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Anith Puthiyankath's time at Leeds was crucial in the development of his spice business. He recently shared his experiences with Leeds students.

“I always wanted to go into business,” says Anith Puthiyankath (MBA 2002). “My family is from southern India and over a century ago my grandfather laid the foundation for the Ittiyera Group, which specialises in high quality coconut oil for cooking and medicines.”

Though this offered a potential route into business, Anith’s family had other ideas. “My father had joined the company aged 14 when my grandfather was unwell – and he never wanted me in the business, partly because of his own experiences.”

Reluctantly, Anith elected to study, achieving an MBA in India before joining Pepsi. “They had two training routes – management trainee and sales trainee. I was chosen for the sales route but had more in common with those on the management side. I was on a more limited career path.”

Here Leeds enters his story: “I needed an MBA that was more widely recognized.” He admits the city’s “cold and constant rain” was a culture shock, but soon began enjoying the multicultural campus life and even met his wife Maria. “There were people from all over the world of different ages and experiences.”

I tell my own team to think like an entrepreneur and behave as though you own the company.

Anith had more exposure to overseas culture while working for Sony in the Middle East and from travels to Japan. He joined a group managing a chain of Sony centres – and when the company folded in 2011, he finally achieved his ambition of running his own business. He established UK-based World of Origins, following the family company’s blueprint for selling high-quality food products to premium clients: “My first ever pitch was to Harrods and they said ‘yes’.”

He moved into spices including Wayanadan TGSEB black pepper – widely rated as the world’s best. “Few farmers were growing it because its yield is low. I worked with the local organic farmers collective to create a new route to market, including to some of the world’s best chefs.”

He has since worked with producers in Mexico, Madagascar and Uganda to market their spices, including the finest vanilla. “They want to sell worldwide, but don't have the expertise to find good quality clients.”

Anith, who added the responsibility of managing his family business after his brother’s death in 2022, shared his experiences during a talk in the business school: “There were clearly a lot of students who want to become entrepreneurs. They asked about how to set up a new business and the questions just kept coming.

"I got so much out of it too. The world is changing and I need to stay connected to young people. These youngsters are the future, so I need to understand them. I tell my own team to think like an entrepreneur and behave as though you own the company.

“It was great to see so many students with that kind of spark and ambition – and it reminded me of the need to always innovate and evolve.” This realisation has resulted in his latest launch with the family business, a range of natural herb and spice-infused coconut oils which he believes could change the way we use and cook with coconut oil.

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Anith lectures to a group of students

Anith recently shared his experiences with Leeds students

Anith recently shared his experiences with Leeds students

Anith speaks to a Leeds student

"I got so much out of it too," Anith said.

"I got so much out of it too," Anith said.