MIP MBA Bites Into Food Start-Up Venture In Africa

Jayadeep Akkireddy predicts boom in continent's impact investing scene

Jayadeep Akkireddy graduated with an MBA from MIP Politecnico di Milano in 2012, sparking a career of adventure spanning four continents.

During his MBA, he took up a work placement as an external consultant at Pirelli and spent time studying as an exchange student at EMLYON in France.

Previously, the chemical engineer worked for metals and mining company Vedanta Resources.

After his MBA, he went on to work for Meds & Foods for Kids, a non-profit combatting malnutrition in Haiti.

He now works as general manager for Natural Extracts Industries, a locally-sourced food flavorings company situated on the foothills of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro.

This year, he spent time in Uganda working with Unreasonable East Africa, an organization which helps to accelerate the growth of early-stage companies in the region.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at that stage in your career?

At Vedanta I progressed from an engineering role to one focused on production management. This was when I saw that I had the knack for leadership, I liked managing people and interacting with different departments.

I realized that to understand business as a whole, I needed an MBA.

Why did you choose to study at MIP in particular?

I mainly focused on two things: a small-sized international class and the opportunity for a work placement. MIP offered both.

The opportunity to live in Milan also influenced my decision. I wanted to add some fashion and design flair to my life!

How did your experience studying at EMLYON compare?

Lyon is a beautiful city with a lot of students and EMLYON has an amazing infrastructure. Although the students there have more work experience than those at MIP, the MIP MBA class is more international. The schools have different things to offer, but the quality of the faculty at both schools is excellent.

How have you profited from your experience studying for an MBA?

The MBA gave me a broad prospective of how to run a business while work experience gave me the details.

I learned a lot from my fellow students. We became a family and I can count on them anytime.

The group assignments and informal hang outs with fellow students shaped my Ideas and the way I look at life. I learned about different countries’ cultures and I developed a passion for travelling.

You have lived and worked in such a diverse range of countries. How did your experience in each country differ and how did you adapt?

Even within India there are cultural differences and language barriers. I grew up in one of the only two brick houses in a remote village with no running water. I left home to attend high school and moved again for university. From a young age, I learnt to adapt quickly to new places. I have an open mind, ready to absorb new cultures and ideas.

In India we have urgency for doing everything quickly and society has a lot of expectations of you. At every age you are expected to have done specific things. For example, you are supposed to get married before thirty!

When I went from India to Italy, I learnt to appreciate culture, food, wine and beaches. In Haiti, the Caribbean spirit, music and dance are the important things in life.

Ugandan people are quick in grabbing business opportunities while in Tanzania, they have a different concept of time. They are in charge of time, time has no power over them. Things move slowly here.

What advice do you have for MBA graduates looking to start their own companies?

In the start-up world, connections are the most important tools for success. MBA graduates must also conquer the fear of failure.

I believe impact investing – investing to generate beneficial social or environmental change as well as financial return - is the next big thing and East Africa is the place to be. I have encountered mind-blowing ideas and met great people here.

What are your plans for the future?

For now, I would like to get NEI to break even. I never expected to be in Tanzania. I read about NEI online, contacted the founder and then four months later I ended up here, leading the company. I had always dreamed of travelling to Africa. It’s not a dream anymore!

But before I turn 40, I would like to travel more and work in South America and Oceania.

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