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Archive for May, 2012

Shantanu Prakash

Shantanu Prakash, Chairman and Managing Director, Educomp Solutions Limited

Shantanu Prakash has an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad 1988 and is a 2012 Advanced Leadership fellow of Harvard University. He founded Educomp Solutions Limited in 1994, a few years after acquiring an MBA degree. His vision has been to transform the teaching-learning process through the use of technology and best practices. The company employs over 14,000 people across 27 offices worldwide. Educomp is the leader in education content, professional development, online learning and the first company to set up high quality schools across the country Under Shantanu’s leadership, many awards and accolades have come Educomp’s way. Educomp was ranked number one in Education & Training in the study, “India’s Best Companies to Work for-2009”. Educomp is a publicly traded company on National Stock Exchange (NSE) in India.
Mr. Prakash is also the founder and Managing Trustee of the Learning Leadership Foundation (LLF), an organization dedicated to bringing best practices in education to under-resourced schools. He is also on the board trustees of over 30 educational institutions including, Modern School Delhi, Sri Sri University and the Great Lakes Institute of Management. He is on the international advisory board of Fundacao Dom Cabral, Brazil. As an investor, Mr. Prakash has made several investments in innovative early stage and mid-stage companies focusing on the internet, education, media, gaming, finance and infrastructure. He is a charter member of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) an organization that connects entrepreneurs. He is a frequent speaker in education and business conferences worldwide.

Reflecting on your decision on plunging into entrepreneurship right after business school, what exactly was your thought process?

Well, actually the decision was pretty easy. I had already made up my mind even before I got into IIMA that I wanted to be an entrepreneur! When I graduated in 1994, India was at this very unique standpoint in its history of economic liberalization. The environment all around me was undergoing major changes. There were large opportunities to be tapped. And that’s when I thought of taking advantage of the opportunity at hand.

I grew up in a middle class family and did not have deep pockets backing me. I was therefore interested in starting something that involved a lot of intellectual capital rather than financial capital. Looking back, I did not compare entrepreneurship with job options in MNCs, banks and consulting firms since I never saw myself in those roles. There was therefore no comparison from that quarter. And that’s when I took the plunge! So far it has been a very interesting and satisfying journey. And given the dynamics in the education space in India, I feel like the more you go into it, the more problems you solve around! Education is always an unfinished agenda in India!

What made you choose the education space?

For me it was a blank slate – I did not have any family business or any professional to define my industry! I could have chosen to do virtually anything under the sun! However, education was an industry in which I had the first hand experience of the challenges involved as well as some ideas on how to address them. I started, like most entrepreneurs do, with a vision but not a large expectation of the financial returns. So there was a little bit of both the opportunities that arose as well as some level of intelligence that led to my decision of entering the education space.
We started our journey – the very first business by setting up computer labs in business schools. That’s when we realized that the opportunity was somewhere else. We observed that the parents had very high expectations of their kids schooling while the schools just did not have the ability to fulfill these expectations and the existence of private tutors was a testimony of that observation. We then took to creating content for school education. Initially, while the content was under development we faced several challenges but after 3-4 years when it was fully ready, it caught the eye of everyone in the industry and that’s when we became an industry wide success. We then diversified into teacher and vocational training and today we are present in pretty much every aspect of the education value chain!

What are the key trends or themes you observe, particularly when it comes to the use of technology in education?

India is a grossly underserved market when it comes to education. Our gross enrollment figures are the lowest in the ASEAN region. The numbers have to move to a more respectable state for it to sustain the growing economy and general economic development. There has to be a lot more primary education along with the training of teachers and the first step has to be to create high quality delivery mechanisms to achieve these. I see technology as the game changer that can allow India to accomplish these objectives. However, in addition to technology, the key is for all the players to come together- the government, the private sector as well as the non-profit sector to work together towards these goals.

What are the new opportunities that the Indian education industry provides today?

There are several opportunities today for entrepreneurs to tap into – including teacher training for the over half a million teachers as well as the whole area of vocational training in which 400,000 skilled people need to be trained to work. Then there are areas such as career counseling, teacher and student interaction as well as tuition (E.g. WizIQ) etc.

What would be your advice for students and alumni here at Kellogg who are thinking of returning back to India?

You have gone and had the best education in the world, now you should come back to utilize it in one of the best markets in the world today – India!

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India@Kellogg had a conversation with Rashmi Bansal, shortly before the 2012 India Business Conference, to hear her candid thoughts on how students can shape their career after completing their MBA.

Rashmi Bansal is a best-selling author – her 3 books on the subject of entrepreneurship in India – ’Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’, ‘Connect the Dots’ and ‘I Have a Dream’ have sold over half a million copies. ‘I Have a Dream’ was the #1 non-fiction title in India in the year 2011 as per A C Nielsen Bookscan. Her fourth book on the spirit of enterprise in Dharavi slums releases in May 2012. Ms. Bansal is also co-founder and editor of JAM, a youth magazine she set up at the age of 24 and successfully ran for 15 years. In addition, Ms. Bansal is a motivational speaker and mentor to students and young entrepreneurs. She writes the popular blog Youthcurry on issues around entrepreneurship and education. She is an economics graduate of Sophia College, Mumbai and an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad.

For several business school students, the post-MBA career choice is one of the hardest decisions to make. From your personal experience and interactions with others, how would you encourage us to think about it?

Take the decision not just with your head, but your heart. What ‘makes sense in the short term, from a return on investment point of view, may not be the path that unlocks your true potential.

Does the world need another hedge fund manager? Probably not.
Is a BMW really going to make you happy? Only for a while.
Search deep within for where your true passion lies and create a career in that direction – no matter how offbeat it may seem. Your decision will pay off, in the long run.

Being an entrepreneur and building a business seems like an attractive option to several business school students. But is it for everyone? What are some of the realistic questions one should ask before deciding to pursue this path?

Potential entrepreneurs need to ask themselves:
• How badly do I want this, and how long am I willing to hold out?
• Can I see it, feel it and believe it – even if nobody else in the world does?
• Am I okay with the idea of failure?

A business plan is just a piece of paper – it is the conviction and can-do spirit of the entrepreneur that makes it a reality.

In your journey towards becoming a bestselling author, what have been some of your most challenging experiences and how did you navigate through them?

To listen to critics and yet not succumb to them, because you just can’t please all the people all the time. To keep pushing my own boundaries and to learn something new from every person I meet. To stay grounded and humble, no matter how many books sell!

In your opinion, how can we use the business school experience effectively to prepare us for entrepreneurial ventures later in life?

I think if you know you want to be an entrepreneur as you come into the program, you can certainly use the two years to prepare and fine-tune your business plan and even launch your company while still a student. That would give you a head start and also resources, which are otherwise hard to access e.g. mentorship of professors.

If you are not that clear about starting right away, you can still use your business school experience effectively by taking a wider range of courses and developing personal rapport with as many professors and batch mates as possible. Relationships are the assets you carry with you when you
graduate and are especially important for a young entrepreneur, when looking for a break.

In your interactions with several of India’s most successful entrepreneurs, what do you think are their most common attributes responsible for their success?

A deep sense of purpose, passion and perseverance is what makes entrepreneurs successful. There are no short cuts to success.

We are tremendously excited to hear about your next book “Poor Little Rich Slum”! Could you briefly tell us what the book is about and what your motivation for writing it was?

My 4th book ‘Poor Little Rich Slum’ co-authored with Deepak Gandhi is on the spirit of enterprise in Dharavi. The people of Dharavi are a shining example of how human beings can make the best of their circumstances, no matter how difficult they are. Despite lack of infrastructure and even basic amenities, Dharavi has created a vibrant economy powered by hundreds of micro entrepreneurs.

The book took us nine months to research and write and was a very enriching and moving experience. At the end of it I can only say that there is much that we – who have everything and more – can learn from these ‘little Indians’.

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CRTI Social Innovation Fellowship Program

Six Kellogg students spend experience the Indian Summer working with NGOs and Social Enterprises in India.

 

Kellogg’s Center for Research in Technology and Innovation (CRTI) offers a unique opportunity for MBA students to bring not only their academic expertise but also their sense of social responsibility to India’s underserved sectors. CRTI awards $150,000 in funding for innovation fellowships that help students engage with start-ups and socially-minded organizations in developing nations and that have a positive social impact. In 2011, for example, six Kellogg fellows spent ten weeks in India working with non-governmental organizations and social enterprises that use technology in creative and innovative ways to improve education, health, and livelihood.  Prior to 2011, in the midst of the economic downturn, CRTI provided $250,000 in funding to 35 Kellogg MBA students for innovation internships. The Center was founded in 2001 by Professor Mohan Sawhney, McCormick Tribune Professor of Technology at the Kellogg School of Management.

 

At the heart of CRTI’s mission and goals lie three pillars that define the Center’s work – advance the knowledge in technology and innovation through independent research, collaborate with corporations, and engage in productive dialogue with subject-matter experts, share the knowledge through global innovation and technology networks and partnerships with innovation-driven organizations, and transform the knowledge into intellectual capital and business value for all through books, articles, and case studies. The CRTI fellowships in social innovation are one vehicle through which CRTI seeks to fulfill this mission. These fellowships build individual competencies for Kellogg students that wish to take on the challenge of working in a largely unknown, diverse and global setting.

 

CRTI’s implementation partner for the Social Innovation Fellowships in India is SevaYatra, a social business with a US-India presence that focuses on developing custom “voluntourism” and volunteerism programs for universities and companies.  “The CRTI Social Innovation Fellowships offer a unique opportunity to MBA students to gain experience by working in a global setting, interacting with culturally and economically diverse population, while utilizing their business skills in a productive manner that benefits the social enterprises they work with,” says Sejal Desai, Founder and CEO of SevaYatra. “This 10-week experience is not only a once in a life time opportunity for many but also prepares them well for what is today a very different and very global work environment.”

 

The fellowship program focuses on the application of technology to catalyze change rather the development of the technology itself. The fellowship comprises both an academic as well as an experiential component. The academic component is marked by seminars with leaders in the technology and development sectors in India while the experiential part comprises internships with NGOs and other social institutions that work to improve governance (increasing citizen interaction with government), health care (telemedicine and access to treatment via mobile phones) and promote education (such as distance learning) for vast numbers of India’s marginalized citizenry. Kellogg Fellows are based in New Delhi and address the defined needs of the host organizations. This year, eight students will travel to India as CRTI fellows and attempt to bring new ideas and solutions to various organizations that serve to make a difference for people at the bottom of the social spectrum.

 

A unique feature of the program is the opportunity for Kellogg fellows to partner and interact with students from a local business school, the Institute of Management Technology (IMT) in Ghaziabad, situated a few miles from New Delhi. IMT selects an equal number of its students to serve as “buddies” that are matched with Kellogg fellows and largely serve as field guides while playing a valuable supporting role in providing local and cultural context for Kellogg fellows.

For the 2012 summer program, the fellowship seeks to better involve Kellogg alumni by using them as mentors for the fellows. Fellows will have opportunities for interactions with the Kellogg alumni network through formal and informal networking events. Alumni will serve not only as unofficial advisors but also as valuable connectors to industry experts, academics, and stalwarts in technology and innovation.

 

CRTI has established academic requirements for fellowship recipients. Fellows must prepare a comprehensive case study or write a white paper detailing the project they worked on, its objectives, the steps they took to accomplish the objectives, the impact of their work on the company and lessons learned during their summer experience. Last year, each of the 2011 fellows presented their papers at a retreat in the Kellogg School of Management in September.

 

India’s growing numbers of social enterprises often seek top-tier scholars who can inject fresh ideas and bring new solutions and perspectives on the work these enterprises do. In the past, Kellogg fellows have worked with organizations such as Drishtee, I-Farms, America India Foundation, and D-Light to name a few. These organizations articulate a specific project that the fellow can apply his unique set of skills to and assign a supervisor to guide the fellow during his or her ten-week tenure. In addition to seminars and discussions with corporate and government leaders, the project typically involves various field trips to rural areas for research-related work.

 

Many Kellogg students agree that they come to Kellogg with high expectations of a career-changing, if not life-changing, MBA experience. CRTI’s India fellowship offers such an experience for students interested in gaining a first-hand understanding and real world experience of the issues and challenges that plague India’s development. The opportunity for Kellogg fellows is to bring their business acumen to solving some of the business problems faced by their host organizations and offering innovative solutions that allow them to leave at the end of their tenure with a positive social impact. Fellows will come away with a clearer understanding of how organizations are using new business models to effect change and improve lives, and thus making a difference in the realms of economic development and poverty elevation.

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Authored by Faculty Advisor: Kara Palamountain 

For the first time, the GIM Global Health Initiative (GHI) class traveled to India in March. For those of you who don’t know, GHI’s mission is to develop and commercialize diagnostic devices for bottom-of-the-pyramid populations living in resource-limited settings. By partnering with industry, academia, and nonprofit organizations, GHI has been able to develop an early infant diagnostic for HIV as well as a molecular diagnostic for HIV and Tuberculosis (TB). In this context, the class has traditionally focused on African countries. However, India has the world’s second largest population suffering from HIV/AIDS and the largest TB burden in the world, so our class of 30 (plus a 9-month old adorable baby girl) headed to the land of biryani and cricket.

The main purpose of our trip was to identify the key steps and organizations involved in launching a diagnostic device in India. We also wanted to get feedback on the two products from the end-users. Where would it make most sense to place these products in the complex network of healthcare facilities? What could be changed to make these devices more successful in India? Ultimately, the answers to these questions would help us formulate a strategy for GHI involvement in India in the future.

We started the trip in New Delhi, spent the weekend in Kerala, traveled to Hyderabad for four days, and ended up back in New Delhi before heading back to E-town and Chicago.

New Delhi

Organizations We Met With: Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, NACO (National AIDS Control Organization), RNTCP (Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme), Apollo Hospitals, Becton Dickinson

Highlights: Bike riding through Old Delhi, Conjoint Analysis session with RNTCP, lots of pashmina scarf shopping at Dilli Haat, breakfast at the Shangri-La with Lucky the Bread Man at your service, visiting some of the largest TB clinics and hospitals in the country, Ben S. dislocating his shoulder on the dance floor after the Kellogg Alumni Mixer and really delicious dinners at the ITC Maurya and Park Balluchi.

Crazy Story: The first night in Delhi, a local merchant forcibly applied henna to Jesse’s right hand by India Gate (allegedly). Jesse is now very aware that henna is mostly for women, especially after trying to hide his hand in meetings all week.

Kerala

Organizations We Met With: None – this was our weekend off!

Highlights: Cooling off in the amazing resort pool with giant water-spewing elephants, houseboat tour of Kerala, Lindsey F’s morning yoga sessions in paradise, the most relaxing spa treatments ever and Whit’s “Dawson’s Creek” theme party efforts in the middle of the backwaters

Crazy Story: Rebecca R. and Louise A. are terrified by an intruder in their bungalow. After alerting all the hotel staff, it’s actually probably just a bird. They both still don’t sleep all night.

Hyderabad

Organizations We Met With: TB Alert India, APSACS (Andra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society), the State TB Controller’s office, Vimta Labs, PHMI (Public Health Management Institute), a DAPCU (District AIDS Prevention and Control Unit) in Hyderabad

Highlights: Charminar and the Spice markets, lakefront dinners, rural clinic visits and state-government meetings, home-cooked Hyderabadi meal, seeing/understanding/utilizing the ubiquitous head-nod motion that we’d heard so much about

Crazy Story: Hitting up Bottles and Chimney’s (not Chutes and Ladders) and depleting their entire beer supply in amazing beer towers.


Agra and the Taj Mahal

Highlights: Seeing the Taj Mahal and taking multiple jumping pictures, eating a delicious lunch at a 5 star resort and enjoying refreshments on the 6 hour bus ride back to Delhi. It may have been the longest day of all of our lives, but it was also one of the best.

In summary, GIM GHI had a really productive class and trip. We worked hard, we played hard and we came back with some really valuable insights we are looking forward to sharing with academia, industry, and the rest of the GHI team this May.

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