It’s 15 years since Ankur Agrawal graduated from Lancaster University Management School. A lot has changed since then, not least the fact that he’s now a successful entrepreneur—he launched Solitaire UK, a startup producing natural oils, in 2017.
It seems Ankur was ahead of the curve too—the Lancaster MBA was ranked in the top five MBAs for entrepreneurship this year by the Financial Times and among the top 10 in the UK.
Ankur pursued an MBA because he wanted to shake up his career path away from accountancy and diversify his skill set.
“As an accountant your outlook is retrospective, and I wanted to look forward,” he explains.
He credits the strength of Lancaster’s 40,000-strong alumni network for making his entrepreneurial ambitions a reality.
“In the long term, the most valuable asset of my Lancaster MBA has been the wealth of contacts and networking opportunities,” Ankur says. “I can ring the university to recruit for jobs or projects that I’m working on, and they always introduce me to great people.”
In fact, Ankur’s company is currently sponsoring a marketing research project where six Lancaster students are working for him. It’s a win-win for both Ankur and the Lancaster University Management School MBA students; he utilizes the best talent in the market, while they gain vital practical experience.
Ankur divides the myriad of benefits his MBA has provided into three different phases. The first, being offered a new job outside of accountancy—he worked for EDF Energy for 12 years after his MBA, climbing the ranks and becoming one of the youngest managers in the company’s history—phase two, he says.
His time at EDF Energy was an opportunity to develop his already existing skills alongside those learned on the MBA. It was the perfect opportunity, he explains, to consolidate his business acumen in preparation for the final phase; his entrepreneurial venture.
Ankur says entrepreneurship can be quite lonely and intimidating at times, so he is grateful for the support network that the school provides. “Lancaster always do whatever they can to help,” he says, “one of the first things I did when setting up Solitaire was to contact them about members of the network who could provide guidance and know-how.
“You can never do anything entirely on your own. You have to ask for help from experts.”
Lancaster University has been a hub of useful expertise for Ankur, providing knowledge in marketing, sales, legal, finance, and human resources both during his MBA and afterwards.
Listening to others and being receptive to new ideas and information is all part of reaching out, he continues.
“Knowledge is unlimited, and learning should never stop.” Ankur cites this mentality as something that is crucial to keep in mind when setting up a business.
He explains that the Lancaster MBA helped develop his strategic thinking skills. Skills, he says, that have been an integral part of developing Solitaire. Lancaster is ranked number one globally for Corporate Strategy by the Financial Times.
Another key aspect of the program today is The Entrepreneurial Challenge. Working in teams, candidates must produce a business development plan for the new company. The challenge sets up students perfectly for their own post-MBA entrepreneurial ventures, highlighting the importance of utilising different people’s strengths.
Ankur’s desire to become an entrepreneur evolved over a number of years. Without the Lancaster MBA, he says, it wouldn’t be possible to do what he’s doing now.