Meet Duke Fuqua’s MBA Class Of 2020

Tanvie Vinayak

Fuqua School of Business, Duke University

Diehard Calvin&Hobbes fan who lives by its spirit of curiosity, creation, candor, friendship and humor.”

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Fun Fact About Yourself:  After a work trip to Johannesburg (South Africa) in 2016, I decided to extend my visit and go to Cape Town on my first ever solo trip. Originally, I was very nervous and apprehensive about travelling alone, but I had the most memorable time and made friends with locals and with fellow travelers from five different countries at the hostel. I saw and learned so much that I made a promise to myself to make one solo trip a year and have kept it so far!

Undergraduate School and Major: Hans Raj College (University of Delhi), BA (Hons) Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Clinton Health Access Initiative, Senior Analyst

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I had the opportunity to restructure federal schemes aimed at extending education, employment, and caretaker support to people with autism, cerebral palsy, and multiple disabilities in India. Due to the existing design of the schemes, only a handful of beneficiaries were being serviced in limited support areas. As part of the core group, I conceptualized the ‘lifecycle’ framework, which restructured the schemes to provide for each stage of the beneficiaries’ life. This approach (i) eliminated overlaps in existing schemes and allowed for easy navigation for beneficiaries and (ii) streamlined funding options and allowed for a 2x increase in capacity to service beneficiaries. The restructured schemes were inaugurated by the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India and it was an extraordinary feeling to know that our thought process and contribution had been formalized into policy that would benefit millions.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Warmth. I have met classmates from so many different parts of the world and everyone has been so warm and approachable. Everyone is forthcoming with help, and any personal or professional support is just a message or quick chat away. I have only been in Durham a week and I already feel at home with Team Fuqua!

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Interdisciplinary focus and experiential learning opportunities.

When I started working on establishing my start up Yuti, I realized that I will need to supplement my skillset in finance and social entrepreneurship before I can successfully steer my enterprise. The Duke MBA offers those very concentrations and allows me the flexibility to align my electives with my end goals. In addition, while attempting to establish Yuti, I identified other aspects of establishing a social venture (such as expanding the team, managing resources and evaluating opportunity costs) that I found challenging. I realized that I needed experiential learning opportunities that would allow me to develop hone these traits in a secure environment and the Duke MBA offered those avenues in offerings such as the Program for Entrepreneurship (P4E) and the Fuqua on Board program.

The Duke MBA‘s interdisciplinary focus and experiential learning opportunities offer me the right mix of knowledge I need from the classroom and also provide the right opportunities outside the classroom to apply what I will be learning and hone my entrepreneurial skill set.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? In coming to Duke, one of the things I was looking forward to most was the ‘P4E’ program. The program kicked off even before orientation and it was so exciting to be a part of it. We got to meet founders of previous successful start-ups that were incubated at Duke and also pitch our own ideas. It was encouraging that the program is attended by students across the university and so when I had a question about legal procedures for setting up a company, there was an LLM student in the next row who answered it for me immediately. I cannot wait to collaborate with this amazing set of people over the next two years and create something new!

In addition to P4E, I am also looking forward to participating in the CASE i3 Consulting Program to learn the ropes of impact investing and to serve as an associate in the Fuqua on Board (FOB) program to gain an insight into the functioning of non-profits in the US. I am also excited to essay the role of a ‘CASE’ fellow to build an enhanced understanding of the development opportunities that small-size NGOs present through webinars, treks and conferences and initiate discussion regarding how these opportunities can best be tapped.

I am also eager to contribute to the organization of the Duke Sustainable Business and Social Impact Conference as a member of the Net Impact Club and to hopefully undertake an independent study on how to customize innovative funding options for small-size NGOs under the guidance of Professor Cathy Clark!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Committed to contribute to social development, I have striven to gain diverse experience in the social sector. Two distinct experiences – volunteering with small-scale NGOs and consulting for large-scale development organizations – helped me appreciate the complementary and unique roles that large-scale development organizations and small-size NGOs play in the social development ecosystem. However, these experiences also made me realize that the potential impact of small-size NGOs often remains fragmented and transitory in the absence of the assured funding and high-impact fund-deployment strategies that large-scale organizations employ. Therefore, I conceptualized ‘Yuti’ (which means ‘to connect’ in Sanskrit) as a social enterprise that would raise funds suited to the appetite of small-size NGOs and provide assistance to efficiently deploy these funds to drive scalable and sustainable interventions.

Towards establishing Yuti, I committed myself to understanding relevant legal procedures, building a team, and gaining buy-in from stalwarts to form an advisory board. However, facing significant challenges in grant-allocation and grant scoping, I realized it was critical to gain first-hand experience in the functioning of large-scale donor organizations (to understand how Yuti would ration funds and customize funding options for small-size NGOs) and their grantees (to understand how Yuti would help small-size NGOs scope high-impact grants) to effectively steer my enterprise. Therefore, after I worked with CHAI (a grant recipient), where I learned to apply the theory of change to design milestone-based high-impact interventions, I decided to pursue an MBA to build my skillset in finance and social entrepreneurship so I could transition to a donor organization in the short-term post my MBA. In the long run, I want to leverage this experience to set up Yuti.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I was fortunate to discover my passion for social development while I was still in high school and consciously shaped my career to ensure I receive exposure to different aspects of the social development sector. In striving to do so, I gained myriad perspectives by actively choosing to work in different contexts, places, and roles. However, I felt I had reached a crossroads where

in order to apply this experience towards achieving my long-term goal of setting up my own social enterprise and my short-term goal of gaining work experience in a philanthropic organization, I needed to do many things. I needed to supplement my knowledge base and skillset, build a network of pioneers in the field, gain access to academic and professional resources, and meet diverse individuals from around the world to learn from their country-specific experiences. These requirements were best met by the Duke MBA, making it a worthy investment.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Kellogg School of Management, Yale School of Management, Wharton Business School

How did you determine your fit at various schools? In deciding which schools to apply to and evaluating my fit, it was important for me that the school have the following: (i) course options and programs that align with my focus (social entrepreneurship and finance); (ii) professors who have research areas that align with my interests; and (iii) alumni or collaborations with organizations I eventually want to work with. In addition, it was critical for me that the school have a collaborative culture. Initially, I started by researching all the top programs online and visiting their reception events in my city. Thereafter, I created my shortlist by reaching out to students and alumni from those universities (particularly those who worked or interned with organizations I am targeting) and also reached out to people in my target organizations (when possible) to understand their recruitment practices and preference for schools. During the course of this research, I realized that Duke met all my criteria, making it a right fit for me.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I started working on my first social venture, called ‘English with Umang’ when I was 16 years old along with three friends from school. Our high school had sent us for an exchange program to Dhrangadhra (a small Indian town) where we met ‘Ba’, my role model. Ba had set up Dhrangadhra’s first co-educational English-medium school, which opened a world of opportunities for children who otherwise would have worked in the local sandstone factories. Emulating Ba, my friends and I started ‘English with Umang’, an English proficiency program for 60 underprivileged children in Delhi. The experience was not only a valuable lesson in teamwork and leadership, but also allowed me to spend 2 years with some of the most amazing children ever and strengthened my commitment to work for social development.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? In the short-term, post MBA, I would like to join a donor organization in a role that affords me the opportunity to manage innovative funding options that include both grants and impact-investing portfolios.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I hope to be working towards my dream of establishing Yuti, a social enterprise aimed at creating a reliable and impact-driven funding ecosystem for small-size NGOs to empower them to scale and sustain transformational change.

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