Every student at Westminster Business School has his or her own story and without question they inspire us with their innovation, successes, initiative and determination. Raghav Vassal (third year Business Management with Entrepreneurship BA) is one of these students. Joining Westminster in 2013 from Punjab, Northern India, Raghav is the founder of his very own pre-school. Helping to bridge the gender gap within Indian education and supporting working mothers, Raghav plans to have a fleet of pre-schools by 2020. To find out more about his entrepreneurial journey and business, read this interview!
I chose Westminster because of a recommendation. There is a very successful educational organisation known as GEMS Education, which right now has 200 schools all over the world. The owner is a close friend of my dad and because his sons studied here and had a good experience he recommended it. He explained that at Westminster what they teach is not totally theoretical, it’s more of a realistic approach. What you learn today you can apply tomorrow to your business. This is what I love about Westminster.
Building my business: Ileague Education Management Private Limited
When I was in my second year I came up with an educational business idea – I wanted to open a fully fledged school. The project was so big that I wasn’t able to convince my tutors. It was also difficult because the rules and regulations differ greatly between the UK and India. Finally they understood what I wanted to achieve and I got very nice feedback. They said I had to find a gap in the market in order to gain differentiation. Instead of opening the school for everyone from play school to A levels, in the third year I changed my project to focus only the pre-primary school age. With this more realistic approach and with help from my teachers I launched Ileague Education Management Private in 2016. It’s been operational from 18 April 2016 and the second part will become operational by the end of July.
The reason that I am targeting the very little ones (2-3 months until the age of seven) is to help working mothers so they don’t have to sacrifice their careers. Mothers often dedicate their lives to their children and have to sacrifice their entire career – I wanted to do something to stop this from happening. The second issue I identified was that in Punjab, boys are giving more opportunities than girls. I wanted to help bridge this gap and reduce educational inequality. In order to do this, I came up with an offer, 25% off the cost for girls and for a child sibling also. The Mission of is every child, every chance, every day and we use a very well structured curriculum which was given to us by GEMS Education. I also want to give the children an international experience, and somehow in the future I want to connect with the University of Westminster.
The biggest challenge of starting your own business
The most challenging part for me was the financial part. My family has many businesses including in education and my dad is ranked on of the top education entrepreneurs in India. Because of this I was determined to learn from them but to create my own identity and build my project independently. So, instead of taking help from them, I used my own funds. After my AS levels I started working to raise capital. I used some part of those funds and took a loan from the bank for the business.
How studying entrepreneurship has supported my startup
First of all, I have learnt various skills on this course (eg. leadership and communication). The best part here though is the realistic approach that the teachers take. I hadn’t realised what resources I had in my hand, so my teacher taught me the Bird In Hand principle, and showed me how to utilise what I had around me. Then it was about turning opportunity into action. The great thing about Westminster is that when lecturers teach you the theories, they link it back to reality and they make sure you can understand how to relate it to your business. We had a huge class of about 20-25 students from different backgrounds, but our teachers made it specific and relevant for each and every student. The teachers made it possible for each and everyone of us to make our dreams and businesses a reality. The teachers have also facilitated peer-to-peer learning, which has been very important. We’re all from different backgrounds and different countries, and yet the teachers brought all of us together. There was a very nice activity we did in second year where we had to come up with an event without any money. We had to look for the investors, and a charity to support. This was great team work and it really helped us to get to know each other better.
I think that my best highlight would be that I’ve developed myself a lot. If you asked my teacher, they’ll tell you I wasn’t good enough in second year – I’m not sure they even knew if I was in the classroom or not! But now I’ve created my image and gained confidence and that’s because of the very good constructive criticism I got every day throughout my course. This is what makes you better in life.
Defining an entrepreneur
The word entrepreneur is a very big term, and I believe that being one is very difficult. It’s about creating ideas and innovation, but it’s also about having the ability to implement those ideas and create something real, which ultimately creates profit. If I chose three words to describe an entrepreneur, they would be innovator, dynamic, and money maker.
My proudest achievement?
I suppose that my school could be one of my proudest achievements, but it’s not the one. I’m looking forward to having many in my life. My major goal is to take the product forward, to educate students and watch them grow into successful people. That would be the moment where I could say, yes, I’m proud of myself, I’ve created a product where people can develop themselves, and lead better lives because of it.
Thinking of studying entrepreneurship?
If you are thinking of studying at Westminster Business School, I would give you two pieces of advice.
- Manage your finances carefully so that you can really make the most of things.
- Be focussed and have a goal. It’s good to socialise and go to the parties and join the societies, because this a great place to develop connections, but don’t overdo it. You should try to keep focussed on studies and plan goals to work towards.
Many thanks to student Raghav Vassal for this interview and for sharing his experiences with us on our blog. If you are interested in entrepreneurship and would like to find out more about our Entrepreneurship BA, please click here.
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