BSc Veterinary Medicine, University of Nottingham
Locum Veterinary Surgeon and Co-founder, omni
From veterinarian to business school
I became a veterinarian because I wanted to dedicate my career to helping animals. As a dog lover and someone who has always been interested in health and science, it was a natural choice for me. After over 10 years of training and working in various veterinary hospitals across the UK, it dawned on me that so many of the health problems I was treating were related to the poor-quality diets that are broadly available for dogs. I’m talking serious stuff like cancer, obesity and allergies that are causing lots of dogs to suffer, unnecessarily.
I was also concerned about the heavy dependence of the pet food sector on meat, especially considering the climate crisis and the large carbon footprint attributed to the meat industry. I learned that a medium-size dog has the same environmental impact as a Toyota Land Cruiser, staggering, isn’t it? Addressing these issues would take more than just working as a veterinarian, I needed to enter the world of business.
My decision to study at Imperial: joining an entrepreneurial ecosystem
I had great ideas about how to improve things in the veterinary industry but felt somewhat powerless to enact them. The Global Online MBA at Imperial College Business School was going to change all of that. I remember visiting at an open day back in early 2020; it quickly became apparent to me that entrepreneurship was at the heart of the Business School, something I hadn’t felt at other schools I visited. Not only was it to be taught as a core module, but there is also the Imperial Enterprise Lab, an incredible resource geared towards developing entrepreneurs from idea through to finance and execution. In addition, Imperial College Business School's huge selection of entrepreneurship-focused electives made it clear to me this was where I needed to be, to both learn how to start a business and also stay one step ahead of the competition. So, I applied and was fortunate to receive a scholarship. Now I'm one year in and haven't looked back since.
Expanding my business knowledge with the Global Online MBA
Lots of the programme modules have proven to be immensely helpful in different ways. Practically speaking, our module in Finance and Managerial Accounting has enabled me to understand balance sheets, profit & loss statements and to plan cash budgets. Even though I'm not in charge of the finance side of the business, this is delegated to my very able co-founder Shiv Sivakumar (ex-investment banker at Deutsche Bank), I now understand the numbers and talk at the same level as colleagues with finance backgrounds. I also found the Marketing module, run by Dr Omar Merlo and Professor Andreas Eisingerich incredibly useful in terms of learning how to build strong brands that add real value and competitive advantage.
A global cohort of professionals
In one word I would describe the cohort as diverse! Thanks to the Global Online MBA I’ve had the opportunity to study with people from all over the world, different cultures and professional backgrounds. It makes the programme more globally relevant and its one if the features I’ve appreciated the most. Everyone you meet has a common drive to learn and grow as professionals, being part of that is very special.
I’ve also noticed how well accomplished and talented everyone is in their respective fields. It feels like I’m studying with the best of the best, across sectors. As omni grows as a business, I’ll be looking to expand our team and I have no doubt that I will utilise the Imperial network to bring some of this talent into my own organisation. I’ve also made some great friendships on the MBA which I’m very grateful for, it’s quite a journey to go on together.
Cross-sector collaboration through group projects
Imperial puts a lot of thought into strategically matching individuals together for group work so that there is a complementary set of skills and experiences, and it shows. I’m from a veterinary background, and I’ve been grouped with lawyers, finance specialists, government officials and operation managers to name a few. I’ve learned as much from my lecturers as I have from members within these groups, each with their unique perspective and wealth of experience.
Working with other senior professionals in high-pressure settings as we navigate difficult tasks together isn’t always easy, people have their own opinions and personalities but that’s part of the learning curve too. I’ve found such learnings highly applicable to the teamwork within my own organisation at omni. It’s been very useful and helped me to become more confident in leading the organisation and bringing out the best in my team.
Developing my startup: omni
I started omni to make it easier for dog parents to give their dogs the best chance of a long, happy and healthy life all without harming the planet. Until recently, most dog food has been made from heavily processed meat or worse still, raw meat. Not only do these pose serious health risks to dogs, they are also environmentally unsustainable.
I chose the name omni to raise awareness about the fact that like humans, dogs are omnivores, meaning, they can derive their nutrition from a range of food sources, including plants. In fact, studies have shown that dogs thrive on plant-based diets.
Using my network of leading veterinary scientists and clinical nutritionists, we came together to formulate recipes that were made from high-quality plant-based ingredients without any animal by-products, fillers or chemicals and a fraction of the environmental impact. After over 20 recipe iterations over the course of a year, we managed to create the world’s first plant-based meat for dogs that's 100% nutritionally complete, loved by dogs, healthy and up to 90% more environmentally sustainable.
The Imperial Enterprise Lab
One of my highlights of the programme so far has been my interaction with the Imperial Enterprise Lab run by Ben Mumby-Croft. They run ‘Idea Surgeries’ in which students can book one-to-one coaching sessions with Business School staff and alumni which proved super useful in helping to formulate my business ideas, network with the university community and to gain access to follow up support and mentorship. I really couldn't have asked for a more supportive environment in which to launch my business.
Tailoring my MBA with electives
I’m fascinated by consumer behaviour and how to effectively market products and services in the digital age,so I chose modules in these fields for next year. Most people believe that dogs need meat, but from a scientific perspective, this has been disproven time and time again. The challenge is how best to communicate this through brand storytelling and marketing messaging. I look forward to delving further into this and other related topics with my peers and professors next term.
I'll also be taking a module in Marketing Analytics. In this day and age, data-led decision making has almost become a prerequisite to the efficient running of a business and I want to keep up to date with this. Finally, and in line with my ambition of growing omni globally, I’ll be studying International Business where I hope to learn more about internationalisation strategies.
The flexibility of online learning
Starting a global business whilst doing an MBA certainly has its challenges in terms of time management but the Global Online MBA offers so much flexibility, so it’s been very manageable. Our live lectures are repeated up to four times a week to reflect the different time zones and working patterns of the cohort, so it’s always been possible to fit around work commitments. These live sessions are also recorded which brings additional flexibility and is great for revision purposes.
The rest of the course material is delivered through The Hub which I’ve found to be an excellent online resource full of lectures, activities and reading materials. It’s fully accessible from a phone, tablet and laptop which is incredibly handy when my schedule is busy, and I need to make the most of a free hour between meetings or on the go when travelling. Overall, The Hub feels modern, easy to navigate and it’s great for accessing support directly from our tutors. It even shows you when other members of the cohort are online so you can communicate directly with them making you feel part of the Business School community.
Things get the trickiest around the time of exams or big assignments when the workload naturally increases, but hey, no one said it was going to be easy and I like to be challenged!
Strategies for managing my workload
There is no escaping the fact that working full-time and doing an MBA leaves little time for other family and social activities. Having said that, it has forced me to become very efficient in my time management which has made me more productive than ever.
The key for me is being organised and maintaining a detailed weekly schedule including timetabled downtime. I’ve also found that recognising and dealing with procrastination has given me back countless hours which I was accustomed to losing to the ether in the past.
However, I know it’s not forever and the journey is an incredible one that is adding so much value to my life both professionally and personally. As a founder of a game-changing business, I couldn’t imagine having got to where I am now without the MBA at Imperial, and I’m so pleased I took the plunge and went for it.
Thankfully, I still find time to walk my black Labrador Bondie, play the occasional game of tennis and spend quality time with friends and family, all of which keep me very happy between study and work.
My advice to future founders
Persevere, persevere and persevere! You will come up against countless obstacles on your path and lots of reasons to give up, but the key is to stay focused on the long-term goal, take lessons from failures and use them to learn and progress the business forward. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your business, but with perseverance, you can achieve something great.