Rakshit Reddy has started his second year at Babson Olin MBA programme. He was already a very successful entrepreneur before the program began in 2021. Image courtesy
Rakshit Nadeja Hanumantha Reddy is, by all accounts, a very successful businessman.
Reddy is a founding member of the Waycool Foods team, one of India’s largest agricultural technology startups, which has received more than $80 million in funding since 2015. The social impact company works with thousands of Indian farmers to help them sell produce at a fair price. Waycool has over 4,000 employees and boasts annual revenues of around $50 million, and it recently expanded its operations to Dubai.
So why would Reddy—who works as a growth CEO at a company that has done nothing but grow—want to go back to school for an MBA? And why choose the school, Babson Graduate School of BusinessWhich is famous for its entrepreneurship programs?
“The whole community is very supportive”
Rakshit Reddy: “At every stage of our lives, we have challenges, and we come up with new things to overcome.”
“I’ve always been fascinated by Babson,” Reddy says. “One of the co-founders did his graduation from Babson University. He was always talking about how very helpful the faculty is, and how supportive the whole community is when someone starts something. I don’t know about other colleges, and I can’t comment on that, but when it comes to Babson , they are very helpful. If you get to any alum, they try to do what they can.
“It also gives me access to a lot of early-stage family entrepreneurship, because Babson is known for it.”
Reddy had a diverse academic and professional background prior to Waycool. He received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2011, then his master’s in engineering management two years later. His resume ranges from automotive consulting to manufacturing to agricultural technology.
But once Waycool took off and he and partners Karthik Jayaraman and Sanjay Dasari started working there full-time, Reddy realized he needed more: He needed to “improve my leadership skills.”
B2B TO B2C AND BUSINESS BOMS
Waycool started as a B2C model, a retail company that buys produce from Indian farmers – staples like fresh produce and dairy products – and sells them from storefronts. By 2017, when he joined the company full time, Reddy and his co-founders realized they needed to change their business model.
“We realized that the biggest challenge is that if you are only buying good produce from farmers, this is clearly not a manufactured product. It comes in different shapes and sizes and all of these things,” Reddy says. Poets and camouflaged. So we thought, “Why not help them liquidate their entire product?” Because if you only buy a good product, you will obviously struggle to liquidate the credit of the product because it will go at a lower cost. In a country like India, we have a huge stock of products and at the same time we have a large population as well.
“We thought, ‘Instead of doing B2C as a bigger market, we’ll try doing B2B first, then see how the market goes.’ It went really well. Waycool started sourcing hotels and restaurants, then moved on to catering institutes.” We saw it grow, and then We realized, ‘Why don’t we supply modern trade now?’ Modern trade is like Whole Foods or the Amazon in the world. They need packaged products and we have very good profit margins.”
Business exploded. WayCool has been on its way to becoming India’s largest and fastest growing agro-trading company, operating a full range of broadband products across multiple channels and categories, serving over 100,000 customers in the general trading, modern trading, and food service space; Its clients include Madhuram, KitchenJi, L’exotique, and Freshey’s.
Waycool Foods office in Bangalore, India. photo courtesy
‘My mistakes were costing the company money’
But with success came challenges—not least for Reddy as Waycool’s Director of Growth, responsible for driving multiple channels and products across markets while also driving the company’s digital transformation. Although he had the “leading hand,” as he put it, in “shaping the value chain and all aspects of the business,” Reddy knew he was missing out on the essential skills the company needed.
“My idea to go to business school came when I was working with several banks and was using multiple business models, because we were building a lending channel and I was leading everything since I was a core member of the team and I was on the leadership team.” “I had to wear several different hats because I was driving the growth opportunity for the company.
“When I was building a business model for a digital lending business while dealing with banks, it became very difficult for me, because I had worked all my life in marketing and operations, and had never been a part of finance. I was learning from my mistakes, but my mistakes were costing the company money.
“I thought, ‘Why not hone my leadership skills and my financial skills? You must have a hold on it. That’s why I decided to join Babson.”
Rakshit Reddy: “I was always fascinated by Babson. One of the founders of his company did his graduation from Babson University. He was always talking about how very helpful the faculty is, and how supportive the whole community is when someone starts something.”
What Babson Offers
Babson College has long been considered one of the best business schools in the world for entrepreneurship. Earlier this year, Olin School maintained its title as US newsThe #1 school for startups, landing in the coveted spot for the twenty-ninth consecutive year. Not bad for a school attached to it 57 in US news‘General Ranking’(Babson comes in second Poets and camouflagedEntrepreneurship Ranking 2021; Our new arrangement will be published in a few weeks.)
What makes Babson such a startup? Stephen Spinelli, who took over as Babson President in July 2019, credits the school’s integrating “Think and Do” approach that emphasizes smart work, fail-fast, and pivoting based on what you’ve learned—as well as the school’s emphasis on interdisciplinary faculty collaboration, No matter what discipline they came from.
“It’s a purposeful strategy for Babson’s business model,” Spinelli explained in a 2021 interview with Poets and camouflagedBabson is home to several institutes and centers that focus on the marriage of thought and action – or theory and practice to teach students an entrepreneurial mindset.
“It created a direct link between what is happening in the classroom and the student’s ability to self-supervise their interaction with the market at the same time,” Spinelli said. “These centers and institutes allow the student to do it with a greater degree of self-regulation and freedom. You must have finance, you must have accounting, you must have marketing. You must have these integrated studies.” Then you can apply in different institutes and centers, he said. “This really student-led coordination and integration is probably the only innovation I’ve seen.”
Rakshit’s first year at Babson: It’s all about acquiring skills
Rakshit Reddy: “If you get to know this world, where you have an entrepreneurial community, you can do miracles.”
Rakshit Reddy, on vacation from Waycool Foods, initially struggled with Babson’s MBA while taking core finance courses last year. The curriculum helped him—and the faculty and members of his group—to understand concepts that eluded him as a “operational man.”
“Courses like corporate finance, which are actually evaluating opportunities or raising money — these courses helped me understand finance as a whole,” he says. “Obviously someone like me comes with a zero financial background – all my life, I’ve worked in operations – to learn and study something about accounting or finance in the first semester, it was a nightmare for me because I am not a numbers guy. If you talk to me on tasks or automation, I can talk to you.
“It was very overwhelming, but then again, the group and the faculty were very supportive, and they helped me understand the concepts. I used to reach out to them and go to meet them, our professors, and actually we had one-on-one conversations.”
One of the main challenges: the technology, terminology, and techniques of accounting are slightly different in India and the United States
“I always come to the Indian perspective because I’ve never worked in a global context,” Reddy says. “They used to correct me because some of the techniques or terminology, what we use in the US and what we use in India are a little different. And also the way books are counted a little bit differently. I was able to acquire those skills, and in fact it helped me a lot and improved me.”
Advice for financial business owners
What is Rakshit Reddy’s advice to budding entrepreneurs considering business school?
“At every stage of our lives, we have challenges, and we come up with new things to overcome,” he says. People should never stop learning. That’s why I decided to quit auto consulting, leave behind what I knew, and join the startup. “That’s my comfort zone, they have a startup and they’re actually going to let me work here.” Get out of your comfort zone, learn something, meet new people, meet different entrepreneurs who bring different experiences to the table – and when you interact with them, you get a global experience.
“This is what I can say: If you get to know this world, where you have an entrepreneurial community, you can do wonders. You never know, you might come up with a different business idea too.”
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