Story and photos by Samantha M. Novick
Significant financial reforms in the 1990s set India on a course toward a freer, more open economy ripe for entrepreneurship. I traveled to five cities in India to meet Thunderbirds who have ditched the corporate world to strike out on their own. All across the country, Thunderbirds are leveraging their global mindset and corporate business acumen to take advantage of the booming environment. Here is the third installment in a seven-part series on how they did it, and how you can too.
Bengaluru: Pursuit of Inclusive Growth
A thin wooden bookcase sits on the first floor of the Bengaluru building where Harsha Moily ’97 runs his business. The bookcase is conspicuous in the lobby and doesn’t seem to match the rest of the furniture. A row of books has numbers taped to their spines so they stay in order. The titles are telling of the person who owns them: “Blue Ocean Strategy,” “Leading Change,” “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid,” “Portfolios of the Poor,” “Quotes of Gandhi,” “How to Change the World.”
When Moily graduated from Thunderbird, he went straight into venture capital positions in New York and London. From his vantage point abroad, he could see how a vibrant economy in urban India was starting to shape progress in his native country. While this economic outlook was promising, Moily believed it didn’t tell the whole picture.
“There was a lot of talk of India growing immensely,” he said. “But the way I saw it, you still had more than 75 percent of India left out of India’s growth story. The last thing I wanted to do was just be a spectator to what is happening with that segment.”
So Moily left his position in London in 2005, took the skills he’d learned working in venture capital and founded Moksha-Yug Access, or MYA, an enterprise that builds an efficient rural supply chain in India.
“Rural producers in India today are trapped in a vicious cycle of low investment, low yield, and low-income model of dairy and agri-farming,” he said. “Intermediaries and supply chain inefficiencies take away anything from 30 to 70 percent of the market value of their produce. Getting the poor out of this vicious cycle needs a paradigm shift in the way we address the problems of rural India.”
Moily focuses his efforts on the dairy industry, which is plagued by poor infrastructure and low productivity. Milk yield per cow in India is about one-10th of that achieved in the U.S. and about one-fifth of the yield of a New Zealand cow. Additionally, only 70,000 tons of cold storage capacity exists for 90 million tons of milk produced in India.
Today, MYA addresses these issues for more than 3,800 dairy farmers by increasing their herd size and the quality and quantity of yield per cow. He supplements it by building the milk procurement infrastructure at villages through milk collection centers and cold storage facilities to ensure traceability of the milk produced, quality assurance, certification and verification, then supplies the milk to downstream markets. In the next few months, MYA seeks to serve more than 20,000 dairy farmers in southern India, to increase their productivity and connect them to global market, then capitalize on the cost arbitrage.
“The opportunity that I see in rural India is in terms of making transformational increases to the income levels of rural Indians,” Moily said. “I’m not looking at rural India as a consumer base, I’m looking at rural India more as a production base; What can we buy from them? That’s the only way we can increase the quality of life.”
India Catches Its Stride
Part 1: Timing Is Everything, Andy Khandwala ’92
Part 2: Profit from Your Passion, Kimiko Thakur Menzies ’94
Part 3: Pursuit of Inclusive Growth, Harsha Moily ’97
Part 4: Taking Advantage of Opportunity, Vijay Anand Jangiti ’88
Part 5: Riding the Technology Wave, Samarth Sangal ’08
Part 6: Bursting with Optimism, Narasimha Reddy ’11
Part 7: Recovering from Setback, Krishna Chilukuri ’10
|India Catches Its Stride: Thunderbird School of Global Management alumnus Harsha Moily talks about entrepreneurship in India. View the video on YouTube (2:51).|