“What got you here won’t take you there.”
Every successful entrepreneur has heard that warning. Call it a speed bump – a reminder to stay humble and curious – and unafraid to deviate or evolve. After all, the real test isn’t turning an idea into a solution. No, legacies are cemented by scaling an operation and sustaining a culture.
That next step was a big part of London Business School’s appeal to Spandana Palaypu. Six years ago, she launched ZoEasy, which she describes as an “award-winning social enterprise that educates and matches migrant blue-collar job seekers to ethical employment opportunities.” While Palaypu graduated near the top of her undergrad class as a business major, she joined the MBA Class of 2024 to expose herself to concepts like human-centered design. In other words, Palaypu knew it was time to take an off-ramp, so she could come back with new ideas and proven methods.
A STARTUP TO WATCH
“With my company having reached a certain stage, I now have the time to take a step back and re-approach it with a fresh perspective by pursuing the MBA at LBS,” she tells P&Q. “This will not only help improve my overall fundamental skills, but will give me the opportunity to further brainstorm and innovate with my diverse classmates, build a stronger network to expand further, and even connect with potential co-founders who have similar visions.”
As a founder, Palaypu had already produced enviable results. In 2019, ZoEasy was chosen as the winner of Lead2030 Challenge in the Quality Education category. In this challenge – which was launched by the United Nations and One Young World and funded by Credit Suisse – ZoEasy beat out 1,200 entrants from over 100 countries. Along the way, Palaypu was featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 and Forbes 50 Startups. Her big achievement? ZoEasy created a financial literacy training for 15,000 couriers that serves as a benchmark for the United Arab Emirates.
And that’s just the start…
“After graduation, my goal is to empower 1 million job seekers via dignified employment, and eventually grow ZoEasy into the global go-to platform for the blue-collar workforce (a Super-App of sorts),” Palaypu tells P&Q. “In order to achieve this scale. However, I need to go beyond the current skill set I possess, and what better time to do it than now!”
FROM OLYMPIAN TO MBA
Thus far, Palaypu has been inspired by the wide and diverse pool of professional experiences and cultural perspectives – the kind that “drives a lot of creativity.” The same could be said for her London locale. A hub for finance, technology, and entrepreneurship London is the kind of place, she says, where an LBS MBA “opens as many doors as you can imagine.”
“The best part is that LBS is at the heart of it all,” Palaypu adds. “The MBA Class has the opportunity to create this incredible network, meet with global industry leaders, and put everything that is absorbed in the classroom into practice through the multitude of opportunities that this dynamic city has to offer. Moreover, living in London will prepare you for life in general…Both the LBS MBA and this city as a whole will push us beyond our comfort zones to hit our highest potential. It’s a place where every opportunity is accessible, but WE have to work for it, and the reward is that much more special.”
Ryan Owens knows all about hard work and delayed gratification. In his own words, the LBS first-year “spent the past 11 years of my life building toward an event that lasted a total of 51 seconds at Tokyo 2020.” By Tokyo 2020, he means the 2020 Olympics, where he was a member of the United Kingdom’s cycling team. Sure enough, the sacrifice was worth it after Owen collected a Silver Medal – not counting his 2nd place finishes in both the World Championship and European Championship.
“Achieving that goal in Tokyo last year left me feeling very content with my sporting career to date,” he tells P&Q. “I’m staying open to all options as I start my MBA but have an initial draw to strategy consulting. The teamwork, commitment to excellence and drive to dig deep into problems utilised in consulting emulate my favourite elements of life as an athlete.”
WOMEN MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Ironically, Alexandra Rico-Lloyd combines her passions for entrepreneurship and cycling. The founder of Bike Club, Rico-Lloyd has helped 40,000 UK families get involved in the sport. In turn, you could call Nhlanzeko Khanyile more of an intrapreneur. Before business school, she was part of five-person team that launched Africa’s first renewable energy yieldco.
“I was able to experience what it feels like to work in a “start-up” environment and play a valuable role in building something from the ground up,” Khanyile notes “The real accomplishment was making the first few investments and seeing the fund comprise assets that play a positive contribution to the energy crisis in Africa and promote good ESG standards.”
Alisha Chowdhury is another first-year blazing a path in finance. During internship interviews in college, she was disheartened by how none of her counterparts looked like her. Despite these hurdles, she persevered to become an investor – who never forgot how hard it was to be an outlier.
“At my former employer, I helped create a diversity and inclusion (D&I) committee and spearheaded an initiative to donate over $150,000 to two organizations focused on increasing D&I in finance,” Chowdhury recalls. “In addition, I mentor college women interested in investing by providing interview preparation and career advice. Through these experiences, I have developed leadership, confidence, and grit. I went from being the young girl who was scared to go to an interview to the female investor sparking change in the financial sector.”
AN LBS MBA: A FAMLY AFFAIR
In theatre, you’ll also often find men holding the coveted producer role. That’s starting to change with Tanya Agarwal, who last worked as a producer at the acclaimed Paines Plough company. Think producers have the easy role? Ask Agarwal about the day she vaccinated 250 pigeons for an outdoor show! Her biggest achievement? Producing a 7-week tour during the pandemic.
“It was a tricky and precarious time to be creating live theatre and involved a lot of risk management (and an expert knowledge of COVID protocols in a very short space of time!),” she explains. “I handled everything, including hiring the creatives, negotiating with venues, and raising over £160,000 in capital. As a result, the show was nominated for the Visionary Honors Award 2022 in the Best Play/Musical category for its social impact in culture, media, and entertainment.”
Now, for her second act – or encore – she plans to follow in the footsteps of her father, a ’98 LBS MBA who made the leap from chemical engineering to investment banking. “I am keen to take a step back to develop new skills and explore how I want my professional life to develop. My ambition is to continue working in the Entertainment Industry, but with a focus on streaming services with one of the leading content creation companies.”
FROM RESEARCHERS TO GROILLA TRACKERS
In the Class of 2024, you’ll find all types of backgrounds. The European Commission awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie postdoctoral research fellowship to Freya Svedberg-Keating, enabling the PhD work out of the VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research. In contrast, Maria Jose Lagos headed up revenue management at CCU, Chile’s largest producer of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Here, she partnered with McKinsey & Company to develop a strategy to stem its losses. It was a clear-cut success, with CCU’s annual sales revenue (as a whole) jumping from $1.858 to $2.485 billion dollars from 2020-2021.
“Together with their team, we undertook a complete review of the strategy for the core part of the business that was consistently losing market share. After 6 months, we managed to deliver a detailed proposal that allowed the company to recover a great part of the lost market share while growing in profits. I was also responsible for the tools we had acquired and the implementation of the new strategy.”
Outside their career paths, Anirban Mukhopadhyay is a certified gorilla tracker, while Ori Stern spent his teenage years working as a cowboy. Freya Svedberg-Keating completed Belgium’s Dodentocht ‘Death Walk’, covering 100 kilometers in 20 hours. By the same token, Ezzy Ndujiuba – a mathematician by trade – was a backing vocalist for Kelis at the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival. And Ndujiuba isn’t the only singer in the Class of 2024.
“I am a Bangladeshi-American-Cajun-Muslim woman passionate about financial equality and independence,” writes Alisha Chowdhury. “I sing soul and fun music.”
A CLASS PROFILE
Like most business schools during the 2021-2022 applications cycle, the London Business School experienced a decrease in applications, falling from 2,993 to 2,540 from the previous cycle. Despite this, the school enrolled 509 students in the Class of 2024, down just 2 students from the previous class.
As a whole, the class averaged a 702 GMAT, with the median score being 710 and the range running from a 600 low to a 780 high. True to the program’s cosmopolitan reputation, 91% of the class hails from outside the United Kingdom – to the tune of 74 countries. Women also account for 37% of the class.
Professionally, consultants make up 28% of the class. Finance trails closely behind, holding 25% of the class. Technology (9%), Energy (5%), Retail and Luxury (5%), and Healthcare (3%) also represent substantive segments of the class.
Next Page: Interview with Helen Foley, MBA Programme Director
Page 3: Profiles of 12 LBS First-Years
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