H@H: Ep 20 – On this episode, Aravind Mamidanna talks with Namrata_Mani for our first episode in the International series, where we talk to members of the Haas Community who have come from outside the United States.
In this episode we talk to Namrata about:
- Her roles in two of India’s fastest growing startups in the Food and Grocery delivery space.
- Her decision to come to the US and Berkeley in particular.
- The different Entrepreneurship opportunities at Haas.
- Her new startup ResumeWabi.
- Student and Work Visa’s for International Students.
- Her favorite classes at Haas.
- Cultural differences between India and the US
[00:00:00] Aravind: Welcome to another episode of here@haas. I’m your host, Aravind Mamidanna. And today we’re joined by number two money and full-time MBA in the class of 2021, founder of Resumewabi, former director of operations at Grofers and an all-around amazing person. Welcome Namrata, so great to have you today.
[00:00:21] Namrata: Thanks so much. I’m really happy to be here.
[00:00:24] Aravind: It’s so great to have you. Can you briefly tell us about your journey to Haas and how you got here?
[00:00:29] Namrata: So, I was in India before there was working in Grofers as you mentioned. For context, Grofers is an online supermarket. I was at a point in my life where in terms of personal development, I was not growing as much as I wanted to. And I felt like moving outside of India, studying a little more, was the next step for me especially since I didn’t have a master’s degree before this. And the decision to come to Berkeley was quite clear because I’d had my eye on Berkeley for a long time. I remember when I was talking to a student at Berkeley, that person took one and a half hours of their time to like walk me through all of my questions around Berkeley. And I had a lot of questions.
[00:01:11] That was something that I felt was very unique to Berkeley and a very strong reason for me to come here. And I’d say that continues even today. The community is amazing. People are extremely helpful, extremely supportive. There’s a lot more in terms of personal growth when you look at it from the angle of broadening your mind or broadening your worldview.
[00:01:35] I think there are a lot of positives coming to Berkeley.
[00:01:40] Aravind: I totally agree with that. Actually, I was considering different programs myself. And I sat in on a class at Berkeley and the people were so nice. People came up to me, the students, and they gave me their cards and their numbers.
[00:01:52] And they’re like, feel free to reach out to us anytime you want. we’re happy to answer questions. I was like, damn, these people are so nice. I want to be here.
[00:02:00] Namrata: Yeah, I agree. The people here are lovely. Like I think they’re some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, the people I’ve met here.
[00:02:09] Aravind: Couldn’t agree more. So, in terms of, what you were doing before you came to Berkeley, I know you worked in a bunch of different roles over your career and was super interesting to stalk you on LinkedIn and look you up on LinkedIn. Can you tell us about the roles that you have been over your career?
[00:02:28] Namrata: I’ll start off with Zomato. I was working there for about two and a half years across a variety of roles. And just for context, for anyone who isn’t familiar with Zomato, it’s food and dining or restaurant directory, very similar to what Yelp is.
[00:02:43] And then I started off working in sales, moved on to expand that operation to a new city, had set up the Chennai office, moved on to Brazil for a very short stand and then came back to Bangalore where predominantly I was still working in sales.
[00:02:59] And after that I had an opportunity to move to Grofers where I started off without a very clear mandate in what I had to do, but quickly found a spot on the customer service team and started working heavily on customer experience; led that department for a while. Moved on to look at a bunch of different projects that the company was interested in exploring in terms of figuring out new business models, new ways of making money.
[00:03:31] When some of those we realized didn’t align with a longer-term focus as a company, I moved on for a short period into HR. Because we were trying to put together that team and kind of make it stronger at that point. So, it just helped with that transition before moving back into exploring new business models.
[00:03:49] Aravind: Oh.
[00:03:50] Namrata: That’s a very TLDR version, but yeah, I hope that answers your question.
[00:03:55] Aravind: It does. And it makes a lot of sense. And as you were talking about it, one thing that kept coming to me was, I understand that in a startup, you have to put on different hats and move to different roles and strategically work on stuff that is important to the business. How do you balance that between things that you want to do and personally grow into?
[00:04:17] Namrata: I always enjoyed being at growth-stage startups. I enjoyed the option of jumping between teams. But predominantly one of the things that I felt most passionately about was figuring out exactly what we needed to do in a specific department or domain and then aligning people around that.
[00:04:42] Each of those opportunities gives me more understanding of how a business works, which I don’t think I would have got if I had just worked in sales my entire life or in customer service or HR my entire life.
[00:04:55] Aravind: So, one, you seem to have like a really good understanding of business since you have been to fast-growing startups. So, why did you decide on getting an MBA? What were you looking for?
[00:05:07] Namrata: I think that’s a great question. One big thing was, I knew that my worldview was getting very concentrated on India specific news, India specific issues, and I knew that there were other ways of growing. And I didn’t feel like being in India was going to give me what I was looking for.
[00:05:32] The second part of it was being a generalist, there’s definitely some great aspects of the coursework at an MBA. I love the fact that we can pick what we want to do rather than in India, where you often go through a very specific set of classes and courses.
[00:05:49] I also knew that just because I love being at startups, the Bay area was always a kind of inspiration. And so being here, I think it opens up your eyes to all the different opportunities that there are, how things work in different parts of the world, just having that exposure to people of so many different nationalities, so many different life experiences, it gives you a very different perspective from having lived in one place for the last several years.
[00:06:21] Aravind: I completely get when you say that you wanted to get a new perspective being an international student myself. I totally can relate to that. You’ve already competed like one year at Haas.
[00:06:33] Namrata: I have, yes.
[00:06:35] Aravind: And you started a new venture, which is as Resumewabi. Can you describe what Resumewabi is? And, I’m curious to know if the, whatever you’ve learned at Haas and the principles that you have learned so far, how well do they translate to a startup that is primarily operating out of India, if I understand correctly?
[00:06:53] Namrata: Yeah. I think that’s a great question. So, Resumewabi is my company which we started about three months ago. And what we’re trying to do is allow users to upload their resumes and give them very specific automated recommendations on how to make the resumes significantly better.
[00:07:14] The reason we started this was I’ve been recruiting people since about 2012 and a lot of the time I noticed, and this is very specific to the Indian ecosystem, what I noticed was that it was very hard to tell how effective a person would be or how suited for the role a person would be just by looking at the resume. You could have two people who worked at the same place and in a similar role and often the resume and the points on the resumes would look exactly the same. And this is obviously simplifying the issue a lot, but the thing was, it didn’t really talk about their accomplishments or their impact or the achievements. So, I would never be able to tell as a recruiter who would be a better fit.
[00:08:00] The second part of your question was about translating that into what I’ve learned at Berkeley.
[00:08:06] The amount of support you get here is phenomenal.
[00:08:12] There’s always someone to go to when I have questions, which I don’t necessarily have the answer to. And there’s no need to reinvent the wheel because these are things which are fairly tried and tested methods of doing things. And there’s always someone to reach out to. And at the very least, if there’s no one in my immediate circle who knows, it’s like one or two phone calls away to get the right person.
[00:08:34] Aravind: Yeah, the ecosystem of Berkeley is just amazing. And in one way or the other, we keep coming back to that.
[00:08:42] Namrata: Yeah, I agree completely. Especially for new applicants, it’s very easy to say, you know, the culture is great but actually understanding what that means is it’s, yeah, I think you just, you just have to be here to experience how amazing it is.
[00:08:58] Aravind: One thing that I was curious about as you were talking about Resumewabi was there’s something called CMG international careers at Berkeley and CMG, for people who don’t know or outside of the Haas ecosystem, is Career Management Group. And for someone who wants to apply in like different countries after they come out of Berkeley and who want to get more international experience, how should they think about their resumes based on the different countries or economies that they want to like be a part of?
[00:09:29] Namrata: I think that a couple of things. One is your resume. If you’re at Berkeley and getting resume support from CMG, your resume is already in very, very good shape. And so, I think the top tips would be if you’re applying to different geographies, first, understand exactly what each of those geographies is looking for and you should do research into understanding what standard for that country instead of sending someone a standard resume that you might be sending to people in the US. The second is always, always tailor your resume for the job you’re applying for the company you’re applying for.
[00:10:05] I think those are probably the two biggest things I would recommend.
[00:10:10] Aravind: Got it. Makes sense.
[00:10:12] Aravind: And I know that in Berkeley, you’ve had leadership positions in Skydeck and Launch and Berkeley as a whole, our house has a lot of entrepreneurship opportunities. As a new entrepreneur or someone who’s coming in who wants to go into entrepreneurship, how would you advise that people go about it at Berkeley? I know there are so many things and if you can explain the differences between Launch and Skydeck and what advice you have for new entrepreneurs.
[00:10:39] Namrata: Oh, yeah, absolutely. The short version specifically about Launch, specifically about Skydeck, is there are more opportunities. There’s an opportunity before that called StEP. StEP is a very short program that runs you through lean principles and lean methodology. So, it’s at the idea stage where you’re trying to build something a little more concrete. Launch comes in next where you typically have a team, you have either a prototype or an MVP or you know, some idea of what your product’s going to look like.
[00:11:11] And then it tries to take you to a point where you’re ready to either raise your first round of funding or go on to an accelerator program which happens fairly frequently. After that, once, you know, you’ve got your product, you’ve figured out who your customer is, who your segment is, why you are going after them, how much it costs, et cetera, all of that, that’s kind of where Skydeck, other accelerators come into play. So typically, where you’ve got a much more clear idea of what your product is and you’re looking for your first round of seed funding. Those are the three big pieces. Other than that, there are million other opportunities on campus – there are undergrad groups, there are other grad groups, there are, you know, entrepreneurship centers, there are classes related to entrepreneurship. So even if you’re not working on a specific project, you can work on these within classes that are new venture finance classes. There are so many different things that you can do to become an entrepreneur here.
[00:12:08] Aravind: Yeah, that’s amazing. Just going through StEP and Launch and then Skydeck and what each of those stages gives you is super useful.
[00:12:15] Aravind: I know that a lot of people in my shoes are people who are looking to come to the US and to Berkeley are wondering, is the visa situation, was it easy for you to get a student visa? What do you think about after you graduate or for doing any internships? Was that a concern for you or is that an ongoing concern?
[00:12:34] Namrata: Yeah. I think that’s a great question for this time, especially. So, getting my visa took me, from the date of the interview, it took about a week. They were pretty fast. It wasn’t a challenge. Getting a job is definitely something that plays on a lot of people’s minds.
[00:12:52] Namrata: The opportunities for an international student are definitely less than for a student who is American just because going through the visa process itself is cumbersome for a lot of companies. Smaller companies might not want to do it.
[00:13:06] But that said there are still opportunities on campus. I see CMG doing a lot to make sure students are placed at good companies and get jobs. I see other students pitching in a lot to like help their friends. When they find an opening at a company that they know someone would be interested in. There’s a hashtag going around called hirehaas. So, there’s a lot of effort being put into working with alums, to make sure that openings and their companies are also being shared with high students and giving them enough support.
[00:13:41] Aravind: That’s great news. And again, although it is challenging, people are super helpful, especially the Haas ecosystem and everyone involved in that. So that definitely makes it easier for internationals compared to other places.
[00:13:55] Namrata: Oh yeah, absolutely.
[00:13:57] Aravind: So, coming back to your experience, what has been your favorite class so far, and why?
[00:14:04] Namrata: Oh, there’s a class called Strategy for the Network Economy. The name is a bit of a mouthful, but the class is great. I really enjoyed it. It to me was very much like a history lesson.
[00:14:18] This was interesting for me specifically because it was around the factors that shaped the tech industry to be the way it is today and moving into how the telecom industry emerged, how it sort of changed over time, what the big factors in pushing that change were. And then moving on to more recent cases of other companies, what would their decision-making mechanisms, why did they take certain decisions, and just how this ecosystem was shaped.
[00:14:49] That’s a lot of contexts that I don’t think I would have got otherwise. It was all very neatly packaged into this one class. So that was for me definitely the highlight of my last semester.
[00:15:03] Aravind: It’s amazing.
[00:15:04] Aravind: Any glass that you’re looking forward to?
[00:15:08] Namrata: I’m really interested in a negotiations class. It’s got a great review. But also I think that that’s such a crucial part of working at any company.
[00:15:18] So I’m very excited about that class. The other thing that I was very excited about was, I was planning to take a pottery class next semester. I don’t think that’s happening anymore, you know, COVID.
[00:15:29] Aravind: Is that a particular set at Berkeley.
[00:15:32] Namrata: There’s a pottery class at Berkeley. Yes.
[00:15:35] Namrata: There’s a lot of other interesting classes also that we have at Berkeley. There’s a whole bunch of finance classes, music classes, there are so many other things that you can take as well.
[00:15:47] Aravind: Yeah. Many stuff you could explore. It’s just endless.
[00:15:52] Aravind: One thing that I wanted to know personally is how is the culture different between India versus the US?
[00:16:00] Namrata: Well, I was in Gurgaon for context. And I think in Gurgaon, there are very limited activities, especially if you’re staying within the city. Here, the kind of activities you have a significantly more. I can’t think of a single person I know who’s ever gone for the picnic in Gurgaon.
[00:16:16] Aravind: Hm.
[00:16:17] Namrata: You don’t really cycle around Gurgaon or go for walks. Those are just not very common things. And usually, if you’re doing them, you’re doing them within gated societies. I think here just the infrastructure allows you to do a lot more than you would do there. And so, the activities are significantly more varied than it would be in India.
[00:16:41] I think in terms of people, people are great everywhere. It really depends on who your friends are and if you’re having fun with them. That was the case for me back in India, it’s the case for me here as well.
[00:16:54] Aravind: People are always nice in anywhere you go. If you can make good friends, you end up having a blast.
[00:17:02] Namrata: I think that’s true.
[00:17:04] Aravind: I think that’s a great place to end. You are people being awesome. Thank you so much for being with us today
[00:17:11] Namrata: Thank you.
[00:17:13] Aravind: I hope we can do a part two sometime soon where we dig deeper into how as you may well be, has progressed, and where it has gone to.
[00:17:20] Namrata: Oh yeah. I’d love that. That would be great.
[00:17:23] Aravind: Awesome. Thank you so much for being with us.
[00:17:26] Namrata: Thank you.
[00:17:28] Aravind: Thank you so much for listening to another episode of the here@haas podcast. If you liked this episode, please leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast. For stories from the Haas alumni, go to our sister podcast, OneHass. And until next time, be safe and have fun. Go bears.