Kapil Reddy joined the UK’s Bath School of Management as the youngest MBA student in the class. Aged 26, it was his first time outside India. English wasn’t his native language.
Over the next 12 months, he worked in consulting roles for several UK-based startups, he was elected to represent the entire MBA cohort, and he was voted MBA student of the year. Now, he’s starting his own business.
Unielephant is a matchmaking web-based platform which connects university students with consulting internships at startups and nonprofits. Students benefit from real-life work experience while companies have access to free or low-cost consulting services.
Kapil is one of the first recipients of the University of Bath’s Foulathi Scholarship, part of an alumni-funded scheme to support student entrepreneurs. He’s building his new business in the university’s innovation center, which has helped its members raise over $60 million in investment from venture capital firms.
Originally from Hyderabad in southern India, Kapil snubbed top-ranked MBA programs in the US for a shorter, more affordable one-year MBA program, which has given him the chance to make a success of his first business.
How did the idea to start your own business come about?
During the MBA, I did volunteer consulting work with several startups. People were very impressed with my experience solving real-life problems. I was in a very good position when sending off job applications.
I thought that that was exactly the kind of advantage that I wanted to give to every student; to help them stand out and differentiate themselves from their peers.
At Bath, we had an MBA module called ‘Entrepreneurship in Action.’ Four of us worked on the idea for Unielephant. I was so fascinated with the idea that I decided to continue.
What do you hope to achieve?
Unielephant comes from the metaphor of the elephant in the room. I think there’s a big problem in the university space that no one is tackling as much as students expect. I’m trying to tackle that problem.
Right now, I’m doing the proof of concept; talking with customers and finding out if this is really a problem or just my assumption. I want to start with business master’s students – specifically MBAs – and eventually I want to extend the idea across every school in the university.
How have you been supported by the school?
The Bath MBA has completely changed my perspective. It’s made me overcome my inhibitions and pushed me to do something for myself.
I got a £12,000 ($14,500) scholarship to launch my startup in the university innovation center. My visa is sponsored by the university and I get mentorship from two of my professors. There are a lot of investors here and they’re all very connected with the innovation center. The exposure we get here, the number of incubators, and the funding available, is way above what we get in India.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at Bath?
Initially, I was very clear that I wanted to do an MBA in the US. But in the US, most MBA programs are two years long and extremely expensive. In the UK, the programs are generally one year and cost less than half of what I would pay in the US.
I was involved with multiple startups in India and entrepreneurship was where my true passion lay. With a one-year program in the UK, I thought that I could have another year to test out ideas before starting to think about a job.
I actually got into another top business school based in London. But when I spoke to Bath alumni, I got extremely positive feedback. Bath is a very respected business school and well connected among companies in the UK. The staff are very friendly and cooperative. Alumni support is immense. And London is only one-and-a-half-hours away by train.
What stands out from your MBA experience at Bath?
It was the first time I’d stepped out of India. I was the youngest guy in my class. There were people almost double my age with 20-to-30 years work experience, and we had people from 25 different countries. At the beginning, I had a lot of doubts and inhibitions. And, not being a native English speaker, it was quite difficult.
I thought that if I could represent this class of diverse people, that could be a big challenge for me. So I stood for student elections and I was chosen as academic representative of the MBA. I worked really hard to make sure every issue was resolved from a student’s perspective and, because of that, I was voted student of the year.
Being an international student and getting that award was really special. More than that, my classmates gifted me an experience voucher to drive supercars; a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a Bentley, a BMW. That was a dream come true!
What should applicants think about when looking to do an MBA?
Definitely talk to business school alumni because they can give you honest opinions about their experiences. Don’t go blindly with the rankings. Be very clear about what you want to do after your MBA and make your decision based on that.
To mark its 50th anniversary, the University of Bath School of Management is offering a fully- funded scholarship to a self-funded Indian candidate (residing in India). Find out more here.