This story is the journey of a business from the sleepy little town of Kota in Rajasthan to a nerve center and Mecca of coaching classes for IIT entrance examinations. Like most of the path-breaking ideas and opportunities, Rao IIT was born out of misfortune and adversity.
The first stroke of misfortune was when a young engineer called VK Bansal who worked at JK Synthetics in Kota, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy - a rare disorder that weakened his limbs. With a condition that was deteriorating continuously, he started teaching part-time and helping the young minds from Kota realize their dreams of getting into the coveted IIT. The second stroke of misfortune was shutting down of JK Synthetics. BV Rao, General Manager of the company decided to join his former colleague VK Bansal, who by then had started his own coaching center. Rao's daughter Yamini saw an opportunity to grow and along with her husband, Vinay Kumar, a successful executive with a Norwegian shipping firm decided to take the classes out to other cities of India.
They quickly expanded their footprint across the highly competitive markets of Mumbai and its suburbs. They also established their presence in the academic hub of Pune and the national capital, Delhi and are now looking to make Rao IIT a pan-India player. With a vision to build the number one brand in India for test prep, Rao IIT Academy partnered with Brand Capital, the strategic investment arm of The Times Group. Large, innovative formats of advertising like Times of India and Mumbai Mirror Jackets were used to create impact and drive brand imagery. Brand salience was created through sustained presence and a very high share of voice which also enabled them to amplify their students' achievements thereby establishing the success of their methodology consistently.
Shaping a child's future by training them for academic excellence is nothing less than the task of parenting itself and that is where Rao IIT Academy distinguishes itself. Contrary to what the other coaching centres were doing, by showcasing the ranks of their students to attract more admissions, Rao IIT Academy focused on the personal touch. Their advertisements and creatives broke the clutter by appealing to the emotions of both the child and the parent in shaping the child's future.
Some success mantras of Rao IIT:
- Adversity and misfortune are often opening chapters of a bestselling story. When the doors shut for Dr. Rao, he saw a window opening and went after it to create Rao IIT.
- It starts with hunger. And a dream. Rao IIT would have remained just another Kota school had it not been for Yamini's hunger to propel it to an all-India player. With hunger, dreams become bigger, actions get taken and growth follows.
- How are you different from everyone else? Rao IIT launched an integrated program that combined the college course with the preparation of IIT.
- Greatest test cricketers may not help you win one-day games. Rao IIT quickly figured that the skill set for the professors teaching the regular college courses was different from the ones teaching competitive exam syllabus. For IIT-type coaching, they sought out IIT graduates working in the industry which worked brilliantly.
- Doing business is easy, making profits is tough. Rao IIT ensured that they had a business plan, instituted systems and processes to ensure that revenues were growing while monitoring the costs and keeping the business profitable.
- Don't underestimate the time it takes to succeed. Rao IIT figured that it takes time to build faith and confidence, which will then translate into results. Be bullish, but realistic, about your ambitions and provide for adequate staying power.
- Cock-a-doodle-do - why advertising works. Word of mouth is good, and testimonials are effective. But it is advertising that is truly powerful when you are looking to ramp-up. Advertising is a perception creator. It helps authenticate success and perform on a larger stage. The codfish lays 1000 eggs and the hen just lays one. But everyone talks of the hen - because while the codfish goes about its work quietly, the hen screams "cock-a-doodle-do".
- Innovate. Or die. Rao IIT is constantly innovating - digital content, testing methods, student interactions, motivation - constantly looking for newer ways to connect and serve the students better. 25-35% of the processes and workflows change every year.
- Standing still is not an option. Keep aiming higher. Rao IIT wants to be a billion-dollar valuation business by 2025.
- Not taking a risk is often the biggest risk. Rao IIT took a risk of moving out of Kota else they would have never grown the way they have today. Take calculated risks and tread cautiously.
Excerpts of the story are from Prakash Iyer's book - You Too Can.