Saturday, August 28, 2010

Interview With Dakshayini Kanna, TREAMIS World School, Bangalore

Featuring Women Entrepreneur
Dakshayini Kanna
Founder/Director TREAMIS World School, Bangalore

[Category: The Recession Proof Corner - Education Industry: Part I
Integrate 'The Change']

Treamis World School was formed with the mission to provide an integrated learning environment that develops independent thinking and promotes self-discipline. Based on their philosophy, Treamis has developed a practical approach that prepares children to face real life issues and succeed in their future endeavors. It creates an ideal environment through which students become competitive and are educated for knowledge creation, lifelong learning and leadership. Treamis prepares them to take on leading roles in their future working environments: directing change, solving problems and developing new knowledge.

Dakshayini is a rare phenomenon in the primary education industry. She can be called a serial entrepreneur, whose experience has not been limited to classroom teaching, but she has been involved in setting up quite a few educational institutes from scratch. Born to parents who were into teaching profession, Dakshayini developed interest in teaching early. A gold medallist from Bangalore University, Dakshayini is currently a consultant at Heritage Academy, Bangalore, Deeksha High, Bangalore, Comorin International, Kanya Kumari and Little Elly, Bangalore, apart from being the Founder Director at Treamis World School, Bangalore.
Here is what Dakshayini has to say about her entrepreneurial journey:

1. Is this your first entrepreneurial venture? If no, then which were the earlier ones? Are you still involved in them?
Except for one of my own, the remaining venture, including Treamis, have been as a co-founder / partner. Yes I am in touch with these but am not directly involved with them anymore.

2. What did you learn from your earlier ventures?
One should be ready to sacrifice all the time and energy for any kind of venture, however small, to become successful. Family support is very important for any entrepreneur to become successful. Planning is very important for any venture – an exit plan should also be ready. One needs to handle finance oneself. If partners are involved, documentation is absolutely necessary from the beginning. Calculated risk needs to be taken without which, the venture will not grow big. Never take VC money. Bank loan is any day better J (My experience). Let go of the owner-manager mentality as the organization grows.

It is painful to do so but becomes inevitable. At some point, in one of my ventures, I have sold my college when I knew that I wouldn’t be able to manage it the way it needed to be.

3. How did you arrive at this business idea?
This was an idea that was given to me when we had a discussion as a group of educationalists and professionals from the industry, both in India and abroad. I was a part of implementation of the idea on ground as most of others were in US.

4. Do you think you have entered education industry (K-12 segment) with a ‘Me-too’ model? What differentiations have you provided in your school? What is the value proposition in your system? In other words, how do you plan to handle competitions, given that there are so many international schools in Bangalore?
Definitely not. Treamis is not a ‘me- too’ kind of model at all. The approach to education here is entirely different from other schools. The school accepts only those parents who understand the philosophy of the school. The education system inculcates independent thinking and self discipline in students. The curriculum integrates Indian, European and US curriculum and best teaching practices from all over the world. We have teacher exchange programmes and student exchange programmes currently with two US schools but will expand the same to other schools too. Though sufficient emphasis is given for academics, music, sports and arts form an integral part of Treamis curriculum from grade 1 to grade 7.
5. ducation industry, particularly in the K-12 segment, has tremendous potential in India. Your views on this.
I agree with you completely. Whatever said and done, there needs to be a complete revamp of education system to find the potential.

Ø First step is to ensure that the teachers are trained properly. They need to understand the philosophy of education and try to help the child in over all development.

Ø They need to be the mentors rather than just tutors. They need to customize the teaching process according to the individual needs of the child.

Ø Strategic planning and implementation of teaching needs to be implemented.

Ø Quality evaluation and control needs to be done in all the schools.

Ø Undue importance to only academics pushing the kids to extreme levels needs to be curbed in Indian schools. Children should be appreciated for what they are and their positives, be it sports / arts / music etc needs to be identified and the child needs to be encouraged. Children should be allowed to learn at their own pace.

Ø Self-esteem and self-confidence of the child needs to be developed at the school level itself.

Ø Moral and human values, appreciation for our culture needs to be taught on ground.

Ø Inclusive education, environmental awareness, sensitivity towards society should also be taught through examples.

If these are followed at K12 schools, there is a great potential that needs to be tapped.

6. How have you funded your business (starting from when it was incorporated)?
Initially, there were about 12 promoters who funded the project. Then we took the loan from SBI for further expansion and completion. The company was incorporated in 2005.

7. What are the typical entry barriers in this industry?
Typical barriers in this industry are….

Ø Local competition from other schools.

Ø Bringing a change in parents’ mentality that academics is not everything and getting into IITs, Engineering and Medicine is not the goal of life.

Ø Teacher training, attrition and keeping the team motivated.

8. What have been the challenges – finding the business partner, financing, recruiting, selling (getting student enrolments) etc. Which in your experience has been the most difficult challenge to overcome?
Actually, as we were a group of people who started the venture, other people took up financing, finding business partners and construction. I handled recruiting teachers, selling, academics and other operations of the school. Each of the roles that I handled was challenging but none were non- achievable. The major challenges that I faced were:

Ø Convincing students locally and outside India about the school philosophy, differentiators and getting admissions.

Ø There was no choice for me but to admit most the students who applied, as revenue was a must.

Ø Teacher training and stopping attrition.

9. Are you profitable now?
We have broken even in the second year itself. As the investment is huge, it would take a year more to become profitable.

10. Last, but very important, a little about your family – how did you manage to strike a balance between the home, kids and the new venture?
I give the complete credit of my achievements to my husband. He being an ex army officer, understands the challenges very well and has always supported me at all times. Be it my career or house- hold chores like taking care of children while I am away. Without his support, nothing would have been possible. My children have also been very co-operative. My family is the reason of my success.

Thank you very much Dakshayini for sharing your wisdom with us.

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