Be comfortable with risk-taking


Ravi Kallayil, Co-founder and CEO, Plaeto, and former head of ideation, Nike

Alma mater: IIMB and The Wharton School

In March 2020, when I started Plaeto, a startup that creates sustain-able, accessible and world-class footwear for Indian children, Covid-19 had begun to spike, leading to lockdowns across the world. It hampered our product development process, given the challenges of shipping raw materials and tools from the US and Europe, where our design and development teams are based. However, on the positive side, we used the time to perfect our footwear.

When I relocated to Bengaluru from the US—after a 15-year stint with Nike Inc, where I led the global innovation team—my dream was to make scientifically designed footwear for Indian children. My management education at IIMB and The Wharton School gave me a dragonfly (360 degree) view of business. And that has proved to be an invaluable asset in my entrepreneurial journey. Given that modern day corporations are large and siloed, it would take several years for a young professional to experience the same dragonfly view in an actual work environment. In fact, for much of my corporate career, I struggled with bringing about change or creating new ideas from within the existing silos. It was an extremely frustrating experience.

While the merits of a management degree and its value in running a business are undeniable, for me, the biggest advantage over the last one-and-a-half years have been the priceless connections within the b-school alumni network. The resources that I have been able to tap into for funding, advice and partnerships have been phenomenal. The person I partied with the most in b-school is my biggest investor today.

The next big disruptive ideas, I believe, will come from the confluence of multiple disciplines. For instance, artificial intelligence with agricultural science, or robotics with medicine. The probability of this increases exponentially if engineering schools are co-located with management schools or medical schools to facilitate better collaborations. Unfortunately, this is not the case in India; hence, management schools need to take the initiative to make things happen. This can be a great opportunity for b-schools to drive entrepreneurship in India, and help find impactful solutions to some of the biggest problems that the country is facing today.

As an aspiring entrepreneur, there is immense scope for growth. Provided you are willing to take risks and learn. You have to be comfortable with risk-taking; you cannot afford to be consumed by the fear of consequences. I strongly recommend that you start with small risks, get comfortable, and then, take the big leap. How about taking a semester off and working in an Amazon warehouse? Or else, volunteering to work on the farm with your grandfather? The on-ground experience will teach you more about supply chain, automation, inventory optimisation, people management and economics in ways that no academic course can. In fact, your pioneering entrepreneurial idea could emerge from that experience.

As told to Abhinav Singh