Bridging the Gap to Sustainability: My Student Journey at the University of Bristol

Deeshen Shah was working in Engineering when he decided to make a change and study MSc Management (Entrepreneurship and Innovation) at the University of Bristol, he graduated in 2022. Here he discusses what drove that decision and what the future holds.

My academic journey at the University of Bristol has been transformative. It’s the story of a mechanical engineer from Mumbai who found his passion for sustainability and entrepreneurship. This blog outlines my incredible academic journey, the vibrant city of Bristol, and how it led to the birth of LettUs Digest, a sustainable solution to India’s food waste problem.

From Engineering to Purpose

Before arriving at Bristol, I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical and Automation Engineering from Amity University Mumbai. I then delved into business development, working on projects like the Chandrayaan 3’s liquid propulsion engine that became the world’s first soft landing by India on the moon’s south pole and the BrahMos, the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile. These experiences enriched my technical knowledge but left me searching for a more meaningful path.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I embarked on a DIY project: building a vertical farm using waste pipes. This ignited my passion for sustainability and the environment. I realised I wanted to launch a sustainable business. To bridge the gap between my technical background and my aspirations, I pursued a Master’s in Management specialising in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Bristol.

Choosing Bristol: Where Sustainability Thrives

Selecting the right university was pivotal. Coming from the bustling city of Mumbai, I sought a city that offered urban life and environmental consciousness in equal measure. Bristol was the perfect fit. It’s a city that’s not too big, not too small, and highly accessible by walking or public transport, and has plenty of activities to offer for students. What truly set Bristol apart was its unwavering commitment to sustainability, highlighted by its designation as the European Green Capital in 2015.

Bristol’s dedication to environmental causes is evident in its thriving vegan and vegetarian community. The university’s ambitious goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2030 further demonstrated its commitment to sustainability. As Oprah Winfrey wisely said, “Surround yourself with people who are going to take you higher,” and there’s no better place than Bristol to be among environmentally conscious individuals.

Embracing University Life and Building Networks

My university experience in Bristol was extraordinary. As an international student, I quickly realised the importance of building a strong network in the sustainability field. The university’s diverse range of student-led societies offered something for everyone. During the Welcome Fair of 2021, I met the President of the Bristol University Sustainability Team (BUST) and the chair of the Sustainability Network, who encouraged me to join BUST.

My journey with BUST took an exciting turn when I ran for the position of Secretary. Winning this role opened doors to incredible opportunities in sustainability. I organised sustainability events, initiated Plogging drives (jogging and litter picking), and even collaborated with the university’s Careers Service to organise the Sustainability Careers Fair.

My proudest moment came when I was selected as one of the university’s delegates to represent them at the United Nations Climate Change Summit COP26 in Glasgow. This experience broadened my network, exposed me to the latest developments, and allowed me to cast votes in global climate negotiations.

Global Lounge and Diverse Friendships

One of the undeniable highlights of my university life was spending time at the Global Lounge. The diversity of students from all over the world amazed me. Everyone was welcoming, which enabled me to form friendships with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Making friends from over 50 different countries was enriching. Each one brought a unique story, cuisine, and perspective to the table, enriching my understanding of different cultures. Even today, many of us maintain strong bonds and visit each other’s countries to learn more about our cultures.

Entrepreneurship and Bristol’s Startup Ecosystem

The unique approach of creating a business plan and delivering an investment pitch as part of the Entrepreneurship & Innovation module’s assessment provided hands-on experience in pitching to investors. Bristol’s vibrant startup community, epitomized by the 1-minute pitches at the Engine Shed incubator, bolstered my confidence in presenting my ideas.

The training programs, workshops, and funding I received from the Basecamp Enterprise Team as part of the Ideation Fund Program, offered the flexibility to experiment with my ideas in the sustainable food security sector.

Amidst the intensity of my Master’s program, the careers service consistently encouraged students to seek more opportunities. With their support, I worked diligently to earn the Bristol Plus Award, a recognition of employability skills achieved by only 5% of the students.

What’s Next: LettUs Digest and Sustainability in India

Graduating with flying colours and reflecting on my university experience, I was driven by a singular passion: launching a business.

Returning to Mumbai, I couldn’t help but savour the city’s delicious street food. However, beneath the culinary delight lay a pressing issue: food waste. My journey into this problem unveiled the disorganised state of food waste management for small businesses, with a significant portion ending up in landfills. To address this issue, I founded LettUs Digest.

LettUs Digest brings small vendors onto a common platform and educates them about waste segregation practices. This forms the foundation for recycling food waste into biofuels and fertilizers, which, in turn, nourish the fields to produce organic yields. It’s a step toward a circular economy, reducing our carbon footprint.

Learning from industry leaders like GENeco in Bristol and attending expos and conferences such as the Resources & Waste Management Expo in Birmingham, LettUs Digest aims to introduce world-class waste technology to Mumbai, bringing harmony and organization to India’s waste management sector.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, ‘We must become the change we want to see in the world.’ Bristol not only allowed me to incorporate sustainability into my lifestyle but also ignited a spark in me to bring LettUs Digest to life. This initiative aims to tackle India’s food waste problem and create a sustainable and positive change by giving back to the community to which I belong.

Find out more about our MSc Management (Entrepreneurship and Innovation) programme.

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