The ASB MBA: A Springboard for Entrepreneurs to Launch New Ventures
Vedant Biyani (MBA Class of 2020) harbors a dynamic entrepreneurial spirit, which ASB helped further strengthen. One of his innovative ideas, developed during his time at ASB, helped to build a cleaner and healthier society, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
ASB: Tell us a bit about how you were inspired to build the product that you’ve built.
Vedant: To be honest, I’m a bit of a germaphobe. Even prior to the pandemic, I was very particular about personal hygiene. During my summer internship at Signify, a leader in the lighting manufacturing space, I came across the concept of UltraViolet-C (UVC) lighting for sterilization. I researched and found out more about the uses, features, and advantages of UVC lights. Initially, my idea of creating a sterilizer was for my own personal use, but with the pandemic, I realized this could benefit the whole of society. Before the pandemic, no one really thought about sterilizing their phones, groceries, or other items. For me, the pandemic justified the need for sterilizing things we use on a daily basis, and that’s when I realized that UVC lights have a huge potential in the market.
With the help of my team, I developed an initial prototype at ASB, and as the pandemic continued, so did the need for my product.
Initial prototype of product developed at ASB
How did you kickstart your product and what were some challenges you faced?
As soon as I returned to India in 2020, I registered my company and set up a bank account. I even wrote to government labs to get assistance with testing the product and applied for startup certificates.
Imagine starting a new company, building a physical product, doing sales and managing logistics while the entire country is sitting at home trying to figure how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. After facing some initial hurdles, with a few personal investments, I created a sterilizer with UV lights, which helps people disinfect objects. The product resembles a microwave, and you can put anything inside it—phone, keys, groceries, spectacles. I believe there’s a high market potential for my product, with very few alternative options. It is a familiar product for many of us now, but at the start of 2020 a select few had heard of this.
Final product that launched to the market
How has ASB helped accelerate your journey?
ASB taught me to be comfortable working in new geographies, new industries, and diverse teams. The Action Learning experiences trained us to learn quickly and identify impactful decisions. Through Action Learning projects, ASB gave me the opportunity to travel to 10 countries and gain a lot of exposure in a very short span of time—something I wouldn’t have done otherwise! I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work on different projects where I met wonderful corporate hosts and team members, and this gave me a lot of confidence to pursue entrepreneurship where there is a lot to learn along the journey.
Bill Aulet’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship course that I took at MIT also played a huge part. Although the MBA program is more geared at helping students pivot into new employment opportunities, a big part of what motivated me was the support and encouragement I received from Prof. Rajesh Nair (former Professor of Practice, Innovation & Entrepreneurship) to start my own venture, which gave me a lot of confidence.
Tell us about the recognition your product has achieved since its inception.
I began listing my product on platforms like Amazon and Flipkart. Once I listed the product, it started selling automatically. I realized I was actually solving a market need. Soon after, I was even contacted by doctors who wanted to disinfect objects considering they were constantly on the field and exposed to germs, bacteria, and viruses. The good thing was that I had managed to convince a government lab to vet my product. I am happy to share that our products are being used by not only by individuals but also a few medical clinics and a police force in the Middle East.
What else was next in your entrepreneurial journey?
While developing this product, I joined Entrepreneur First (EF), the world’s leading talent investor, and started a predictive maintenance company. EF is a highly selective program that is designed to found globally important technology companies from scratch.
Joining the EF program
My partner and I were building a technology enabling manufacturing companies around the world improve reliability and efficiency of their production assets through IoT for data acquisition, proprietary AI for predictive analytics, and an end-to-end platform for actionable insights. Eventually, I left the venture and currently, I am working as partner and driving sales and operations for two businesses that make raw materials for steel manufacturing. My family has been in raw materials for steel making since three generations. Along with the old venture we have started a new business with a few other partners. We are developing novel products that offer techno-commercial advantage for steel manufacturers.
What skills did you gain at ASB that helped you as an entrepreneur?
One of the biggest traits every entrepreneur possesses is being optimistic and having self-belief. Of course, having a stable job while pursuing your venture gives you a sense of security and stability, especially since risk-taking is a huge leap of faith against the odds. I feel my circle at ASB really celebrated my achievements as an entrepreneur.
While I was at ASB, Prof. Michael Frese assigned us the task of reading through some research papers, which I was irritated by initially, thinking, what do research papers have to do with entrepreneurship? But then I happened to read a paper which talked about celebrating the risks and failures associated with entrepreneurship—and how in environments where even failing is celebrated as success, there are a higher overall number of startups and success, like in the Bay Area—and I realized that it’s so true as an entrepreneur to celebrate your failures too!
Being among a community of like-minded people who celebrate failure and growth at ASB
Any advice for future MBA students who want to pursue an entrepreneurial path?
I have two pieces of advice. Firstly, know that being an entrepreneur is probably the most impactful thing you can do, even if your friends or family tell you otherwise. Secondly, being an entrepreneur is about working hard and remaining hopeful. There are a lot of challenges you will need to navigate to start and keep your business afloat, but it’s worth it!