CEO INTERVIEW - Vani Coach: helping businesses upskill their workforce at scale
Please share with us briefly what you do.
We help businesses upskill their workforce at scale through personalised communication fitness coaching.
Below par, communication fitness affects a professional’s performance and the business outcome. We help them raise their communication fitness levels through hyper-personalized coaching via our digital platform, vani.coach
What were you doing before this?
We were doing the same thing offline over the last 12 years. Engaged by large business enterprises, we coached their people across functions, from the shop floor to the top floor.
Describe your product. How does it work?
Just as Fitbit helps with physical fitness, or Headspace with mindfulness, Vani helps the learners practise communication fitness regularly under expert supervision.
Once a learner signs up, they undergo an evaluation with the designated coach. The coach then personalises their playbook on vani.coach. Learners practise daily and the coaches review their performance, share personal feedback and supplant the learning journey with the required content and experiences.
What are the key benefits?
Skill development is an effortful process. It demands a strategic plan, commitment and guidance for course correction.
The key benefit of signing up with vani.coach is that you have an expert coach supervising you throughout the learning journey. More importantly, Vani lowers the barriers to systematic practise. If you have a smartphone and an Internet connection, a personal coach is just a click away.
Who are your closest competitors?
https://www.quantified.ai/ https://www.liulishuo.com/en/ and https://business.busuu.com/ could be considered as some of our closest competitors. Online content players such as LinkedIn Learning could be considered as our indirect competitors.
Who is your first customer and how did that happen? What were they using before this, and why did they switch?
A large Indian Pharmaceutical company and a British FMCG firm were among our first customers for vani.coach. They were using other digital platforms before. The primary reason they switched was that we were willing to stake a significant portion as a success fee. The promise of a materially better Learning Outcome was the most compelling reason for them to switch.
What motivated you to start this business?
We live in an era where if you have enough money, you can go to the space for a joyride. And yet, in the same era we have hundreds of millions of people who perform below their potential because they struggle to communicate with clarity and confidence.
I myself struggled with this at the early stages of my career, and when I figured out a way to help others unlock their potential while running it as a business profitably at scale, it became a compelling opportunity to go after.
What is your biggest sacrifice to make this work?
It has been too much fun to think of anything as a ‘sacrifice’. As coaches, we have a ringside view to the transformation our learners go through. And that is immeasurably inspiring.
We have raised funds from Friends and Family, and a few Angel investors.
What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Targeted online events have been really successful for us. It has allowed us to connect our existing customers with the potential ones and that has generated a chain reaction of word of mouth as well.
Describe a typical workday
My typical working day involves listening to the customers and the users, learning (I read almost a book a day), and coaching. I am blessed to have a strong team that owns different business aspects to buy me the headspace to think about how we can be of value to our customers and the users.
Who has been the greatest influence in your business and why?
Sal Khan from Khan Academy and Sir Ken Robinson. Both of them have contributed to revolutionizing how we think about learning and education. We made a conscious effort to remain non-academic and focus on the learners’ needs and learning styles while designing the entire business model.
What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business and why?
The moments when I feel really proud and content are when our learners share their transformation stories. In my early days when I was coaching unemployed youth in India, one of them said that his dream job would be where he earns enough to send his daughter to a good school. Today he works as an AVP for a large IT company. I am fortunate and proud to be a part of thousands of such stories.
What is your favourite business failure (and what did you learn from it)?
This happened 8 years ago when I took up an ambitious project with a large enterprise customer and ended up allocating disproportionate amounts of attention and resources, setting us back by almost a year.
For vani.coach, we have been clear about finding the product-market fit and growing one category at a time.
If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him/her?
I will repeat what Marcel Proust said, “If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less, but to dream more, to dream all the time.”
It is natural to be assailed by doubts, especially when you want to do something that defies conventional wisdom. Counter it with your dreams, and you will do fine.
What’s one productivity hack you can’t live without?
No multitasking and practising mindfulness. With all the cacophony around, managing one’s attention has become almost survival-critical.
Getting to know Ashish :
First job - Intern (News Reporter) with The Indian Express
Someone you admire - Swami Vivekananda
Favorite book - English August by Upamanyu Chatterjee
Favorite Film - Mulholland Drive, David Lynch
Favorite Music - Bob Dylan, especially, Times They’re a Changin
Favorite author - Salman Rushdie and Orhan Pamuk
Favorite Gadget - Wacom Tablet
Last holiday - New York City
When you are not at work, where can we most likely find you? - Road Trip or reading a novel
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