my batch-mates could never guess my real age,” quips the topper, who’s also a fitness and gym-freak.
As for her future plans, Prerna says she’s keeping a few options open. “For a year, I want to do an internship with a company that will expose me to the workings of the corporate world, enable independent decision-making and enhance my skills,” she says. But the academically brilliant woman has another academic inclination. “If IIM commences its Executive PHD course, I’d like to enrol in that.”
And over and above that, she’s also interested in her own start-up someday. “This, I believe, is the golden era for start-ups. All you need is a good innovative idea and a feasible plan with complete groundwork done; the state and central governments will support because whether in metros or non-metros, start-ups have a good prospect,” she says optimistically, adding that to assist such start-ups, IIM-Vizag has an incubation centre with programmes for women entrepreneurs.