MBA Entrepreneur Competes In India's Booming E-Commerce Industry

Cass student hopes London MBA will fuel his e-commerce start-up in India — a sector set to hit $22bn in 2015.

Kandhasamy Muthu is riding the wave of entrepreneurship sweeping through the UK’s business schools. A co-founder of www.auraas.com, an e-commerce start-up that specializes in handmade products for women, the Cass Business School student is hoping to create a global e-retail brand.

Auraas was founded in 2013. Based Singapore and India, the venture is competing in a sector placed on the map by home-grown Indian e-commerce companies Flipkart and Snapdeal.

Indian e-commerce is growing at about 34% a year and is expected reach $22 billion this year, according to the venture capital database CB Insights.

An MBA at London based Cass is part of Kandhasamy’s entrepreneurial journey. As well as offering £10 million in funding to students, Cass sponsors up to 20 graduates for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visas, which allow entrepreneurs with promising business plans to stay in the UK for 12 months.

Kandhasamy started the MBA last year. Before that, he worked as a business development manager at a department store in Singapore. Prior to that, he was a senior finance executive, helping Australian property buyers finance their mortgages. That followed a stint in mortgage processing for Citibank Australia.

Outside of work, Kandhasamy enjoys running, swimming, writing, and traveling.

How was www.auraas.com founded, and what are your goals for the business?

I was working as a business development manager for a retail store in Singapore when the idea for auraas was born. I realized that in a high consumption market such as Singapore, almost all the products are mass produced, mostly in China and in countries with weaker currencies.

The market for handcrafted products is left to fend for itself, often from local suppliers which didn’t have the supply chain capabilities to take their products to a larger platform. The adverse environmental implications of mass production are well known. Auraas was born to address these two issues.

I procured goods mostly from cottage industries, but ensured that the quality met international standards. It has proved to be a success so far; the product range has been well received by consumers.

Auraas was co-founded with my sister. She takes care of the design side while I handle the operations side. Going forward, I plan to make auraas a respectable international brand that is conscious of the environment.

Why did you decide to begin an MBA degree?

Two years after I co-founded auraas, my desire to pursue an MBA intensified.

As an entrepreneur, one has to deal with various facets of business. Amid a whirlpool of activities, I started to wonder if my decisions were in line with the strategy of the company. I strongly believed that a good business school could not only stimulate the thought process in the “right” direction, but also open doors to other opportunities.

What made your business school stand out from the rest?

Three factors stood out. First, Cass has a strong finance curriculum and an equally talented finance faculty. Though my career goal isn’t finance oriented, a good understanding of finance is essential for any business leader.

Secondly, excellent opportunities are available for MBA candidates with entrepreneurial ambitions. For instance, the Peter Cullum Centre for Entrepreneurship provides development programs for budding entrepreneurs. The centre has £10 million worth funds to support ventures.

Cass also sponsors entrepreneurs for visas for a year after completion of the MBA, if the administration believes in the business plan.

Finally, the careers team at Cass works hard to help students realise their career goals. They bring in experts, and each student gets a free, five-hour career consultation over the course of four months to fine-tune their ambitions.

How would you describe the culture at your business school?

Extremely rewarding. There are 34 nationalities among the 74 students in my batch. As we work in groups, it becomes evident how valuable it is to have diversity and different perspectives in management.

Cass also creates events with industry leaders. These interactions help me build my professional network.

As much as it’s a culture of competition on campus, off campus most of us hit the pub around the corner almost every Friday.

Which aspect of the MBA has been the most valuable?

Without a doubt, it has to be the international electives. There are a range of options to choose, from Silicon Valley for entrepreneurs, Las Vegas for marketers, as well as China, South Africa and Dubai among other locations.

I chose to visit Dubai, where an impressive range of company visits had been arranged by Cass. It was an insightful elective. All the participating companies in Dubai were very receptive towards our management oriented research.

The whole class also went to Iceland this year. We were split into groups and assigned to work for real companies as management consultants. After spending a week with the company, we presented our proposal to the CEO and the board. This has been the most valuable experience for me. Cass provides us [with] incredible platforms to build our skills.

What advice would you give to people who are about to apply to business school?

My only advice would be to be brutally honest about what one wants to achieve for oneself after the MBA. Everyone will get a job at some point after graduating, but to be successful one has to be absolutely clear about what they want, and in which industry.

What are your future career plans?

I am currently working on a business plan for the retail industry to pitch to Cass, so that I can secure my entrepreneurs’ visa. Fingers crossed.  

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