Thinking different

September 2020

When Manan Sharma, MBA ’04, bought his iPhone 5S, there was no looking back.

Sharma stands outside an Apple store.

Sharma outside an Apple store.

Since then, he’s fully immersed himself in the Apple ecosystem: He started using a Mac for his desktop computing, and loves his Apple Watch and AirPods. He became a self-appointed Apple ambassador to his family, convincing his wife and parents to make the switch as well.

Now he even works there.

Sharma joined Apple India in 2016 as distribution planning manager, and was later promoted to lead the complete distribution portfolio and operations across all lines of business in his current role as head of national distribution.

He says that identifying with the business he works for has been key to success in his corporate journey.

“I wanted to work somewhere I had a natural affinity for—a company with products I can associate with—and that’s what led me to Apple,” says Sharma. “Apple keeps the customer at the heart of everything it does and continues to enrich the lives of millions. That keeps me motivated.”

Sharma was born and raised in New Delhi, and moved to Buffalo in 2002 to pursue an MBA at the School of Management. 

“I was the first person from my family to leave the country for an education,” he says. “I come from a working-class background, and I was glad to make the most of it—on the back of 16 years of hard work in school.” 

During his time at UB, he worked part time as a student assistant and as a fitness instructor in Alumni Arena—all while learning in a new educational system, with new friends and in a part of the world with weather much different than his home. 

“For me, the School of Management wasn’t just about being in an MBA program, it was about getting ready for life,” Sharma says. “The weather in Buffalo was an example of how life goes on—even in a snowstorm, Buffalonians don’t slow down. I learned that there are no shortcuts to success, and that determination, discipline and dedication are extremely important.”

Sharma’s first career opportunity came when industrial gases company Praxair Inc. visited campus to hire School of Management students. After a flight to the company’s headquarters in Danbury, Conn., and total of 13 interviews, he landed a job in internal audit at the firm’s Buffalo offices. 

A year later, he joined the company’s audit team in Connecticut. After nearly three years, he took on a role in corporate financial analysis and planning, where he managed financial planning for all of Praxair’s internal departments.

But Sharma had always planned to move back to India—the only question was when. His opportunity came in 2008 when he joined Bharti Airtel, India’s leading telecom operator, as chief of staff to the president in mobile services. He worked there for nearly seven years, with leadership roles in sales and marketing, including a year as chief marketing officer.

From there, he spent more than a year as assistant vice president at HT Media, India’s leading media house, before his move to Apple.

Sharma says authenticity has been an important factor throughout his life and career.

“Learning is a lifelong process and attention to detail is critical,” he says. “Along the way, be fair and respectful to people as personal goodwill is truly an intangible asset of immense value.”

Outside the office, Sharma enjoys spending time with his two sons, ages 10 and 4, hitting the gym and playing cricket weekly for a local club. 

“Sports are a great equalizer in life,” he says. “Sports and exercise allow you to stay focused and fresh to take on day-to-day challenges.”

Written by Kevin Manne