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Fridays from the Frontline: Building Community-Powered Entrepreneurship in India

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Rutu Suthar of the NYU Stern MBA Class of 2024 provides a look into the kind of real-world experience MBA students can expect to gain during their studies. In this edition from Fridays from the Frontline, Suthar recounts her Stern Solutions experiential learning project that met her goals of social and international impact.

Building Community-Powered Entrepreneurship in India

By: Rutu Suthar, NYU Stern MBA ‘24

During the Spring 2024 semester, NYU Stern offered a new Stern Solutions experiential learning project, “Social Enterprise Incubation in India,” which challenged students to explore new ways to support the creation, development and growth of community-owned businesses in India with our partner, Kapadwanj Kelavani Mandal (KKM).

I was drawn to this course because a key reason for pursuing an MBA was to create far-reaching social impact in my career. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to do so within the program itself. I had always imagined my MBA journey taking me beyond the classroom and to parts of the world that could benefit the most from the skills and resources I was acquiring. On a personal level, I have always shared a connection with India through my family and was keen to discover it through this unique new lens.

From NYC to India

Our team traveled to the ​​town of Kapadwanj in Gujarat, India, along with Professor Hans Taparia in January 2024 at the very beginning of our project to conduct ethnographic research, which really enabled us to connect with the local entrepreneurs and artisans. The trip was made possible by the generous gift of NYU Alum Mudit Dani (SPS ’21, Stern ’23) and Jalaj Dani’s longstanding association with KKM.

Understanding the local community’s talent, aspirations, and journey from the outset helped us stay focused on the end users and keep them the heart of our work. Solving this business challenge highlighted the potential of small businesses in India and the impact of our deliverables has laid the foundation for their growth.

My team onsite in India working with a local non-profit

Supporting Local Artisans and Emerging Entrepreneurs

One of the main deliverables of the project was to provide our partner KKM with research on various pilot programs and accelerators for small businesses so that they might adopt these models to support local artisans and emerging entrepreneurs in Kapadwanj. We partnered with various social impact enterprises and educational institutes, which contributed to a rich mosaic of skills and expertise for us to leverage throughout the project.

My team served as the through-line, connecting them with one another and our end users. We came from a diverse set of backgrounds and we leveraged our cross-cultural experiences and entrepreneurial acumen to workshop our ideas regularly and arrive at recommendations.

Professor Hans Taparia was instrumental to our success as he did not simply guide us through the project but worked with us hands-on to iterate on solutions and helped us establish strong relationships with the corporate partners.

In the end, we were able to create a community accelerator blueprint to incubate local small businesses, identify global market linkage opportunities for Indian artisans, and analyze collective business design options.

Me (second from left) along with my MBA teammates and Professor Hans Taparia (back row) onsite in India

Lifelong Lessons

This project taught me about the untapped potential and talent that exists in so many different parts of the world and that even a small change can create a big impact.

I also learned about the power of collective action when it comes to business design, giving me perspective on organizational sustainability for my career ahead.

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