The Essex MBA can be the vehicle which drives professional success. We caught up with Mandeep Sandhu, who graduated from The Essex MBA (Essex Business School) in 2015. Mandeep is now the CEO and Founder of AirLuxxis Aviation Services.
When I decided to do an MBA, I had over 13 years of professional experience, therefore, I chose the University of Essex as a strategic option to not just study but also to enhance my knowledge, skills and redefine my perspectives. It was not just about The Essex MBA, but the overall exposure and learnings I was looking for while being in the UK.
Tell us about your experience of The Essex MBA?
My time at the University of Essex offered me a window from where I was able to look at my life and career from a completely different perspective. It completely rejuvenated my professional life in many ways:
Firstly, the MBA’s focus on entrepreneurship, technology, research, alternative methods of teaching and – above all - the diversity of academia was amazing. The interaction with so many different people (students and professors) from so many countries enriched the overall experience. Simply speaking, if I wanted to set up a business in Nigeria, I could discuss my ideas with my two cohort mates who are from that country. I was able to free flow ideas, exchange thoughts and learn about cultures right from Scandinavian countries to Sub-Saharan Africa, SE Asia and Latin America. The diversity of the class added a whole new dimension for me and made me more confident as I could appreciate other cultures, their diversity and uniqueness.
Secondly, the MBA’s focus on getting us out of the classroom, particularly to visit to entrepreneurial hubs and businesses. This was an important aspect of stimulating learning and gave us the opportunity to actually see business happening and new concepts being worked upon and we were able to glean the enthusiasm which entrepreneurs demonstrate when working to find new solutions. These visits were highly motivating and exhilarating.
Thirdly, the teaching methodology on The Essex MBA, this perhaps is common to all UK Universities, but it was great! It focuses a lot on self-directed study and research, meaningful discussions around real life issues and problems and case studies. In short, I found teaching on the MBA to be practical and innovative and underpinned by strong evidence, case studies and research papers rather than just plain theories being taught. This really helped me to hone my critical thinking skills and gave me a better perspective towards business and life in general.
Fourthly, the diverse background of academia was another amazing aspect that I really enjoyed while at Essex. Having faculty from so many different countries coupled with their rich professional and academic skills helped generate some great and strong discussions, opinions and share perspectives. All this enhanced the learning experience at Essex.
Where has life taken you since graduating?
As soon as I landed back in India, I was hired by an aviation company as its Director of Sales and Business Development. Within three months, I was promoted to CEO of India operations.
Being CEO gave me the opportunity to lead and mentor a young team at NEXUS India. I used every forum to share my experiences from the past and especially of my time in the UK to guide, mentor and inspire my team members. I frequently shared examples from real life, highlighted case studies to add impact and bring authenticity and above all encouraged my colleagues to go for higher education if they could. Most of these conversations were quite diverse from across the business, however my wider aim was to disseminate the learnings and knowledge I had gained over the past 14 years.
I initiated Coffee with CEO, an opportunity where once a month I would meet informally with a colleague who had excelled that month. This initiative gave me an opportunity to speak to them away from the gaze of their reporting managers and peers while allowing them an opportunity to speak and discuss anything they wanted to, as well reflect upon their career.
I started my entrepreneurial journey with AirLuxxis Aviation Services, a company I founded in October 2018. The concept was to elevate the luxury travel business (private aviation charters) in India with the highest level of customer service and new concepts. The market is riddled with poor customer service, an absence of charter options and lacks technological solutions, therefore I was presented with the perfect recipe for a transformation. Thus, was born AirLuxxis.
Tell us more about your entrepreneurial venture?
We offer our clients multiple charter options ranging from on-demand membership, short term leasing, programs, and time share - all without owning an aircraft. We have also developed a mobile app for our clients so they can book while on the go. These newly innovated concepts coupled with use of technology made some revolutionary changes to a very traditional market.
As we cater to the Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) individual segment and luxury industry, our travel concepts would impact nearly 6000-10000 High Net Worth Individuals, who often use private jets for travel. These initiatives also enhanced our revenues, pitted us against some of the competitors who are in business for nearly a decade plus, and obviously generated employment. The hard work is now being recognised by the mainstream print media in India with both Money Control and The Economic Times reporting on our business model.
Do you have any final reflections on your time on The Essex MBA?
The Essex MBA certainly made me confident to take on an entrepreneurial route and I found the module Entrepreneurship and Innovation a really fascinating, educating and quite liberating experience which helped me build the confidence to take the entrepreneurial leap of faith. The module covered a theoretical way to set up a new business and helped me to understand the finer things that go into starting a new venture. The support from the faculty during this module and the overall program was great and fulfilling.
My education at Essex coupled with my experience and passion gives me immense confidence that I will be able to grow and scale up this venture. As we plan to scale up the business, we will be going through the fund-raising process to raise funds, hire more people and grow our revenues.