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Lessons from running a NPO

From a six by six cubicle with employees playing musical chairs, to being in positioning in 14 states, the growth of Academy has not been just numerical!

I was recently at the annual conference of one of India’s skill development organisations, the ICT Academy. A private initiative with governmental support, it has been in business for nine years now. Once you chip the peripherals, you could skim specific lessons on running a non-profit organisation.

Lesson 1: Stay relevant

“If the percentage of change outside exceeds the percentage of change inside, the end is near,” said Jack Welsh. It’s a quote that Chairman Lakshmi Narayanan, believes. The co-founder and former vice-chairman of Cognizant Technology Solutions asks every employee to take that quote at a personal level. He lays down the four dimensions of growth: geographical, customer base, products offered and partners. “Why stick to only colleges, why not venture into industries and government sectors?” To help reduce the internal training cost of companies and tap on governments that are now inclined to digitalise its offices, are opportunities. “We can partner with many competitors,” he declares quoting the recent initiative of IITM and NASCOMM to offer advanced online courses. ICT Academy must tie up with competitors as selling is going to be tough unless “what we offer is perceived to be relevant, ” said LN.

Lesson 2: Integrity begins at the top

“It’s difficult to practise integrity, but only those companies that do so earn the respect of society,” said Lakshmi Narayanan. M Sivakumar, the CEO, says that he turns to the chairman’s advice whenever he faces difficult choices. Dealing with organs of the government can always be a troublesome affair, but the chairman invariably told, “Never compromise on integrity.” Sivakumar threw up appealing line, “Behaviour exhibited by leaders and
behaviour tolerated by leaders is what becomes the culture of an organisation.”

Lesson 3: Baldhead and grey hair don’t matter

Teaching, is the one profession, which helps you mark footprints on the sands of time. A great teacher leaves a vivid impression in the minds of young ones. The ICT Academy’s core objective is to train faculty members in engineering and science colleges and through them impact the lives of students. “Today, the role of a teacher is to be a sage by the stage and a guide by the side,” says R Ganesan, board member, ICT Academy. “Unless a teacher gives inputs on how the industry works, he becomes irrelevant.” The abiding lesson is that baldhead and grey hair do not matter. What matters is the grey matter inside the head. Both IQ and EQ are out, LQ, learning quotient, the ability to adapt and learn, is the new in-thing. You need to innovate to stay relevant in whatever profession you are.

Lesson 4: Wanted – Bold, hairy, audacious goals

Organisations must set for themselves audacious goals. In every aspect, one must seek to double each year. At the academy, the focus for 2018 is threefold. One, scaling: not regarding revenue numbers, but the talent pool they can touch. Two increasing depth: into existing and new colleges. And you can achieve these bold goals, “if you have the urge to learn, dedication to providing that one simple extra push and be entrepreneurial” says Sivakumar.

Lesson 5: Make it, Do it

“It’s neither enough to ‘know’ or ‘imagine’; it is necessary to make it happen,” said Anbuthambi, Vice President. You can do that if you believe and take pride in what you are doing. Towards any success, one must have an entrepreneurial spirit. “If there is an empty space in an office, one must think of how to put it to use. Even a staff function can generate revenue. In essence, “entrepreneurship is a characteristic, not just a thought to earn money.”

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