2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Rishabh Kakkar, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

Rishabh Kakkar

Arizona State University, W. P. Carey School of Business

“Collaborative leader focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in business to bring out the best in teams and organizations.”

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Fun fact about yourself: I do poetry as a hobby and have written over 40 poems and songs.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University – Bachelor of Technology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Maruti Suzuki India Limited – Deputy Manager in Service Training

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Amazon – Lacey, WA

Where will you be working after graduation? Amazon – Pathways Operations Manager, Lacey, WA

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

MBA Association – Vice President (Multicultural Learning and Coordination)

Healthcare Club – Co-President

Business Information Management and Analytics Association (BIMAA) – Advisor

Graduate Supply Chain Management Association – First-Year Representative

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being able to support international students by helping them transition into the MBA program and life in the United States. When I took over the VP – Multicultural Learning and Coordination position in the MBAA – I knew we needed to reach out to the students before they started with the program. My amazing classmates helped me create a housing sheet to assist the out-of-state students in finding accommodation in Arizona. We also created an ASU Student Wiki with information about nearby grocery stores, restaurants, transportation options, and instructions on applying for a Social Security number, state ID, and driver’s license.

Over the past year, we celebrated the diversity of our program through lunch-and-learns organized on campus, in which we learned about the country and cultures of our classmates. In addition, we organized off-campus events for Diwali, Lunar New Year, and Eid al-Fitr. These events provide great opportunities to increase our cultural aptitude and try different cuisines from around the world.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am very proud of creating an automated job rotation tool for my fulfillment site during my internship at Amazon in the summer of 2022. This tool normalized the risk and effort of the tasks across all the associates and thus helped prevent injuries caused due to repetitive motion. To create this tool, I partnered with safety experts at Amazon to conduct job-hazard analyses and used data to assign effort ratings to each task. The tool could generate daily rosters for every shift based on attendance. Designed with scalability as a desired characteristic, this tool could easily be adapted to multiple Amazon sites.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose W.P. Carey because the ‘Business is Personal’ motto resonated with me. As an international student moving away from home for the first time, I knew I would not thrive in the hyper-competitive environment of traditional business schools. I loved the small, close-knit community of W. P. Carey as it offered an opportunity to connect personally with my classmates and build long-term relationships. While applying for b-schools, I contacted many students who moved from India to the U.S. to live their MBA dream. Every ASU student I connected with was a pleasure to speak to, and I could tell they were invested in my success. That culture of being a net investor and striving for mutual success motivated me to be a part of the W. P. Carey community.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course during the MBA program was SCM 518: Analytical Decision Modeling, which Dr. Reynold Byers taught. In that course, I learned how to make models that make optimal business decisions and truly realized the potential of MS Excel! This course helped me succeed in my internship, and the job rotation tool I created was built using the skills I learned. I particularly loved the challenge problems that took hours to solve, but the sense of achievement you get after solving those questions was unmatched!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event is the annual Around the World Celebration. The biggest cultural event celebrated by the MBA cohort, Around the World, provides a platform to showcase the various international cultures represented in W. P. Carey’s graduate programs. The event’s format is to have stalls for each country that students from these countries manage. At each booth, you may find some authentic food, a list of facts, or small prizes to be won by playing a small game popular among that country’s people. Last year, I was operating the India stall, but this year I will be organizing the event!

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me most about business school was that almost as much, if not more, learning happens outside the classroom. It’s fascinating how the theoretical concepts we learn in school work in the real business world. Networking events provide a great platform to gain sui generis business insights from industry professionals. The applied learning projects we work on during the program to solve business problems of ASU partner organizations are also advantageous. In addition, all the clubs and organizations within the school give so many opportunities to engage with one another for social, cultural, or professional learning.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose?  During the application process, I reached out to and set up calls with a lot of Indian students who were studying in the b-schools that I was targeting. I wanted to go beyond what was mentioned on the websites about the school’s culture and learn from students about their personal experiences. That helped me understand that most of the business schools had a very cutthroat environment where students were always competing against each other. W. P. Carey, however, was different as students here had a more collaborative rather than competitive approach. This helped me find a school where I could focus not just on my success but also invest in the success of my peers.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? While my MBA cohort comprises incredibly talented and inspiring individuals, I admire Rita Leal the most. Rita inspires me because of her never-say-die attitude and stellar management skills. When I first spoke to Rita on the second or third day of class, we discussed how intense the curriculum would be and how we would cope with the program’s academic rigor. While I was worried about how I could compete with my classmates, Rita was already talking about allocating extra hours for the quant-heavy classes because she historically struggled with them. She sounded so positive; her optimism was contagious!

Rita worked extremely hard during the program, never letting failure deter her motivation. Despite not doing well in the first finance course, Rita chose to pursue a concentration in finance because she wanted to challenge herself to do better and get past her fears to learn something she was passionate about! Not only did she do well, but she also landed an internship with a boutique consulting firm as a financial consultant. In the program’s second year, she was elected as the Co-President of the MBA Association, and that is when I worked under her leadership. Rita is a collaborative leader who brings out the best in everyone. She is a perfect planner and knows how to play to one’s strengths. She helped us create a scheduling process for MBAA events that helped eliminate any overlaps across cultural, professional, or social events, thus maximizing student participation. I am lucky to have had her as a classmate and a friend in this program.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

1. Focus on sustainable business solutions: I would like to create a culture of sustainable decision-making in every team, department, or company I work with. The focus on the triple bottom line has increased in the past decade, but there is still a lot of ground to cover. To ensure business continuity and life as we know it, leaders should create a culture of sustainability.

 2. Sponsor higher education for deserving candidates: I had never dreamt of attending a graduate program in the United States because I did not have the resources to afford it. W. P. Carey gave me a generous scholarship that helped me live this dream and surpass the boundaries I had created for myself. I hope to start a scholarship fund to sponsor deserving students’ graduate tuition. While I might only be able to contribute a small amount shortly, I hope to increase that contribution gradually.

What made Rishabh such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Before beginning his journey at W. P. Carey, Rishabh Kakkar had never been to the United States. Rishabh had rarely been outside of his home city of New Delhi. Seeing how welcomed he was upon his arrival, Rishabh set out to help all cultures learn more about each other. After experiencing difficulties getting settled in and the culture shock of being in a new place, Rishabh put great effort into alleviating those concerns for future international students. Through his role as MBA Association (MBAA) Vice President of Multicultural Learning and Coordination, Rishabh created several helpful guidebooks for international and domestic students to utilize and help navigate their new community. Rish has also facilitated numerous multicultural lunch-and-learn sessions for his MBA peers, allowing students to learn from and about the diverse cultures in the program. This program is stronger, more united, and more culturally sensitive, thanks to Rish’s efforts.”

Erica Day
Associate Director
Program Operations
W. P. Carey Graduate Programs


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