Alumni Association Updates
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Naga Prasad
PGPMAX Class of 2012   
Chairman, People Combine Group

Previous Occupation: Co-founded People Combine Group in 1993 which runs educational institutions
Present Occupation: Chairman, People Combine Group
Sector: Education, Infrastructure and Hospitality
Work Experience: 20 years
Interests – Professional/Personal: 
Conceptualizing, coaching and mentoring

Can you tell us a little about your family background/history?
My father ran a for-profit school in Nuzvid, a small town in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh.I, along with my business partner, Mr. Rajasekhar,- studied in the same school. Coming from the country side, we had a mountainous challenge with English as a language and as a medium of instruction. Our collective struggle with our initial days of education motivated us to look at education as a career. The result is Vikas Residential Junior College. While we experimented with our educational venture, we stumbled upon PGPMAX which gave us a new perspective in life. I have an elder brother and a younger sister.

Briefly describe your personal and professional achievements (including recent awards\special projects)
The journey which started with Vikas Residential, a boarding campus for boys and girls at Vizag, became an inspiration for many more ventures. The result-: Oakridge International School, Andhra Pradesh’s first IB world school in Hyderabad came up in 2001 Oakridge spread its wings to Bengaluru, Mohali and Vizag. Oakridge’s Gachibowli campus boasts of many superlatives. It is India’s largest and Asia-Pacific’s second largest international school in terms of student strength. The schools are affiliated to IB, Cambridge and CBSE.

When Oakridge achieved a strong national presence, we decided to set up another chain of schools in 2010 with national curriculum, called the Westberry School. The first campus was set up in Tenali and the second one is coming up in Bhimavaram, both in Andhra Pradesh. While the Group’s school business was booming, we decided to foray into kindergarten education. In 2011, we started the play school chain ‘Oi’ (Open interactive). In a short span of time, the Group set up a record 50 Ois in Hyderabad, Bengaluru and a couple of other cities.

The Group has taken several novel initiatives in the education sector-, an online after-school support and assessment portal and;, a portal to connect students and universities across the globe. All the schools run by the Group operate with world class teaching aids including Educomp, iDiscoveri and, Resonance. Currently, the total strength of all the schools run by the Group is 7,500 and growing as you read.

Apart from education, the Group has also forayed into infrastructure and hospitality sectors. The famous highway food court 7 at Suryapet between Vijayawada and Hyderabad is owned by the Group.

The hard work and success seldom go unrecognized and appreciated. In 2009, The Times of India recognized me and my partner Rajashekar as “Game Changers” of AP. In 2010, India Today crowned us “Business Wizards” of AP.

Tell us about your profile pre ISB, and recap your professional life after ISB including your career progression?
The role hasn’t changed pre and post ISB, I continue to do the same. Post ISB, we have been able to attract the best of talent to work with us. We have now shifted our focus from operational issues and day-to-day firefighting to more strategic issues. ISB, for sure, has brought more rationality in my thinking and made me more open to feedback. Earlier, emotions used to dominate my decisions.

Describe your fondest memory at ISB
My partner Raj’s birthday on the 26th of August, 2012, is the fondest memory I have of ISB. The whole class dressed up as aged people in line with the theme conceived by our buddy Dr. Sriram. Everyone in the class lived up to the theme. It was a very touching and emotional moment.

In your personal life, how have you changed post-ISB? Do you see yourself doing something differently because you went to ISB? What has left a lasting impression?
ISB has had a huge impact on my life. It has boosted my self-confidence further and my standing in the society has gone up several notches. I believe my children have a standing example of what good education can do. My productivity has gone up significantly and I am much more organized now. The multi-tasking ability that I picked up at ISB has done wonders.

How do you think ISB has contributed to your career growth?
ISB has brought a paradigm shift in our thinking. Pre-ISB, most of our decisions were based on gut-feeling and intuition. Fortunately for us, it worked in our favour many times but there is no guarantee that luck would favour one forever. The stint at ISB clarified many concepts, reinforced some of our practices and seriously questioned some of our beliefs. For entrepreneurs like us, ISB has changed forever, the way we interact with the professional world. The biggest shift is in the way the Investor and vendor community perceives you. I have noticed that investors feel reassured about our strengths and commitment in view of our association with ISB.

If you have to sum up ISB in one word
Best in its class

What was the main highlight of your programme at the ISB?
Gala nights! They bonded the class very strongly. The course gave us real 60+ friends for life time.

Word of advice for the current class?
Don’t read the course content for grades. Live through it. That learning is more useful than grades.

What was your favourite course/class at ISB and why?
There are many. Top of mind is the class in Negotiation skills. Prof Dishan conducted the course very well, it almost felt like real life deal making. In the simulation exercise, I realized that all involved parties try to optimize their gain. Also, since it was the last course, I remember it more than the other classes.

Was there anyone during your time at ISB who acted as a mentor for you? Tell us a little about this relationship and why it was valuable.
There is no single individual I can think of. But my colleague, Mr. Rakesh Gupta (PGP, class of 2009), my partner and classmate Mr. Rajasekhar, ISB ex-dean Prof. MR and our senior Mr. Ramesh Mandava helped me in staying focused. In fact, it was Rakesh and Rajasekhar who inspired me to take up the PGPMAX course. 12. What are the areas that you can contribute to ISB? I think there are many ways in which I can contribute to ISB- recommending quality prospects to ISB, sending my colleagues to executive programmes at ISB, volunteering on admission panel, mentoring young entrepreneurs, advising the academic administrators, giving guest lecture to students and enhancing the ISB brand through my success.

What do you enjoy most about your current career position?

Buck stops with me. Lots of responsibility, but I believe that all failures are mine and success is that of the entire team. It keeps me composed.

What is the next new thing in the industry or vertical you are working in? Any trends that you can see?
I see lot is happening in the education space. Paradigm shifts are taking place in the industry. Firstly, technology has enabled students to learn at their own pace and at their convenience and I think it means a lot to the student community. This is a great leveler- provides a level playing field to both laggards and smart students. Suddenly the world has become flat. Never in human history, was this possible. With the advent of internet, tablet technology, multimedia content and writing applications the whole teaching- learning system is undergoing revolutionary change. Teacher’s advantage is not differential information. Classroom is not for conceptual learning. It is for experimenting. Teachers should be skilled enough in making the class experiential. I am working on this concept and have made tremendous progress. I see this as the next big trend.