A serial entrepreneur going up

the rank
Anjali Prayag
Large is a word that serial entrepreneur, Mr K. Ganesh, loves. “Think big. Even if
you fail, it should be spectacular,” is the advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, from a
man who has steered four large successful ventures in the last ten years. You
could say his latest deal with the Pearson Group for a stake sale in his online
tutoring firm TutorVista, for Rs 577 crore, gives him the nerve to talk of failure
with such calmness. However, he reminds you that while four of his ventures
have been runaway successes, he has rejected 25 other ideas and “honestly,
hobbies should not be made into ventures,” he says, in a lighter vein.
While entrepreneurship seems beckoning to a young professional living in a
country of 1.3 billion people, it's ironical that the Indian entrepreneur is still at
crossroads, says Mr Ganesh. The stigma attached to failure in Indian society is
sure to inhibit his/her aspirations and curb his/her ambitions.The Indian
ecosystem is not geared for entrepreneurship, which, he feels, would change
with appropriate Government intervention in the form of bank loans without strict
collaterals, and VCs entering at an earlier stage into ventures than they are doing
“I think the unemployment problem could only be solved through
entrepreneurship,” says the man who has created jobs for almost 30,000 people,
through his ventures.
Business schools in the country go all out to woo companies for campus
placements, make very little effort to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship, says
the IIM-Kolkota graduate. On his role as a mentor for aspiring entrepreneurs, he
says although he does spend time with The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) and has
mentored a few ventures, he confesses that he needs to do more.
His first venture IT&T was started with the money he got after selling his car. He
is also the founder of CustomerAsset, one of the first BPOs in the country, which
was ultimately sold to ICICI in 2002.His third company, Marketics, a marketing
analytics firm was sold to WNS Holdings in 2007. Last week, UK-based Pearson
Group acquired a controlling stake in his fourth venture, online tutoring company
Mr Ganesh says the Pearson deal was not just for financial reasons. “The
Pearson brand is active in 60 countries, which gives TutorVista captive
customers in these markets,” he explains. The tutoring company has 2,000
teachers who coach nearly 20,000 students in the US, UK and some parts of
TutorVista's Indian subsidiary Edurite, headed by Mr Ganesh's wife, Meena, runs
schools and tutorial centres in India, which would have access to Pearson
content at affordable prices, he says. Manipal Education and Medical Group and
Sequoia Capital, the other investors in the company have successfully exited the
company, making Mr Ganesh and Pearson the owners of TutorVista now.
TutorVista has, so far, completed five million tutoring sessions and has coached
more than 100,000 students. Mr Ganesh will continue to be the Chief Executive
Officer (CEO) and a Director on the TutorVista board. “My vision is to get the
company a $1-billion valuation in three years, from the present $230 million.” Mr
Ganesh has also started putting together plans for online tutoring for medical and
engineering entrance exams, a growing market in India.
He sees huge potential in the education space in India, which currently has 524
million students, a figure higher than China and almost double that of the US. If
this reason is not convincing enough, the second rationale would make any
aspiring entrepreneur dream big in education: The average Indian family's No 2
spend is on education, compared with an American family where spend on
education is at No 7 in the family budget.
“They spend more on music and movie DVDs,” he points out. Mr Ganesh's
driver, for instance, spends almost 40 per cent of his income on education for his
two children, he says.
This coupled with the challenges of the Indian education system, in terms of lack
of infrastructure and teachers and the wide geographical dispersion of schools,
makes the use of technology imperative. Fortunately for entrepreneurs like Mr
Ganesh, the penetration of technology in education is miniscule, a mere 9 per
cent, which makes the prospect of success huge.
These are also the reasons valuations of education and training companies are
high and very attractive, he says. Incidentally, TutorVista's valuation stood at Rs
1,000 crore. “As parents and entrepreneurs, Meena and I realised the huge
opportunity this scenario presented and dived into it.”
On other areas that could yield success for today's entrepreneur, Mr Ganesh
says healthcare, finishing schools and training schools will do well.
Apart from accessing students in other countries with Pearson as an associate,
TutorVista will look at public-private partnerships with the Government in India, to
take technology-enabled education to students of these schools.
To a question on when should one dive into entrepreneurship, he cites the
instances of Mr Bill Gates and Mr Michael Dell, who started quite early. “If you
are from a business family, then you start early. My personal advice is to get into
a job, but quit before you get into the trappings of the job, such as salary and
perks.” Do not put out the flame of entrepreneurship, but, at the same time, think
big, he says.
Please send feedback, comments or suggestions
to emergingentrepreneurs@thehindu .co .in

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