Face forward: papier mâché masks bring out the best in T.T. Venkatesh.
A toy-sized robot that snakes through air ducts to clean them.
Behind the Scenes
Companies that help eco-friendly TERI take care of its campus and students.
How I Did It
Manek N. Daruvala, (T.I.M.E)
Manek N. Daruvala's business is managing his Rs 188-crore business.
By Sunaina Sehgal
Imaging by Binesh Sreedharan
Manek N. Daruvala never saw
himself as a businessman.
When he took up tutoring as a
part-time job though, he was
forced to think otherwise. Not
only did he instinctively take
to teaching, he quickly
realised that the coaching
business was a lucrative idea.
Today, Triumphant Institute of
Management (T.I.M.E), his
institute has grown into a
Rs 188 crore company. Still,
Daruvala makes sure he has
time for his real business—
I don't come from a family of entrepreneurs though my dad did manage
a medical store. But, I didn't spend time in the shop learning the
ropes, as they say.
As a boy, I never imagined I'd run a company one day. I studied in a
small school in Devlali near Nasik. I was a good student. My future
was well mapped out. After school, I pursued my BSc in chemistry
from Bombay University. I topped there. I also got admission into
IIM, Ahmedabad. I knew I'd finish my studies and start working.
I wasn't passionate about business management. I did an MBA
because by then there was quite a buzz around it. Everyone was talking
about it. So, I decided to join the bandwagon. Even during the
course, I never even once thought of running a business.
Right after IIM, I worked for Godrej and then Boyce. I was part of the
firm's marketing and sales division for five years. It was in my job that
I first started thinking about doing something of my own.
Godrej was paying me Rs 8,000. It was a decent salary but I was struggling.
I had to repay my student loan and support my parents financially.
I ended up having to look for part-time jobs. I saw teaching as a
viable option. Soon, I was tutoring college students. Over time I
realised that the effort and energy spent on my regular job could be
synergised into something more meaningful like a coaching centre.
It might not have been apparent to even me at first. But, I am ambitious.
Extra money has always been welcome. The yeh dil maange more feeling was always there. Since I was
dabbling with education already, I figured
it'd be the right sector for me to begin in.
I didn't have a plan to start with nor did I
extensively research the market. I did some
basic study on the courses and curriculum
I should make available. There were no
concrete, fancy business plans.
I roped in a former colleague of mine from
Godrej, P. Viswanath, and together we
decided to start Triumphant Institute of
Management Education (T.I.M.E.) in 1992
With a plan in place, I quit Godrej. But I
didn't stop working altogether. I joined VJ
Info Systems, Hyderabad as its head of education
and training division. I thought it
was important to understand the education
sector. This was in 1991. During the
interview, I was frank with them. I told my
bosses at VJ that I'd like to start my own
outfit sometime and couldn't commit to a
long tenure with them. They welcomed my
honesty and let me come on board.
We realised that a steady input of resource
was a must for a start-up. So while Viswanath
quit Godrej, I continued to work for another
year. Together we pooled in Rs 16,000, borrowed
Rs 8,000 and rented out a 150 sq ft office.
We pegged our firm as a training institution
for the all-India Common Admission Test
(CAT), conducted by the IIMs.
Since we both had jobs, we would take
classes in the morning before work—
6.30am to 8.30am—and in the evenings
after work—6pm to 8pm. It wasn't easy to
get that first student. There were several
similar local outfits mushrooming everywhere.
Although there were some big
brands nationally like Brilliant Tutorials in
Bengaluru and IMS in Mumbai through
the 1980s, Hyderabad didn't have a brand
I still vividly remember our first student
inquiry. He was happy with the course,
structure, the teaching method. But he
wanted to know how many students we had signed up already. I didn't have a figure,
so I spoke the truth—zero. He looked a
little worried but he still enrolled.
Throughout my life, I maintained we'll speak
the truth. Sooner or later, people get to know
when you bluff. To succeed, one should
under-commit and over-deliver. That has
worked well for us. When we started, we
promised to devote six hours to the classes
but ended up giving eight. It built great wordof-
mouth for us.
However, not everything went smoothly. The
first year we had 62 students. The next CAT
season we had 180. The numbers looked
bleak but by the end of our third year, we suddenly
grew to 500 students.
Soon Viswanath and I were heading the company
full-time as well as teaching. We didn't
have any employees and used to sort out the
study material ourselves. It didn't matter that
we were overworked. I loved teaching young
people. I strongly recommend it to everybody.
It also helped that we were young ourselves.
I was 29 and most of our students were
in their early 20s. We had a great rapport. I
was more like a confidant, less like a teacher.
Over the years I've become a bit obsessive
about teaching. I can't completely give it up
though I've reconciled myself to the fact that I
can't be as involved as before. I still teach at
the Hyderabad and Delhi centres. Why
shouldn't I? It's now a part of me.
As T.I.M.E. grew, we began focusing on quality
faculty. We hired an IIM graduate. Unfortunately,
our students didn't enjoy his method
and we had to let him go. This was one lesson
learnt the hard way. The students almost ousted him. We realised that no matter how
educated our faculty is teaching remains an
art. It needed to be learnt. This is when we
decided to train our faculty.
We consciously aim at building and developing
every resource we hire. Each faculty
member is especially trained in all the subjects
they are expected to teach. It's a continuous
process. We also give a post-orientation
demo where a faculty member has to take inhouse
classes on a topic of their choice. Our
training has helped us stay ahead of the rest.
Today we have 205 centres in 108 towns.
To be honest, numbers, however attractive,
are never indicators of quality. Once we had
to close down a centre in Indore. It was a
heart-wrenching experience. But it had to
be done. It wasn't that our business model
wasn't working and we wouldn't make
money. We just weren't getting the right
quality of students and faculty.
As they say, what does not kill you makes
you stronger. I'm a person who likes to challenge
himself. I believe that if one office is
shut, I'll start five more that are better than
before. I never give up.
Today, we have a pan-India presence. Over
50 IIT and IIM graduates in our core team.
We've grown significantly in revenue. We've
introduced new programmes like the "foundation
programme" which tutors young students
from Classes VII to X on basic
mathematics, physics and chemistry. We've
also forayed into the preparatory school space
with T.I.M.E. Kids. We have 50 such centres.
Yet, I don't feel that I've "made it". I wish I
never do. I want to enjoy my journey.