Scholar Spotlight - Nikhara Nirghin

Nikhara Nirghin, a Women's Business Education Laidlaw Scholar from the debut cohort at London Business School, on changing the status quo with respect and empathy, the power of consistent hard work, and the biggest challenge she has overcome so far.

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Nikhara Nirghin, a Women's Business Education Laidlaw Scholar from the debut cohort at London Business School, on changing the status quo with respect and empathy, the power of consistent hard work, and the biggest challenge she has overcome so far.

I was born in a little town in South Africa. Growing up, I bore witness to the power of innovation, drive and determination as pillars of transforming one’s circumstances. I was curious about the world around me from birth, always asking ‘why’ and wanting to know ‘but why not this way?’ Without doubt, I thrived in the environment in which I grew up, as my curiosity was always fed. Consequently, I have grown up wanting to be a proponent of the advancement of society.

Later on, I chose to become a financial engineer – an Actuary – as I wanted to have a deep understanding of how to structure the chaos present in the financial markets. In the past, I have been involved in Actuarial Consulting across Africa and Europe. It was here where I was involved in creating many innovative solutions for my previous clients and firms. I have also thoroughly enjoyed advancing society through some of my own projects, for example through devising a solution to impact 30 million African futures by addressing the education crisis and breaking down Insurer’s regulatory capital calculations, and then offering a practical and computationally simple solution to this problem.

Attending a top-tier business school has always been a dream of mine! Therefore, London Business School was an absolute dream for me to attend and the Laidlaw Scholarship made it possible. The Laidlaw Scholarship gives more financial choices to individuals, thereby allowing them to pursue their goals and dreams freely and authentically. In addition, the Foundation attracts the very brightest individuals that are driven to make an impact in their respective spheres of interest. Therefore, what the Scholarship and the Foundation stand for aligns with who I am. I wanted to be a part of this driven community that is changing the global landscape in a variety of industries with freedom and authenticity. It is for all these reasons that I applied to be a Laidlaw Scholar!

Forbes Women Summit

Briefly describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.

I would like to create a world where every individual, no matter their gender, race, religion, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, nationality etc. is given an equal and fair chance to become their truest and brightest version of themselves.

For example:
- a future where every woman from a disadvantaged background gets access to both a primary, secondary and tertiary education. 

- a future where the vulnerable in our communities have access to different financial mechanisms to rely on, in order to overcome their life’s challenges. 

It is certainly an ideal, but one worth fighting for!

Dreamer/curious

What is the biggest life challenge you have overcome and what did you learn from it?

To date, the biggest challenge I had to overcome was having my sister deathly sick in a hospital from a deadly virus (not COVID-19, this happened many years back!). This occurred in a critical part of my final examination, the results of which were paramount in my University admittance. I do not think anything can compare to having one of the people whom you love the most going through such a painful and horrifying experience, while you sit on the side-lines, powerless to help. Nothing compares to it. Furthermore, having this experience during a critical part of your life’s journey is derailing. 

I passed that life’s challenge, once again placing first in my year, only due to consistency. It turned out to be one of the greatest lessons I have had in life so far: the power of consistent hard work! I consistently and very purposefully focused on my goals to achieve the very best grades from day 1 of my academic year. Therefore, the learning and studying process for me happened consistently throughout my final year of school. When everything changed dramatically and suddenly, I relied on this consistency to carry me through my exams!

Risk/adventurous

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Ignore the noise and the trivialities. You do not have an infinite amount of time to worry about the inconsequential things that try to derail you from your goals.

Conversely, what is the worst piece of advice you have ever been given?

You are too new and too young to be changing what has been done for so long before you. Given this unsettling piece of advice, I want to inspire other young individuals to try their very best to change the status quo for the better and to do so whilst being respectful. I want to stress that the goal is not to disrespect those who have gone before you (never do that!). The goal is to make the world better and to do so with empathy and respect.

Top 3 tips that will help someone become a better leader

  1. Understand the important and the most appropriate details of what you are leading (both technical and bigger picture aspects are necessary to understand). No one wants to be led by someone who is confused or unsure or, even worse, ignorant.
  2. Be assertive, but always respectful.
  3. Empathy is and will always be your best friend.

Africa Millennial Board and Deloitte ExCo

Which leaders in the world inspire you the most and why?

My Dad for his courage, bravery and intellect to solve and overcome any business challenge, whilst caring for his community. 

My Mom for her fierce love, focus and selfless leadership. She has led a family that is pushing and will always push the boundaries, with quickness and adaptability that is really unparalleled.

Indra Nooyi for overcoming all social, cultural and gender barriers to become one of the greatest leaders of all time.

Nelson Mandela for teaching me how and when to completely and totally fight for what is right, but also how and when to forgive.

What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?

For me, being a Laidlaw Scholar means a chance to explore, grow and ultimately be the best version of myself. It also means a great deal to me to be a part of such an incredible, global community of change-makers. To be a part of a network of individuals who are disrupting and changing their communities feels like my dreams and hopes will be that more achievable and possible. You can’t manufacture passion and drive, and the Laidlaw community has both passion and drive simply naturally!


Quick-fire Questions

📺 Currently binging: Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix. This left me with more questions than I initially had!

Unsolved Mysteries (TV Series 2020– ) - IMDb

🎵 My quarantine anthem: Jerusalema (Master KG). Such a masterpiece! I, of course, have attempted the dance challenge!   

📚 My top book recommendation: I keep on coming back to 1984 by George Orwell. If we are not careful, we risk losing our freedom that we have fought so hard (and are still fighting for) to achieve.

Nineteen Eighty-four (Penguin Essentials): Amazon.co.uk: George Orwell:  9780141036144: Books

🎧 Podcast obsession: Invisibilia – this is Latin for invisible things. It unveils some interesting ideas! I would really recommend this if you are curious about the world around you.

Invisibilia : NPR

🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: Taking a walk in the park after a 2 week quarantine! It’s the little things that make life beautiful!


Nikhara is a Laidlaw Scholar from the debut cohort at London Business School. The Laidlaw Women's Business Education Scholarship aims to help build a pipeline of future women leaders through access to best-in-class education, resources and global networks by providing full and half scholarships to women who would not otherwise be in a position to reap the benefits of attending an outstanding school. 

Find out more about the Laidlaw Women's Business Education Scholarship.

Connect with Nikhara on LinkedIn.

Nikol Chen (she/her)

Marketing & Design, Laidlaw Foundation

Hello! My name is Nikol and I look after the Laidlaw Scholars Network. I am originally from Kazakhstan and I studied Human Sciences at UCL. My final research explored the potential effects of design on patient wellbeing in hospitals, and I also took modules such as Ethnographic Documentary Filmmaking, Anthropology of the Built Environment, Art in the Public Sphere, and other less interesting-sounding things :) Drop me a line at nikol.chen@laidlawfoundation.com if you have any questions about the Network or just fancy a chat. Alternatively, you can use the teal chat bubble in the right bottom corner of your screen and I'll reply ASAP!

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