Sunday, July 19, 2015

Nettech : Coherence, Fit and Avoiding Failure

Start-ups run the most risk of disappearing before making a statement in the market. My involvement with Nettech over a course of 2 years gave me an wonderful insight into various aspects of functioning of a relatively less recognized knowledge based start-up targeting university students and making them industry ready. And today after more than 14000 successful participants in the program over little more than 10 years, I can definitely say that its a resounding success story with very little chance of being imitated.

Founded in 2002 in Kharagpur, India, Nettech started out as an organization to impart computer security and linux knowledge to university students during the summer and winter breaks. This made a name for itself against the existing providers in the market. It associated itself with the Tier-I universities of India (IIT Kharagpur and XIMB) to provide the completion certificates for 30-day programs. This was their value creation which attracted the initial batch of students. Over the course of next few years, they added more named and famed universities in India, typically IITs, XIMB, IIITs, BITSs which now attract students in hordes. The core capabilities and fit developed the foundation of its unprecedented success. Knowledge impart through hands-on computing by means of fun and not compulsion, students working in teams of 10, word-of-mouth advertising, successful students joining the start-up team for summer internships as instructors (this was a value addition for the students both from a monetary and work experience front) and last being on time (neither students nor instructors can be 1 minute late) were the core capabilities which are still being followed. How they fit in is even more interesting, the classes are actually fun to begin with and end with a test of 10 minutes-10 marks which was more than a challenge with a success ratio of lower 50% and thus making it more attractive to students over years to take a dig at the challenges. The test follows a binary marking system, either 10 or 0, no other marks. This pitches (groups of 4-6/individuals) against each other competing to solve the systems provided. This built into the program: competition with a goal to succeed, failures inspired to improve, work delegation, instructors being on their toes to devise the best possible systems for the tests, time-bound resolution and the feeling of working under pressure and leadership. This helped both the students and instructors to succeed. The courses were organized only for 4 months in a year at few universities simultaneously. This introduced a monopolistic demand, yet affordable for students to join it based on availability rather than on funds basis only.

Such a fit was not only difficult to recreate but also difficult to sustain. But so far it has sustained due to the intellectual capabilities of its founder Dr. Swapan Purkait and over 14000 students who have passed through the program. He identified the ways the organization can fail and addressed it at the very foundation itself. The core team was 4 members who were a family, so there were no chances of differences cropping up at any time and if it did then he resolved it as a family. Himself, being a networking and linux geek with a PhD, he was the chief instructor of the program which added credibility to the program. He did not copy the existing rivals rather he targeted a market which was unexplored, students in universities, a completely new product to a new a customer base. Over the years as the requirements of the industry has changed, so has the course content changed to keep up with the demands of both the industry and students. The financial engineering was immaculate, the fees included course certificate, lodging and package tour which made learning a fun experience to remember.

Now that Nettech is looking to expand beyond Indian borders, I can say with a degree of confidence it will see more and more success in the coming days.

Source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nettech
Personal Involvement

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