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Varun Sharma is an entrepreneur currently pursuing his MBA (24J) at INSEAD


Varun Sharma is an entrepreneur currently pursuing his MBA (24J) at INSEAD. His passion lies at the intersection of entrepreneurship, consumer goods, and the direct-to-consumer market, as evidenced by his track record. He co-founded Laumière Gourmet Fruits, a California based direct-to-consumer brand offering premium all natural sweets where he focused on expanding the digital platform and e-commerce sales. Prior to this, Varun worked as a digital transformation Project Manager and co-founded Inara, a non-profit aimed at empowering youth. Aside from his business ventures, he also explores his passion for music as a DJ and has been a TEDx Speaker.


Could you share some insights into your experience as a Project Manager for the Digital Transformation project at PwC? What were the key skills and knowledge you applied from your education?


Launching my professional journey at PwC was a fulfilling experience, setting the foundation for the synthesis of technology and consulting that I had grown passionate about during my years at BITS Pilani Dubai. While at BITS, I discovered my penchant for understanding the nexus between technology and consultation. As I transitioned into the role of a Project Manager at PwC, I quickly realized that the essence of this role wasn't about wielding power but about empathetic leadership.


One might assume that a project manager's position is marked by authority, but in reality, it's about facilitating understanding and harmony. Both your team and clients depend on you to grasp their perspectives, concerns, and aspirations. The technical and management skills I acquired were vital, but it was the soft skills – understanding and collaborating with diverse individuals – that truly mattered. My years at BITS Pilani Dubai, interacting with peers from myriad backgrounds, ingrained in me this sensitivity towards people. The technicalities can be mastered, but deciphering human dynamics is the real challenge and the most rewarding aspect of my role.


As an Education Mentor at Kotak Education Foundation's Umang program, you've focused on empowering underprivileged students. How do you think your BITS Dubai education has contributed to your ability to make a positive impact on society?


During my tenure at BITS Pilani Dubai, I co-founded Inara, a student-led nonprofit dedicated to societal betterment through volunteering, fundraising, and educational endeavors. This initiative wasn't just a mere project; it was a reflection of my profound desire to leverage the resources at my disposal to uplift communities in need. It instilled in me a principle I hold dear: our true measure isn't gauged by what we possess, but by what we give back.


Although the chapters of Inara came to a close, the call to champion education remained unyielding. My subsequent volunteer work virtually in Spain with a non-profit organization, mentoring students from Greece and Turkey in English, further solidified my commitment. This experience paved the way for my association with Kotak Education Foundation's Umang program, where I delved deeper into mentoring, enabling students to hone their English proficiency and, subsequently, securing better job prospects. As with my role at PwC, the cornerstone of this engagement was understanding the aspirations of these students and guiding them towards a brighter future, built on their dreams and ambitions.


Your involvement in TEDx events and public speaking is impressive. How did you initially step into this role, and what advice would you give to students looking to improve their communication and presentation skills?


The foundation of any self-improvement journey begins with introspection. I recommend starting with a self-assessment to identify your strengths and areas that require enhancement. Engage in candid conversations with trusted individuals to see if their perception mirrors your self-assessment. This validation offers clarity on areas to focus.


My affinity for public speaking emerged during my early days at BITS Pilani Dubai, where I began as a volunteer at various events. It didn't take long for me to recognize my enthusiasm for communication and the impact I could have by assisting others in honing their skills. This realization catalyzed my effort in organizing a TEDx event at BITS Pilani Dubai – a proud legacy that my batch and I envisioned leaving behind.


For those looking to enhance their communication skills, I would offer this piece of advice: embrace discomfort. Continually seek opportunities to speak in situations that challenge you. It's in these moments of vulnerability and growth that one truly refines and perfects the art of communication.


Could you share a memorable experience from your time as a Jashn organizer? How did your involvement in extracurricular activities enhance your overall university experience?


My journey at BITS Pilani Dubai was punctuated by an avid involvement in extracurricular activities. Beyond the academic realm, I was keen on fostering a well-rounded personality during my undergraduate years. This aspiration drew me to the Events Management Committee's marketing team in my second year. I closely observed and absorbed invaluable insights from my seniors about the nuances of event marketing and its significance. These learning experiences not only enriched my skills but also forged lasting bonds with my mentors, connections that have persisted beyond university walls.


By my final year, I had transitioned into spearheading the marketing endeavors for various events, with Jashn standing out as the biggest project to be a part of. The crowning moment during my time with Jashn was orchestrating an event headlined by the renowned artist, Arjun Kanungo. Successfully liaising with him, ensuring his travel, and subsequently witnessing the electrifying response of the student body was nothing short of exhilarating. The joy and exhilaration that resonated among the students served as a testament to our team's hard work, underscoring the adage that the fruits of labor are indeed sweet.


From your perspective, how has the landscape of business and technology evolved since your time at BITS Dubai, and what skills would you recommend current students focus on to thrive in the dynamic professional world?


The symbiotic relationship between business and technology has undergone significant transformation since my graduation in 2016. The pace of change is so rapid that staying updated is not just a recommendation, but a necessity to remain relevant in today's professional realm.


For students navigating this landscape, I advocate for depth over breadth. Instead of trying to grasp the entirety of technology, delve deep into a specific sector that aligns with your passion. The journey of professional growth is deeply personal; it's about aligning your interests with the evolving market demands. My fascination with consumer-oriented digital platforms led me to conceptualize and launch Laumière Gourmet Fruits, a digital-first D2C business in the US market. It epitomizes my belief in building and nurturing brands that echo my ethos, and in sharing them with a wider audience.


For current students charting their career paths, I recommend leveraging summer internships and engaging with alumni. These experiences provide invaluable insights and firsthand exposure, helping you carve a niche for yourself in the vast professional expanse.


Your entrepreneurial journey led you to establish Laumière Gourmet Fruits. Can you tell us how your education at BITS Dubai fostered your entrepreneurial mindset and drive to innovate?


The seeds of entrepreneurship can only germinate when one creates the right conditions. My time at BITS Dubai was instrumental in nurturing this mindset. Engaging with the entrepreneurship club, I capitalized on networking opportunities with accomplished alumni entrepreneurs. Electives like management and marketing, coupled with hands-on involvement in professors' projects, provided a comprehensive understanding of the business landscape.


Participating in case study competitions across various Dubai universities was another eye-opener. It honed my aptitude for problem-solving and solidified my inclination towards entrepreneurship. These experiences were foundational in preparing me to venture into the US market with Laumière Gourmet Fruits.


Innovation, in my belief, is the lifeblood of any entrepreneurial venture. As I embarked on crafting Laumière's offerings, the necessity to distinguish our products became paramount. My quest for differentiation led me to an innovative intersection of two sizable market segments: all-natural food and premium sweets. The US, with its emphasis on quality and an ever-growing health-conscious demographic, was the perfect canvas for introducing this unique blend.


You have pursued a diverse range of roles, from consulting to entrepreneurship. How did your educational background and experiences prepare you for such a versatile career and your MBA program as INSEAD, and what advice do you have for current students about exploring different paths after graduation and thinking about an MBA?


Throughout my journey, I've ventured into an array of roles, spanning consulting to pioneering my own entrepreneurial endeavor with Laumière Gourmet Fruits and Inara. My foundation at BITS Dubai played a pivotal role in equipping me for this multifaceted career trajectory. Being actively engaged in the program, networking with accomplished alumni, and immersing myself in electives and core classes, I cultivated a holistic understanding of the business landscape.


Furthermore, participating in case competitions across Dubai instilled in me an intrinsic problem-solving aptitude, making me both adaptable and resilient. These experiences were instrumental in not just shaping my professional path but also preparing me for the rigor and diversity of the MBA program at INSEAD.


For current students, my advice is twofold. Firstly, don't restrict yourself. Explore diverse avenues post-graduation; each experience, whether in consulting, tech, or entrepreneurship, offers invaluable lessons. Secondly, if considering an MBA, introspect on what you wish to gain from the program. An MBA, like the one at INSEAD, can provide an expansive network, deeper business insights, and a global perspective. Yet, it's essential to ensure it aligns with your career aspirations and personal growth objectives.