Mr. Narayanan, an Alumnus of IIM, Bangalore founded Career Launcher in 1995 and has led its dramatic growth from a one-man startup to one of Asia's foremost edu- corporate. A renowned speaker in Indian academic circles, he is the guiding force behind several pioneering initiatives in the Asian education market.
Being in this industry and having observed the trends, how do you manage ecstasy and despair of Career Launcher students, which is inevitable?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: No doubt, both ecstasy and despair is a part of this business. Each case is inevitable and evokes different response from CL. We play the role of a contended and happy mentor when we experience ecstasy. We also advise the students to stay grounded and look at future for next milestones. In the case of despair, we play the role of a guide, showing them that glass is ‘half full’ rather than ‘half empty’. We try to revoke the self-belief and self-motivation, and to accept the present, but concentrate on the future. In either case, we essay the role of the guiding mentor.
Career Launcher has always endeavored to prepare students to face any kind of surprises that the ever so unpredictable CAT may spring up. What kind of strategy are you planning to adopt for the online CAT?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: The first thing that we are trying to put into student mind is that there is a substantial change! We have conducted a couple of proctored mock CATs for our students emulating the exact test. They have to book slots of date and time, and take the test in batches. This is the closest they can get to the actual Computer based CAT, and that too, 4 months before the actual exam. That takes due care of the surprise element. Also, to make our students accustomed to the new format, we are shifting substantial part of learning, and testing to computer format.
Generally word of mouth and results are the best means of promoting a coaching institute. What are various marketing strategies that Career Launcher adopts and which ones have been most fruitful?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: At Career Launcher we believe in engaging with our audience, so as to create a long lasting relationship and provide them long-term value. So our major marketing efforts go into engaging with our students, enlightening them through career related seminars, leadership events etc. We tend to get a favorable word of mouth from our alumni students, who value, our mentoring approach to preparing students for their dream careers. Our results are great year after year, although we do not create a hullabaloo over it!
What are the factors that differentiate Career Launcher from any other management-coaching institute in India?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: The first and foremost would be our mentoring approach to learning. Our mentors are available round the clock to guide these young minds and help them achieve their career dreams. Other factors include our strong academic base and use of cutting edge technology for imparting lessons, testing etc. Our stress on overall personality growth rather than focusing on just cracking the exam is something that helps the students throughout their life.
Can you shed some light about other initiatives of Career Launcher like IWSB, Ananda play school, BoP schools, and Indus World School?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: Years of experience in mentoring and interacting with bright young minds from all over the country lent us a keen insight into nuances of student education. We found that our philosophies of education and learning required a more holistic and structured platform that could best be achieved through mainstream education. Thus, at 'Ananda', our playschools, and 'Indus World School', our K12 schools, we found the freedom to fully explore and implement philosophies such as ‘child centric learning' and 'multiple intelligence' each geared towards tapping into our students' latent potentials. The method of education imparted at our schools is carefully tailored to incorporate varied modes of teaching in order to better communicate with the learning faculties of our students, because at Career Launcher, we appreciate that not only is every child unique, but the manner in which they learn most effectively is also unique to each one of them. In the near future, we have a major expansion plan in place for our chain of schools. Our BoP schools endeavor to provide quality education in rural locations, comparable to the best private schools, in a fraction of the cost.
We are shifting from a managerial to an entrepreneurial society, wherein the onus of progress shall lie upon those enterprising young minds of today who possess the requisite talent, zeal and ambition to dream big and achieve even bigger goals. Our business school 'Indus World School of Business' is oriented towards developing and honing precisely such entrepreneurial skills amongst our youth. Through a well structured curriculum, capable and highly motivated faculty, the most modern of infrastructural amenities and a strong financial backing program, we are confident of nurturing and developing the skills of the generation of accomplished entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
Future Secure (FS) is a commendable initiative of Career Launcher. What has been the response of students towards this initiative?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: FS is a step-by step career planning process designed to effectively address all edu-career challenges for school and college students. It has received a very enthusiastic and favorable response. The classes for the first batch commence on 9th Aug 2009. We intend to take the program to various parts of the country, and bring in widespread offerings for younger students as well. The program has allied with innovative startups like edusmith, to offer services across various formats and channels.
Tycoons is a national level, personality-centric, on-campus event, which aims at providing a platform to the future youth leaders of our country. What prompted Career Launcher to go for this initiative and how do you see it contributing towards development of our nation?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: At Career Launcher, we have always stood for instilling leadership and entrepreneurial values in our youth. Tycoons was based on the same philosophy, and we ventured to nooks and corners of the country in our quest to uncover youth leadership talent. Lakhs of college students participated in the event, from across India, and we are happy to have been able to create a community of these youth leaders through Tycoons. I am also very glad to share that our winners from Tycoons 2008 are doing extremely well, and have embarked upon their entrepreneurial journeys.
Who is your role model?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: I have personally liked and emulated various attributes in various legends. I have always been inspired by my father’s equanimity, and I try to emulate that in my life. Then there are many aspects of Gandhiji’s life that I appreciate and follow. My cricketing mentor, Bishan Singh Bedi, has also inspired me a lot in my life. His qualities of putting in hard work and his ability to make you push your limits, motivates me immensely.
You have led Career Launcher dramatic growth from a one-man startup to one of Asia's leading education corporate. Please share some of your experience in building such an organization. How has your leadership style evolved in this process?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: It has definitely been an experience worth cherishing. And learning is something that has been constant with each experience. What has been very exciting has been how the external environment has changed now and then, and how we have responded to it. This provides a great intellectual stimulus and adds to challenges that are exciting and bring out the best in us. I have always believed that a company is about its people, so my experience at CL in bringing people together, forming teams, creating a sense of bonding and then this team delivering value to the system and society is worthwhile and something to be very proud of. I would say my leadership style is experiential, one where I learn from, whatever I do, whomsoever I do it with, and how I do it. I believe a great leader is someone who has a great team. We at Career Launcher believe in mentoring, which is something that is reflected in my leadership style too.
Do you think the B-Schools today are on the right path in tapping the creative bent of mind of students? What kind of growth opportunities does Career Launcher provide to MBA graduates?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: We have always believed that B-Schools should create leaders and entrepreneurs instead of mundane managers. It is heartening to know that many other B-Schools now share that philosophy. Our B-School, Indus World School of Business, is built around the same entrepreneurial philosophy. I would also like to point out that it’s a misconception that students from these entrepreneurial driven B-Schools have to start something of their own. They are equally successful as entrepreneurs in various organizations.
A substantial number of our employee consists of MBA graduates from major B-schools across India. We provide challenging and growth oriented roles to these young managers. Our core values of openness and risk taking are also something that keeps them going.
What do you recommend-to go straight for own venture or to gather industry experience initially, before taking up entrepreneurship?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: It entirely depends on the individual’s choice. One has to listen to what one’s heart says. Entrepreneurship is more about innovation and ideas rather than experience. According to the great thinker and Management Guru, Prof C K Prahalad, intellect as a factor to become successful entrepreneur, comes way beyond other factors like imagination, hard work etc. So a person who has ideas and wants to be an entrepreneur should ideally venture into it as soon as possible without wasting too much time gaining irrelevant ‘experience’.
In today’s time of economic downturn, where do you see entrepreneurship as an option for fresh MBA graduates? What according to you are the hurdles to entrepreneurship in India?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: Economic downturns, historically, have been the breeding grounds of entrepreneurial start-ups. Today’s youth is more adventurous and has a greater appetite for risk and option of starting something of his/her own, just after MBA is gaining momentum. Entrepreneurship as an option is becoming more socially acceptable. As compared to conditions in India a decade back, the hurdles are far fewer today. Some problems that still exist are, availability of capital (especially risk capital) is limited to a few chosen ventures. VCs tend to support technology-based startups rather than look for something that is out of box. Also, the support for entrepreneurs is limited to the big cities and metros, and majority of innovators and ideas get unnoticed if they are from tier2/tier3 cities or rural areas.
Do you think that initiatives like The CEO Insights can benefit the student and the corporate community?
Mr. Satya Narayanan: Definitely, it’s a good way of providing a platform between the corporate world and the student community.
Profile of Ms. Manisha Mishra
Manisha Mishra is a business management student in Xavier Institute of management, Bhubaneswar, India. She holds a B. Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering from BPUT. She has represented India as a cultural ambassador in Norway and has keen interest in socially relevant activities.