Ques 1: Being a renowned name as an Education Marketing Strategist and as a successful CEO of ITM Group of Institutions. You have spent laudable 15 years in the education sector. Kindly share your expert opinion on what makes the education industry so unique and satisfying to work in?
Ans. In my view, the core reason behind this is that once you get associated with education industry, you realize that how your single decision can impact so many lives and their future. In other words, wherever I have worked in the past I have observed that the connectivity between the end customer and service provider is very limited and vague. Whereas, if today we decide to change the curriculum or any policy of our institution. We can immediately see the influence of my decision through an array of students’ responses.
So, satisfying your customers in the education industry is challenging but at the same time can be applauding and fulfilling in the long run.
Ques 2: Your institute caters to students from a variety of backgrounds also from various states of India. How do you incorporate a positive culture and harmonious environment among the students?
Ans. First of all, at ITM we have a month-long induction program which focuses primarily on how to familiarize the students with their new surroundings and people. Especially PGDM students benefit as it is very important for them to learn to live in a diverse environment. This induction program has been carefully designed keeping the foundational differences of students in mind like few students have a flair for speaking English but few others are not very fluent in English, one student is from an engineering field the other is from commerce. We believe synchronicity and proper coordination can be established only when healthy communication is established. In our framework for all courses, we have included the induction program and various extracurricular activities to serve the purpose of breaking the ice between students.
Ques 3: What is your personal leadership philosophy? How would you sketch your leadership style?
Ans. At a relatively young age of 41, I have been bestowed with the opportunity of heading an educational organization. According to me, education is not restricted to the quantity of books you have read but the virtues that you have learned and followed all your life. So unlike other institutes where it’s a protocol to ask for a prior appointment if you wish to meet the top management. At ITM, we follow a flat structure of administration where any student without any prior intimation can meet and discuss anything he/she wishes to even with the chairman of the organization. This way we have maintained transparency at every level. My philosophy has always been to lead a life of difference. The greed of power has never been important to me; leadership is all about instilling positivity and motivating others to achieve more.
Ques 4: You graduated from Fox School of Business & Management and started your career at the Temple University, Philadelphia. How do you differentiate the quality of education in India with that of other countries?
Ans. When I was studying in Fox, technically speaking my career started to like the majority of the other students studying there. Which was to try and find some work on campus to waive the tuition fee. So factually stating one big difference that lies between the students I’m seeing here and the students with whom I have studied there is ‘self-motivation’. Students there are self-driven individuals, who know that they are the masters and creators of their own destiny. Indian students unlike this have been conditioned for about 10-15 years of their life with “Bhai ye dus sawal aayenge exam me (study all this and you’ll pass)” kind of attitude. This is the main cause that students in our country only emphasize on scoring good marks in exams with no further motive of learning.
On the contrary, wherever I have been in abroad I have noticed very focused and self-motivated students. So, there is no burden on teachers to drag or force students for studying, teachers there concentrate only on imparting practical and applied knowledge to students. Automatically, it helps to alleviate the quality of education as mentors are focused to find new and better ways of guiding students. In short, inculcating self-motivation from a tender age has become the ‘need of the hour’ in India.
Ques 5: What kind of relationship do you share with the students at ITM Group of Institutions?
Ans. First and foremost step in establishing a cordial relationship with your students is to maintain transparency as I have already quoted. Being an approachable person that the students can look up to is also very important in my view. Also, I understand that being in a dynamic business environment everyone is prone to make mistakes. So, undermining our drawbacks and positive points as an institute is very crucial for our existence. In order to achieve this, I have made it a point to communicate with students, listen to all their queries. I even try to estimate their expectations from the institute for providing an exceptional education to them.
Ques 6: You have been the founder director of RedEye Media Pvt Ltd and co-founder of BuildMyEvent.com. What is your piece of advice for young and aspiring entrepreneurs?
Ans. According to me, “Only a person who has failed, has tried something new”. I failed in some of my endeavors only to realize how I can move towards improvement. From my personal experience, I would like to share two pieces of advice with all the budding entrepreneurs especially with people who believe in startup culture. Number 1- Whatever your business plan is, first sell it to yourself. It is you who should be fully convinced that it will work. The mistake which I did was to first build a business plan and then look for funding. It became a setback for me as people whom I approached for funding repeatedly told me that this business model won’t work. And I didn’t even feel the need to validate their statement by evaluating my business model myself. Number 2- There is nothing called as a side business. You only have one option either you devote your 120% in making your business plan work or you forget about it. If you want your startup to work, you will need to eat/drink/sleep on it. Only after this level of dedication and commitment, you can expect your startup to be successful. Never take it as a backup plan because this means you are not very serious about it or you don’t believe that it would work.
Ques 7: How does your curriculum ensure best education practices are being delivered to the students? What kind of placement opportunities are offered at ITM?
Ans. As far as the best practices are concerned, in 2012 we redefined our PGDM program as a measure to be a quality leader. This step was taken after the constant feedback we got from our recruiters. Which was that MBA/PGDM students all over the India lacked in one aspect which is having a practical work experience. This turned the PGDM/MBA program to be more theory based than helping in developing practical skills. The scenario as cited by recruiters was that MBA/PGDM students really did not know the meaning of working in a corporate. They were completely clueless about how to handle their job. The lack of any work experience in any company made their first 6 months to be very difficult. Many of our recruiters informed us that our students had a lot of subject knowledge but didn’t know how to bring that knowledge into practice. The major changes that we brought in our PGDM program were to provide a 5 months’ internship and also helping the student to develop skills which will help them from the first day of their job. According to us these methods will make the students develop an understanding of what actually an MBA does, what are the work requirements etc.
Ques 8: Are there any challenges which you face as the CEO of ITM Group of Institutions?
Ans. This is a service industry that too it is a people processing service. So, maintaining and delivering quality is a major challenge faced by anyone who is a part of this industry. As people are responsible here for delivering and receiving the product. Standardization can never be possible. As a result, throughout the year we look for quality people who can help us in enhancing the overall experience a student gets while studying in an institute. Like any other business, we firmly believe that our customer is the ultimate king, in our case, it is the students.
Ques 9: Where do you visualize ITM in the next few years
Ans. I think probably for next few years our goal no.1 would be to redefine our PGDM program completely. We want to inculcate such pioneer practices in our PGDM course that will make it stand out and would cater to the next generation needs/requirements. At least for the coming 10 years, our competitive PGDM program would continue to be the number one choice for MBA aspirants.
Ques 10: In one of your interviews, you quoted, “Don’t get blinded by the glamour… it is also a lot of hard work”. Are there any suggestions which you would like to give to the youth of India, who always are on a lookout for immediate success and very easily feel demotivated?
Ans. I think hard work is a little over-rated now. We will all be entering into jobs which would require us to be mentally agile and open to learning more and more new things. The only survival kit with any person these days is to constantly upgrade himself. No college even Harvard cannot guarantee that everything which will be taught to you would be enough for you. As by the time anyone graduate’s everything taught to him/her would be redundant. So, there is no need to feel demotivated as students would be required to face new challenges each day. Students should know the difference between hard work and smart work. They need to realize that there are ample of new opportunities waiting to be explored so instead of feeling demotivated they should keep learning and developing new skills.