Interview With Our Alumni: Rachit Poddar
Here at Oxford Summer Courses, we’re always keen to hear from and share the successes of our alumni students.
Earlier this year, we interviewed one of our alumni students, Rachit Poddar, who joined us for a Business and Entrepreneurship summer course at Christ Church College, Oxford, back in 2018.
Since studying with us, Rachit has pursued his ambitions as an entrepreneur with great success. Despite battling the ongoing economic concerns of the pandemic, Rachit has been leading the Venture Capital & Diversification division at Rachit Group, his family business in Surat, India, as well as undertaking a number of other ventures.
Aged just 25, Rachit is on a mission to impact millions of people through his portfolio; in addition to supporting his family’s business, he has also joined hands with Marwari Catalyst, IVY Growth Associates as Founding Partner and also partnered with over 15+ companies across different sectors, who have an aggregate estimated valuation of portfolio companies over $60 million.
He takes pride in being a member of some of the most prominent global organisations like Forbes Business Council, Corporate Connections Global, TiE Global. And, as an enthusiastic learner, has completed his Executive Education in Corporate Finance from London Business School, his Bachelors in Business Management from University of Wolverhampton, MSc Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Enterprise Development from University of Westminster - as well as completing an academic summer course with us 3 years ago.
Read what happened when our podcast host, Clare, sat down to speak with Rachit about his experience of studying with us and the success he has gone on to achieve since.
Hello, Rachit. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. It's a pleasure to have you here.
Hi, Clare. Thank you so much for having me. It's a really great privilege to be here. And thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share my story with my fellow student members and other upcoming people at Oxford Summer Courses.
I think this will be really good to give the listeners an insight into what Oxford Summer Courses is as well as some background as to how you have reached the position you have now.
So, let’s get started - could you give us a brief introduction about yourself please?
Certainly. So I'm a second generation entrepreneur in the Rachit Group of companies, we are predominantly in the textile industry where we have been since 1992.
We recently entered into the Venture Capital industry a couple of years ago wherein I am leading Ivy Group associates and Marwari Catalysts Venture as a founding partner.
I have also partnered with fifteen other companies across the value chain of venture capital right from incubators through to alternative investor funds. We have collectively syndicated investments in about 70+ growth start-ups across diversified sectors and different stages right from pre-seed to Series A kind of stage and we’re really looking forward to building a vibrant start-up ecosystem in the country.
How do you keep on top of all of that?
Just getting through it, learning and growing every day.
What about your education? Can you give us some background on that?
Yeah, so that is pretty much my entrepreneurial journey so far.
I started approximately two years ago after my education. I am currently pursuing my Corporate Finance from London Business School in London. I have also accomplished my masters in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Enterprise Development from University of Westminster. And previously, my graduation in Business Management from the University of Wolverhampton.
I’ve also done dozens of entrepreneurship courses including one at Oxford Summer Courses which was one of my most amazing experiences.
So yeah, I am a traveller by passion. I love travelling the world, meeting new people, and living extraordinary experiences.
Something I know that our students would be really interested to hear is about your experience at Oxford Summer Courses. Is there anything which you can tell us about your experience when you first joined us back in 2018?
Clare, I think, to be very honest, Oxford Summer Courses was one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life.
I mean, I still can recollect each of those days. I have everything compiled about each and every single day in my mind, even after three years now. So it was a pretty fab experience.
The friends that I made in Oxford - we're still in touch. We’ve planned several reunions and have had an opportunity to catch up with each other, even after all of us went back to our hometowns. All in all, it was a fab experience.
And just to give you an idea - how did it really help me in my career journey? I think it was a perfect blend of learning and experiential learning.
When we combine both of these things together, I think it just makes a perfect blend to give you an ultimate exposure on how it really feels to be on the ground and work as an entrepreneur. Because we were really time constrained and it was a very short course of 14 days, I think that's where usually you tend to generate more ideas and you're more progressive. So I think that was one of the best things about the course.
It’s great to hear how much of a positive learning experience this was for you.
I know you touched just a minute ago about how the course literally puts you onto the ground and gets you started. Was there anything in particular when you studied Business and Entrepreneurship that you were expecting to learn, such as any skills, knowledge, or any experience you were hoping to get out of the course?
I believe one of the most integral skills in any entrepreneurial journey is people skills. Once you're into business, you have to deal with people across the country, across various nations and various cultures.
So let's talk about this in the context of Oxford Summer Courses. It really was a platform where we could meet people from approximately 20 plus different countries. We could really get an exposure on how to work with people from different countries and just how to gel with them and understand different cultures, different languages, and different ideologies. So I think that was really key - developing good people skills. That really helped me a lot.
Another thing that we like to mention to our students when they do apply to Oxford Summer Courses is the opportunity to learn from great tutors, someone that is not only just an expert in their field, but is also incredibly passionate about the subject that they're teaching. Could you tell us anything about the tutor that you had during your time with us?
Of course, Clare. Interestingly, you wouldn't believe - I was recently in the UK in 2021 and I travelled down to Oxford, the city of Oxford, from London, to meet my tutor. His name is Mr Daniel, and we're still in touch - that's the kind of relationship we had formed while I was studying back in Oxford.
Talking about Daniel specifically, I think he's very innovative as a person and he actually had the practical experience to share - a great blend of practical experience and a lot of methodologies and theories.
Would you say that this [your tutor’s expertise] was one of the things that made Oxford Summer Courses unique? Is there anything you kind of want to bring to light that made your experience unique with us?
I wouldn't say there's any more room for making the course better, because it's absolutely the most perfect thing you could go out and find.
But I think just making the most of tutors and probably having more experiences in terms of activities; we had an event called Dragons Den, in which we were formed into different groups and then we all had to come up with different ideas and pitch it to a panel of investors. More events like this could really enhance the students’ learning experience.
Do you think that Oxford Summer Courses helped you make any sort of progress towards your future goals and the ambitions that you had?
100%. I mean, every step or everything that I've been through - my journey has really played an integral part in my entire entrepreneurial journey.
Being a part of Oxford Summer Courses was one of the biggest milestones that I could achieve. And now I'm in talks with Mr Daniel, who was my tutor, to have some sort of partnership that we can engage in. So I think it really gave me a new horizon towards looking at things and expanded my entire vision, my mindset.
Is there any explanation that you can give us on how you went on to further establish the Rachit Group after studying with us?
Of course. So Rachit Group is essentially led by my father. He started this company back in 1992. I joined my company right after I completed my Oxford summer course.
When I got in the company, we had one key stakeholder. And when I talk about people's skills, it is also about how you really work with your family - my father - because sometimes it can be really complicated to work with the first generation because they have a very different ideology. And the second generation coming in has a very different ideology. So to align the same vision and ideology, I think, is very essential in the first place.
When I joined the business, the first step I took was to align the same vision and the same values that we were going to work towards.
First and foremost, we really decided that now we were one of the market leaders in the textile industry; we essentially have to look at other industries where we can diversify into. My father gave me all the freedom and responsibility to explore all multiple fields, multiple industries and then jot down which industries I thought could be very lucrative and ones which we can work towards.
And after exploring various industries, we sort of thought, well, why not venture capital? Because venture capital is essentially a business of businesses wherein you're partnering up with various companies who are actually building some great innovations. So that's how we really started.
The first time I remember I was just signing a deal with my first company. It was a couple of years ago. And I think from there it has been an incredible journey to partner with almost 60 plus different companies now.
So what would you say has been the most difficult aspect of becoming an entrepreneur?
I would say initially when you start something new, which is also sort of a new industry in the entire city - that can be difficult.
So the city that I've come from is a very traditional business city. I mean, you have all these infrastructure-based businesses and those textile and diamond-based businesses.
Venture capital, on the other hand, in terms of technology, is a very new sector altogether, which is emerging into the country and the city as of now.
Your close ones, your peers, your family members, they're all like; “what is this? What are you doing? What are you up to?” They don't understand your business. They are criticising you.
So I think that is really the toughest part where you have to overcome and hear all the negative criticism and just sort of structure it as a positive feedback and keep working towards your goal. And now there's a time - the same members who were criticising me are now asking me how to get into this industry. I think that's a big validation for me.
In contrast to that, something that I think I would like to share with our listeners is what is your biggest achievement? Of course, you've gone on to achieve so many things, and I can't begin to list all of the stuff that I found online about your achievements. But for you personally, what is your biggest achievement?
I would say entrepreneurship is more like a long-term journey. It's not really a one stop destination where you have to reach and you're accomplished. I think it's an eventual process of success, of growth.
I think for me, I would say it is more towards the kind of people I got to associate with. It is more about the fulfilment in the entire journey that you go through. The people that I got associated with are some of the smartest minds in the country right now. So I think that's what I really feel is my achievement because I have a very strong set of people backing me, a strong set of people believing in me.
What are your future aspirations either for your business or just in your personal life?
So talking about my professional vision, Clare, my vision is to create an impact on millions of people through our portfolio ventures. I really aspire to create a very vibrant start-up ecosystem and engage with as many people as possible. And also, be able to inspire millions of people or budding entrepreneurs to double-up next generation businesses.
Talking about my personal vision, it is to create meaningful relationships and enjoy extraordinary experiences. Out of which, Oxford Summer Courses was one of the best experiences I could have ever lived.
So as we come to the end of our podcast, could you give any sort of advice to students that may have the same sort of aspirations as you do? What sort of next steps would you recommend to them?
I believe just go out there in the field, just put yourself out there, explore new things, try out new ideas, experiment with new things, and just be open to new experiences with a positive mindset.
Eventually you will really find what you’re really meant for and what your career aspirations are. Just go for it, basically.
Thank you so much for giving us an insight into your life after graduating from Oxford Summer Courses.
Now having been through the experience yourself, what would you say to someone that may be thinking about doing a summer course but aren't too sure about attending one?
I firmly believe Oxford as a city and University of Oxford is the greatest place to be in.
I mean, talking specifically about Oxford, I really found it to be a magical city in itself and living in one of the best colleges of University of Oxford just gives you a sense of achievement, a sense of credibility and the kind of network that you make, the global network and the kind of tutors you meet, and the kind of experiences you go through is just invaluable.
In a way, it's a dozen of experiences that you're going to go through. So just go for it.
So, thank you so much, Rachit, for joining us today. That's all the time that we have. Is there anywhere which our students could find you? Any social media platforms that you want to share with our students?
I think the best way to reach out to me is LinkedIn or Instagram. I would love to connect with my fellow students and the other community members of Oxford Summer Courses. It would be a really great privilege.
Perfect. Thank you so much again for coming on the podcast. It was lovely speaking to you.
Likewise. Thank you so much, Clare. It's really like a dream coming on podcast with the summer school I studied with. So thank you so much for this opportunity.
[Original recording: 16 March 2022]
Please note: This script has been transcribed from an audio recording and therefore may contain some omissions from the original audio recording. To listen to the full recording, please visit our Spotify page.
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Rachit Poddar, an Oxford Summer Courses alumnus, has achieved entrepreneurial success, leading a venture capital division and partnering with companies worth over $60 million. He credits the programme for its impactful learning experience, global connections, and development of people skills.