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Teamwork and a collaborative environment buoyed Outstanding Graduate Student

Rishabh Kakkar drawn to MBA program after pandemic supply chain issues sparked his interest

April 24, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Before coming to Arizona State University, Outstanding Graduate Student Rishabh Kakkar thought MBA programs bred intense competition among their students. What he found at the W. P. Carey School of Business surprised him.

Rishabh portrait
Rishabh Kakkar

“While healthy competition is necessary for personal and professional growth, I don’t like cutthroat competition and was unsure how I would cope in that environment,” he says. “My experience was completely different from what I had expected: W. P. Carey had an extremely collaborative, not competitive, environment.”

The New Delhi, India, native enjoyed collaborating with MBA students from diverse backgrounds. Most of his work was done in teams, and Kakkar says everyone in the program was invested in his success.

“Students who are interviewing for the same role work together instead of going against each other,” he says. “I am glad I chose to be at W. P. Carey, where I could be in an environment that fosters mutual success instead of individual success.” 

Kakkar shares more about his time at W. P. Carey and ASU.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to pursue an MBA?

Answer: My MBA journey started during the COVID-19 lockdowns. I followed the business world news to find the domain that intrigued me the most. I learned a lot about global supply chain operations. It was interesting to see how involved the supply chain was with everything — the toilet paper shortage, the Suez Canal blockage by a container ship, the distribution strategy for COVID-19 vaccines, and the change of focus from supply chain efficiency to resilience as companies started nearshoring instead of offshoring.

I am a numbers guy, and I loved how quant-intense the supply chain domain is. Most traditional manufacturing organizations spend almost three-fourths of their revenue on procurement. While supply chains have become more efficient, sustainability focus in supply chains is still a major concern. I saw a lot of opportunities and felt I had the right skill set to succeed in the industry. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of its close-knit and inclusive community. With a class size of just about 60 people, ASU offers a very personal MBA experience. This provides an opportunity to build connections with your classmates, which was extremely important to me as an international student moving away from home for the first time. The net investor culture, about leaving the program better off than you found it, greatly resonates with me. In addition, ASU is a top-ranked school for supply chain management, and a lot of companies come on campus for recruitment. This helped me a lot in building professional connections, and the first internship offer that I got was also through on-campus recruitment. I am so glad I came to ASU!

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Professor John Wisneski (clinical assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship) taught Sources of Competitive Advantage in the first quarter of the MBA program. Given my background as a mechanical engineer, this was my first time in a case-based course where there are no right or wrong answers if you can defend your position. Professor Wisneski’s passion for teaching completely changed my perspective and allowed me to explore beyond the boundaries I had created for my mind. The most important lesson Professor Wisneski taught me is to find a purpose in life and choose a role or career that best aligns with it. He asked us to introspect, find our core values and see if the decisions in our professional life align with those values. I was spellbound by his passion and am grateful to have met someone like him through this program.

Q: What’s the best advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Look beyond the classroom and engage in the community. Everyone comes to the MBA program to learn, and theoretical knowledge is essential to succeed in the business world. However, what we remember about school is the people we met and the impact we created together. Working on initiatives that can leave a legacy and help future students succeed is extremely satisfying. It is a way to give back to the school and leave the program better off than you found it. This aligns with the net investor culture we celebrate every day at W. P. Carey.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: The oculus on the fourth floor of McCord Hall. I remember working on my assignments with my friends in the open space, engaging with my classmates over the weekly lunches and even spending some moments alone with a cup of coffee, admiring the sprawling ASU campus. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My parents are coming for graduation, and I am very excited to travel across the U.S. over the two weeks they will be here. After that, I will move to Olympia, Washington, to start at Amazon as a pathways operations manager. I interned in the same location, so I am excited to see my colleagues again and take on more responsibility as a full-time employee. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would invest it in solving the issue of water scarcity in India. India has 18% of the world's population and is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. A significant portion of the population depends on monsoons for water. Climate change is increasing the pressure on water resources, and effective management is required to ensure access to clean water. Even major cities only sometimes have a 24/7 water supply, and most urban households get water for only several hours a day.

Better groundwater management and rainwater harvesting mechanisms could help better water utilization and solve part of the problem. Further, setting up simple filtration devices in rural areas would help treat contaminated water and make it fit for consumption. While $40 million might not eliminate the problem, it would significantly improve the situation in the most water-stressed parts of the country. 

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