Ninad Karpe

MD & CEO of Aptech Ltd.

Ninad Karpe is the Managing Director & CEO of Aptech Ltd. He was earlier Managing Director, CA (formerly known as Computer Associates) for India & SAARC. He had been associated with CA India since the company’s inception in the country.He held numerous management responsibilities in CA India that include setting up offices in India, managing marketing, PR, technical services, HR, operations and finance.In his capacity as Managing Director of the Indian operations of the world’s fourth largest software company, Ninad’s responsibilities included driving the adoption of CA’s technology and broadening and strengthening strategic partnerships in India. Earlier, Mr. Karpe was Executive Director of CA India.

1. What was the mandate given to you by the Board when you took over in your role?

Leadership in the industry, Scalability of our products and Profitability formed the three top mandates given to me by the board when I took charge in 2009.

2. How much of that has been achieved? What were the challenges faced?

We are on the way to become a truly global player in non-formal education & training, with operations in over 40 countries. The major challenge is a change in the education needs of the youth, with career education assuming greater significance than ever before.

3. How do you respond to the needs of changing market scenario (with an example)?

In a dynamic market such as Education & Training, policy changes do not happen very regularly. However, the availability of jobs/employment make for interesting & varied courses and lead to a change in the market scenario.

At present the entertainment & education (Edutainment) market is booming and thus animation, vfx, multimedia course are doing very well.

4. What are the key challenges your organization is facing currently? And what are the steps you are taking?

Regulatory issues with respect to scaling operations across the world. Different countries have varied laws that work best or against binding and linking vocational education to mainstream formal education.

The other being Student funding for non-formal higher studies/vocational education. This issue is being handled with the policy makers with a request to allow loans without collateral support to students.


DOMAIN/SECTOR

5. What are the key drivers in your sector?

  • Skill Gap
    • “Quantity and Quality” Gap in Emerging Markets, wherein the Government Expenditure needs to be targeted at more “basic/poverty” focused programs leaving a gap in the “Education Domain”
    • Rapid Change in Technologies and New Developments/practices which are weak points of Formal Sector characterized by bureaucracy
    • Aspirational Desire of the Parents and their Children to focus on “building an education propelled career” towards their upward economic and social mobility
  • Assessment
    • Technology Adaption
    • Transparency, Anti-Corruption/Paper Leakage
    • Speed
    • Positioning as “new age education brands”

6. How has the market evolved in the last few years?

  • Structural volatility – Excess Capacity in Formal Education (Vocationalization of Higher Education)
  • Low “Employment” Sentiment
  • Fragmentation of “Skill Domains”
  • Shift towards “Rural, Tier II/III towns”
  • Evolution of “Blended” Delivery Format : OV, Mobile Apps
  • Shorter Courses and “Degree”

7. How has the change in technology/globalization affected your sector?

  • Increased Agility, Awareness and Activism on account of Social Media and Digital Penetration
  • Increased Offerings and Choices to the Customer
  • Demanding Customers
  • Preference for Video based Content

8. Question regarding any recent news in the sector on policy/competition/growth, etc?

Recent thrust on skills for masses, creating job opportunities and adding value to available job profiles has created a strong movement of sorts.


PEOPLE ASPECT

9. What is your talent strategy? How do you draw the balance between home grown vs lateral hiring at the leadership level?

Our talent strategy is to retain talent by augmenting job satisfaction. Job satisfaction is ensured by establishing how employees contribute towards achievement of the organization’s goal, by continuous job enlargement and job rotation and by being committed towards employee development and encouraging them to upgrade their skills and knowledge. Employee growth and development is given a lot of importance. The HIPOs are identified by the senior leadership team and their potential is fully realized by assigning them with challenging projects, by giving them continuous feedback and giving them robust on-the-job training. Hence more than 75% of the senior positions are filled through home grown employees.

10. How does your organization identify and develop future leaders?

We follow the following process:-

  • The first step is we identify what are the key competencies, skills and knowledge required for the specific leadership positions.
  • Then from the pool of talent available, individual employees are identified who have the required key competencies, skills and knowledge for the position.
  • These employees are then put through rigorous development plan. The development plan’s focus is to upgrade the skills and knowledge of individual employee. During the development plan the employees are also assigned with new projects and challenging unfamiliar assignments. They are coached by senior leaders to enhance their leadership competencies with frequent evaluations and feedback. 

11. What are the 3 key aspects you look at when you hire your direct reportees?

The 3 key aspects that I look at when I hire my direct reportees are; how well the individual can handle the challenges of today’s VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) driven environment, how strong are the individual’s belief in the possibilities existing in the ever changing technologies and the social-economic trends and whether the individual has long-term orientation.

12. How much time do you spend on talent development and why?

We develop home-grown talent hence a lot of time is spent in talent development. We believe in creating career paths for our employees. Talent development at Aptech Ltd is considered as an investment, as it helps in upgrading skills and knowledge and also ensures job satisfaction, thus retention of HIPOs.


SHORT/MEDIUM TERM OUTLOOK & STEPS TAKEN

13. How does the growth prospect of your organization look like for the next 12-24 months?

  • Growth prospects have a positive bias with improving economic and industry sentiments
  • With increased focus across the world on employability through education, growth prospects are extremely bright.
  • International markets expansion is gaining momentum as more number of our brands reach each country
  • The new governments thrust on skills upgradation and re-skilling where required, looks very positive.

14. Will there be any significant change in the market dynamics in next few years? If so, what steps are you taking for the same?

  • The next few years would see the market attempt to “metamorph” at one extreme and “Transition” on the other on account of the “Digital platform”.
  • There is a growing push towards “results oriented, measurable outcome based learning” from the “belief based” long term career education – in a way “SIP/Installment plan” based educations enabling continuous mid-course re-alignments.
  • The strategic themes at Aptech
    • Think Digital (Mobile) First
    • Continuous evolution of Core and Augmented Products
    • “Certification” focused products

15. In a world full of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity (VUCA), innovation has become one of the most important factor to transform a crisis into an opportunity. How do you promote Innovation?

Honour, reward and promoting original, creative workable/executable ideas for growth will always promote innovation. I have always recommended and promoted original thinking as I strongly believe that original, commonsensical thinking will lead to better solutions to everyday problems.


PERSONAL

16. What are the 3 most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are today?

“Opportunity only knocks once” – I got an opportunity to switch over from being a professional to joining a corporate career. I accepted it and haven’t looked back.

17. What key lessons have you learnt from any mistakes, if any, made in the past? How would you do it differently?

Mistakes will always happen. The safer your decisions, the more the likelihood of mistakes. Also, if you keep thinking of lessons from your mistakes, you will get more conservative in your decision-making. Hence, I keep taking constant risks and continue taking risks every day.

18. How do you define & practice leadership?

Leadership is all about trustworthiness, integrity, knowledge, problem-solving skill, ownership, and compassion. Leadership qualities are integral part of the personality and is practiced on every-day basis. It reflects in behavior, decision making, and leading by example.

19. What message would you like to share with young professionals at the start of their career?

It is imperative for young professionals to realize early that leadership role is very tough and demanding. They need to strengthen their skills in decision making, problem solving, people management, etc. Being passionate in work, willingness to help/support people, compassion towards people, etc. are some of the other characteristics that will in long-term help them in building leadership personality. It is critical to be knowledgeable, build a trustworthy character which others admire and are willing to follow his/her leadership.

20. How do you draw a balance between work and your personal life?

Work-life balance has a perception issue. And the perception varies from culture to culture and geography to geography. In some work culture, work and personal life might be viewed in silos. But, for me, work-life balance is all about managing/prioritizing work whichever is urgent/critical irrespective whether you are at home or at office.


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