Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. That’s certainly the case for Rakesh Routhu, COO & Co-Founder at Aerologix and an AGSM @ UNSW Business School MBA (2019) alumnus.

Aerologix, a Sydney-based drone start-up, offering drone hire and commercial aerial photography to corporate clients – a service made possible through their vast network of trained drone pilots – isn't Rakesh’s first attempt at starting his own business, but its success can traced its roots back to the experiences Rakesh had as an MBA student at AGSM @ UNSW Business School.

“Our vision is pretty simple,” explains Rakesh. “We want to build the biggest drone ecosystem in the world. Clients can come in and do projects on our platform, and we have a marketplace where clients post projects and our drone pilots can take projects to get the photos or videos they need. We started with 200 drone pilots two years ago and now we have 27,000.”

TopMBA.com spoke with Rakesh further to learn more about how his AGSM MBA journey prepared both him and CEO and Co-founder of Aerologix, Tom Caska, AGSM MBAX (Technology) 2021 for life as entrepreneurs.

What led you to study an MBA in the first place?

I have two MBAs. I completed the first at one of the top business schools in India, the University of Delhi, where I focused more on extracurricular activities and less on my academics. Soon after that, I created my first start-up that didn’t really take off and that’s when I decided I wanted to do another MBA in another country to get a more rounded international experience and applied to AGSM.

I received a 50% Global Reach Scholarship because of my previous background. AGSM really liked my previous stint as an entrepreneur even though it didn’t work out how I had originally planned. But it helped me to understand failures and how as a founder of a business you need to wear a lot of hats.

What attracted you to AGSM in particular?

I chose AGSM because of its rankings and also because of its location, getting to study in Australia and in Sydney but also with the possibility of an exchange abroad.

Through AGSM’s partnership with international business schools, I was also able to complete an exchange at London Business School. I was there for six months and learned some great processes and frameworks that I’ve implemented in my work. 

For example, I was recently in Brazil as we acquired a company there and I was able to use some of the knowledge I learned from my exchange to help assess whether the acquisition made sense.

Aerologix currently offers services in Australia and New Zealand via its pilot network and is now offering global access to its proprietary technology Aerologix Fly.

When did plans change and entrepreneurship became an option again?

In my LinkedIn bio, it says ‘Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur’ because it’s like an addiction. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but that’s okay. We know it’s full of challenges and that’s why we’re entrepreneurs.

During my MBA, I met my business partner Tom. Even though I was studying my full-time MBA and he was studying a part-time MBA, we met during one of our classes on international business. We both had a previous background with start-ups based around commercial drones. So, Tom and I started thinking and came up with the idea for Aerologix. 

AGSM offered our start-up a great amount of support through the curriculum and the networks provided. There are entrepreneurship modules where you get to actually work on real business ideas. You work on it, you present the idea back to the organisation, and you get immediate feedback. 

Another thing I should mention is UNSW Founders.  Aerologix participated in the 10X Accelerator program about two years ago. It’s a 10-week program where you partner with industry mentors and previous founders who have made an impact in their industry, and we also got the opportunity to pitch to them our ideas and really refine our business concept and direction.

UNSW Founders also invest a small amount in local start-up businesses through their accelerator program. There are so very few universities, especially in Australia, that provide this level of support to their alumni start-up ventures.

Did your previous entrepreneurial experience help with this start-up?

Definitely. When I met Tom, that was a big thing: how do we make this work? I can definitely take away a lot of lessons from the previous venture. 

We would ask investors in our initial stages why they had chosen to invest, and they’d say it’s more about the people than the problem you’re trying to solve. The fact we’d both had a go, it hadn’t worked out, but we’d come back and wanted to make something new work instead made them want to invest.

I think a lot of investors appreciate the fact there are two of us. Tom and I can quickly jump on a call together and figure out what to do when there’s an issue, discuss the plan and implement it straight away. That’s why a lot of investors don’t usually back solo founders.

A lot of things are the same across both my old business and Aerologix: managing relationships, team management, go-to-market strategies, product launches, and pitching to investors. The biggest difference is the timing, as when my first business launched drones were mostly only used within the military but now are much more prevalent in society.

How much support do you continue to receive from AGSM post-graduation?

I can always reach out to them and connect with MBA alumni through our networks. When I’m travelling, I’ll ask if there’s anyone in my destination I can reach out to. 

On LinkedIn, if I’m trying to reach out to a company we want to partner with, I’ll look to see if there’s an AGSM or UNSW alumni within that company I can connect with, and then I’ll ask AGSM if they can help to make an introduction.

Also, in terms of our workforce, we’ve hired graduates from AGSM to work at Aerologix, while also continuing to receive mentorship ourselves.

I would say I’d probably rank AGSM right at the top with other top business schools for support for entrepreneurs, given there’s the 10X Accelerator and also things like the Peter Farrell Cup [a competition to pitch start-up ideas with a cash prize]. You get a real flavour of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur through the program too, and you can apply these concepts to your own business straightaway.

If you have an entrepreneurial background like Rakesh, you could also be eligible for a scholarship at AGSM. Candidates are automatically considered for the AGSM Leadership Excellence Scholarship – Entrepreneurial Leadership Award after they have received an offer of admission to the full-time MBA program, with applicants assessed against four factors: academic merit, leadership achievements, career progression, and global citizenship. More information about scholarships can be found on AGSM’s website.

Discover your inner entrepreneur by studying an MBA at AGSM @ UNSW Business School

This article was originally published in TopMBA.com and has been republished with permission.