William & Mary

Alumnus Abroad

A Q&A with Harshad Daswani ’98, Director, The Beach Company and Partner, Fountainhead Exports

Harshad Daswani photoWhere were you born? What do you consider your home town?

I was born in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in India. A very different city now than it was back in 1976!

Why did you choose to attend William & Mary?

As I stacked up the major factors I looked for in a university, W&M was right on top. It had the right class size, well rounded liberal arts curriculum, not located in a major urban area, a smaller international student population and coming from India, it wouldn’t be as cold, perhaps, as schools in the northeast! I believed I could make an impact – both as an “ambassador” of India, and as a foreign student on an American campus.

What was your major?

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA, 1998) with a focus on finance courses.

Did you have a favorite course and/or professor while you were at W&M?

I enjoyed a lot of my classes at W&M, but a special mention for Professor Herrington Bryce & Professor Karen Locke, both at the Business School, as their classes really were of most interest to me. And outside of the business school, I enjoyed Professor Donald Baxter’s class on South Asian comparative politics. Although I never had a class with him, Professor Jim Bill made a lasting impression in the time I spent speaking and working with him at the Reves Center.

Do you have a favorite memory of your time at W&M?

Learning racquetball! Outside of the classroom, learning a typically American sport (at the time) but by trying to apply rules of squash, earned me multiple black-eyes and bruises! And also my kinesiology class – kayaking!

What career path(s) have you pursued?

I returned to India in 1999 and after working with the family business a while, I left to set up an apparel and swimwear manufacturing business [The Beach Company]. Around 2001 with the changing climate of Indian business, we began to grow fast, and well. Today we are India’s largest specialty manufacturer of holiday apparel and we export to more than 30 countries.

Do you have any current projects/passions you’d like to share?

We run a social campaign called So More Can Swim. Our mission is to prevent the loss of life caused by accidental drowning, and we partner with organizations & individuals to support their efforts in this area. Drowning sadly is among the leading causes of accidental loss of life globally, primarily among children under the age of 14.

How do you think your experience at W&M has affected your life and decisions you’ve made?

It did, in many ways. W&M has the advantage of being close to Washington, allowing access to resources, internships, jobs and life-experiences. Furthermore the limited class size allowed students to excel and share in an environment that was competitive. The people I met at W&M, I still consider many among my close friends.

Do you have any advice for current students?

When I was at W&M, life was simpler. We didn’t have social media (we barely had e-mail). Although we all know the essentials – work hard, play hard, and the important of respect and loyalty – my advice would be to focus on immediately structuring a work-life balance so in the “real world” everything is managed better.

Is there any advice you wish you’d received?

Laugh more. Worry less.

Do you think international experience as a student is helpful in future life and career?

Absolutely. It would be myopic to expect any one country to provide everything. Even if you get married, work and live close to where you were born, you cannot escape the exposure and integration different parts of the world will bring to your life. From travel and literature, to work relationships, business & data, you will have to work together and compete with other cultures and countries. Understanding people (starting right here at W&M) will give you an incredible edge.

Anything else you’d like to add?

William & Mary was like family, and I can’t wait to be back in a few months for my 20th reunion homecoming.