Highlights from Co-Founder’s New year town hall address
Town halls are an opportunity for the company’s leadership and the team to share their thoughts and build a collective consciousness. Having a major part of our team working remotely and placed across the country, this sort of meeting is more critical than ever.
A quick update of things as they stand today:
This last year we signed an MoU with Indian Bank to offer "MSME Prerana", an online entrepreneurial development program to the bank's MSME customers. The program was launched by Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs on the 6th, Oct 2020. Through this program, we have enabled about 150 entrepreneurs across Tamil Nadu and are all set to take the program pan-India with the start of a Hindi batch in Jan 2021.
Today, we’ll be talking about the journey that Poornatha has gone through to get here.
The journey of Poornatha started in 2017 with “Journey in Joy”, a 150+ hours 24-month mentoring program for 27 entrepreneurs across Tamilnadu done personally by Dr Bharath Krishna Sankar. During this period, Suresh and I happened to meet Dr Bharath on separate occasions for guidance and expressed our willingness to start ventures to support MSMEs. It became an obvious decision to shadow and contribute to the mentoring program from close quarters and get the ground-level feel of the MSME ecosystem.
Once the need for the program at a much larger scale was clear it was time to float the same as a commercial venture. The second cohort of the program was announced and was to start with 100+ entrepreneurs across Tamilnadu enrolled into 6 batches. All enrolled participants had to go through an interview process which took place over 6 days in 3 different cities. The projected revenue for the FY 2020-21 was to be 1.5 crores, and we had already received 35 lakhs from the applicants as of March 2020. With the onset of COVID, everything changed in a matter of a week and we had to refund the money immediately. (more on the same at https://poornatha.com/blog/Poornatha-vs-COIVD-19)
Not to mention, we had also leased a new office space recently and its interior work was underway. We had to quickly adapt and move to a work-from-home environment and the chances of starting the offline classroom program in the next few months seemed remote.
Instead of waiting for the clouds to clear, we immediately redirected our efforts towards capacity-building activities. We concentrated heavily on fine-tuning, the creation of content, and the building of a knowledge base. We also undertook numerous projects ranging from Online and virtual learning pedagogy and tools to MSME landscape study. Remote Interns were hired for these projects from across the country from institutions like TSM, NIT-Trichy, IIM-Indore, IIM- Bangalore, IIM Trichy, Christ Bangalore, and few International interns from Cass School of Business and the University of British Columbia. (more on the same at https://poornatha.com/blog/industry-academia)
We were also parallelly trying to take the ‘JnJ’ program online and also pitched about our programs to GAME, Indian Bank, and few others.
We also created a short and quick online module about crisis handling to reach out to the entrepreneurs in our network. This gave us the confidence to go online with our programs.
We had tried multiple other things in between and the journey hasn’t been a straight line. Though in hindsight the dots connect, and we could not have planned it better ourselves.
The journey definitely had its ups & downs with a lot of ambiguity, uncertainty, and no clear path ahead. But what has been constant, today as well as back then when the path wasn’t clear, is that our intense effort to move ahead in whatever little path that was visible to us. This coupled with the genuine intent to support MSME entrepreneurs who are nation builders has been important for the success that we have seen so far in this journey.
We truly believe the cause we have chosen to support is larger than Suresh, me, or any of us as individuals and the organization itself. The cause will take care of all of us in the journey as long as we put in our intense effort & remain genuine to the cause. How do we do this? By developing and following the right Culture!
What is the right culture?
- Respecting all the people in our network (Internal & external stakeholders)
- Truly believe that everyone has the potential to do great things (provided they put in the effort) and value feedback & opinions. This is all the more important as a core belief of our training philosophy is also that anybody can learn provided, they put in the effort.
- Compete - not with each other but with ourselves; both as individuals and as an organization, and ask ourselves “how can we improve and do better”.
- Keeping the customers/consumer at the center of everything we do! Make them happy!
Our objective is to help entrepreneurs, but what is the business we are in?
All service businesses are in the business of making the consumer & customer happy!
We may have a fabulous product or service, but at the end of the day if the customer is not happy there is no value creation.
Along this journey, there have been some huge milestones like the signing of MoU with the Indian Bank in the presence of its MD & CEO, followed by the launch of the program by the Hon’ble Finance Minister of India and an opportunity to talk about Poornatha and its mission before her. We have also received heavy national press coverage for the same.
These are indeed happy moments and had their fair share of glitz and glam. Some people even thought or said that we have arrived! Though Suresh & I were happy to have had these great moments and are eternally grateful, we knew in our hearts that these are only increasing our responsibility to deliver on the promises of the program!
The true joy was felt by us on four different occasions:
- The very first feedback we received right after orientation, which was not for the content of the program, but for the professional way in which it was organized and customers were made comfortable. This reinforced our belief that the service we offer starts much before the actual training in the classroom and continues thereafter.
- Feedback about the content received from participants after every successful session during the first batch, which showed us the true potential & benefit of the program.
- Completion of Batch – 1 along with a valedictory ceremony. Though we are entrepreneurs now, the inner accountant in us was happy to have rightfully earned our first revenue (Accrual)
- The date of receipt of our first payment gave the truest and highest joy!
Why so? Most people including entrepreneurs shy away from talking about money. But we don’t think that way. When we say Poornatha’s motto is to ‘Create Value & Share Value’, it is implied that the value created will turn into revenue which can then be shared with the stakeholders. There can be no sharing of value without revenue. Therefore, it is the duty of everyone in the organization irrespective of roles to contribute to revenue growth and enable the timely collection of receivables.
Borrowing from Mathew McCaughey’s style in his Oscar speech, I would like to conclude by saying three things that we need in the journey ahead of us- something to be thankful for, something to look up to, and Something to look forward to (or chase)
- Something to be thankful for-
We are thankful for the success we have had so far in the journey and the resources & opportunity that we have been blessed with.
- Something to look up to –
The cause of supporting & enabling the MSME ecosystem including the jobs and value it creates which we believe is larger than us and our contribution to nation-building.
- Something to look forward to (or chase)-
Where will the organization be in 5 years' time? And more importantly what will be your contribution to it and what will be your position?
Our programs have to become-
- Multinational & Multi continental.
- Serving a broader area of customers including entrepreneur & college students
- Most importantly become a tech-enabled and driven organization
Wishing you all an incredibly happy new year!
* --The address was followed by an address by our other Co-Founder, Suresh who talk about the plans for Poornatha in the year ahead and beyond in great detail. This was followed by experience sharing of the team and discussion. --