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2009-10-30

The Serial Entrpreneur

He had been married for five years with a five month old baby. Shouldering the responsibility of a mother and two unmarried sisters he had no home to speak of. The very idea of starting a company seemed foolish at this juncture. But within his heart he kn

He had been married for five years with a five month old baby. Shouldering the responsibility of a mother and two unmarried sisters he had no home to speak of. The very idea of starting a company seemed foolish at this juncture. But within his heart he knew that he would never forgive himself if he did not venture beyond his comfort zone. ‘After four ventures and 18 years later, I now know and believe that to be a successful entrepreneur two fundamental things are needed. A passion for an idea and the stupidity to believe against all common sense that the idea will work,’ says Mr. Krishnan Ganesh, Founder, CEO of Tutor Vista an online tutoring venture.

Tutor Vista exemplifies the power of ideas. K. Ganesh has proved how an idea as simple as offering online tutoring can grow big into a successful enterprise if one believes with conviction that it will work.

Taslima Khan (TK): What was your inspiration behind starting Tutor Vista?

 

Krishnan Ganesh (KG): In the year 2000, I happened to come across a cartoon which had a father saying to his child, ‘No! You cannot outsource your homework to Bangalore.’ It sparked off a new thought process in me and I thought, ‘Why Not.’  We have the resources to outsource knowledge. I began to wonder if we could do some kind of consumer Internet service from India for students in the US’. This was the genesis of TutorVista, which aims to bring 21st century technology to the education space.

 

TK: What was your occupation before you started Tutor Vista?

 

KG: I have been a serial entrepreneur. I started IT&T in 1990 which was into computer maintenance services to corporate organizations. After having sold the company to Igate I joined Bharti British Telecom as their CEO. Thereafter in 2000 I started Customer Asset which provided email support to internet companies like Yahoo and Ebay. I have also been Executive Chairman, advisor and investor to Marketics.

 

TK: Were you able to get family support for your ventures?

 

KG: My mother was initially opposed to my decision to venture out. However after my first venture, my mother and my in-laws started believing in my ideas. Till that time, it needed lot of communication and reassurance. As they say in India, behind every successful man there is a devoted wife and a very surprised mother-in-law!

 

TK: How many people have you employed for online tutoring?

 

KG: We have 1200 teachers teaching from their homes + 200 employees in our online TutorVista.com business. On the India side done under our wholly owned subsidiary called Manipal K-12 education, we have additional 300 employees. So there are a total 1700 employees.

 

TK: At present how many students have subscribed to your online tutoring classes? How many visitors do you register every month?

 

KG: We have 10,000 students – primarily from the US for online classes. Because it is online, they come from all countries. Infact 48 different countries. Currently about 500, 000 visitors throng the website every month.

 

TK: What is the USP of Tutor Vista?

 

KG: Our primary USP is the convenience of doing it from home, highly affordable services and highly qualified teachers from India.

 

TK: How long did it take you to break even?

 

KG: It took us three years to break even.

 

TK: What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your entrepreneurial journey?

 

KG: Great challenges lay ahead when Tutor Vista was conceptualized.  The biggest hurdle was creating a realistic business model which could be scalable and at the same time profitable. I was in experienced in this field, yet took the plunge in November 2005.

 

TK: What have been your major achievements so far?

 

KG: In the past two years we managed to raise Rs. 72 crore in venture capital money. We have grown to 800 employees who teach 10, 000 students worldwide. Our teacher pool is diverse and international with 600 teachers from India, Phillipines, Hong Kong and Singapore.

 

Tutor Vista taps a huge pool of highly qualified, passionate Indians-retired professors and housewives who have taken a break from their careers and passionate teachers who didn’t have the right opportunity at their place.

 

TK: What have been your key learnings during the course of your entrepreneurial ventures?

 

KG: Throughout my ventures, I have learnt more about starting a company and business than any B-school could have taught me in my life time. First and foremost, a good core team is the life breath of any new venture. The there is the razor sharp focus on the one big idea that you are chasing. To scale a business, articulate a dream and begin to sell it with vigor o investors, key employees, customers etc. from day one get your funding right. Get your support system in place. It is important to family, friends and mentors right behind you. Less than 5%of new ventures become great successes. You need to have all the right value cards to win this game.

 

TK: Whom do you look up to as your role model?

 

KG: Shiv Nadar – Chairman and Founder of HCL (was my first boss) , Sunil Mittal (Bharti – I worked with him when I was CEO of Bharti British telecom ) and my mother who brought us up and was a motivating factor after we lost my father when I was just 9 years old.

 

 

 

 

 

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