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The entrepreneur innovating for COVID-19 warriors
By Ashish Wesley
While our collective battle with COVID-19 is a long and arduous one, it’s thanks to the efforts undertaken by businesses, such as Upkar S Sharma’s Crea Worldwide and several others, that will eventually help us win the fight.
Crea Worldwide, an innovation driven carry solutions company that produces bags and accessories for global fashion and travel brands since 2005, was one of the many businesses that was adversely affected by the seemingly endless Coronavirus lockdowns. However, traversing a terrain beset with tribulations and trip-ups is something that its founder, Upkar is familiar with. Flipping the situation on its head, he chose to use it as an opportunity to innovate — producing DRDO-approved Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for COVID-19 warriors. Speaking about this, he added, “Within 12 days we had our first order, in 20 days we created four models, and in 35 days we had a catalogue of 11 overalls, as well as two types of face shields and two types of protective masks — we survive, we adapt, we grow!”
Crea Worldwide’s rapid and innovative efforts to produce PPE in response to the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t gone unrecognised, and it has been declared one of the three winners at Marico Innovation Foundation’s Innovate2BeatCOVID Challenge — and even secured a grant of ₹41 lakh. This grant will enable Crea to step up their manufacturing, distribution and sales capabilities, in an effort to disburse large quantities of PPE in the next 2–3 months.
Upkar’s entrepreneurial journey, however, began many years ago, in fact almost as soon as he left school! His early years saw him selling privilege cards, working for Plus channel, creating websites for businesses, founding Crea Worldwide and then co-founding Rasta — a brand strategy and creative outfit for youth-facing brands.
ILPSE helps push the envelope
In 2018, sensing that he could give himself and his business a leg up in order to reach the next level, Upkar sought out some “structured education”. It’s something he found at the INSEAD Leadership Programme for Senior Executives (ILPSE), a one year, part-time, multi-modular, General Management and Leadership programme with immersions across the global campuses of INSEAD. Looking back affectionately over his time at the programme, Upkar says, “For me, going back to school with the ILPSE really worked. The frameworks, the feedback, the classroom interactions, and the overall experience was amazing.”
Singling out the simulation sessions and the group dynamics of the programme for particular praise, Upkar added, “The simulation sessions were very exciting for me. More importantly, the dynamics of operating with 60 other people from different streams — each one of them approaches life, work, and even politics differently. I learned from them. I learned off of them. That was very refreshing.”
Inner transformation for outward leadership
When asked about the transformational effects of the programme Upkar replies, “The ILPSE programme encourages you to deep dive into the inner recesses of your mind, and teaches you to be a better leader — learning to lead yourself, and learning to lead others.” Progressing to speak about the opportunity to produce PPE with his company he proceeded to add, “Do I deal with situations differently after the ILPSE? Absolutely! I’m very confident as an entrepreneur, and the fact that I will build the kind of company I’ve always wanted to build. I would never have approached it this way if not for the classroom and out of classroom experience at INSEAD.”
Now’s the time!
Upkar’s education, experience and perspective puts him in the perfect place to pass on advice — something he’s only too happy to do. Now, underlining the need to invest in executive education, especially considering the current climate he says “Now’s the time to put your money down where it really matters. The next flat can wait, the next car can wait five years — I think now it should be easier to choose education above all else.”
It’s this very astute approach that has served Upkar well, and has helped him gratefully grasp the opportunities life has presented him with. At a time when stability and continuity could be at a premium, staying flexible and light on your feet may be the way forward, and indeed the way to succeed.
Applications for the upcoming cohort of INSEAD Leadership Programme for Senior Executives (ILPSE) are open now. Click below to learn more: