Learn How to Maintain work-life Balance from Mr. Shankar Subramanian, Nine Dots(Founder)

Kindly share a few words about your journey?

My journey started off as a hospital management profession. So I spent three years learning hospitality management and I was selected by Taj Group of Hotels as a management trainee in the year 1990. I spent the next five years with Taj Group in various roles like operations, human resources, training and at the front office. Post that I decided to take a small break after I lost my dad. I needed to support my family so I took two years off by teaching hospitality management. After that, I went back to the industry as a training manager for next few years. So that’s my initial start where I learned the aspects of customer service. I also learned about the aspects of management, attended lot of training programs and then I got very curious about learning development as a career.  At that time I was thinking that how can I take it to the next level.

What made you go in to the field of corporate training?

In the year 2000, I started Ninedots corporate training. I was very disappointed when there was a huge recession because of September 9/11 globally. I had decided that I would be looking at IT recruitment and corporate training as a main source of business. You know when they talk about success, people normally ask you why you are doing what you are doing and after you become successful they ask you, how you did it. Around 2003, I decided to call off my recruitment business because I was feeling that it was not something that I was passionate about or that was not where my future supposes to lie.  Then I decided to move completely into corporate training. It took me ten years to really establish nine dots with a lot of hard work and perseverance. With a great team behind me to support and we got many recommendations for our customers. When there is a slow down in economy the first thing to get hit is the learning and development sector. We have a dedicated team that stuck to us through our toughest time. We are 20 years old firm and we are known amongst all the top corporates in the country. We are one of the people whom they considered in finalizing any of their learning dimensions.

What keeps Ninedots going? Your company Goals, Inspirations USP and Vision?

I have read a book called You in Corporation, it says that consider yourself as a company. If you want to increase the share values of your company, what would you do and this has been something that was stuck in my head over a long period of time. According to me the most important factor in my career is learning. In the year 2007,I got myself certified in 6 Thinking Hats and Lateral Thinking from Doctor Edward DePaulo and later on I went myself to be certified in the area of mind mapping from Tony Buzan, one of the greatest leaders in the area of thinking. The name Ninedots come from a puzzle where we need to join the nine dots using four straight lines without lifting the pen from the paper and the answer lies in going out of the box. So one of the thing we try to do at nine dots is that what value can we give to customers, how can we do things differently, what services can we do and how can we adapt to the changing environment. People are living in what we call a wooka world, a world that is constantly changing and dynamic. So this requires completely new skills for them to be adapting, people need to be agile, people need to be innovative and this is something that I kind of forecasted way back in 2005. Now there is a lot of inquiries for workshops on innovations, thinking outside the box, problem-solving, critical thinking and leadership in the wooka world. So I and my team has got this expertise to be able to deliver these scales that we can enable the corporate world to survive and to succeed in the wooka world.

Name the single most important quality required to succeed in your ever-evolving industry?

I personally feel one of the things that really help you to succeed in the present environment is the ability to adapt. When you say adapting it means that not sticking to your own ways of doing things, you are innovative, you are challenging your status too. You will have to ask these questions how can I do things better, what else can I do here and how can I add value to my customer. If you can have these questions in the back of your mind, any business you will be able to do well.

What do you consider as your greatest achievements in your career?

See one of the things I really feel is that I have been able to do is create a wonderful team that is self-motivated and self-directed.In our company we are like friends not as a leader or a follower. We work on our projects together, we brainstorm together and through this we have been able to retain customers for many years. I have one customer whom I have been working since 2004, it has been fifteen years now. This kind of customers satisfaction is something that I have been proud of and we will be very successful in it.

What are the most significant factors you consider while catering to your customers?

Today the customers that we engage are very knowledgeable. They have all the information available, there is Google, books, E-books. This was not the case 20 years back where knowledge was at scarcity. Now the question for us is that with all this knowledge and information available, what is the development team going to do with the customer. In spite of having all this information available in the organization there is a constant need for us to see how we can understand our customers' needs, clients needs and tailor our offerings constantly to meet our customers wants. So we are constantly working in partnership with customers rather than saying we have this product and you need to try this. We customize our training program to meet customers' needs and that is what makes us successful.

Who or what is it that constantly inspires you?

I actually did a personal analysis of myself and I did a psychometric test and I found out that one of my key value is helping others. I could see why I enjoy corporate training so much because every day I am in the job of trying to enable and help others whom I am interacting with. I also find that this seems to not only limit myself to work but apart from work I also am a rotractarian, I work with many projects to help the society. I am the member of Multiple Sclerosis society where we help people affected with Multiple Sclerosis , we are trying to build awareness about the diseases. I also formed a group called TGIS (Thank God It’s Saturday), where we try and mentor amateur photographers to create a platform for them to thrive and practice their skills. So in all these tasks I find happiness in helping others.

What is the role played by your family in your pursuit of a demanding profession?

My family consists largely of entrepreneurs. My wife, brother , mother is also an entrepreneur. I learned from them how to set high goals, perseverance and work through various challenges. Each one of them is an inspiration for me and I learned a lot from all of them. They have always been a support system, whenever I took risks they were backing me so that I could focus on my goals. Even during my challenging times, they were there to back me up.

How do you maintain the work-life balance?

I always say that when you enjoy your work then there is no work, there is only life. There is a lot delegations which happens, I enable people both my team members and people whom I work with and my NGOs as well. I spend time in coaching and mentoring so that I can focus on the key things that are important in my life. I spend around 10 to 12 days in a month working for nine dots. The remaining days I spend working on social causes like the Rotary club and Multiple Sclerosis Society and also to pursue my hobby as a photographer. If we plan ourselves properly we can manage all this things effectively, therefore, it is very important for us to know what we want in life and one should sort this all out.

The first book that really inspired me is a book called ‘You in Corporation’ and it had given me the idea of how you could increase your own personal value in fact a very inspiring book. Another book which inspired me was ‘Six Thinking Hats’ by Edward de Bono. When I read the book it was so interesting that I got myself certified in his program and I am a certified trainer now. These two books which I aforementioned were on personal development. But apart from that I love reading biographies , watching movies on biographies because we get to learn a lot things from other people’s life. If I have to recommend something to people then I would say that do study people’s life.

Any advice you would like to give your younger self?

Information was not easily available in earlier days, little did we know about what we could probably pursue our career in. So decision making was very difficult at that point of time. Now information is available in plenty so youth of today can weigh the pros and cons of what data is available with them for their own personal development and can take a good decision. The youth of today have much better positions compare to the times that we were in. Back then information was very scarce and it was only a privilege to have information available to you.

Based on your personal experience,whats’s your suggestion or advice to young entrepreneurs and startups?

The advice is that you have a goal, you work hard towards it.  You won’t be success at the first try ,you may fail but let this failure may not get you demotivated. Believe in what you are, what is your overall vision and idea is, keep pursuing it , give it your 100% and believe in your vision. I am sure it will be a success.

How did you get into photography?

My dad bought a brochure of hassle black in which I saw some amazing photographs and immediately I was drawn to the art of photography. Over a period of time, my dad got me a basic camera with which I practiced. Only later ,I could afford a decent SLR of my own. I started from the film days so I was also interested in nature and wildlife at that point in time. I could combine both this art of photography as well as the appreciation for nature and wildlife. Later I met Mr. Anand Sharan, with his mentorship I also developed my photography skills. It was the time during the transitioning from film to digital was taking place. The digital cameras were slowly gaining momentum. It threw open a whole lot of new possibilities of being able to experiment. It allowed us to make mistakes and learn from mistakes. All this was not possible doing the film days because it was expensive to make mistakes.

What are the events you do ?

Few of us got together and we started a group called TGIS, a platform for young amateur photographers to come and practice their skills. Most of them were the people who basically finished their workshop with Anand Sharan. As we started looking at the possibilities we thought why not we exhibit our pictures and we had our first exhibition in 2013. In that exhibition we were able to sell our pictures, we also decided that the entire profits of our exhibition will go towards the social cause. We also decided that the Multiple Sclerosis Society will benefit from this income. We were able to earn 5 to 7 lakhs every year through the sales of our pictures and through the support of the members of TGIS , who has selflessly donated their photographs for the cause. Not only people feel happy about the fact that they get to exhibit their pictures but also the fact that they get to help for a social cause.

What is your advices for upcoming amateur photographers?

The young photographers should master the basics and should get the fundamentals right. Second is to find their own style, while you can be inspired by other photographers by watching and observing them. One needs to find what is their core passion because lot of photographers are confused about which genres of photography to choose. So when you experiment with it, you should settle into something finally, start mastering in it and doing a lot more. One of the thing I feel is that you should shoot more, making more mistakes and learn from those mistakes , these are the most important part of the learning journey.

Kindly share a few words about the awards you have received?

I was also fascinated by traveling. After a point of time I felt that wildlife was not really my calling I started experimenting with travel photography. Not only it gave me chances to visit various places in the world but it also gave me a chance to understand the cultures. Slowly I started getting more and more involved in travel photography. I have won many international awards like the International Color Awards and the famous Black and White Spider Awards. These awards has always been enforcing and encouraging me. Especially in a very competitive world if one gets appreciated in international forum you get little more confident and with this you strive for better work as you go along . One of the things I realize is the constant need for learning whether it a profession or passion one needs to be ensuring that you constantly learn. The moment you decide that you know everything I think you are finished!

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