Alum Album #5 : Saksham Kakkar
Read about Saksham Kakar's journey post IIT. He is a member of the Class of 2016 and will be joining HBS this year, for an MBA. On graduating he worked with HUL after which he joined Rivigo in the Business Strategy section.
What are you pursuing presently? Any observations because of which you are choosing to go the MBA route?
Currently I head Rivigo’s (a logistics startup) retail business, and am responsible for business growth, pricing and overall investment strategy for the $30M annual business. The MBA route honestly (at the risk of sounding clichéd) was never plan A; it happened almost naturally. I have previous experience heading manufacturing for Unilever, where I led operations for a North Indian manufacturing site. Post that, I wanted to be on the front-end of the business, and got that experience at Rivigo. During my time here, I also worked on building tech-products for optimizing processes, which really piqued my interest and since that is something I want to do long term, an MBA from a university closer to tech-innovation in the US makes sense since it will help me switch career tracks + a great international experience at HBS can never really go wrong. Therefore, I started applying and fortunately got through.
How was your experience at HUL? Also, what made you sure that the supply chain industry was your calling even after pursuing engineering? Why did you leave your position?
HUL was great- no two words about it. We went through an 18-month long training period across legs of the HUL supply chain and that shaped a pretty well-rounded perspective on how the FMCG business works in India. Post this, I was thrust to lead a team of 250+ at the Haridwar manufacturing site which was an extremely daunting task but I guess I enjoyed the challenge. Failed miserably in a lot of things initially, but ended up learning a lot and actually (surprisingly!) ended the year as the best ever for the site. I chose to leave because I felt (in hindsight, probably naively) that the challenge was gone, and I felt Rivigo and the business facing role they were offering made more sense. While I am happy that I chose the Rivigo challenge, I don’t think staying back would’ve been an incorrect choice. I guess there are no right or wrong answers with these things- you take calculated risks and go with the heart in the end!
Supply chain was never really a ‘calling’- for me, I don’t think any particular function in an industry is a calling. I feel happy when I feel I am learning- and leading a manufacturing site definitely was something which would give me that, and hence chose HUL. Same with Rivigo, same with an MBA.
How did studying at IIT shape your goals, from when you entered to what you are now. Maybe any previous internship or project or any ECA that you think were important?
ECAs and Interns played a critical role for sure. I did a research intern at Imperial in my second year, that was an eye-opener in the sense that I did NOT want to get into research, but definitely wanted foreign exposure, and the problem-solving approach was refreshing in London. Heading the BSP was a great experience and a stepping stone into leading a large team at Unilever, and gave me confidence that I could lead teams. IIT was great for exposure to the real world, and honestly, I entered with a goal to just learn engineering but quickly figured out that the scope for growth was much wider than just a theoretical understanding of sciences.
Have you found what you love (your passion)? Many people face a dilemma over “what is that they would love to do in life”?
Not really- no. For the past 3.5 odd years working and 4 years in IIT- I’ve realized I get a kick when I get a really tough problem to solve and I get my hands dirty and solve it on ground. Be it solving for shampoo-sachet leakages at the HUL manufacturing site or growing the north-east business for Rivigo- I love tough problems and solving them with large teams. And hence- a product role will give me this continuously (is what I like to believe now). I am not sure if there is a real ‘passion’ that I will stumble upon one day; but probably just makes sense to explore and enjoy the journey.
What were your best moments in IITD?
Definitely final year- I had a PPO and hence basically free to do anything. FIFA nights in hostel + the chance to re-kindle my love for tennis were my best moments in IIT.
What are some things that you would advise juniors not to do?
This is total gyaan but I can’t stress this enough: a lot of us end up doing things just for better CV points but that just falls through later if you have not put your heart into it. A great CV is important, but what is more important is the story, the true hard work behind that CV point. Do what you want to do; not what the recruiter thinks you ought to do.