'You will learn how 2 and 2 can be made 22'
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How do you overcome fear? By getting past it, says Prahlad Kakkar, ad filmmaker and maverick marketing guru. And now, he is going to teach how to do this and more at the Prahlad Kakkar School of Branding and Entrepreneurship, which he launched this March, in association with Subhashi Ghai’s Whistling Woods International, a media and communications institute.
Of the two programs offered at the institute, the certificate course that might interest entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs is a two-year fellowship in business and entrepreneurship. The alumni and students will also get to be a part of the 300-member “clan”, as Kakkar calls it, which includes Subhash Ghai, Piyush Pandey, Capt R Gopinath, Mahesh Murthy, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Gary Kirsten, Jaggi Vasudev, and so on. In an interview with Entrepreneur, Kakkar spoke about what makes his course stand out. Edited excerpts:
What makes an entrepreneur, in your opinion? Are you one yourself?
When your life becomes your job, you become an entrepreneur par excellence. That’s because you never watch the clock. You own your job, and when do that, you have no 9-to-5 --you work round the clock. Why would you even want to party when this is better than partying? I won’t like to call it a job; I’ll call it a preoccupation.
Work in our society is connected with drudgery, boredom, and unhappiness. Everytime you think of work, you think of escaping. But if you choose your work carefully, and if you put your passion into it, it will become your career. I don’t have one career. I have many careers. I have a film business, a scuba diving school, a cigar brand in my name, and I run a restaurant. I help with the marketing of brands, I consult with the creative aspect of many brands, and all that is interconnected with what I do. I also lecture in a lot in B-schools.
Is there a visible gap that you see when it comes to formal training in entrepreneurship?
The course that we have created didn’t happen accidentally. It has been there for the past 35 years. We’ve been training people within the organisation; not a lot of them, but five-six of them at a time, for a minimum of two years. And then they graduate and we kick them out and let them compete against us as independent producers. If they don’t want to join advertising, they can look at other avenues. Some of them have become brilliant scuba diving instructors.One of them has become an outstanding international jewellery designer, Farah Khan. They are all creative, they are all entrepreneurs and they all have passion. They got a taste of everything – the film school, the kitchen in the office, the scuba diving school in the Andamans.
What I have noticed in our curriculum is that the students are beyond fear, and that is what you need in an entrepreneur. If you are paralysed by fear, then what is the point? What is the use if you are hunting for a safe spot, and are looking for a job?
Can one call that it the USP at the school – that one learns to be fearless?
Fear is an important part of safety. It makes you careful. At the end of it, are we looking for youngsters who want jobs, because there are only so many jobs. Or are you looking for those who own their jobs and then can create them for others as well?
What are the extra tools that one can expect to be armed with at the end of the course?
We expect you to already know the rules of engagement. So we only do a quick revision of the rules of engagement for people who are from the arts side and have no idea of statistics and analytics. What is special about us is that for your final exam, you do two things. You get to run a sick company for one-and-a-half years. We take over a company, and you have to run it back to health. Within the organisation, we have a management company, which is a consulting management company, and for the one year, you become a part of it. And if you need another year and are doing well, we help and pay you for it.
In the curriculum, the exam has one simple rule. All the rules of engagement have been given to you. You have to now change the rules for tomorrow. Every year, the academic curriculum will change according to what the tips the current batch leave for the coming batch. You don’t have to know the rules of engagement by heart, but know how to change them. Life is changing so quickly. Why shouldn’t the rules of engagement change, too?
You exemplify creativity. How have you married it to the entrepreneurship course?
It’s everywhere. For all other such courses, two and two is four. How it can be 22, is what I want them to explore. How do you add that value? Because I will not accept anything less than 22. We have a clear ethical centre to our studies, where value is more important than money. When you are only talking about money, two and two will always be four. When you talk about value, it can be 22 as well. When you add value, there is no end to it. The best part, you can author it, it belongs to you. You can take it to the grave, and beyond, at times.
What is the extra that I can expect from the course?
You will be a part of the clan that is 300-strong. They are all brilliant entrepreneurs in spirit, thorough professionals, and own their job. They take decisions and take responsibility for their decisions. Taking responsibility for your decisions is a very important part of your learning.
You can pick up the phone anywhere, and say I am from such and such batch, and I need help. We have venture capitalists, film professionals, production managers, experts in hospitality, scuba diving teachers, you name it. It is a clan. The only identity that they have is a small tattoo on their right bum cheek, at the belt line, and you have to identify yourself. (Guffaws of laughter).
How good are you as an entrepreneur?
Rotten -- because I have no value for money. But I have had such a great time in my life, that even if I have broken even, and if I had to pay for all that I did, in terms of travel, learning, adventure, jumping out of planes, the reptile encounters, I would have to pay a fortune. So I consider myself really rich.
But it’s only a certificate course. Are you looking at accreditation?
We are only going to be looking at accreditation of people who deserve us. You will love our outdoors. If you are afraid of heights, we will make you jump out of plains, scuba dive if you are scared of drowning, we will make you have encounters with sharks if you have a fear of nature. We will make you non-phobic about nature. We teach you to respect nature.
Who do you look up to as an entrepreneur?
Richard Branson. We are going to have a little hall in his name. No chairs, no tables. You lie down, you look at the ceiling, and you close your eyes and you dream. And then you wake up and follow that dream. It’s called the Richard Branson Dream Room.