Geetanjali Ashok, an MBA student at California State University, Dominguez Hills, won first prize with her team in a business plan competition during the Emerging Minority Business Leaders (EMBL) Program held last month at West Liberty University in West Liberty, W. Va. Ashok’s team, which was made up of students from UC Berkeley, Hunter College, Jackson State University, Miami International University, and North Carolina Agriculture & Technical State University, has been invited to deliver their presentation on a glucose monitoring device for diabetics to the US Department of Commerce this fall at the annual conference of the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds in October in order to find investors who may invest up to $1 million to launch the business.
Ashok, who earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting at Tilkamanjhi Bhagalpur University in Bhagalpur, Bihar, India, says that the experience and skills she gained as a certified public accountant in India proved to be invaluable in the development of the financial component of the group’s plan for Excel-A-Sense, a product that uses microelectromechanical (MEMS) systems to keep track of a patient’s glucose levels.
“When I work on a team or in a group, I learn about what we do here and use my experience of what I had [in India],” says Ashok. “I was the person who took care of all the finances [in our business plan]. I think it helped my team because they didn’t have to think about the finances; it was my job. The judges were very impressed by the figures: how we monitored them, and how we knew in the first three years we would not have any profit because we were launching a product. I calculated the return in equity and how much we would pay our investors when selling our business, which was the true [profit].”
Ashok says that she was inspired to choose the patent for Excel-A-Sense from the choices offered to the students for personal reasons.
“My mom and my dad are diabetic patients,” she says. “I used to see them prick themselves frequently with all the pain. When you’re diabetic, your wounds don’t heal so fast, so there’s always a chance of infection. I was just thinking of something that would be of help to so many people.”
Ashok also serves as a teacher’s assistant for the MBA Online program and says she is very impressed by the faculty’s level of commitment and professionalism.
“I have taken online classes elsewhere,” says Ashok, “but here, the classes are more connected, the teachers are more dedicated to them. They answer your questions, they know what you need help with and they give you immediate feedback. If you are stuck on any question, you can email them and in a couple of hours, you will get an answer.”
Ashok, who is taking a hybrid of online and classroom courses through the MBA Online program, says that being able to experience classroom learning and interacting with students from across the globe who are attending CSU Dominguez Hills remotely has been an enriching experience.
“I was given a team project, a case study,” Ashok says. “One of my teammates was in the Middle East and one was in Poland. We collaborated [using] each other’s knowledge. People from all over the world can be on one platform here.”
Ashok says the diversity of the student population is also an opportunity to prepare her and her classmates to enter a global workforce. They are learning various cultural etiquette and customs from each other and that knowledge can be a critical asset while conducting business in other countries.
“When you are dealing with someone in Asia, you have to be familiar to them,” she says. “They must know you, then they’ll do business. Here we do business just talking to strangers. In Japan, they prefer to talk to men, not the ladies. It’s different in America; a woman can represent herself or her company.”
Although she was not familiar with CSU Dominguez Hills when she arrived on campus, Ashok says she was quickly put at ease by the familial atmosphere.
“Everybody is so friendly, everybody is so welcoming,” she says. “There are many students from different backgrounds. It’s a very good place to interact. The teachers and professors all are very friendly here. At every step, they help you out.
“There are many helpful professors, especially the MBA director, Mr. Ken Poertner. He’s very motivating, he’s very encouraging. I took two of Prof. Kirti Celly’s classes; she just inspires me. She’s a really good teacher, she knows her subject. She gives you personal feedback, she tells you what you have to do, which way you are going.”
For more information on the online MBA program at CSU Dominguez Hills, click here.