Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Keerthi Kanchanapally

Class of 2014

Keerthi Kanchanapally

"Without passion, it is very tough to convert ideas into action and for those actions to have impact. So for me, a leader of consequence is someone who is intensely passionate about his/her cause."

My Background

I come from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, which is famous for its spicy food. I earned a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), following in the footsteps of my brother and sister. After graduation, I worked at Mu Sigma, the fastest growing Indian analytics firm. I worked with U.S. retail giants in providing analytical solutions and frameworks for business problems.

I decided to follow my passion for social impact by starting a non-profit organization called Yofa (short for Youth Factor). Yofa works on exciting projects to engage young people in social action. I served as the founding program director for Yofa's flagship program Grassroutes. Grassroutes is a fellowship program for young people to travel to rural India to discover and work with changemakers, live with the community, and do their bit to change the world. In this process, they discover the changemaker within, and use stories from their journey to inspire other youth into social action.

In 2 years, I grew Youth Factor into an awarding-winning organization. I continue to serve on the board, but moved away from the day-to-day activities to work as a consultant at Ashoka in the Full Economic Citizenship division. There, I created a business case for affordable housing for low-income groups in India.

I enjoy writing poetry, reading books on contemporary Indian history, and following Manchester United.

Why I Chose Fuqua

There are 2 reasons that I picked Fuqua. First, "Team Fuqua" was a huge motivation for me to come to the school. My conversations with current students and alumni helped me learn more about the team spirit and co-ownership that they felt in each other's success. I wanted to go to a school that had a deep sense of community, having realized the power of it as part of one such community at BITS.

Second, Fuqua's flexible curriculum fit well with my learning needs. My long-term career interests are in the areas of social entrepreneurship and innovation. Also, post-MBA, I am looking to gain functional expertise in strategy. Fuqua's flexibility helps me work toward both these goals. I am currently pursuing dual concentrations in Strategy, and Entrepreneurship and Innovation. This way, I will not only secure my short-term goals but also prepare myself for long-term success.

Leadership Attribute: Passion

Passion is a characteristic that is close to my heart, and it drives my actions. From writing business cases on rural social enterprises at BITS to my personal experiences growing up in villages in India, I developed a deep interest in social impact. The passion for social impact gave me the confidence to venture out and start my own non-profit, taking a steep pay cut and entering an uncertain future. This deep interest provided inspiration and energy to grow Youth Factor from an idea to an award-winning organization.

Without passion, it is very tough to convert ideas into action and for those actions to have impact. So for me, a leader of consequence is someone who is intensely passionate about his/her cause.

Five Random Things about Me

  1. I enjoy music. In fact, as a kid, I even trained as a vocalist for 3 months. I quit because I was the only guy in a group of 30 kids, and our teacher forced me to practice singing in front of a large group of giggling girls. Thus, the world lost a great singer!!
  2. In most of my student teams I have the longest name—Keerthi Kiran Kanchanapally (25 letters). Hence, I go by different and easier names—Keerthi, KK, Keki, K and Kiran.
  3. I aspire to work with a political party in a decade's time, but due to a variety of reasons, I wasn't able to vote in any of the Indian national elections so far.
  4. I love watching movies. I once travelled more than 200 kilometers to catch a new movie that I really wanted to watch. I have a list of IMDB Top 250 list that I want to complete one day. Current status: completed 109.
  5. I always used public transportation in India and was naïve enough to think that I could manage doing the same in the U.S. It just took 2 weeks for me to realize otherwise. I am now a proud owner of a Nissan Sentra.

The Impact of Team Fuqua

As part of the Global Institute in the first month at Fuqua, we had a class on Innovation and Creativity. I spoke to Professor Jack Soll later to tell him that coming from an entrepreneurial background, I enjoyed the class. We spoke for a few minutes about my past experiences and my goal of working in innovation and entrepreneurship in the future. A few days later, in my locker, I found a printed article profiling an innovation consulting company, detailing their process of helping companies innovate. The professor went out of his way to find my locker and drop in this relevant article. This defines "Team Fuqua"—an intensely collaborative community striving for each other's growth.