Vineet Gupta - Building Ashoka University & Jamboree Education
In today's episode, we speak to Vineet Gupta, Managing Director at Jamboree Education and Founder & Trustee at Ashoka University, one of India's first University for the Liberal Arts. Vineet has had an interesting entrepreneurial journey - we spend the first half of the podcast going into detail about how he started his career and the second half focused on the passion for improving India's education which eventually led him to founding Ashoka University. We actually go into the specifics with Vineet on how he founded a world class University such as recruiting professors and marketing it - a unique experience that very few people can say they've done.
Despite his heavy focus on education nowadays, Vineet's entrepreneurial journey did not start of this way. Vineet's first company, founded in the 90's and sold in the 2000's, manufactured Styrofoam. He spent 14 years manufacturing styrofoam and becoming one of the largest producers of this commodity, supplying these products to consumer durable giants who entered India in the 90's post liberalisation.
After selling the Styrofoam business, Vineet joined Jamboree Education along with his wife to help scale it up to one of the largest test prep institutions in India. And after that, he was one of the founders of Ashoka University. So many things done in one lifetime.
Playbooks for Success:
- Creating Optionality as an Entrepreneur: When Vineet sold his styrofoam business, he was able to make that choice because his wife had already founded Jamboree and because his brother had also founded a Pharma company. Vineet could sell his styrofoam business and join either business to help them scale it up. We also speak to Vineet about the importance of always tinkering on the side - whether that means building new businesses or new products for your existing business. Vineet tried his hands at various businesses on the side (which failed) while scaling up his main businesses and he attributes this constant tinkering to an itch for personal growth and scale as an entrepreneur.
- Service Businesses Need Strong Training & Processes to Scale Up: Jamboree Education was founded by Vineet's wife Akrita who was the face of the Jamboree brand. Akrita's skill as an educator drove customer's to Jamboree but if the brand were to scale up, they would need to find a way to consistently recruit teachers at Akrita's level or train new teachers on how they can teach like her. Jamboree doubled down on teacher training and Vineet attributes the sucess of the company to their ability to train brand new teachers to perform at the same level as Akrita. Service businesses always face the question of how they can replicate their founder's success - building solid processes and training programmes will allow new hires to perform at similar levels as the founder and keep the brand's quality consistent.
- Talent attracts Talent: Service businesses, Universities are a service business, are completely dependant on the quality of people who work there. Training is one part of building a productive workforce but a new University doesn't have the time to train professors and PhD students. So what does a new University like Ashoka do? The first 10 - 15 professors hired by the University become critical to the long term success of such an institution and this is the same for any business. These first two dozen hires would attract other talent like themselves from their own network and also attract high quality students or customers. If you get your initial hires right, you can enter a virtuous circle and build a high level team that can help you scale. Talent attracts talent.