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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ensuring India's demographic dividend-Shantanu Prakash(PGP 88)[Educomp] at IIM-A

Like his alma mater(IIM-A), Shantanu Prakash's company Educomp is unique in India. From pre school to degree college, off line or online, Educomp covers end-end education segment. So when Shantanu agreed to give a 1 hr talk to students on 'Entrepreneurship', there were many takers among the student fraternity. His gentle and relaxed style of speaking won over several hearts(contents of course won over the minds!)

Among the salient points of his talk were the following
  • He praised the traditional middle class values of 'integrity, thrift, hardwork and willingness to dream' as his core values but said that we Indians often underused this ability to dream
  • Compared to when he started out as an entrepreneur(early liberalization), he said that there was never a better time or place to be an entrepreneur. India is the cynosure of attention globally. 
  • Even in his college days, he was an entrepreneur organizing rock shows and earning a decent amount which he then blew up in the stock market!! That partly influenced his decision to join IIM-A(else he may have built a financial services giant)
  • When asked about global differences, he said that 'helping kids learn better' philosophy can be adapted globally
  • Giving the analogy of how transplants do not work as expected, he felt that home grown business models would help solve the education issue. Indians understand their fellow citizen's needs better, also some things are unique to India/China(family saving for education for instance)
  • He explained away the high margins of the business as 'marginal cost of content once created' is zero-or maybe some translation costs. 
  • When asked how to decide between multiple appealing areas for entrepreneurship, he gave the analytical view first(pain area, potential, unique way to service it) but quickly added that whatever excited/resonated with you should be chosen. He likened it to relationships..you date many but marry only one person at the end
  • Analyzing the multimedia rich world of today, he said that teachers can no longer 'chalk and talk; or be 'sage on the stage'. Instead, they must use technology to engage their students
  • He mentioned Educomp's inorganic growth strategy as providing capital and a platform to existing small businesses whose owners are passionate and focused.
  • As an indication how objective evolve, he said that now his focus is something bigger for the nation because 'quarterly results take care of themselves'
  • When asked how to imagine so much, he said that once you take that first step, the resources, exposure and people around you, open up your mind to even more possibilities
  • He said that instead of decrying the lack of skilled, talented teachers, we should focus on retraining them and providing them technology to perform better. 
  • Emphasizing the value of reputation/credibility, he said that the first few customers repose faith in YOU and not in the product. There comes the importance of branding, track record, CV etc
  • What really impressed me was the courage and power of his vision..and more importantly the ability to translate that into concrete actions.

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