Law student Sanjana Rao, recipient of Aditya Birla Scholarship, shares her dreams and aspirations.

It is a story in every student's dream. When the student-section manager, NLUJ (National Law University, Jodhpur), asked her to apply for the Aditya Birla Scholarship (ABS), Sanjana Rao, studying for her five-year integrated BSc LLB (Hons.) degree thought she didn't stand a chance. She was one of the 20 top-rankers at NLUJ, but competing with the best brains of the country's top law schools? But “I never quit without trying,” she said.

She worked through the night to meet the deadline, submitted her application, along with two essays (250 words each) and forgot all about it. A week later she learnt she was one of the three students short-listed from her university. The next was an interview at Mumbai, where she would join others from different law schools. “This is when I resolved I'd work hard for this scholarship, come what may!” Sanjana said. “If I was capable of making it this far, I was also capable of winning it.” She spent the next week studying/researching for the interview.

She had to wait “nail-biting” hours for her turn, but “those 20 minutes I faced the panel comprising Justice MN Venkatachaliah, (Retd. Chief Justice Supreme Court) retired Supreme Court Justices Ruma Pal and SB Sinha, Sri Rajan, Country Head and MD, Bain and Company India, were the most overwhelming moments of my life! When I stepped out, I felt happiness and relief, combined with strong intuition that the night would turn out to be fortunate.” The names would be announced that very evening. The scholarship experience was exhilarating, she said. “I befriended peers from top-notch institutions and interacted with eminent personalities.” Why law, I asked. Because of a strong passion for studying that which “governs the conduct of society,” and the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful and intellectual way to the country/society, she said. “Of course, a lot can also be attributed to the courtroom soaps and legal fiction books that I have been indulging in for long.” Since her ambition is to specialise in Intellectual Property Rights, specifically Patent Law, the fact that NLUJ houses some of the country’s best professors in the field is an added bonus.

Documenting innovation

Her first essay was on her background, how it has impacted her choice of study and professional plans. She wrote she had noticed exquisite and authentic art pieces that deserved worldwide recognition but were being sold for paltry sums in a village of Tamil Nadu. The poor artisan didn't know of IPR, had no education and skills to market his creations. It was the same with engineering innovations in rural India. She would document innovative rural engineering practices and unique art forms. With the right legal advice they could be patented, branded and marketed. This would not only help uplift the financial condition of the poor Indian rural innovator but would directly contribute to the Indian economy by inviting foreign exchange.

In the second essay, she had to write why she should be picked for ABS. She wrote of her sense of social awareness, intention to serve people at the grassroots and her scientific/analytical bent of mind to understand and identify innovations that could be re-engineered for a global context. She had scored 96 per cent in Class XII and had cracked both JEE-Main and CLAT this year.

Her degree would make her a “scientifically-enabled lawyer” capable of grasping the legal aspects of patenting and launching products globally. She would also get an MBA degree to equip herself with marketing and management skills, to bone up on international business. She offered a few interview-acing tips. “Being blessed with a very composed and relaxed disposition, I managed to stay unruffled,” she said.

“My mother (senior Corporate HR Consultant) told me that the secret of a successful interview was to speak sincerely and ‘from the heart’, and I did just that.” The panellists quizzed her on which of the three components in her ambition was most important to her: Desire to contribute to the society, passion for Science and Law or the need to market the patented innovations? All three, she had replied. A “patent” is of no use to the poor innovator unless he benefits financially from his innovation. “As I had already formulated my ambition quite well, I was able to handle most of the questions with ease and confidence,” she said.

The scholarship amount will be sent directly to the university towards tuition/hostel fees, each semester, so “I am now left with surplus funds,” she said cheerfully. “I intend to research villages on various engineering practices and innovations prevalent there and associate myself with people and organisation, doing commendable work in the field of unearthing and patenting rural engineering discoveries.”