What is the first picture that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘sapling’? Perhaps that of a small plant, being nurtured to growth. The growth part is spot on, but in this article, sapling refers not to a plant, but to a company founded by a very dynamic entrepreneur – Swetha GB. Swetha has travelled the world, added tremendous value to clients through SAP consulting, and then came back to India to found her own venture, or should we say to nurture her own SAPling. This is Swetha’s story, and the story of how she made it to two top programs at MIT and Stanford GSB, a story of the relevance of the MBA for entrepreneurs, and also one on how Stanford GST appreciates both entrepreneurship and the Indian experience.
Does Stanford GSB value IT applicants?
Overcrowded. Over-represented. Not valued. These are only some of the things one hears of IT professionals applying to MBA programs, including those applying to Stanford GSB. To be frank, not all of it is false. IT applicants do belong to an overcrowded pool.
However, saying that they are not valued is far from the truth. So many times, IT applicants give up on themselves before the school gives up on them. Similarly, so many entrepreneurs wonder how they will really be able to communicate what they wish to get from an MBA program. This process starts from within.
Swetha was always much more than just another IT professional. When she worked on implementing supply chain software, she made sure that she understood the domain, and not just the technology.
She was at the forefront of client discussions, and travelled (and worked) abroad several times to better understand her clients. She began her career as an Application Engineer, and then gradually built up her expertise in SAP.
Within the IT industry, many engineers are content just with mastering a technology, but Swetha went well beyond that. Her expertise extended to not just SAP implementations, but also the processes of industries as wide and varied as FMCG, manufacturing, and telecom. As it would be, this is the very expertise that would lead Swetha to entrepreneurship later.
The ‘right time’ to take the entrepreneurial plunge
By 2010, 6 years after she had graduated as an engineer, Swetha was contemplating going entrepreneurial. She had garnered enough expertise in SAP implementation, and felt confident of being able to translate her knowledge to real business.
A SAPling was born in 2010, and over the years, Swetha nurtured it further. She grew her firm to expertise across SAP supply chain areas, from purchasing to sourcing, bidding, and supplier management. She built up her own team, and over time, acquired a client portfolio that would be the envy of much larger firms.
However, none of this came easy – Swetha had to dedicate years of hard work, sales efforts, and business development to reach this stage. All without the benefit of formal business education till then.
What helped Swetha to take the plunge into entrepreneurship? Her confidence and faith in herself – yes – but also her careful consideration of the skills she had garnered and the market she wanted to target.
By 2014, Swetha was now contemplating the next steps – top notch business education to help her grow further.
MS v/s MBA – the perennial dilemma for applicants
Swetha took the GMAT in the little time that her company allowed her, and achieved a score that was decent but not outstanding (690). And yet, Swetha continued to aspire for top programs only.
The MIT SCM (Supply Chain Masters) program was an obvious choice for her given her background in the area. However, Swetha did not want to restrict herself only to this program, and looked for appropriate MBA equivalent programs for someone at her experience (around 10 years by then). She finally homed down to the Stanford GSB MSx and applied to that as a second option.
Working with GyanOne on her MIT application, Swetha initially wondered how she could translate her technical expertise to supply chain expertise. She had all of this expertise, but she did not want to express it in software terms.
Over the course of a few weeks, GyanOne worked with Swetha in helping her identify and express her niche strengths within the area. From Analytics to Supply Chain Strategy, Swetha has a rich reservoir which she could now tap. In November, she confidently submitted her MIT and Stanford GSB applications, soon after taking up interview preparation with GyanOne.
Choosing between MIT SCM and Stanford GSB MSx program
Early next year, Swetha received two pieces of good news – admits to both Stanford and to MIT. She now had the enviable but unenviable job of choosing between Stanford GSB and MIT.
Some people would feel that the value of the MBA for entrepreneurs is an obvious attraction, making this decision easy. However, Swetha was as much in love with technology as she was attracted by business.
Over the next few days, she discussed her choices multiple times, and arrived at the decision to attend the Stanford MSx and reject the MIT SCM.
Key factors that played a role in her decision were the prospective peer groups (much older and more experienced at MIT), opportunities available post the program (wider for the MSx than for MIT), and support for entrepreneurs looking to grow.