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The MBA entrepreneurs

Can you work and study at the same time?

By Peter Walker for CNN
Motwani hopes to tempt hungry students.


FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006



Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.


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(CNN) -- While many people sign up to MBA courses hoping to make their fortune in the future, some particularly eager entrepreneurs try and speed up the whole process -- launching a business while they are still studying.

One such would-be magnate is Vipin Motwani, who has combined his MBA studies at Arizona State University in Phoenix with co-launching an Internet-based food enterprise.

Hungry Devils -- for now aimed at Motwani's fellow students -- lets people avoid the bother of telephoning for take out foods by placing the orders via the web at no extra cost, the income coming from charging a fee to participating restaurants.

Motwani, who is about to complete his MBA, admits that simultaneously studying and launching a business has been tough, but in other ways helpful in that he has been immediately able to translate business theory into hard practice.

"It's been an immense help having taken the courses that we've taken, and the timing. Especially with strategy, just figuring out how to position our web site. There's many different options you can go down when you're launching an Internet-based company," he says.

"The MBA coursework that we took actually helped us launch very successfully -- how we were going to position the brand, how exactly we were going to market it to the students, putting the formal business plan together."

Additionally, he says, the real world experience has been beneficial in taking the course.

"Vica versa it's really helped as well," he says, explaining that he is currently taking a class in e-commerce in which students usually have to use invented sample business data.

"What I try to do is I try to make data sets from what we actually get, from the orders that we actually receive. Rather than doing the data sets that are given to us in the classroom I try to apply this real world web site data in classroom theory. It's helped a lot."

Dot-com boom

The practice of MBA students launching businesses came to particular prominence during the heady days of the late 90s internet boom, when seemingly every entrepreneur was seeking his or her instant fortune with a web-based business, says Craig Smith, a senior fellow at the London Business School (LBS).

"You saw a lot of that during the dot-com boom period. In fact, some schools were in a bit of a bind then because with a two-year program they were having difficulty keeping students for a second year.

"Historically, they might have been opposed to students doing work on the side, but they had to be a little bit more tolerant when they were losing significant numbers."

Nowadays, the LBS offers students flexibility in how long they take to complete their courses, allowing for such things as business commitments, Smith notes, and such double lives are not actively discouraged.

"Personally, I would not be averse to that -- if an individual student feels that they can manage their course work and meet their responsibilities, and adjust their workload accordingly so maybe they don't try and get through the program quite as quickly."

Motwani plans to spend the weeks after he graduates using the "downtime" of the summer to iron out problems with the business, before a fuller launch at the start of next semester, with one partner planning an operation on the East Coast.

For now, though, most of his professors do not know about the business.

"I do imagine that if I was to approach a professor and ask them for help with this they would definitely assist me," Motwani says.

"But if I was to ask for special privileges in terms of perhaps not attending a class or something of that sort, I doubt that they would grant me that."

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