Interview by Yash Panchal
Mr. Abhay Gupta is the Founder & CEO of Luxury Connect Business School. Mr. Gupta conducts classes on Luxury Marketing, Communications, Consumer Behaviour and Luxury foundations to Master’s students at LCBS and other B-schools. He is an Engineering and management generalist with special skills acquired in luxury lifestyle development and retail in India.
He has played a big role in bringing in super luxury brands into the country across a wide cross-section of product categories ranging from apparels, accessories, furniture, interiors, and mobiles. Some of the key brands handled include top names like Versace, Corneliani, Lacoste, Cadini, John Smedley, Damat, etc.
Acknowledged as an industry leader by Forbes, Economic Times, CNN-IBN, NDTV, Hindustan Times, etc. Besides, his contribution articles are carried by Forbes, Luxury society, black book, Images fashion, Luxury. Awarded as the 'Luxury retail icon of the year 2012' by Asia retail congress, he has won several recognitions across India, SEA, and GCC regions.
Featured in 'India's top 100 most influential men of luxury for 5 years in a row, Mr. Gupta has also been on the panel of jury members for 'Luxury Lifestyle Awards for Asia and GCC'. Gupta has been recently acknowledged as 'Most Influential Retail professional & most influential Retail Leader Across Asia - GCC and Africa: 2016 & 2017 ' by Asia Retail Congress.
Mr. Gupta’s experience in the education industry
We are still learning and exploring this space. It is like an ocean with so many options and the youth is very confused. So many options are available today that the students are unaware of what to do. But this is the only space where you have the possibility of shaping the future of the youth, and hence helps in building up the industry and building up the nation’s economy in a very positive manner. We get a chance to perform our bit to give it back to the society.
Mr. Gupta’s philosophy of leadership
Leadership style has to be a mix of autocracy and democracy because I believe that not everyone is completely aware of what is expected out of them, yet everyone believes that they know everything. So, while it is good to be democratic, we cannot always claim that what we see happening around us in a democracy is really good. While it is an ideal situation to be in, but I think somewhere the leader or somewhere the experience has to play a role whether it is a family, a school or an institute, but there has to be the last word given by someone. Hence, I believe it has to be a mixture of both.
Significant challenges faced by Mr. Gupta as the Founder & CEO of Luxury Connect Business School
The challenges particularly that we are facing here are, one, that we are very young in the academic space. We are not a university which is well known or a 20-25-year-old established brand name. We are offering something which is very unique and which is new to a lot of parents and students. Our challenges are vivid. People are not aware of the industry, and other thing, they are not aware of the opportunities that are available there, and then to convince them that why us.
We are sure to cross the bridge when it comes to students but the challenge still lies with the parent. Being a parent myself, I do not blame them because any parent would have such confusions. They would want their students to do courses that they know of, rather than doing something that they are themselves not properly aware of. Hence, educating the parent is becoming a bigger challenge because the parent may not so risk friendly, and he is not so aware of the social media or is not much in the digital space. These are some of the key challenges that we have been facing.
Curriculum of Luxury Business Connect School
We have invested our entire lifespan of experience in this business. We have researched a lot in terms of international schools and there are only handful of schools in Europe that are offering this program. When we entered this business, we were 6th in the world, amongst institutes that were offering similar courses. It started in Europe only by 1990. Hence, not many people, not only in India but across the world are not aware of luxury management courses/specialization streams. Also, in Canada, it was started in January 2018. So, it’s a very new stream we have tied up with the best schools for program delivery.
We do have certain guidelines and research materials from them. As an institute, we perhaps are the only one who engages full-time researchers to keep updating the courses on a daily basis, because ours is a practical course. We do not just teach theory, we teach on practical implementations. So we teach on current affairs, we don’t talk about politics but we talk of how the current political situation can affect your industry. So, while the structure remains the same, but the material is updated on a regular basis.
Growth of students through placement opportunities available at Luxury Connect Business School
Placements are not a challenge for us. The challenge for us is the input tunnel and not the output tunnel, because every time on an average, I would say that every student has had at least 5 job prospects to choose from. We are on the other side of the table where we are finding it difficult to convince students and their parents to join this business. But now that couple of batches have gone out of the business, we are now 6 years into the trade, we have done almost 2000 executives and almost 50 students have already done business and hence the word of mouth is helping in growing intakes.
Mr. Gupta’s relation with the students being the Founder & CEO of the Institute
I teach my students. I am approachable to them all time. There is no pomp and show in coming to see me. They are all on WhatsApp with me so they can anytime fix an appointment with me, come and see me as and when they feel like, and discuss their personal and professional things. Right now, we have students out in the industry for live projects and they all the time are constantly seeking guidance from us because they have 15 days to showcase to the brand that they had gone for the internship. They are learning through experience and I am constantly in touch with them.
Mr. Gupta on his ideal school environment
As I said, it is a mixture of autocracy and democracy because I believe the corporate world is merciless. So, while students are used to the student life culture, where they don’t want to have any attendance, they don’t want to wear uniforms, etc. This is an inherent lifestyle of a student or a young person but since our course is only for 10 months and after that they have to step put in the industry, our idea is to prepare them not only with knowledge but also with substance, style, discipline.
We are particular about attendance, if you are late beyond a certain time, you are marked absent. These rules are maintained so that our students don’t go through a corporate cultural shock when they are exposed to the industry. Every time there are presentations, we invite industry people so they get better insights from industry. Wearing formals is a strict yes, the security guard turns them away if otherwise. It is in short, a mix of being a student and being a professional and being prepared to get into the world.
Top qualities that an aspiring candidate must possess
It is a tough question. I believe it is more about the attitude than the aptitude. Aptitude may be developed but the attitude is something which needs to be inherent. In our business, it is the attitude which is going to decide. You may have a lot of inclination towards this industry but you need to work hard, you need to have the passion, the right attitude to learn. Hence, these are a few qualities that we seek before we even induct the student into the system. We try to make it as challenging as the students would face when they step out in the industry.
Goals in mind for the institute
Well, it has to grow, and we are confident that it will. We want to ensure that our students do extremely well and they are preferred in the world as we plan to reach out to the emerging markets.
Suggestions to the current youth and the aspiring students
I think that the youth today is probably confused because of the overflow of information. There is a fine difference between knowledge and information. We believe in sharing knowledge and not information. We debate with the student on whatever information he/she might find on Google, and we make him/her believe that knowledge is supreme.