Advising G20 finance ministers, meeting members of the British royal family and being singled out as one of Business Review Weekly’s Top 5 Young Entrepreneurs to Watch – it’s all in a day’s work for UTS alumna Priyanka Rao.
As CEO of manufacturing company Luxmy Furniture – a company established by her father in 1997 –there’s not much this 27 year old MBA graduate hasn’t already achieved. “When I finished my MBA my father offered me the rare chance to apply what I learned at business school immediately and directly. It was a no brainer,” she said. “My father also has an MBA so it’s an incredible learning experience working with him.”
"When I finished my MBA my father offered me the rare chance to apply what I learned at business school immediately and directly. It was a no brainer."
Priyanka’s role essentially began as leading strategic development initiatives for Luxmy, growing alternative revenue streams for the business in the face of a downturn in Australian manufacturing. She developed and launched a number of initiatives that saw Luxmy grow at a time their competitors were falling: joinery for commercial projects, flat-pack wholesale to retailers, and acquisition of established designer furniture company Woodmark, as well as innovative concept Evolvex.
The idea for Evolvex, where consumers can design their own high quality and unique flat-packed furniture through an online tool – and add to, rework or remake it in the future – came about after a purchase from a well-known flat-pack giant broke on the trip home from the store. The damaged item was taken to her father’s factory to be reinforced, and then customised, sparking an idea in Priyanka’s mind that led to Evolvex. The product garnered significant media attention for the business, and was awarded Best New Product and Product Innovation at the Australian Business Awards in 2012. It’s one of many accolades Priyanka has earned while building her business.
An interview late last year with Kochie’s Business Builders led to an amazing opportunity – an invitation from Treasurer Joe Hockey to represent Australian small business at a February meeting of the G20 finance ministers and central bankers. The group included two of the world’s most powerful women: US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen and International Monetary Fund director Christine Laguarde. “They were all interested in the size of the business and the sector I was in, to find out what it’s like to be an Australian manufacturer right now,” Priyanka told The Australian. “What I was trying to communicate was our competitive advantage came from specialisation and innovation; there was general agreement that definitely was Australia’s competitive advantage.”
It’s not her only brush with fame. Last year Priyanka was invited by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to meet Prince Harry at an exclusive reception at Kirribilli House, representing the Australian business community, and this month met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as they toured Australia with their son, Prince George.
But the her success hasn’t come without its challenges, like a steep learning curve of leadership and the difficult task of managing people a lot older than her. “I love every moment and don’t think I’d do it any other way,” she said.
Along with luck, opportunity and strong entrepreneurial networks, Priyanka sees her MBA as an integral part of her success. “It helps me think strategically and I can solve problems a lot quicker,” she said. “I also know when is the right time to bring in consultants to bridge knowledge gaps in my business. I took diverse subjects like project management and negotiation, all of which I use every day.”
We asked Priyanka what was next for her: “World domination,” she said. And at the rate she’s travelling, anything’s possible. Watch this space.
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