Sahil Shukla (Full-Time MBA 2014) has launched an innovative food exchange start-up aimed at reducing food waste while allowing users to earn and save money. Through a friendly online marketplace, users can easily buy and sell food and beverages with those nearby at heavily discounted rates. We talked to Sahil about the motivation behind the business and how his time at Imperial College Business School prepared him to become an entrepreneur.
Why tackle food waste?
“The UK wastes 89 million tonnes of food per year—approximately worth £13 billion; that’s £470 per household per year! SnaXchange aims to reduce these appalling food waste figures by providing an easy-to-use platform for people to conveniently buy and sell food and beverages before their use-by dates. Users can earn and save money as an alternative to wasting food. Simple, isn’t it?”
How did your Imperial MBA help you become an entrepreneur?
“The Business School’s Full-Time MBA programme is a mixture of business studies and innovation, with technology at its core. In various core courses and electives, I was encouraged to think of sustainable ways to solve major social and economic problems facing our world. I learned business models that replace the traditional brick and mortar business setup. Modules like Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Innovation Week, and Design Strategy allowed me to try out ideas in a controlled environment on campus before implementing them in the real world.
The Business School gave me access to world-class faculty with entrepreneurial experience, a number of entrepreneurship events and student clubs, classmates with unparalleled business knowledge and state of the art entrepreneurship Incubator labs, where innovative ideas are born and grown.
“More importantly, being mentored by experts helped me focus on sustainable business ideas, sharpen team management skills, and unlearn and learn from both failure and success stories. I learned to sell my vision and thus became more resilient. I think all these key skills are important for an entrepreneur to have.”
How did the MBA foster entrepreneurship?
“I learnt during my MBA (and now firmly believe) that every business idea should aim to entice, enrich and enable a customer. A range of courses on digital marketing, consumer behaviour and hi-tech strategy helped me understand how to entice a customer. Numerous case discussions and hands-on assignments helped me understand what enriches and enables a customer. An MBA provides all you need to put your business idea into practice. Thus, with the vision of helping to solve the major social issue of food waste, I was able to come-up with SnaXchange.”
How did your study help you set up your start-up?
“SnaXchange is an innovative company in the cyclical economy sector, which depends heavily on the network effect. To reach the masses, effective targeted marketing is critical. The Business School has helped SnaXchange a great deal by featuring it across social media platforms, and providing access to an angel investor network and opportunities to pitch in various social and entrepreneurial clubs. It has provided mentoring and support through the Imperial Incubation Labs. Most importantly, the Business School gave us the opportunity to launch and market SnaXchange to Imperial students (16,000 in total) on campus. All this has given SnaXchange the right start needed at the beginning stages.
“The UK economy is unlike any other in the world; its developed and fast-paced economy allows ideas that can disrupt the world to be born each day. Imperial inculcates a culture of innovation so you can put your world changing ideas into practice with calculated risks.
"I would like to thank my teachers, colleagues and mentors for their unparalleled support throughout and beyond my MBA. I would endorse the Imperial MBA for every current and future entrepreneur."
What challenges have you overcome during your entrepreneurial journey?
“Inevitably there are challenges with an endeavour like this and one such challenge is the quickly evolving tech space. My partner Marshal and I are both from IT backgrounds but when faced with the very advanced apps of Uber (for example), there is a real need for investment so that we can keep up with trends and advancements. We are also looking at how the team can better reach and engage with a broader community, while keeping in mind our target audience. We are implementing change management strategies to bring about improved practices to encourage users and the wider public to stop wasting food.
“Food is one of the things we often dispose of thoughtlessly, and there is a huge difference between ‘sell by date’ and ‘expiry date’. It will take time to change mindsets, but we hope to generate a movement whereby people no longer reject food so quickly.
“With a focus on keeping the initiative sustainable, our team have kept the platform simple, so users can buy and sell in one place. The website is secure and GDPR compliant, the interaction is free, and creates a free market economy.”