Getting good people is a huge issue before Start-ups: Interview with FLIP Founders

 | August 29,2011 01:19 pm IST

Anjali and Jaishankar  also Managing Trustees of the Manjunath Shanmugam Trust, whose objective is to improve governance in public life..

Anjali Mullatti (IIML '93) and H. Jaishankar (IIMB '91) are the founders of Finitiatives Learning India Pvt Ltd (FLIP), a young start-up, which offers India’s largest range of e-learning and certifications across Banking & Financial Services (BFS).

The Trust played an important role in ensuring justice in Manjunath Shanmugham's murder case. Manjunath was an IIML (2003) alumnus and IOCL employee. The Trust also launched India’s first National Right to Information act helpline.

Anjali received the ‘Contributor of the Year’ award in 2007, from the IIM Lucknow Alumni Association, for her excellent work with the Manjunath Shanmugham Trust.


CoolAvenues spoke to Anjali and Jai about their venture, challenges they face as a start-up, their fight for justice and much more...

Tell us something about yourself
AM: I’m from a small town – Dharwar; my parents were both professors and my older siblings academic achievers. So, though neither my college classmates nor professors knew anything about CAT, I did and took it – and to my astonishment, got through! After graduating from IIM (L) in ’93, I worked as a Branch Manager in BlowPlast Ltd., then in Bank of America, and my last employer was Cognizant Tech. Solutions – where I looked after pre-sales and domain competency for the Financial Services group.

JS: I am an IIM B (’91 batch) alumnus. I have worked across MNC banks such as ANZ, Citi and Deutsche Bank (DB). My last assignment at DB was as, Head – Foreign Exchange and Short term Derivatives for DB India.

Tell us something about FLIP
AM: FLIP combines our expertise in Banking & Finance, with our passion for training. FLIP, which launched about 1 ½ years ago, follows a unique, scalable, high quality model of teaching. 

We chose to base out of Mysore – though our team comes from as far away as Agartala! We now number 19 people, mostly MBAs, plus a dedicated tech and support team.

JS: It has a unique model, where senior practitioners actually write the content, and MBAs in finance help design this content into highly interactive e-learning courses. This model was validated, when FLIP was selected in the World Top Four in the 2010 Global Giveback contest; the only non-American entrant to be so honoured in any category.

FLIP has over 3000 retail users across the country, and their corporate clientele include the National Stock Exchange, HCL Technologies, Axis Bank, Kotak Bank to name a few.


How the idea did come to your mind? Whose brain child is it?
AM: The idea evolved over a period of time, through discussions between both of us! Each of us has complementary skill sets and work experience in different areas of Banking; hence we each combined ideas to build FLIP’s business plan.

: Our training experience started with Catalyst Consulting, a corporate training firm focused on Banking and Financial Services (BFS). Having trained over 10,000 professionals across six countries, we wished to leverage this training experience into a more scalable model via e-learning. We also found an absolute absence of any well recognised employability enhancing certifications in Banking, in India. The idea was mutually fleshed out.


Working with your spouse is a challenge or advantage?
AM: Certainly a big advantage. It’s very hard being an entrepreneur; you need someone you can trust to constantly bounce off ideas, who will lift you up when times are hard – and you’re not torn between spending time with your spouse and your work!

JS: It is definitely an advantage, as we know each other’s strength’s and weaknesses well.
On the lighter side, we land up talking a lot about work even during our leisure time.


Has work tension ever dominated your family life or vice-versa?
AM: Some times, yes. If you work together, you never switch off. We sometimes realize that all our conversations are about FLIP!

JS: We wouldn’t say that, but it is a fact, that start-ups require a great amount of dedication and effort. One step to achieve a balance,is that we have consciously decided not to be anywhere near our laptops post Saturday afternoon. It works most of the time

What are the major challenges before a start-up in India?
AM: The entire entrepreneur eco-system is very nascent. Relatively, though, it is much easier for a services business. Our education, and our society stifles creativity and risk taking. People get into debt pretty fast – educational loans, car loans, housing loans – and then don’t wish to take risks. For us, and for every start-up I’ve ever spoken to, getting good people is a huge issue.

JS: That's right, the biggest challenge today for a start-up is to get good people to work in it. Indians want the thrills of a start-up combined with a stable salary. The basic risk-reward equation in a start-up doesn’t seem to get across to a lot of candidates that we interview.


How has been the response so far?
AM: We have over 4500 users across India, about 3000 of them retail- individuals. It is extremely exciting for all of us at FLIP, that individuals from all parts of India hear of us. Our percentage of repeat customers is very high, and we get heart-warming feedback. So, yes, it’s been great.

JS: In 18 months we have: premium corporate clientele such as the NSE; three certifications co-branded with the NSE; Certification endorsement from leading banks in India – ‘they prefer a FLIP certified candidate’.


What are your short term and long term goals?
AM: Our short term goals are more operational – to build a strong team and grow the business.



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Guest on 08/30/11 at 08:44 pm

What utter nonsense.

Guest on 09/02/11 at 08:46 am

"Don’t give away lots of equity right at the outset – at the beginning, it seems great that someone’s willing to give you lots of cash for something so intangible. In a year or two, it’ll be worth much more, and you’ll have lost both control and money."

INTERESTING THOUGH but dont you think that without outside capital the company wont grow at all. I think control is an imp aspect but then whats more important - ownership with control in growth right?