The Wharton Advantage

Explicit Impact
Sandeep Singhal

THE LAST DECADE has been a very exciting journey for me - I am now on my third start up. The first was eVentures India, a Softbank and News-Corp backed fund, the second was Medusind Solutions, a leading healthcare KPO and the current one is Nexus India Capital, a venture capital firm. Many experiences shaped this journey – my early years growing up in Kanpur, undergraduate education at Stanford, joining as an early employee at a Silicon Valley software startup that posted me in Germany to do product marketing, getting an MBA at Wharton and a five-year stint at McKinsey in the New York and India offices. Each of these experiences had its own role to play in where I am today, but I would count the two years at Wharton as being a defining turning point in the path. The most explicit impact of Wharton was it morphed me from an engineering oriented manager into a business thinker. My coursework was obviously a big part of that – getting formal training in finance, marketing and strategic management took the rigour of engineering logic and added business frameworks to the toolkit. However, the teaching methodology using “learning teams”, class discussions and simulations were even more critical. My five member learning team did all the core curriculum projects together in the first year, and our success depended on how we delegated work amongst ourselves and leveraged individual strengths. If I analyse my successful partnerships in all three ventures, I can trace my approach back to what I learnt interacting with Steve, Barney, Steven and Karen that year. Class discussions helped me hone my group listening and persuasion skills, and simulations were a terrific way to sample business in a risk free manner and to ask the “what if” questions. Another area where the Wharton stint has been critical is in gaining access to a phenomenal network of alumni from whom I can learn and with whom I can do business. Some of the very successful ventures we backed at eVentures were started by Wharton alumni. Some of our biggest clients at Medusind were companies headed by Wharton alums. When I returned to India from the US, the Wharton Alumni Association welcomed me to Mumbai and its business circles. My Wharton batch mates have invested as limited partners in our funds, and have made introductions to other limited partners. At various points in my startups, I have leaned on my Wharton friends to help in finding entrepreneurs, talent, and clients for our portfolio companies. Their support has made On the a , closing journey note a , lot the more credibility enjoyable derived . from being a Wharton graduate is a catalysing factor that is hard to quantify. It is a great institution and having done well there opens doors that would not have opened otherwise. The author is founder, Nexus India Capital