“A passionate, fun-loving, practical entrepreneur who wants to synergise business and society.”
Hometown: Tadepalligudem, India
Fun Fact About Yourself: I traveled to 500+ villages and delivered public speeches in more than 150 villages, as part of a campaign to promote entrepreneurship in rural India.
Undergraduate School and Major: BITS Pilani, India
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Impact Micro Ventures, Co-founder/COO
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment is designing a last-mile entrepreneurship promotion model from scratch, to fight poverty. When I started in the social impact space, I had no formal education or experience. In 2-years’ time, I built and streamlined a model that was selected by the Ministry of Rural Development (Indian Govt.) as a national best-practice. I supported the Ministry in designing and implementing a national policy across 16 states in India to impact 370,000 direct beneficiaries. When I quit my corporate job to explore social impact, I never imagined that I could accomplish anything on this scale.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? One quality that is strikingly evident in my classmates is humility. It is amazing to see how humble and down-to-earth everyone has been, despite all their accomplishments. Although it’s been only a week, I really am able to make a connection with them, and we talk as if we grew up together! As for me, I can already see ‘Team Fuqua’ spirit brewing among us.
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? A key factor that led me to Duke is Fuqua’s focus on social entrepreneurship (next only to the contagious Team Fuqua spirit!).
Personally, I am very passionate about poverty eradication. Through my experience of working in India, I realized that entrepreneurship is essential to create impact sustainably. I wanted to attend a school that would equip me with strong core business skills, while also letting me pursue my interest in social impact. Through the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE), Fuqua offers the best of both worlds to me.
With CASE’s world-class faculty, its extension into Africa and India, and the numerous support systems on offer, Fuqua was an obvious choice for me.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am looking most forward to joining Net Impact, and I am very thrilled about the Sustainable Business and Social Impact (SBSI) conference.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have worked in the social impact sector for close to 5.5 years. During this phase, I worked with non-profits, for-profits, governments, founded a start-up, and spent a significant time living in poverty-stricken villages. These experiences put me in a great position to understand the ground-reality of the social sector in India.
Through an MBA, I want to gain a global outlook and network, in addition to mastering the business fundamentals. I want to inject a strong dose of business innovation to the social sector in the coming years, leveraging my MBA and business experience.
How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I think it boils down to how one sees it! In my case, I never had a doubt that an MBA’s worth (especially one from Duke!) was debatable at all. Although it is a significant investment financially, an MBA propels you to a global stage. I believe that, with Fuqua’s world-class education, relentless alumni, and the brand recall, it sets up an amazing platform to go big from wherever you are and whatever you do!
What other MBA programs did you apply to? I also applied to Yale SOM and UVA Darden.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? One of the most important things to look for while selecting schools is fit. I cannot emphasize it enough. One piece of advice (especially for internationals) is not to have blind faith in rankings. Schools should be selected based on a unique and individual context – yours. My priority was to go to a school with two benefits: a strong focus on social entrepreneurship and a tight-knit student culture.
I started very early. Being in India, I could not visit the schools but made up for it by attending all the schools’ information events – a great way to directly interact with admissions teams and students/alumni. Then I reached out to people from my undergrad alma mater who went to these schools (a quick search on LinkedIn was good enough). I tried to connect with as many students and alumni of the school as I could. I ensured that I spoke to people from similar interest areas – clubs, post-MBA plans, pre-MBA backgrounds etc. This has given me a great sense of the school’s focus on my interest areas and how good the culture was. The best way is to find people who have gone down the road that you intend to take.
Poets and Quants and GMAT Club were great resources all along the way. MBAMission school guides give good insight even before you talk to people.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I might not have a defining ‘moment’ that shaped me.
My father – a social activist – shaped my professional passions and career choices. Watching him work with poor laborers sensitized me to poverty at a very young age. Throughout my undergrad and corporate stint, I was involved with non-profits in some capacity. After working for over a year in the corporate world, I decided to take up social impact full-time and quit the job. My parents offered immense support and confidence that helped me to transition into the social sector and become who I am today.
What do you plan to do after you graduate? Immediately after graduation, I want to work at a social entrepreneurship incubator or a fund, which would allow me to work at the intersection of social impact and business world. With this experience and networks in other developing markets, I want to return to my startup in India.
Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years from graduation, I see myself running a social enterprise promoting grassroots entrepreneurship and financial inclusion in developing countries. I want to create an ecosystem to impart self-reliance among the poor, through entrepreneurship.