Interview: Siddarth Bharwani, Director – Brand and Marketing Jetking (The pioneering electronics enterpise of Indepent India)

World War II, India’s independence and partition, all factored in this extraordinary story.  Gordhandas P. Bharwani had started trading in big Radios, Gramophones & Valve Radios, which were in vogue post- war under the name of Jetking and as partition brought him to Mumbai from Pakistan he set up a portable radio manufacturing factory in a suburb of India’s commercial capital. He pioneered Do-It-Yourself kits and Pocket Transistors. The company in 1960s became a leading manufacturer and seller of radios (Asia 72, Fairchild and Wildcat transistors) and may have sold more than five lakh units. In 1970s, it tried to venture into TV manufacturing but didn’t that take off.  However, it didn’t take away Bharwanis’ love for electronics  and as computers became the next big thing in electronics, they made a jump-start yet again.  Suresh G Bharwani pioneered Computer Hardware and Networking training in India.  In 1990, after incorporating Jetking Infotrain Limited, the Company launched its first institute for the training of non technical students by the name of Jetking School of Electronic Technology. Thereafter, it is a story where JetKing has become synonymous with computer hardware and networking training having footprints all over the country. As always as in the last 68 years, Jetking is constantly reinventing and reenergizing itself to provide digital India the frontline soldiers through its own and franchise network of training centres. Autar Nehru spoke to grandson of Late  G P Bharwani,  Siddarth Bharwani, who is Director – Brand and Marketing of the company.

Siddarth Bharwani

Siddarth, the legacy, history and heritage of your company is very interesting and even inspiring, isn’t it?

SB: Oh yes absolutely. We are still following the vision of my grandfather, who really thought ahead of his times. It is always a case study to look up to and a guide to set our own benchmarks.  We really cherish business journey of the family and of course the challenges that the electronics sector has been throwing from time to time.

So, let’s come straight to computer training. You were one of the big three (NIIT & Aptech), which rode on computer boom in late 1980s and afterwards. So, there must be some history to it as well.

By 1990, there was a computer boom in America and we knew , it will soon reach India. We identified computer as a big opportunity but due to lack of capital, manufacturing was not an option. So, we looked at training in computers and opened a centre in Sewri (Maharashtra). Interestingly after a lot of persuasion only  10 students enrolled in its first batch and then next year the number rose to 200 and  now around  7 lakh students have trained with us. Around 1992, we adopted franchise model to spread it far and wide.  Today we have  150 centers in major cities of country.

Jetking is synonymous with hardware and networking training. Do you think such branding has the advantage that you have been looking for?

As Internet spread, most telcos like BSNL provided dail up connections and then LAN and WAN also became norms in offices. So, the demand for trained people to handle networking was quite high. And coming with hardware training, it became very popular among students who found jobs easily.  We have also  kept pace with rapidly changing technology in IT sector.  In 1999, we got Microsoft recognition and became Microsoft certified solution provider and certified technical education centre (CTEC). In 2003, we launched masters in network administration (MNA) course for graduate students, thereby increasing our spectrum as also appeal and profile of programs.

Tell us about courses and what makes them attractive. You have also entered into Limca Book of Records on placements.

Our courses are designed as career courses, short term courses, A 10 + 2 student can opt for one-year JCHNE (Jetking Certified Hardware and Networking Engineer) program or one or more short term courses, which number about a dozen.  Graduates, technical as well as non-technical can do MNA (masters in network administration).  What is more to these courses is our approach and methodology and we call it Smartlab Plus.  This is our own unique training methodology that allows students to take an innovative approach to their studies. English speaking, personality development and Yoga allows a holistic learning for our students. Smartlab Plus is a distinctive training methodology by which we make learning fun, faster and easier.

What are new thrust areas where jobs lie and how are you addressing it?

Server technologies, Cloud technology, cyber security, cloud data management virtualization and mobile platform are hotspots. And, we are very much into these domains. Engineering graduates are most suited for these areas and we are already reaching out to them by MNA.

You are also having a partnership with NSDC, can you elaborate.

Yes, we have an arrangement whereby we train SC/ST students pan India under this partnership. But frankly, I don’t feel, one month’s training can take someone anywhere, so we are helping them to enroll in our shorter and one-year program, so that they became really job ready.

What do you make of Digital India announcement by the Prime Minister recently?

Obviously we welcome it, it is a big vision. As per NASSCOM there is a demand for 2-3 lakh professionals annually in IT and ITES. And with digital India envisaging e-storages, infrastructure, mass IT services, this figure is bound to go northwards by five folds.  We will be looking at 20 lakh jobs in next few years. This will be a huge challenge for all of us.

You went with the franchise model much early, but the growth is not that high in terms of numbers?

We have a network of regional hubs, so we create our centres around them for maintaining quality and monitoring. We also check the background and engineering background is what we prefer. We want to be doubly sure that right kind of training is provided to student, so rigorous quality assurance may have made our presence somewhat smaller but, we are there across from Chandigarh to Hyderabad. And this number is going to flourish as it is a good opportunity with very moderate upfront investment. We could soon be at 100 locations.

Your future aspirations for Jetking?

We will be looking at online training preferably hybrid courses. MOOCs are exciting and very new age education model and meet the huge demand. Mobile platform is truly very huge in India and we will be making a blend of right content, right platform and right features to make ourselves more relevant. Also, we may open centres in Nigeria.