2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Sunny Kumar, INSEAD

Sunny Kumar


Passionate about business, using business for good, the environment and problem-solving.”

Hometown: Paris/Dublin

Family Members: Mum, Dad, 3 sisters, 2 brothers, 2 beautiful nieces and another niece or nephew on the way.

Fun fact about yourself: When I was 11, I wrote to the Archbishop of Ireland because I didn’t like the naming rules for my middle name. He granted me a special one-off request to change it. Sunny 1 – Rules 0.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. Information and Communications Technology.

Where are you currently working? Carbon27 – CEO & Founder.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I’ve been enjoying horse-riding for the past number of years and lately I’m quite keen on tennis. I really enjoy reading and discovering all the things that Paris (or any city!) has to offer.

Having parents from two very different countries (Ireland, India) has exposed me to the inequalities of the world from an early age. Charity and social work for me began as a child while I watched my parents help those in need. In the last year, I made a decision to make social responsibility even more personal to me by setting up a foundation called Saayam with 3 close friends in Mumbai, India. Our mission is to have a sustained long-term impact on the most in need citizens of Mumbai by partnering with local NGOs and groups.

Like all executive MBAs, I’ve received great support from friends and family during my business school applications. Since the beginning of my candidacy, I’ve been coaching full-time MBA applicants for interviews and helping them tease out their true values and qualities. It’s been the most rewarding experience to see them place at top schools like MIT, Booth, ESADE, Bocconi and INSEAD. As leaders, it’s important that we inspire others by giving back more than we receive.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? A group of friends and I have raised over €365,000 to help the stranded informal workers and public service men and women of Mumbai during COVID-19. We were able to provide over 800,000 cooked meals and 7,500 monthly ration kits to families.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? A few years ago, I left a fantastic job, opportunity and security because the culture didn’t align with my personal and professional values. It was the toughest decision of my life.

A few years on and I’ve started my own company called Carbon27, which allows me to pursue my passions and values in business and helping others. We create an eco-system for everybody to generate carbon credits while also helping local causes and having an international impact on social responsibility and carbon removal. We’re already placing in the finals and semi-finals of top competitions. Last week, we had discussions with companies like EDF & SHELL and are now planning to raise a 7 or 8-figure Series A next year – things I could never have foreseen. I’m extremely proud of choosing the right professional path for me based on my values, even when things were not so clear. It has shown me that all important things are never lost.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Ilze Kivleniece, Strategy. I really love Ilze’s teaching style and her approachable nature. As well as applying her teachings directly to my work, she gave me countless hours of advice outside of class to help me succeed in my business.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? The diversity of the INSEAD program was extremely appealing to me as well as the incredible alumni network.

Ultimately, I chose the school for the Leadership Development Program (LDP). This aspect of the MBA has nothing to do with academics. However, it has added more value to me as a person and professional than any class could have. One of my goals when entering the executive MBA was to make a strong start on the journey of becoming a transformational leader. The LDP is a big enabler and is giving me the foundations and confidence to realise this particular ambition of mine.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? It was how to build teams and learn to trust and listen to people’s opinions really matter. These three things are difficult to implement because they challenge your own beliefs, but they yield immeasurable value. Working on these lessons with my team has allowed us to redesign our initial Carbon27 business model with a far more impactful and successful one.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? This is a recurring story for me since I’ve moved to Paris for school and work. Every four weeks, I travel back to Ireland for a week to see my family. It’s not easy, especially during COVID, but planning out everything in detail 6-8 weeks in advance has helped me a lot. And I still manage to hand in the odd essay late. Sorry!

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? The executive MBA has so much more to offer than just class time. It’s a constant lesson inside and outside of the classroom. It’s journey of becoming self-aware and helping others to achieve their goals, not just your own. Be prepared to dramatically change as a person and take every single opportunity you can. Attend the webinars on your lunch breaks and connect with other students outside of your class. It triples the value of your executive MBA.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not seeing the value in the extra webinars outside of class time. I didn’t embrace these until after the second module and the value they unlock is immense. I’ve made great contacts that have given me their expertise on a 1-to-1 basis and have developed great relationships.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I really admire Gulseren Topcuoglu. She’s the hardest-working woman I know and devotes her time to the success of her company and others; all while working in an extremely difficult industry. When she gives her word, you can trust that things will be done. She’s an incredible role model for women everywhere and she inspires many of our cohort, not just me.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I wanted a full experience that would have an impact in every area of my life. I wanted to develop as a person, transition to become a transformational leader, strengthen my network and bring world class insights to my new business. For me, an executive MBA was the only choice to achieve all of my goals and position myself for further success.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I’m passionate about business and passionate about helping people through business. As long as I’m doing both of these things and building on previous successes to have more impact, I feel like I’m on the right path.

What made Sunny such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“Sunny has a very impressive academic background, holds a Master’s of Art in Management from Harvard and a Bachelor’s of Science on Information Technology from Trinity College Dublin. However, Sunny impressed the admissions committee and stakeholders by his professional experience and his current entrepreneurial initiative in the field of environmental science. Start-up Carbon27 aims to create the world’s first truly digital carbon credit, through researching and developing a start-up business to accurately measure & verify carbon reductions from renewable energy producers using a proprietary hardware/software live Blockchain system.”

Teresa Peiro
Associate Director of Global Admissions, Degree Programmes at INSEAD


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.