India’s Inspirational Leaders: Dr. Sindhura and Puneet Kothapa, Narayana Group
India’s Inspirational Leaders in Education: Product and Geographical expansions that have been the Inspirational growth mantras of the Narayana Group. While Dr. Sindhura inspires through cutting edge product development, Puneet Kothapa inspires the group expansions.
Years of working in the industry, your contribution reflects versatility and volubility. What has influenced your decision making process at various stages?
Dr. Sindhura, Managing Director has headed the academic wing of the Narayana Group for the past 9 years and Puneet Kothapa, Executive Director has been heading the non-academic wing of the Narayana Group for the past 6 years.
Sindhura has overseen the expansion of the Narayana Group from junior colleges (+2 colleges) to high school education (6-10 schools) to integrated K-12 schools.
This can be viewed as an expansion to several academic verticals as at each step of this expansion, the academic requirements, pedagogy, teacher training and study material preparation varies and the ability to adapt and improve is extremely important.
As Sindhura has expanded Narayana’s core offering to the entire K-12 segment, Puneet has expanded the geographical reach of the Narayana Group to cover over 15 states within India. With an asset light model, relationships with stakeholders such as building and land owners has been key and establishing strong bonds and a win-win situation is always key. Further, Puneet has streamlined the entire HR, Finance, Procurement & Supply Chain and IT departments within the organization to ensure that the business model is scalable and achievable.
Sindhura: With respect to academics, the single most important aspect one needs to look at is how academic pedagogy can deliver a tangible outcome. The outcome could be excellence in examinations, merits in Olympiads, ranks in competitive tests, skills learned that would make one more employable, more social and more entrepreneurial. It is imperative to adapt to the latest in educational technology, to ensure that students learn, test and remediate online in this digital world.
Puneet: With changing geography, needs of parents and students also change. It is imperative to adapt to these changes, ensure that senior management are aware of the subtle nuances in geography and cater to these needs. Further, expansion in geographies requires setting up processes and technologies that are fool-proof and that has been the greatest challenge.
A project or an accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
Puneet and Sindhu have quadrupled the enrollment numbers in schools and have successfully launched nDigital products such as nLearn and nConnect. With nLearn students can learn, take practice and live tests, view analysis of performance and self-remediate on topics that they are not as strong in – ALL online. As an extension of nLearn – AR enabled text books, 3D labs, digital classrooms, Atal Tinkering Labs have all been integrated into the curriculum to provide a holistic digital and skill based learning ecosystem.
How do you integrate corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility as a part of your business strategies?
Education to a large extent is philanthropic and the management wing of the group is the one that generates profits.
However, having said that – the Narayana Medical Institutions in Nellore provides free care (critical, non-critical, even dental) to over 2 lakh patients annually. None of this is used for any strategic benefit to the Group.
We have also launched the Disha program, wherein a nationwide toll-free number is accessible to any student in mental or emotional distress. Dedicated counsellors are assigned to serious callers and detailed and critical therapy is provided all free of cost.
We believe that CSR should be just philanthropy and any goodwill generated by these programs is just intangible goodwill and brand enhancement at best.
We have not tied CSR to any business strategy.
The Driving Force in Life
“Sramayeva Jayate” or “Hardwork Alone Wins” is the motto for all within the Narayana Nation!
How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition?
Success for us is success of our students and students feeling proud of being a Narayana alum.
We have produced several great students, who have gone on to excel in technology and medicine over the world.
However, we still have a long way to go as most of our students are currently still in younger classes and the next 10 -15 years will define how they look back and view their experience at Narayana.
We are constantly making things better, faster, smarter or less expensive. In other words, we strive to do more with less.
A recent project or solution to a problem that you have made better, faster, smarter or less expensive?
In education, introducing technology is the only solution. Building integrated ERP with dedicated MIS has been a slow but most successful project for us.
We have reduced travel for senior management and academic leadership by adding tele-presence rooms in all major cities wherein a live meeting room atmosphere is created and work really gets done as if we were sitting across from each other. It’s not just video calling, it’s the entire experience.
nConnect has helped in communicating to parents, getting feedback and closing the loop on that.
In your opinion what is the most significant aspect of leadership?
The ability to recognize when to forge ahead and when to be patient.
Your perception of an empowered society. How far your industry has / can contribute for the same?
Education empowers and we are in the business of empowering. It is truly heartening to see how education changes people’s lives. How a student of ours, who was the son of a samosa vendor is now studying at IIT-Bombay and will probably change his life and that of his parents. This is true empowerment.
One thing you wish to change and one thing you wish to retain about your industry?
Change: The government needs to quickly adapt to curriculum changes. We need to be more skill focused.
Retain: The classroom experience. No amount of digital learning can take away the guru-shishu (teacher-student) bond.
One thing you have to let go off as an entrepreneur/leader?
Worrying about the small things in life
Whom do you owe your success to?
Best thing about your job
A message from you to all the future entrepreneurs/leaders?
It’s not a long journey, it’s not a tough journey – but it is a journey. And only hard work can help you make that journey!