With a focus on social impact, entrepreneurship and education, Madan Padaki now works at the intersection of the three. The co-founder of Head Held High, a rural access accelerator that unleashes the power of the “Rubans”—his term for neo rural-urbans—provides career access to youth, business access to entrepreneurs and market access to corporates.
One of his key missions for the last three years has been to create an ecosystem for entrepreneurship in villages. “An entrepreneur is a job creator. He must employ at least two to three people,” says 43-year-old Padaki, who is based in Bengaluru. He coined the term Antar Prerana, from entrepreneur.
Over the last three months, he has been involved in a pilot project with Saras D Sarasvathy, associate professor at Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Virginia, USA. She coined the term ‘Effectuation’, a way of thinking that serves entrepreneurs in the processes of opportunity. She is a chair professor at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore.
For the project, 20 students from five colleges each have been trained to identify entrepreneurs and develop a plan for them to scale up. Once the plan is in place, they will be connected to a funding organisation, mostly a bank. The idea is to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and create local success stories. Besides jobs, it could have a ripple effect and create more entrepreneurs. Padaki has tied up with 250 newspapers for publicity.
He has attended workshops and programmes for entrepreneurs where his one advice has been, “make new mistakes, not old mistakes”. An engineer from NIE Mysore and an MBA from SPJIMR, Mumbai, Padaki had worked with Wipro, Infosys and Mphasis (Japan), before being bitten by the entrepreneurial bug in 2000 when he co-founded MeritTrac as a pioneering idea in skills assessment.
“It was trial by fire as just a year later 9/11 happened and all outsourcing stopped,” he says. A blessing came along when he got married in 2002 when he was down to just his last few thousand rupees.
“I ended up asking my wife if she could pay the house rent for a few months. Being the daughter of an entrepreneur, she held fort for the next five months till things began to look up,” he recollects.
Today, MeritTrac is among the top five skills assessment companies in the world and is seen as a thought-leader in the sector. It has won several awards, including the Nasscom Innovation Award and Deloitte Fast 50 India Award. The company has also been featured in books on entrepreneurship and is also a case study at INSEAD, one of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools.
“MeritTrac was acquired by Manipal Global Education Services (MGES), one of India’s largest education services company, and in 2011, I transitioned to Manipal Education from MeritTrac to head its strategy, innovation and international partnerships and moved out in March 2013,” says Padaki. MeritTrac was valued at Rs 75 crore when MGES took a 70 per cent stake in it.
Partnering with other education leaders, Padaki is also a co-founder and director of Sylvant, an initiative to create a robust scaffolding for education entrepreneurs to succeed. “Sylvant invests and supports early stage education entrepreneurs and has a current portfolio of 18 ed-tech companies,” he says.