Learn India, Learn

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, two revolutionaries who have transformed the world, never completed college. When Jobs was invited to make the commencement speech at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, he said, “This is the closest I have ever gotten to a college graduation.” Gates, doing his part at Harvard’s graduation ceremony jokingly said, “There’s a reason why they invited me for the graduation and not to the orientation. They probably feared I would convince a few people to drop out.”

However, both Jobs and Gates built Apple and Microsoft, two companies that employ some of the smartest college graduates from top universities around the world. But the fact these world-class business leaders didn’t complete college, does not give us the complete picture. In reality, Jobs attended numerous lectures at Stanford, and focused more on ‘learning’ rather than just completing a degree. Gates was no different till he dropped out of Harvard. His schooling at one of Seattle’s best schools was practical, up-to-date and laid the foundation for what he has achieved in his career. Of course, these individuals were geniuses, with out-of-ordinary capabilities, so not for a second here, I am trying to say, one should drop out of college. The point I am trying to make is that, learning and picking up the skills, is as important if not more, than just getting that degree certificate. And this thought process needs to be emphasized into India’s largely theoretical educational institutions.

Our cover story in this edition focuses on India’s education sector, and what opportunities it presents for entrepreneurs across the board. It is a sector that has not been well documented, and there was always an assumption that educational ventures could not be for-profit businesses. But this trend is changing, and its changing fast. Entrepreneurs are now ready to build schools, colleges, vocational education companies and even organised tuition centers. Whether its formal or informal education, the last five years has seen tremendous progress. Numerous for-profit ventures have sprung up, with the intent of creating a transformation, while at the same time making business sense for their shareholders and investors. Here again, India’s IT revolution played a key role. NIIT, one of India’s first organized education ventures, proved that if the strategy was right there was money to be made. Of course, the key was imparting skills and providing services to help students find jobs. To gather a first-hand perspective of the sector, we spoke to Cyrus Driver, director, Helix Investments, a private equity firm that invests in the education sector, Irina Kholkina of The Parthenon Group, a strategy consulting firm with expertise in the education sector and Gautam Puri, vice-chairman at Career Launcher, a diversified player in this space.

The Starting Up section is something that has attracted a lot of reader interest. In this section, we uncover and dig deep into some of the most promising startup companies in India. All these companies give us the ‘aah’ factor with ideas that are innovative and game changing. One factor that stands out at most of these early-stage firms is their ability to execute. These founders are dynamic individuals with the ability to work around chaos and make progress amidst numerous challenges. In this edition, we take our readers through the stories of Humming Bird Suites (corporate stay solutions), Librarywala.com (online lending library), Star Agri (organized end-to-end agri-business solutions), Field Turf India (selling artificial grass in India), Pangea3 (legal process outsourcing), and GoSports (sports management).

Also in this edition, is the story of three diverse companies that are playing a very important role in contributing towards inclusive growth. This story on corporate social responsibility at Tata Group, Frontier Textiles and Vindhya Infomedia takes us through how these companies merge their CSR interests with business strategy. The article on Winners Bakery, a social venture pioneered by Mahadevan of Oriental Cuisines gives us more insights into how training young Indians and presenting them with an opportunity to find jobs can go a long way in empowering India.

We thoroughly enjoyed putting together this issue of The Smart CEO. We hope you enjoy reading it as well.