"Ultimately, our motto is GO BIG or GO HOME!"
Dilshad and Barinder Hothi are award-winning entrepreneurs.
The British Asian couple are founders of The Knowledge Academy. After only five years, it has become one of the biggest training companies in the world.
Some of their high profile clients include Rolls Royce, HSBC, British Airways, Coutts & Co, PwC, BAE Systems, Barclays, Vodafone, Disney, the Ministry of Defence, and the NHS.
The Windsor based company of which Dilshad Hothi is CEO and Barinder Hothi is MD operates 50,000 training courses in 200 countries.
Rising stars of the British business world, the Hothi’s predict an incredible £100 million turnover by 2018.
It is no surprise then, that aside from numerous other business awards, the couple have won ‘The Sunday Times Fast Track Ones to Watch’ award sponsored by Virgin.
In an exclusive Gupshup with DESIblitz, Barinder Hothi shares the couple’s inspiring journey to success.
Tell us a little about your backgrounds? Was business a career path you both anticipated early on?
Dilshad worked in the training sector for several years before we started The Knowledge Academy. Whereas I had been successfully working in the IT sector for most of my career.
Dilshad has previous experience of smaller business ventures in India. We had both decided we wanted our own autonomy and with our combined skills we started on the path to creating our own business from scratch.
What kind of services does The Knowledge Academy offer?
We provide professional training in a classroom, online or virtual environment. We have an extensive portfolio of courses and a global presence. We are market leaders in specific areas of our portfolio e.g. project management training.
You started The Knowledge Academy with zero capital. Tell us about the early days, how challenging was it to build the company from scratch?
Well it was very challenging. Neither of us had experience in setting up a business in the UK, and we both had very different skill sets.
Being brought up in a family business environment helped me to realise it was certainly not going to be a walk in the park. We decided from the outset to bootstrap our own business and have always maintained a minimal risk approach to any business decisions.
Obviously, business decisions always have some kind of risk associated with them. But it’s learning to choose which risks you are able and willing to take in order to progress.
Did you have any knowledge of how to set up a business before you began?
Dilshad had gained a little experience in a few other small Indian business ventures. But The Knowledge Academy was the first real experience for both of us at establishing our own company and brand.
Why did you choose to go down to the education and training route, as opposed to many Asian businesses who choose retail, IT and manufacturing?
Well, the training industry was a no brainer for us. Dilshad had significant experience within the training industry and really understood the market and challenges we could be faced with. And I had gained valuable experience from a number of global brands within the IT sector.
So our combined knowledge seemed to directly point us towards training. We had never really considered anything else when we were establishing The Knowledge Academy. It seemed to be the perfect way to utilise our diverse skills.
What makes The Knowledge Academy a unique and successful business model?
The Knowledge Academy is a privately owned business which means that we are able to be quite agile and move with the market.
Since our establishment, we have always been financially self-sufficient, which has allowed us to make quick and decisive business decisions. This offers us a competitive advantage.
Our USPs are our geographical reach, our broad portfolio and best price guarantee.
How does it feel to be one of 10 companies UK-wide to have won the ‘The Sunday Times Fast Track Ones to Watch’ award?
We’re obviously very proud to be nominated for this award. It’s great recognition of all of the hard work we and our staff have put into the business.
It’s a fantastic nationwide platform which has not only helped us from a business perspective but has given us the opportunity to expand into more philanthropic activities.
“We will be shortly embarking on a 70km hike with Richard Branson and his family to raise funds for Strive 2016 by hiking to North Italy.”
How do you both juggle home life and work life together?
Many people often question how we are able to work together, but for Dilshad and I it has never really been a problem.
With our different skills, we naturally navigated towards the areas of the business in which we were most useful. So we don’t really suffer from any heated debates over the company’s direction!
There was never a time where we sat down and decided who was going to do what with the business. It’s just evolved naturally and has worked very well.
In light of the UK’s current climate post-recession and EU referendum, do you feel that entrepreneurs can still find success in the business world?
I think that the recent developments will definitely add an extra layer of complication to businesses wanting to work globally, and we are honestly very saddened by the result.
However, I’m sure that all good businesses will find a way. It just needs a rethink of strategy around how to navigate this new situation.
I think at the moment everyone is concerned about the level of uncertainty. But as soon as things have been clarified, businesses will be able to start planning their new strategy.
Where do you see The Knowledge Academy in 5 years time?
In five years time, we would like to be closer to achieving brand recognition globally, and obviously continue to grow globally.
We would also like to localise our courses by offering our portfolio in the languages of all the different regions in which we operate.
What 3 qualities do you need to be a successful entrepreneur?
- Dedication to your chosen path – being an entrepreneur is not a part-time job
- Determination – with the number of hurdles you face along the way you need to stick at it
What advice would you give to British Asians who are looking to set up their own business?
Go for it and be brave! There’s lots of support out there now for emerging entrepreneurs. In fact, Dilshad and myself mentor and coach frequently.
Individuals who are interested in getting in touch can contact us through LinkedIn.
Ultimately, our motto is GO BIG or GO HOME!
Without a doubt, Dilshad and Barinder Hothi’s journey to business success is an inspiring one.
With Dilshad arriving to the UK at the age of 21, the Hothi’s both quit well-paid corporate jobs to begin The Knowledge Academy.
With no capital, they launched the company in 2009. By 2015, they saw an exponential growth of £22 million per year.
The Academy has also successfully expanded to India’s Punjab where they have a team of 40: “India is a really interesting market and there’s a real thirst for learning and a rapidly growing consumer base,” Barinder says.
It is clear that both Dilshad and Barinder Hothi are proof that with strong passion and firm commitment, any talented individual can find success in the world of business and entrepreneurship.