Upping the Ante!
Kokoro is a Japanese term which, though difficult to translate in English, literally means a unity or synchronisation of the mind, body and spirit! In today’s fast moving world, a person needs to be both mentally and physically fit to cope up with the rapid changes we are facing every single day. Education makes a person complete and now it has become a norm to travel to whichever corner of the world required, in search of a person’s dream. It definitely is not an easy task to identify the right country and educational institution to pursue your dreams. However, when there is a tried and tested companion to help you make your choice, with a wealth of over twenty years of experience, it would be of invaluable help; and that is exactly what Vaasantosh Venkatesan and his company Planet Education bring to the table! Tailoring a fitness routine to suit your individual self, taking into account your personal, lifestyle and career-oriented constraints into consideration and whipping you into shape with that extra care, is fitness coach Haresshvar Sakthivelu – who has an excellent track record in this field. When these two youngsters come together and turn entrepreneurs with a nutrition supplement company named Level Up Nutrition, you can expect it to reach great heights!
Photography: Nithin Barath
Styling: Pansy Raja
Hair and Makeup: Vurve Signature Salon
Location: Savera Hotel
Vaasantosh Venkatesan, known as Santosh, is the Regional Director of Planet Education, heading the Southern division including Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala. This company, is an overseas educational consultant and has been in existance for over 22 years now, providing both on-shore and off-shore assistance to all students who want to pursue their education and career, overseas. Planet Education was founded by Mr. Sanket Shah and is currently headed by Mr. Gagan Singh.
Check out these excerpts from RITZ Magazine’s recent conversation with Vaasantosh Venkatesan. What made you choose this as your career path?
After my graduation in Australia, I was working in the corporate sector but somehow, was never satisfied with what I was doing. I wanted to try my hand at sales and got into the sales field. That is when I found out that I was always happy being a part of somebody’s journey so my idea was to get into the education industry as I wanted to give back to the community that I came from. Considering my experience as an overseas student, who went abroad at the age of 16, I did not have a smooth experience. So, I wanted to give students who are planning to study overseas, a better experience, clearer process and far more support to them.
Which are the best countries for overseas education?
That’s a great question. We cannot just randomly take a particular country. It always depends on the student – what kind of grades they have, what fields of interest they have and every country has a different immigration requirement. A student might want to go to the US but they might not clear the immigration requirements. When they come to us, we make sure that they are given the right advice as to what would suit them, especially the immigration requirements that they would be able to clear as well as the financial and academic requirements, based on the country.
How do you connect with the different educational institutions in various countries?
Planet Education was established by Mr. Sanket Shah, who is the founder of the company. As we have been in this business for over twenty years, we have established bonds with various universities and currently we are the second generation in the business. We are here to maintain the relationships with these universities, globally. We also attend events organised by different universities to generate new relationships and connections.
How do you help students aspiring to study overseas?
We help the students through the entire process. Even when a student comes to us with no idea of what to do next or without any plans for their future too, we help by counselling them. When we mention counselling, it is basically getting to know the student and not a psychometric analysis on anything. We try and get to know the student and their requirements better so we would know how to serve them best.
Tell us a little about your biggest success stories so far…
We have been in this industry for over 22 years and nearly two generations. Most of the students we have helped, come back to us while referring others they know. A number of our students have now settled abroad and are living the life they have always dreamed of. When these people bring their cousins, friends or other relatives to us, stating Planet Education is the place to go to, it makes us proud. Considering that we have sent about 35,000 students overseas in the past 22 years, we look at that as our biggest success.
What are the basic things that a student wanting to go study overseas should look into?
The first thing that they should look into is that, they are not going there just for education. When you step out of your own country, you become a global citizen. Going abroad is an experience and it doesn’t stop with education. If somebody goes for a bachelor’s degree like I did nine years ago, they’re not going to be the same person when they’re done with their education just like how I am a different person now. When a person is in India, there are many things that shape you while when someone is abroad, there are a whole lot of other things that would shape you. A person should not look at just the education and the experience but also what kind of a person they are going to be in this society when they are done with their education! Also, in this current day and age where we have access to everything available on the internet and majority of the international universities have an online portal, we as an agency provide better assistance as we have seen quite a few students and we are well versed with the immigration formalities and we would be able to assist you in making this journey smooth.
When did you decide that you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
I have never been a desk-job kind of person. I did that for a year but quit it almost as soon as I finished a year. I was not motivated enough to do it or to simplify it, every morning I was not excited enough to go and work and the day that I felt least excited was the day I decided to quit and start something on my own. However, I realised that I was way too young and was not gifted naturally with certain talents so I decided to go and learn those talents. That is when I decided to get into sales and joined a company that was doing door-to-door sales. I began knocking on people’s doors, selling different things from cleaning products to raising charity funds. After doing that for a few years, I asked myself – “What next?” I wanted to apply the skills I had learnt on something else, especially to help people.
What are the basic challenges that an upcoming entrepreneur faces?
The first thing is buying into people’s trust, including an investor’s. You could have a great idea but without the proper backing or financial support, it would be difficult. I don’t come from a business background. My parents supported me in my education but the entrepreneur that I am today and whatever investments I have made today are all from the money that I have earnt and the connections and relationships that I have built with people over these years. Personally, I feel that in India there are not many networking opportunities where young entrepreneurs like us get to go and meet people and share our ideas or vision. I feel that a lot of people give up easily when they don’t find the right partner or backing. You might get the money today or at a later stage but as long as people don’t give up and have a clear vision and work towards it, they will definitely be long-lasting in the market.
What other business ventures have you branched out into?
I’ve always had this fascination for fitness. I have a very good friend – Haresshvar, with whom I’ve built a friendship over a period of thirteen years. We decided to get into the field of fitness with a company called Level Up Fitness, which basically provides all types of supplements. We deliver the best quality supplements at the most affordable of prices.
Tell us a little more about Level Up…
Level Up is at its very nascent stages and is less than about four months old. We came up with the name while sitting and just casually talking. We did not actually think too much or research too much to arrive at the name. It has always been Haresshvar’s and my vision to get into the field of fitness but we faced the same challenges like financial backing and lack of networking. However, considering Haresshvar’s expertise in the fitness field, we decided to try something in this arena and we did not have much to lose. Both of us are just in our mid-20’s and there wasn’t much to lose apart from a few lakh rupees. We just decided to act upon our idea and took action on it.
What are your immediate plans for Level Up?
(Touch Wood!) We are on track for our projected sales for the end of this year. The next plan is to make sure that our supplements reach out to the general public. The main reason we started Level Up is to bring to the knowledge of all the people that supplements are not just for those who are into body building or fitness alone. Even a layman can take supplements. The name itself says it all; they’re supplements and not a substitute for your regular meal. We also want to ensure that we’re competing with the number one brands in India, by the end of this year.
At a very young age, you are already juggling many hats. What other arenas are you planning to explore?
As a person, I get bored very easily. I believe that having a 10% stake in ten different businesses will keep you occupied and your brain thinking. I believe that when someone stops learning, they don’t grow anymore. I want to own 10% of 10 businesses, which would make up 100% of my income and also keep me occupied in the sense of value that I provide to all the businesses. I could be wrong but this is what I believe in. It is also my belief that people who chase money don’t make money but people who chase value, end up making money.
When you put your foot in 10 different businesses, do you think you would be able to give enough of yourself to all of them?
That’s another great question. Obviously an individual cannot be present at 10 different places at the same time but what you can maximise the technological advancements of today and for example, be sitting in Dubai but take part in a meeting in some other part of the world through Skype. In the near future, with the advancements in Hologram technology, we could even be in 10 different places doing 10 different things. Whenever I choose a business, the first thing I look into is what part of it excites me, for I do not want to lose my passion for it even if it is not making money at the initial stages. The other thing that I look at is, what value can I provide to that business. I would look to identify what skill I possess that somebody who is already in that same business doesn’t.