Country Director | 28 Jun 2010
There are two ways at looking at the Indian market. One is competency development solutions, and the other is the delivery mechanism. We have made the delivery mechanism easier for the learner in the Indian market. There is a lot of hand holding as compared to same trainings in other geographies. But when it comes to competency development, it is truly up to international standards.
As Country Director at ITpreneurs India, Anuradha Madhusudhanan leads ITpreneurs’ business operations in India.
ITpreneurs, the leading content and instructor provider for IT best-practices training and workshops, offers the most comprehensive portfolio of training courseware, exam materials, e-learning and blended courses for ITIL, ISO/IEC 20000, COBIT and Prince2. ITpreneurs designs and distributes IT best-practices training and consulting solution materials through a close group of partners. It also provides the most comprehensive training catalog, an implementation knowledge base, and several dashboard applications to assist with the implementation of best practices, such as ITIL and COBIT.
Madhusudhanan’s main objective is to build strong relationships with IT executives and IT practitioners and to demonstrate to them the value of adopting best practices to improve IT governance, compliance, process maturity, and operations. She herself is a lifelong student and practitioner of leadership studies, organisational development, and talent management. In her professional life, she has influenced the design and execution of communications solutions for various corporations, including Mudra Communications, DigitalThink (now a Convergys company), NIIT, Genpact, and ITpreneurs.
ITpreneurs has an impressive customer list consisting of partners and global conglomerates, including CA, HP, Hitachi, IBM, and Microsoft. It was established in 2001, with offices in Rotterdam and Delhi. Since then, ITpreneurs employs over 100 employees worldwide and has increased its presence to over 40 countries across the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Japan, China, Hong Kong, India and the Middle East.
In conversation with exchange4media’s Ashish Pratap Singh, Madhusudhanan speaks at length about ITpreneurs’s journey in India, its courses and how it can help an organisation benefit from them.
Q. What is ITpreneurs’ main line of business? What exactly is it that you do?
We are in the business of providing high-end compentency development solutions, and our competency lies in building learning solutions for the niche domain. IT service management and IT governance come under what we call the niche domain. For example, everyone must have heard of ISO 9000 and might also be familiar with ITEC, COBIT, TOGAF certifications. These are all certifications that help assess, run, and govern your IT organisation. We are industry leaders in providing these courses and certifications.
Q. What are the various learning solutions that ITpreneurs provide?
As mentioned earlier, we are into providing certifications like ITEC, COBIT, TOGAF. The main reason why people choose to go for e-learning is that it saves them cost and saves them time. These two are the determinants for anyone deciding to go in for an e-course. But then, that does not mean that all trainees are for e-learning. Some prefer the conventional classroom set-up and being face-to-face with the trainer. Therefore, we also provide classroom training for such students. And they are quite a few in numbers. But the problem is that the learning ability is not polarised. What they really want is the convenience of e-learning, access it from anywhere and at any time, but also want the feel of a classroom where they can interact with other trainees and the trainer is there to instruct them and to guide them. Therefore, we have a third option called virtual learning. All ITpreneurs courses are available in all three mediums.
Q. One of the salient features of ITpreneurs is the certifications that it provides. What weightage is given to these certifications and is valued more or less in the Indian domain as compared to the international market?
As you already know, ITpreneurs provides certifications on compentency development solutions. These are individual certifications. Since we are certification oriented as a company, our trainings follow a certain schedule laid down by the governing body. For example, ISO 20000 is owned by ITSM. In any such domain, we help people get a base certification in the foundations course. Further, depending on what their career path and aspirations are, they choose an advanced course. Like in ISO 20000 domain, they would choose a Lead Auditor’s or a Consultant’s Course. So, the e-learning course is typically aligned with the requirements of the governing body.
All the ITpreneurs courses are accredited by the governing body. Therefore, the weightage is huge in India. Our country is a certification centric market and everyone loves to acquire certifications. It feels like more or less as a tool for career enhancement. It may be for salary hike, promotion or a place in that plum project. And it is the same in the international market. I will give you an example of a global research conducted of various IT service management companies. The research was conducted to see the value attached to various certifications, especially advanced certifications. The results were overwhelming. 78 per cent of the people interviewed said that their job productivity increased significantly after the certification. 80 per cent of the interviewees felt that the certifications helped them better in implementing IT services management in whatever jobs they were at. 65 per cent felt it helped them become a more rounded figure in the company. And here come the best part, 91 per cent of the people interviewed felt that advanced certifications was a competitive differentiator. This means, it helps them stand out amongst colleagues and gives the visibility to enhance their career opportunities.
Q. Which is the most sought after training and what does it comprise?
What we see in India is that the ITIL framework seems to be the most sought after. It is an advanced training. The ITIL foundation course comprises concepts, processes, much like any foundation course. After the successful completion of the foundation course, the learner has many choices in terms of advanced certification and that really depends on their chosen career path. For example, for someone who is on an IT management career path, typically will take lifecycle course in the ITIL training. But someone who is in the risk assessment job would ideally take a governance course. Coming to the ITIL example, lifecycle course is managerial in nature, implementing one or more of the item processes. Then you come to the capability track. And it may be in any framework; be it ITIL, ITEC, COBIT, etc. All these trainings comprise an entry level and then going on to the masters level.
Q. How long has ITpreneurs been operational in India? Were there any challenges Itpreneurs faced while setting up shop in India?
It has been nearly 10 years. From the time ITpreneurs started, we’ve had a presence in India since then. The challenges that we faced then, we continue to face even now. The biggest of them all is the grey market. For example, the company decides to train five IT team members on an IT foundations course, and that you are the procurement person. One company offers an accredited course for Rs 100 and another one offers the same course for Rs 20. You will have a tough time convincing your management that the Rs100 course is better. At the end of the day, everyone looks at the economy of purchase and not the quality of the training and the certification. And this is especially true if large number of people have to be trained. The economies of scale come into picture. However, in the advanced certification market, this is almost never the case. We have never really faced any challenges in this segment as enterprises and individuals become quality centric. The quality needs to be maintained as these are the consultants who will work onsite for the clients. They cannot afford to take a dent on the quality aspect and, therefore, become very quality conscious.
Q. How does ITpreneurs eye India as a market for its products?
ITpreneurs sees India as a strategic geography. We have our headquarters in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. But we have had a presence in India since the company’s inception. Therefore, our aim here is not only to establish a long term presence and a brand name, but also to establish a division that addresses India-specific solutions. India’s role in today’s IT industry of the world is huge and cannot be ignored. Specific needs that IT departments and IT companies have need to be addressed differently in the Indian context. And this is where ITpreneurs wants to make a difference. Therefore, our commitment to the Indian market is very high and strong.
Q. Last year saw economic slowdown the world over. How was 2009 for ITpreneurs?
As it was for any service provider, especially in the knowledge domain, we were badly hit. However, we are a core competency company and really not a consultancy company. As a business model, we are into competency development and training and no consultancy. So, we are not a threat to any of our clients as they are all consultants. Thus, through the slowdown, we used the time to strengthen our base. We made specific investments in developing extensive curriculums for ITIL, COBIT and several other frameworks. What happened was that we built the capability to address the ever growing needs to service the best practice and service management domains. Therefore, come January 2010, we were fully equipped with a new set of and more advanced curriculum.
Q. How has 2010 been so far financially?
2010 is the year when we establish our name in India. We will put together a framework in place to support our customers in India in achieving their objectives and establish key relationships with them. That is the objective for 2010. We do not have very specific revenue targets for 2010 for the India geography as against strengthening our base in India. We are here with the intent of establishing a competent organisation. Our focus is to improve our core competencies for our clients in the most efficient manner. So, the aim is to use a combination of our products and international experience and all other things that we have learned at various geographies and how to put them to address the needs of the local population. The value proposition in the market and the best service delivery in the market is what were gunning for, so that we achieve superiority in the market.
Q. How is ITpreneurs spreading the buzz? Could you tell us a little bit about the promotional activities that ITpreneurs has undertaken?
If I were to talk about what our strategy has been, it would be have to be about establishing forums and communities to attract the customers, to learn about their future needs. For example, our partners several years ago gave us some suggestions about courses and their framework. We listened, and after much analysis, concluded that we indeed must include the suggestions in our course curriculum. That is what we have been doing, we have been working, listening and finding out what our clients’ needs are.
We are doing various promotional activities, but they are all one to one. Events are also small group events. Secondly, we also utilise the services of our international experts. All of the courses in all frameworks are really built from scratch by the experts who created the framework. That’s a big advantage for us. We usually utilise these experts for conducting seminars and events and to be in talks with our partners.
Q. ITpreneurs is well-known for its extensive online campus. Any advantages or disadvantages of such a huge online campus? And any changes ITpreneurs made for the Indian market?
We do have a humongous online campus. It stretches across various best practices frameworks that I spoke about. The online campus is indeed expensive and is aimed at addressing the diverse needs of our audience. The learners are our audience and the customers are our audience. A partner organisation receives a learner portal with their branding and their messaging. Here, their learners can log in and access the course. It is an advantage for the organisation as they do not make huge investments in making these niche trainings available to their employees, who can access them to better their career.
There are two ways at looking at the Indian market. One is competency development solutions, and the other is the delivery mechanism. We have made the delivery mechanism easier for the learner in the Indian market. There is a lot of hand holding as compared to same trainings in other geographies. But when it comes to competency development, it is truly up to international standards. This is because a lot of trainees after completing the certifications undertake consulting projects for various international companies and compete in the international market.
Q. What is the future of online campuses in India, given that India has been a traditional market where it has always had trainers and trainees face to face? Which region of India has the largest concentration of online trainees?
This is ongoing conversation that we keep having and an analysis we keep doing. Our online trainees and classrooms are just as important to us as are our real classrooms. But what we have noticed over the past couple of years is that online training for courses has increasingly gaining ground in India. Since the economic slowdown that we witnessed last year, companies are not only concerned with how much money they spend, but also with where they spend the money. It is no more the ideology that classroom training is available so I should opt for that. They know online training is also an option and they weigh costs against benefits.
The Silicon Valley of India has the maximum concentration of trainees. Since the largest number of techies is produced by Hyderabad and Bangalore, naturally they are the ones opting for certifications the most. This is followed by Mumbai, Pune and then Delhi.