Everyone aspires to do what they love, but there may be several obstacles in their way. Not everyone is motivated enough to accomplish everything, but anything is possible with unwavering resolve and diligence. One such instance is Mr. Vaibhav Kakkar.
Mr. Kakkar has had a lifelong interest in blogging but he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life as a content writer. He wished to make a difference in others’ lives as well as his own. That’s when he thought about upskilling himself and entering the Edu-tech domain. Today, after much effort, he is not only a successful blogger but also the founder and CEO of IIM SKILLS – a leading brand in the world of professional courses.
Startup – IIM SKILLS
Founder – Vaibhav Kakkar
Year it was founded – 2015
Located in – New Delhi
Sector – Ed-tech
Website URL – https://iimskills.com/
While some people are talented from birth, others either have it through genetics or strong interest. Even the most unlikely circumstance won’t be able to deter someone who is driven with the passion to succeed. To pursue a passion, all it takes is a strong individual with a strong will. Mr. Kakkar attributes a lot of his phenomenal success not only to his grit and determination but to his luck as well. He had many challenges, but he overcame them because of his drive to get the job done well and develop his talents.
Vaibhav Kakkar, the Founder, and CEO of IIM SKILLS, also works as a mentor, a content developer, and a digital marketer. He writes columns for several newspapers, including TOI. Useful advice on how to produce content that converts can be found in his book, “World Castle How To Start a Content Writing Business.”He has also published two additional novels in addition to this.
Read on this interview, to know, how, from a regular 9-5 job, Mr. Kakkar paved his way to be a successful blogger and now an inspiring entrepreneur – making the way for thousands of young professionals.
An Interview with Vaibhav Kakkar, CEO – IIM SKILLS
1. Let us begin with a story or two about yourself.
My journey began 12 years ago. At that time I was working with a bank. Blogging was still a relatively new concept in the market and I was very eager to explore its potential. Interestingly I am one of, those few people who realized the potential of the internet in India, at a very early stage. In 2010, I started blogging with the educational website, named, CourseDekho. I still had no idea of how to monetize blogging; it was just my passion. I still recall the poor internet connectivity in my early blogging days. Later I learned about affiliate marketing and converted CourseDekho into an affiliate channel for many tech institutes. I started working full-time for several brands, assisting them with their affiliate marketing and lead-generating initiatives. I was posting at my website CourseDekho in addition to supplying leads to other educational institutions.
Somewhere around the end of 2013, I posted an article on the Top 10 Content Writing courses in India. This particular article generated a lot of web traffic. I became aware of CourseDekho’s growth as I began to observe a significant increase in the number of people visiting my website to learn more about the potential of blogging. I noticed that individuals were starting to get excited about content creation and blogging. Approximately 15 people would frequently ask me how to learn the various digital topics.
It was then, in the year 2015, that I launched my first professional training institute IIM SKILLS and I introduced my first intense training program, The Content Writing Master Course. It was well received and since then we have successfully trained our learners in more than 9 different courses and I intend to launch many more such courses.
This is how I started.
2. Did you envision yourself in this position when you initially started your job?
No. I consider myself an ‘accidental entrepreneur.
I have always been passionate about technology, and blogging allowed me to focus all of my attention on producing content that informed thousands of people about the various programs and employment prospects that are offered online.
I was satisfied with how CourseDekho served major businesses and aided in lead generation and affiliate marketing techniques. Additionally, it assisted internet users in learning about the many programs and professions they may choose from.
But never had I ever imagined that I would become an entrepreneur. I lacked that long-term vision. I believed it all happened by some predesigned forces. I started blogging, which generated leads that in turn, led me to my edu-tech venture, IIM SKILLS.
IIM SKILLS was a project with an INR 3,000 initial investment that was purely content-based. Although it might appear like I’m exaggerating, this is the reality.
3. How did you choose the name of your institution?
The full form of IIM SKILLS is the Institute of Internet Marketing Skills.I feel ‘skills’ are the gateways to premium jobs. IIM SKILLS provides you with those much-required ‘skills’ that premium institutions promise to you – that too at affordable rates and shorter timeframes. We give people a hands-on experience in various skills related to Internet Marketing.
Hence the name IIM SKILLS was chosen. Also, it is a convenient and easy-to-recall name.
4. How did you win over your first customers?
It was quite simple. My articles at Course Dekho were already gaining good momentum. Individuals were showing interest in creating content and blogs. I converted those leads and got my first batch ( approximately15-18 students) for the Content Writing Master Course.
However, for the second batch, I could only manage to convert somewhere between 4-7. That was quite a setback for me. I had already broken up the affiliation and so I was under a lot of pressure.
But from my third batch onwards I was able to convert 30+ leads. Those days I was running a one-man show. I was the Sales Executive, Marketing Executive, and Delivery Executive – all rolled into one.
What habits boost your productivity?
Individually, if I am good at something I try to create a replica of myself. So if I am good at Content Writing, I build a team of Content writers who are as good as me, and who would take care of the content requirement.
With the gradual expansion of IIM SKILLS, I realized I cannot take care of everything. As an effective team player, I believe in constantly upgrading myself, learning new strategies, and sharing the same with my team members. I ensure that as a team we are always ahead of our competitors.
As an entrepreneur, I cannot simply rely on my team members. I like to stay ahead of the game and so I am constantly in search of the latest tools and trends that would benefit my team and IIM SKILLS – as a whole.
6. Do you have a morning (or evening) routine that increases your productivity and efficiency?
The first thing I do as part of my morning ritual, is, drop my daughter to school. From 8 am – 12 noon I do not touch my mobile phone. I devote this time to all the pending office tasks, check the leads, set targets, and attend meetings.
In the evening, from 8 pm – 10 pm, I hit the gym. On days when I take classes in the evening, I hit the gym from 6 pm – 7.30 pm and take classes between 8 pm – 10 pm.
7. How do you strike a balance between the demands of being a parent and running a business?(preserve work-life balance)
Entrepreneurship can get quite stressful. Especially when you are a parent you ought to devote time to your kid. My better half is equally invested in IIM SKILLS. She heads one of the divisions at IIM SKILLS. We make sure that we devote one entire day, every week to our daughter. Additionally, we take her to amusement parks, movies, etc. My daughter is occupied too with her schooling and dance classes. We plan our schedule accordingly to give her the best quality time.
My family and friends, who are now partners in my endeavor, give their unshakable support in this situation. Wherever I fall behind, there were always individuals to encourage me and point me in the right direction.
8. From email to meetings, how do you organize your entire day?
We conduct very less meetings. We have only on-point discussions. We work on a priority basis; hence, the emails requiring immediate responses are reverted at the earliest.
I am disciplined, organized, and focused. This ensures productivity and success.
9. How do you decide whether you are ready to launch a new product or service line?
Firstly, the most important factor is the validation of the market. We have a very strong Research and Marketing team, and before launching any product we do market validation, with the help of relevant tools, data, and resources. With the kind of tools available, one can easily validate the market.
Secondly, it’s not just about launching the product. For us, it’s extremely important that whatever courses we are launching make people job-ready. It has to have a substantial demand in the market.
Thirdly, we figure out the unique model of the course that we must develop – one USP that sets our course apart from other available courses in the market.
Fourthly, we follow a few more internal practices before finally launching our product.
10. What excites you most at work right now?
We are excited about our foray into the financial market. In the past 1 year, we have launched 4 products in the financial sector – Financial Modeling Course, Business Accounting, and Taxation Course, and GST Certification Course. Interestingly our GST Certification course catered to 80% of the market. The Financial Modeling course has garnered a good response. Our BAT course is one of the leading available courses in the market.
We are very much looking forward to expanding into other sectors as well.
11. Tell me about a time when you went through a difficult time and how did you manage it?
We live in India – which has a diversified market. We don’t face monthly or quarterly challenges but daily challenges, like –
Whenever there is a long holiday, people don’t prefer online sessions. They don’t join classes.
Offline vs online – is a perennial challenge. In this post-pandemic era, people have shifted their preferences towards offline sessions. And IIM SKILLS provides only online classes.
Managing profitability is a challenge. After catering to all the overhead costs, salaries, and other allied payments, maintaining a standard profit margin, throughout, becomes a challenge.As an entrepreneur, you must resort to a solid financial model that will help you outgrow these daily challenges. At the same time, you have to ensure that the product you are creating, is of such high standards, that it creates constant demand. The quality should be such that the existing customers bring more potential customers for the next session. Our competitors with high buffer funds can afford to spend a lot. But for self-funded businesses like ours, we have only one thing to resort to – and that is the top-notch quality of our products.
12. How do you stay positive when nothing seems to be working?
I truly believe that I am destiny’s child. Destiny had an undeniable role in making me reach where I am today. Also, the collaborative efforts of the larger IIM SKILLS family – who work together, have made IIM SKILLS – a leading Edu-tech startup in India.
I also believe that keeping a positive attitude always helps in coming up with a solution to any problem that might crop up. So always keep that positive attitude at work. And also instill that positivity in your working environment. Once you make your team feel good about the organization and instill a positive working environment, it will ensure quality products that would, in turn, help in building thousands of successful careers.
13. How do you prioritize your marketing to-dos and decide what to do first?
There is no special marketing strategy. However, we create relevant information for the users. For any subject we are working on, we curate quality resources, and useful facts and develop our authority on the subject.
We have a very strong Research and Marketing team, who does a great job of collating relevant data and applying them accordingly.
14. What elements make a successful business pitch?
People buy honesty. So a great business pitch is, to be honest. If you have something or haven’t, be honest about it. Hiding negative feedback never helps. Rather, accepting negative feedback as criticism, working on them, and rectifying them – helps your growth.
During Orientation Programs I clearly explain that mere attending the course won’t get you the job. This is because it’s not the course that helps you to get the job, but it is the skill that you build. Unless you are not skilled enough, you cannot get hold of a job. As an institution, our job ends with teaching and training. But as an individual, you have to work equally hard.
15. What is the most crucial leadership lesson you have ever learned, and how has it helped you?
There are two types of people – one who stays with you for learning and the other who stays with you for earnings. And if you know how to acknowledge both of these categories – they will stay with you forever.
We are still a small-sized company. We are expanding gradually. But we ensure that our employees are well-paid and well-exposed to learning the latest trends. Moreover, we encourage not only to learn but also to implement, make mistakes and learn further from those mistakes. So it’s not just about the growth of the company but the growth of every single individual, involved.
I prefer to refer to my crew as a family that has supported the company through its highs and lows rather than as employees. All of this has led to the development of a team that is motivated by pure excitement, creativity, and effectiveness, which has led to the expansion of the business.
You need to be a great leader who can develop a team that is motivated by you to succeed in the big world. Technical knowledge alone won’t get you there.
16. How do you prevent burnout?
It is undoubtedly stressful to be an entrepreneur and burnout is expected. To avoid it, I –
Rest for one whole day, every week.
Go for a Family holiday every quarter
17. What advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneurs?
I would firstly recommend validating the market before investing everything. Suppose it is an online business then start with writing a blog. If your blog gets traffic then it will generate leads. These leads will further ensure sales of your products.
Secondly, if you are into the e-commerce business, then don’t buy inventory. Create a WordPress Account, or run Facebook ads to boost sales. Depending upon the sales you can order or cancel products. This way the chances of losses are minimal. But if you buy an entire inventory, at the very onset, the chances of losses are huge – in lakhs.
18. What would you advise new content writers/bloggers?
The idea that you need to invest a lot of money to start blogging or launching your first business is wholly false. All you require is the willpower to write and create content. And consistently at that. I frequently wrote blog posts and other articles. That greatly aided me by making me visible on search engines.
Only blogging has made this all possible. You can accomplish it if I can. However, I have put in a lot of effort, and that is one thing you cannot cheat at. Spend time picking a worthwhile niche, starting a blog, and producing consistent, useful material. Then observe the outcomes; there are countless potential outcomes.
19. What are you working on, now?
As I said we are building new courses around financial sectors. Eventually, we want to move on to courses around the technology sector as well.
IIM SKILLS generates about $1 million annually as an online platform. We intend to introduce approximately 10 new courses over the next three years in a variety of subjects like artificial intelligence, finance, and technology. We want to boost sales to $5 million annually.
Everything began in 2013 when Mr. Vaibhav Kakkar began posting on his channel Course Dekho. He talks about how blogging has helped him find the road to a successful profession. He knew anything and everything can be achieved; all you need is the appropriate attitude. With a resolve to explore new options, he entered the edu-tech industry.His down-to-earth demeanor and sensitivity for everyone are undoubtedly two of his best attributes. His maiden Edu-tech venture – IIM SKILLS – is now making the dream of several young aspirants come true.