All great leaders acquired their greatness through empowering their team – because as individuals they could not have attained the peaks that they ultimately attained as leaders. Empowering the team is the ultimate leap of faith that a leader can do. And right empowerment can create magic in the team. It gives a sense of fulfillment that can hardly be matched—along with infusing energy and enthusiasm in the team. Empowerment is also the magic wand that ensures ownership and accountability within the team members. The one factor that differentiates a pioneering business tycoon from an ordinary businessman is the quality of empowerment.
One such empowering business leader is Capt Muthu Krishnan Iyyappan (Founder and CEO of Eka Academy) who has established himself as an extraordinary and pioneering business tycoon in the corporate training industry. He entered the industry despite people warning him not to because it was such a cluttered market, that a famous saying goes “if you don’t know what to do, then become a trainer and tell others what to do.” He did become a trainer and indeed a good one. However, his journey was not a cakewalk, he encountered his share of challenges throughout the journey in establishing Eka Academy, a leading training solution provider today.
The Domino Downfall of Business
Muthu described his initial days of entrepreneurship experience as wadding in unchartered waters filled with sharks and crocodiles. The industry he did step into was the classic example of “Red Ocean” with absolutely no entry barriers, no pre-defined standards, and no regulations. It took about 8 months of patience persistence to get his first client. Meanwhile, waiting for the start as an entrepreneur, several employment opportunities were knocking his door. He credits his wife for constant support and encouragement as it took great power to resist the temptation of getting back into the comfort zone of employment.
After the commencement of the journey, it was a dream run for Eka Academy. The team grew from its first employee to a team of 65 in just 3 years. By 2015, the company expanded to Europe, thereby becoming the first Indian training company to have their official presence in Europe. Unfortunately the very next year, Eka Academy faced its first disaster. One of the clients with whom the company had great exposure to, suddenly went bankrupt causing Muthu and his team a huge loss. It took them back to the stone age with the team size reducing from 65 to 8 in just two months and there was a time when the office was shut down and the team worked from Muthu’s house.
The bankruptcy of the client caused a domino effect on the business leading to a vicious cycle of no new clients and not having the resources to serve the existing clients. The business came to an all-time low, which drastically affected the financial condition too. Muthu adds, “We had to mortgage our house to continue paying the salaries but I am proud to say that we have never defaulted even by a single month on the salaries to our team.”
The Best Shot Once Again
Muthu and his team did not give up despite the huge setback. It was in 2017, when the team decided to give it another shot and start all over again. Eka Academy team created its very first open house program called “Project Dronacharya”, which is a “train the trainer program”. This program became a turning point for the company as it was a runaway success. By 2018, the company started to hold stability and then the revival of the organization started. He further adds, “This journey was possible only due to 4 P’s that I steadfastly adhered to—Passion, Persistence, Perseverance, and Patience.”
Today, Eka Academy is a full-service training solutions provider for corporate and business skills. It specializes in end-to-end competency-based skill development interventions delivered specifically to the mid-management across a wide spectrum of industries, domains, and functional areas. With over 400 qualified and certified trainers spread across 80 locations in the country, the team is capable of delivering scalable interventions with a very short turnaround time. While ensuring standardization in methodology, it also consciously ensures localization in delivery so that the intervention gets the maximum impact.
Experiences Influencing Leadership Skills
Often the experiences we have throughout the journey help us to become the person we are today. Throughout his journey, Muthu too had the privilege to work with great leaders, both in the corporate as well as while serving in the military. But the one specific leader who highly impacted his life is Maj.Gen (retd). Dalvir Singh, AVSM, Vr.C, VSM. While serving in the military he reported to the then Brig. Dalvir who was the sub-area commander for Srinagar. Maj Gen Dalvir was a para commando belonging to the elite 10 Parachute Regiment (Special Forces). Even though he was a highly decorated officer, he was most down to earth when he was with the officers he commanded. The fact that Maj Gen. Dalvir was easily approachable whenever in need and that he was a good listener influenced Muthu greatly.
Maj. Gen. Singh’s just didn’t influence him as a person but also shaped Muthu into the leader he is today. Muthu even shares a notable incident that impacted his journey, he says, “While I was in charge of the security of a sensitive installation in Srinagar, the Corps commander, who was a senior Lieutenant General, found a lapse which I was responsible for. But when the Corps Commander started questioning me the then Brig. Dalvir stepped up and took the whole accountability for the lapse. He told the Corps commander “Sir, this officer reports to me and if you want to hold someone accountable, then hold me accountable and not him”. His words still echo in my ears and taught me a lesson on accountability and responsibility which I never forget even now.”
Leading By Personal Example
Being under command of a great mentor, Muthu learned that the best way to motivate is to stand and stay by the men whom one commands, and that is what he continued within the corporate life too. If he does come across any team member who has failed to close the deal, Muthu himself goes along with the member to personally close the deal. He further asserts, “I have long learned that the traditional approach of “carrot and stick” sometimes fail. But the fail-proof way of motivating is standing by the team member who is struggling.”
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