As part of a special series on start-up companies, EconomyLead interacted with a few entrepreneurs in India who are trying to make a signature in the field they are operating.
Here’s an excerpt of the interaction with Nikhil Barshikar – founder and managing director ofImarticus Learning, which specializes in Investment Banking & Data Analytics education.
Why did you plunge into a start-up?
I always knew I wanted to do my own thing, start my own business and I wanted to do it in India. I began my career in the Corporate Finance division of the erstwhile Lehman Brothers at New York, following which I moved to Mumbai as the Head of Equity and Prime Operations to set up Lehman’s India operations. Once I became the Executive Director and Head of Nomura’s Offshore Strategy for Asia and managed and facilitated the transition of over 500 roles in one year, I established operational support for the local domestic FII business and the local asset management venture. After spending fifteen years of my career across a smorgasbord of roles within Investment Banking across India and the US, I realized I was ready, both from a perspective of mindset as well as seniority to start something of my own in 2012.
What is your initial experience as an entrepreneur?
Transitioning from the organized and structured world of bulge bracket Investment Banking to the erratic world of a startup wasn’t easy. One day you have a team, a secretary, your own library and the next you’re sitting around with your team in your living room and worrying about BMC certificates. But my strength has always been the ability to put plans into motion and we took one day at a time and watched things come together, albeit slowly. I had a great co-founder in Sonya Hooja, and a team that helped meexecute the vision I had in mind.
What are the new things you have implemented as part of your business strategies?
One of our most unique features is the concept of Mentorship where we have continuous individual counseling sessions with senior professionals from the industry. The other is our unique take on Online Learning where we want to seamlessly transition from the classroom to the virtual environment so that the student still receives the benefits of classroom interaction and peer networking while gaining the advantages of learning 24/7 anytime any place. We achieve this via our live instructor led webinars and our state of the art Learning Management System.
What are your current dreams? What are you doing to achieve your goals?
I envision Imarticus to be a global leader in professional Finance & Analytics education blending both classroom and online platforms to deliver professional industry endorsed programs that can be scaled to meet the needs of both professionals and corporates beyond Indian metros and highly customized training and staffing solutions to leading Indian and Global Corporations. Our immediate plans are two-fold. One would be to set up a two more domestic centers, Delhi & Hyderabad, as well an international center in Dubai. The second one would be to expand aggressively in the online and blended learning space. We have already launched 5 online programs in the space of three months, all of which have seen incredible traction. We are very excited about instructor led online programs. We are focusing on seamless transition from the classroom to the virtual environment using state of the art technology.
Who assisted you to succeed and how?
It has been a team effort through and through. Imarticus Learning would not have been possible without my co-founder, Sonya Hooja, and the rest of my team who have been with the firm since day one. Three years on, we are still the same team that began and that reflects our commitment to the vision we set out on day one.Ofcourse there is my family, wife and parents, who have supported the endeavor from the beginning. As John Donne says, ‘No man is an island’.
What are your tips to new start-ups?
Execution is everything. An idea is only as good as the time you spend executing it. You also need to have a good team in place, one that trusts your vision while still being able to give and take constructive criticism.
How did you evolve in the last 5 years?
The last five years have been exciting and humbling. I think you take a lot of things for granted when you work in a large corporate, whereas now I understand that the devil truly does live and breathe in the details. But you can’t let the details define your railroad your vision. I have become more patient and have fostered an ability to be less rigid in respect to my expectations. That doesn’t mean my standards have fallen, but my reactions have become more fluid and therefore I think I have begun to enjoy the journey much as the destination.
How do you define your leadership style?
Well I don’t believe in micromanaging but I think it’s very important to have a clear vision on what we want so that others can execute. I ensure I get the team’s buy in on my vision, which helps foster an environment of accountability.
How do you set goals? Did you achieve the desired result?
Goal setting is done at a quarterly offsite where the entire team takes a couple of days off their routine work to focus on the vision in hand and take stock of what we have achieved.
Who are your role models in CEO community?
Quite a few, but if I had to pick one it would be Ratan Tata who embodies the ability to envision and execute while inspiring others to be the best that they can be.
What do you do to avoid stress or in free time?
With a new firm, free time is limited and my time is divided between family, travel and keeping fit.
How do you manage your health / fitness?
I hit the gym five times a week …it helps me focus on work better.
Your suggestions to aspiring CXOs
Apart from vision, execution and building the right team, which I have discussed above, I would say the most important thing is to be passionate about your idea because entrepreneurship is hard and when things go wrong, which happens quite regularly, that is what drives you to look forward and be positive.