Handshakes in the hallway: How three EMBAs launched a startup before graduation
Regardless of industry or career goals, getting an MBA serves up one universal benefit for students: momentum. For Madhukar Manpuria, Jürgen Thom and Christoph Behrendt, the momentum they found from the Kellogg-WHU Otto Beisheim Executive MBA Program encouraged them to finally follow their entrepreneurial aspirations and launch a new business.
Their collaboration in the classroom led to MyNewCar.in, an ecommerce platform for selling new cars, accessories and services to the Indian market. Living in India for much of his life, Manpuria identified what he believed to be unresolved problems with the Indian automobile industry, but he lacked strong business partners who could bring his ideas to life. When he met Thom, a sales and marketing executive, and Behrendt, a management consultant, through the Kellogg-WHU program, he knew that together they could build a successful startup.
Manpuria, Thom and Behrendt shared their experience launching MyNewCar.in.
How did you decide to partner up?
Manpuria: Jürgen Thom was in my study group. I already had the idea of MyNewCar.in, and pitched it to him. He really liked the idea and I remember thinking, “Now I have found the perfect co-founder!” However, we quickly came to the conclusion that we needed a third partner. That’s how we found Christoph.
Behrendt: We met during a break between classes in Hong Kong. We had been in the same EMBA class but in different study groups. At the time, we were all working on different ideas. The three of us started discussing our ideas together, including Madhukar’s MyNewCar.in idea. During that break, we decided that we should join forces. We “sealed the deal” with a handshake before returning to class.
What is your overall vision for MyNewCar.in?
Thom: Right now what we’d like to offer is a “one-stop ecosystem” that starts with a potential customer searching online, then the actual purchase, then ownership and eventually search for another car. MyNewCar.in will provide everything the consumer needs, from car comparisons to new car configuration, financing and even trade-ins.
Manpuria: Our vision is to build trust and transparency not only with our customers, but also with our partners and various channels.
How do you intend to grow your business?
Manpuria: The nice thing about MyNewCar.in and similar businesses is that it is easily scalable. It can be implemented in any country that has the same problems and needs. In India, we have a lot of problems with infrastructure, reach and value. People in India have trouble accessing car dealers and struggle with lower purchasing power than other markets — Europe, for instance. Car manufacturers have very high fixed costs. Those are the same issues you see in Brazil, China and many other countries.
We want to be the leading online platform for selling new cars, accessories and services. We aim to have a billion dollar company within the next four to five years and be able to scale it up to countries like Brazil and China. We want to change the way people buy and own cars in India and in other countries where people have the same problems.
Thom: Last year, there were about 2.5 million cars sold in India. This number will go up to 12-13 million within the next 15 years, representing a growth of 10 percent every year. We have a clear value proposition for our customers and also for car manufacturers. Responses were quite positive from both sides (manufacturers and direct consumers). We’re looking forward to the upcoming weeks and months to observe how the overall growth will evolve. We’re very positive at the moment.
What challenges do you see in the near future for your business?
Manpuria: Team building is always a challenge because of limited resources. It is also very difficult to find the right people at minimum costs. Besides that, I would say customer acquisition is a big challenge: getting customers’ trust and awareness.
Behrendt: Funding is particularly important. We are able to finance operations but we really need financial partners who can provide us with advice and funding to expand and grow our business.
Thom: Building customer awareness is crucial, but being ahead of the competition is also important. Of course we want to be the only company offering such services online. To stay ahead of competition, you need to build awareness through marketing, and to keep abreast of those constantly changing trends and competitive environment, you need enough funding to grow faster than anyone else.
Do you think that for someone who wants to go into entrepreneurship, the EMBA is worth it?
Behrendt: For all three of us, the Executive MBA Program was a life-changing experience. Other people in our class got promoted within their existing corporations, but if you’ve always been thinking about starting something on your own and have this entrepreneurial spirit, the Executive MBA Program is the perfect place for you to fully understand yourself and your aspirations and to develop your entrepreneurial spirit.
Manpuria: The Executive MBA Program will not create the desire or passion for entrepreneurship. What the Executive MBA Program really does is to provide you with the tools for you to understand the business environment and market. I had ideas five years prior to starting classes, but I did not feel prepared enough to implement my ideas. The Executive MBA Program provided me with the tools, the network and resources to bring my ideas to the market. You always see entrepreneurs who are in their 20s but we are all in our late 30s, so it is never too late to become an entrepreneur.
The three of us wanted to become entrepreneurs because we wanted to achieve freedom and to try to solve some of the problems that people encounter. And during the course of that pursuit, if you make money along the way, that’s totally fine. But you can’t become an entrepreneur just to make money.
MyNewCar.in launched in January, one month after Manpuria, Thom and Behrendt graduated. Learn more about MyNewCar.in >