As business school students gear up for graduation activities and celebrations next month, one Kellogg School of Management student faces potential expulsion to his native country of India. Hiral Sanghavi’s standing in the U.S. is tied to his wife’s H-1B visa, which is set to expire in August. If her renewal is denied, Sanghavi will have exactly one month to pack up and leave the country.
That won’t just mean one less MBA student at Kellogg. It will also mean a direct hit to the U.S. economy, because Sanghavi is an ambitious entrepreneur whose startup already is contributing jobs and millions of dollars to the United States’ economy. He is the founder and CEO of BauBax, maker of a multifunctional “super jacket” meant to ease the hassle of commuting, which to date has reported over $25 million in revenue, a record-breaking status on Kickstarter, 200,000 customers in 150 countries, and multiple employees in both the U.S. and in Asia.
All that goes away if Sanghavi is forced to leave the U.S., though, because he will take his business with him.
‘I DON’T HAVE CERTAINTY OF WHETHER OR NOT I CAN STAY HERE’
From the ongoing debate over DACA and building a wall, the current U.S. political climate is undoubtedly turbulent. Employers have noticed. For immigrants and international students, it’s more than just rhetoric that has them on edge: it’s the constant uncertainty.
“My main concern is that even though I’ve created this business and American jobs and I’m contributing to the economy in my own little way, I don’t really have certainty of whether or not I’ll be able to stay in this country for good,” Sanghavi tells Poets&Quants in a phone interview from China, where BauBax’s jackets are manufactured. The outerwear article boasts 15 hidden features including a drink pocket, built-in gloves, hand-warming pockets, and more.
In the U.S., Sanghavi has six full-time employees based out of Redmond, Washington, where the company is headquartered, as well as seven contractors. “Thirteen American jobs we’ve created,” Sanghavi says. “Roles include operations, sales, marketing, and customer support.” In Asia, he employees another 11. Then there’s money being pumped into the U.S. economy from BauBax. “All kinds of taxes: state, federal, customs duties. All put together, my company has paid over $2 million since inception.”
Jobs, wealth, tax dollars: it’s all there. But all of it may come to a halt if the government blocks a visa renewal for Yoganshi Shah, Sanghavi’s wife. Once her visa is renewed, his is automatically renewed as well, because he is her spouse. “The concern we have is that my business is owned 100% by me, and I am dependent on my wife’s H-1B visa,” Sanghavi says. “If it doesn’t get renewed, we won’t have a status and will have to leave the country in 30 days.”
A JOURNEY THAT BEGAN IN 2013
Sanghavi’s journey to the U.S. began in 2013. After completing his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Mumbai in 2008, he spent several years owning and operating one of many fruitful ventures he’d launched as an undergrad. The most successful was a thriving STEM and robotics education company named Technophilia that he was able to expand internationally. But it wasn’t enough.
“I realized I was too ambitious in life to stick to that company,” he says. “It was six or seven years of my life already running it, but I hit a glass ceiling. When you do business, there are a lot of wins and a lot of failures. I realized there was a lot to learn if I wanted a scalable business venture so I decided to get some more education.”
With that, Sanghavi began prepping for the GMAT and applying to business schools. His targets included Kellogg, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a handful of other top U.S. schools.
“Kellogg was one of my top picks for sure,” he says. “I loved the culture and it’s a known fact that Kellogg is number one for marketing. I definitely wanted to hone my marketing skills. That’s what I learned from my third startup. The ability to position a brand, nurture it, and grow it — especially in the early stages of a venture launching new products — that’s exactly what I wanted to learn. Entrepreneurship was something I was good at, but marketing was something I needed to learn.”
Sanghavi didn’t just get accepted to Kellogg — he was given an FC Austin Scholarship awarded to incoming students in the top 3% who demonstrate future potential for high-impact leadership and public service. As an Austin Scholar, he was granted $120,000 toward tuition. “Basically the entire tuition fee for two years was waived off for me,” he says. And with that he moved to the U.S. to pursue his graduate business education.