Entrepreneurship has been budding since the last decade, but not many invest themselves in building business models that create win-win for the business and the society. Today, we bring you the story of a social entrepreneur who hails from Bengal but has lived in 8 cities till date. He came across entrepreneurship when interviewing for his college E-cell and since then, he has boosted multiple projects, benefitting the business and the society significantly. This individual's passion, grit, and consciousness landed him among India's Best-30 Most Employable MBA Graduates!
The following is Anish Agrawal's set of responses to a questionnaire floated amongst MBA graduates to determine the top-30 most employable MBA graduates of the Class of 2021. Amongst the massive number of entries and responses being evaluated by the Founder of InsideIIM-Kampus Konversations, Anish Agrawal’s story and profile stood out. Here's his story in his words.
“I am Anish Agarwal and I was born and brought up in west Bengal, however, I have been fortunate enough to have lived in 8 cities till date. I did my engineering from NIT Durgapur post which I worked at IBM for 2 years. I joined SIBM Pune to pursue marketing where my journey has been nothing short of fantastic. From doing live projects sanctioned by ISRO to representing my college in Corporate Case Competitions nationally, I have had quite an eventful journey. I am also a part of those few lucky batches who witnessed demonetization while graduating from engineering and Covid-19 while graduating from B-school.”
Name an instance where you wanted something and went out of your comfort zone to achieve it OR Tell us the biggest risk you have taken so far in your life.
"During my second year at NIT Durgapur, I developed an interest in automobile engineering, which was rather unusual for a student of the Electronics & Communication department. In my free time, I started reading about IC engines and planetary gear systems. The concepts were slightly difficult and I had to take help from various friends and seniors in Mechanical Engineering but I was passionate. During one of the term breaks, I came across a course titled ‘Automotive Industry Simulation Internship”, which was happening in Pune. I enrolled for it immediately.
On the first day of the course, the auditorium was filled with about 100 odd students and to my surprise I was the only ECE student there and everyone else had a background in either Mechanical or Automobile engineering. It was indeed intimidating, but I just focused on my personal learning without focusing on the competition. During the course we were divided into groups of 10 and I was chosen as the group leader. Each team was given a case related to the automobile industry and we had to present our solution on the final day, based on the learnings from the program.
The competition was fierce, and not coming from mechanical background put me in an uncomfortable position. However, I also knew what a great achievement it would be, if I could lead my team to victory. We worked hard and made sure we understood the case well and prepared the presentation. On the final day, the presentation went well and we were adjudged the runners up out of the 10 teams who presented. All other students were shocked to see a non-mechanical student on stage, receiving the award. That was a moment of immense pride for me."
When was the last time someone relied on you? OR What did you do which was purely for someone else - a truly selfless act.
"My marketing management professor also happened to be running his independent consulting firm where he took on various clients to advise them on growth marketing strategies. I enquired with him for live project opportunities at his firm as I was keen on gaining experience in the consulting domain. I was selected after a screening process and started working on the assignments given to me. One day, Sir introduced me to his pet project – NYEP, which was aimed at teaching entrepreneurship to the youth of rural Maharashtra. It seemed like a noble initiative as it would really help drive the rural economy. I started working on small assignments for NYEP and gradually I was able to contribute in a substantial way. Now, I am proud as well as humbled to say that I am a core member of Team NYEP and the team relies and respects my contribution for this noble goal of empowering the youth of rural Maharashtra. The program is scheduled to launch in December 2020 and I am hopeful that our hard work will make a difference in the lives of these students."
Tell us about a time when you disagreed with an opinion/idea/decision. What did you do about it?
"While I was a senior member of the college fest committee, an incident occurred which polarized the entire team. Our title sponsor backed out at the last minute, which really affected our budget. A few team members were of the opinion that we should slash the prize money to make adjustments. However, we had already done the promotions and this change in the prize money would really affect our fest’s credibility. I was not happy with the idea and tried to find a solution. I knew we would have to make the cuts somewhere but it need not be on the prize money. I came up with a list of all areas where we could cut costs and discussed with the sponsorship team if they could negotiate with the title sponsor for a hybrid cash & kind arrangement if they were unable to sponsor 100% in cash. The team agreed to give my suggestions a shot which went well and delivered a successful fest without slashing the promised prize money."
What is the one thing you can claim to have some level of expertise or depth of knowledge in - it could be anything - a subject, a sport, a hobby, a venture, an initiative which has led you to do deep work in that field?
"I was exposed to the concept of entrepreneurship during the first year of my engineering while I was interviewing to be a part of the E-cell of the college and since then I have had some really enriching learning experiences, especially in the field of social entrepreneurship. My tenure in the college E-cell was not restricted to organizing guest lectures, but it also had 3 real life entrepreneurial stints, where real life problems were solved and actual money was involved. The most interesting of them was ‘The Ripple Effect’ – which was a social experiment based on the concept of Gifting Economics. I was tasked with forming the team and executing the experiment in college via setting up a temporary café. The interesting part was that the customers were allowed to pay whatever they wanted after dining in the café. Our business model not only sustained our investments but achieved a break-even from the very beginning. This gave me deep insights into consumer behavior which also happens to be one of my favorite subjects at B-school. Later on, I also started a group called ‘ProSurvey’ to help B-school students get genuine responses for their surveys, since primary research is one of the key foundations for any business insight. Fast-track to 2020, now I am part of a team that aspires to teach entrepreneurship to empower students of tier 2/3 towns. I have been fortunate enough to have had so many opportunities in the field of social entrepreneurship and I hope to keep doing impactful work in this field in future."
If 10 Million Dollars (approximately INR 75 Crores) is given to you to use it any way you deem fit what would you do with this corpus?
"The state of farms and farmers in India is a well-known problem and it’s something that will not be solved just by government intervention. We as citizens, have to play our part as well. With the $10 Million, I would like to use my experience in Social Entrepreneurship to revive the Farm sector in India. In my view, what the farmers need is temporary hand holding and some time. The urgency to pay the debts forces the farmer to take extreme farming practices like over use of pesticides and fertilizers, which destroys soil productivity in the long run. This money will be used to ‘Adopt Farmers’, who will be encouraged to follow organic practices. This will not just be good for the soil but also for the consumers. This money will be used to bring in technology to farming, technology which is already existing but is not affordable to most Indian farmers. Gradually, I plan to setup food processing units to add more value to the farm produce. I have always wanted to do something in the food industry and if I can do it by simultaneously improving the lives of the Indian farmers, that would be a dream come true.”