Amit J. Sharma studied Mechanical Engineering from Karnatak University and Management from IIM-C and carries over 24 years of experience in the areas of R&D, Business Excellence, and Operations in diverse industries including Automotive, Oil & Gas, Telecom, IT, Market Research, Consulting, and Education.
Amit holds multiple certifications in Change Management, Lean Six-Sigma (Master Black Belt), and TQM from premium institutions such as Arizona State University, Delphi Corporation, JUSE, and IIM-A. He has been recognized for his contributions in the areas of Quality by various bodies. He played a crucial role in enabling Indus Towers Ltd (Formerly Bharti Infratel Ltd) to become the first company in the telecom sector to win the coveted Deming Prize.
After a fulfilling journey through the corporate world, Amit decided to pursue his passion for Education and Technology and founded PurpleWest Education and Technologies Pvt Ltd., with a mission of embedding principles of Quality in foundational education. Amit is also a member of Governing Council of the Indian Society for Quality (ISQ) and is the Honorary Secretary of the NCR Chapter of ISQ.
In addition to PurpleWest, Amit is also helping a few MNCs to establish their R&D and manufacturing facilities in India.
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Table of Contents
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Amit J. Sharma: One thing that brought me into what I am doing today is my passion for Quality. I was fortunate to work at crucial positions with the best of Japanese, Indian and American companies early on in my career. This exposure not only gave me the confidence to facilitate bold transformations but also sensitized me to have the humility to respect other perspectives and continue to learn. I never joined a competitor of any of my employers but rather switched industries whenever I felt saturated. That helped me restart my learning curve, every time. I love to undertake new projects and transforming /building a business in an altogether new industry is extremely exciting.
As far as my current project is concerned, it is an interesting amalgamation of Quality, Technology, and Knowledge. Being first a student myself and then a father, I felt that Education was one area where we needed to see the application of Quality principles. Though we have seen many start-ups deploy technology in education to make jazzy animations, the personal touch, agility, and availability of a Guru who not only masters a subject but also understands the psychology of the student, has been clearly missing.
Quality is not about customer satisfaction or delight anymore, the future belongs to hyper-personalization because every customer is unique. Students need to be served with personalized and meaningful education, upholding high standards of Quality, in true spirit. That is the only way to make them Industry-Ready as they grow up. That is the most important service for society.
With this thought, a team of competent educators with relevant qualifications and a brilliant track record of transforming students came together to form Team PurpleWest.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Amit J. Sharma: I believe everyone has her/his share of hard times. In my case, I was fortunate to be surrounded by family and great friends when the tough times hit. I had to face setbacks on emotional, moral, and financial fronts all at the same time. I had to clear the debts arising out of a medical situation in my family, fund my daughter’s higher education, and fund my business, all at the same time, with no consistent source of income. Giving up was not an option!
I learned how to downgrade the lifestyle in a dignified way and optimize the cost of living. At first, it felt difficult to tell the kids about the downgrades but soon we came to a situation where we were brainstorming and evaluating ideas for optimizing the family expenses, together. Support extended by my friends has been an immense morale booster, I thank God for the same.
Team PurpleWest made sure that we upheld the principles despite having just a handful of customers in the beginning. We did not buckle to the desperation to accelerate our growth, rather cautiously took baby steps to increase our customer base only in proportion to the investments that we could make to maintain the standards of Quality.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. What’s the worst advice you received?
Amit J. Sharma: The worst advice I received was to not start-up, especially in the times of adversity topped up by the pandemic. To me, adversity was the driving force and pandemic was resetting the norms giving a unique opportunity to those who wanted to start-up. It was the adversity that made the Team PurpleWest come together and bond well and grow into a strong ecosystem. Our Teaching partners were extremely cooperative as we supported one another to make little steps towards collective growth. As an outcome, we are a great team today.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Amit J. Sharma: Current times are offering new uncertainties, problems, and opportunities. It is easy to get overwhelmed in such times. It is important to define your scope and maintain your focus. To me resilience comprises of following 3 things:
- Stay focused on what you signed up for, regardless of how lucrative another idea appears. Things might not go as per your initial plans and expectations but don’t get distracted. Yes, course corrections might be needed, focus on fundamentals and results will follow
- Never get disheartened. You might not achieve your initial targets. Your hard work might appear to be going down the drain. You might fail. But at least, you took an initiative. Pat yourself for that and try again.
- Never be complacent. You might get the taste of initial success, don’t let it get on to your head. Stay humble and respect your values and those of others. Listen to your customers. Life is a sine wave, listening and learning help when you are at the lowest ebb.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Amit J. Sharma: Our unyielding commitment to Quality in addressing the needs of every individual student is what differentiates us. We enable this through the following:
- Offer agility and flexibility to students: We are available when the student wants us. Senior students sometimes like to study at night. Why should they be required to wait for the day to come up in order to get their doubts resolved? We make efforts to schedule our classes as per the requirements of students
- Don’t charge in advance, have confidence in your Quality: While many consider it healthy to receive the fee for the entire course /year in advance, I sincerely believe it to be an unhealthy practice in the area of education. An institution would charge its customers in advance only when they are not sure of the Quality that they would offer. Our customers (parents) have the option of paying monthly, weekly, or even daily. It is fulfilling for me to share that our customers pay without reminders while expressing their satisfaction with our services. We allow them the flexibility to pay as per their financial situation.
- Have only Qualified Masters as teachers: Quality education can only be delivered if we have a teacher who can answer every possible question on the subject. We recruit teachers with PG/Ph.D. degrees and a strong track record for senior students. For juniors, we deploy teachers who have been professionally trained on international, modern teaching methodologies. Our teachers also undergo regular training on psychology
- Use Technology to personalize the services: We use AI-based algorithms to dynamically monitor the performance of every individual student and offer them revision material and remedial tests. The real-time reports are available to the teachers and mentors who utilize those to tailor the approach and teaching methodology.
What do you consider are your strengths when dealing with staff workers, colleagues, senior management, and customers?
Amit J. Sharma: I started my career as a shop floor trainee. Empathizing with people at various levels comes easy to me. I make sure that I:
- Ensure my availability for them
- Allow freedom to experiment
- Calibrate frequently on the common understanding of values and goals
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Amit J. Sharma: Well, when you start something new, your project is nothing but a reflection of your own self. It is extremely important for a leader to be aware of his own brand that reflects his value system. A reason for most start-ups to fail is when the founders tend to build something that doesn’t resonate with their personal values.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
Amit J. Sharma: I generally follow a combination of Transformational and Participative styles. These two styles foster teamwork and help build long-term trust and confidence especially when you are working to give a practical shape to innovative ideas. They allow room for free thinking and experimentation. Once we are into a project, it is hard to identify who is the leader, we lead together with mutual respect and the work is divided equally amongst us. These two styles complement my strengths very well. Having said that, I would also admit that one has to switch between the leadership styles or follow an amalgamated style depending on the nature of work and/or people working with.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Amit J. Sharma: Don’t wait for the right time. NOW is the right time. Even if you were to fail, it makes sense to fail early, learn and try again. Don’t be in a rush to be profitable, follow the principles of Quality, empathize with your customers in true spirit. Profits and valuation will follow.
What’s your favorite “leadership” quote and how has it affected the way you implement your leadership style?
Amit J. Sharma: “All of us do not have equal talent. But, all of us have equal opportunity to develop our talents” – Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
At first, this quote inspired me to keep learning new things as I explored different industries and newer domains. As I moved up the leadership ladder, this quote was key for me to set an example that learning never stops and one should always look forward to learning new things. This quote also helped me inspire my colleagues towards realizing their true potential by experimenting and continuous self-development.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Amit J. Sharma for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Amit J. Sharma or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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