It is high time that we accept the fact that we face the computer screen for a major part of our lives. Also a large part of our time is spent on working on Microsoft Excel for any kind of data or analytic work. We simply treat MS Excel as a ‘data holder’ and end up spending hours struggling to get any meaningful analysis or smart information. And why is that so? Simply speaking, we haven’t learnt or explored the power of MS Excel. No wonder, ability to use MS Excel is a must have skill for any professional today.
As an investment banker at J.P. Morgan, 25 year old Rishabh Pugalia, was super passionate about working on MS Excel. Being a Chartered Accountant, he knew the plight of finance professionals who would spend hours laboring for routine jobs which could be done on MS Excel in a matter of few minutes. While attending an in-house training program for Analysts, he realized this huge opportunity and hence, quit a high flying investment banking career with one simple aim – Teach MS Excel in a simple manner to professionals and career aspirants, so that they can achieve much more.
He started Excel Next in December 2009 in Kolkata with the first training batch of just two participants. Over the past two and a half years his company Excel Next has already trained over 1,500+ participants across 10-cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and is one of the first port of call for top corporates for any MS Excel training needs in the country.
Tell us your story, you started with only 2 participants, what kept you going?
RP: “I started the firm with just one training program – Advanced Excel for Finance, Audit & MIS Reporting. From the beginning, my primary objective was to always ensure that we be the best in whatever we do. If the learning is meaningful and the participants are able to benefit from the training, the numbers will keep on flowing. And that’s what exactly happened – from my first batch of two participants, we grew to a stage where we conduct in-house training programs with up to 40 Corporate Delegates in the same batch and that too, across several cities. We have conducted in-house training programs for top notch names such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Tata Power, Druk Power, RS Software, Manpower Group, Intelligroup, KC Thapar Group, Family Credit etc. Additionally, professionals from companies like TCS, IBM, HSBC, Deloitte, Kotak Mahindra, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank etc. have attended our public programs.”
So what differentiates your institute? Why do so many corporates engage you?
RP: Well, we believe in the 4 pillar strategy, which comprises of -
- Post-Training retention: “We use story technique, mnemonics and meaningful analogies in our training programs, thus, keeping the participants engaged and ensuring best post-training retention.”
- Application based approach: “We take out additional time in studying the business processes of the client, ERP used, current level of understanding of the nominated participants. This helps us in customizing the training content and providing the participants the guidance on precisely the areas they require assistance in.”
- Consistency: “We have witnessed that majority of the existing training firms bid for a training project first and then outsource the assignment to freelance trainers. We avoided this shortcut technique and groomed in-house trainers specialized to their specific domains of expertise, thus, maintaining unbeatable consistency in quality of delivery of the training program. As a result, almost all of our corporate clients have engaged us more than once, and have even recommended to their clients!”
- Managing heterogeneous groups: “Our trainers’ strong communication skills and management capabilities (given their rich industry exposure) enable us to conduct successful training programs even with a heterogeneous group – where participants are from different departments, line of services and levels of management. This has resulted in top notch feedback ratings consistently and repeat training assignments from the same clients.”
So have you added any other programs, ever since starting up?
RP: “Today, Excel Next covers training domains such as VBA & Macros, Financial Modeling for Project Finance, PowerPoint for Corporate Presentations.”
Tell us something about the journey so far?
RP: “It has been a period of triumphs, consistent 7-days work weeks, occasional bouts of self-doubting and accelerated learning experience. If I take a compensatory off for all the weekends foregone and casual leaves in the last 2.5 years, I shouldn’t be working for the next one year” chuckles Rishabh. “The journey hasn’t been without its share of downsides. I lost significant amount of capital in two partnership ventures I invested in and in both cases, it was a pure mismanagement and fraudulent intent of the other partner. It goes without saying that I learnt a lot of lessons – so many of them that I can write a book on it.”
So what’s keeping you and Excel Next team excited now?
RP: “Soon enough, our online video learning platform will be ready and we intend to reach to a wider range of audience and bring in scale to our business model.”
Get that Excel formula correct, here.
-Murtuza Rohawala, Founder & CEO of Edfin Consultancy which provides strategy and financial consulting to a lot of promising businesses, actively mentors students from various institutes in India.