Husband and wife team Dilshad and Barinder Hothi explain how they turned their professional education and training provider, the Knowledge Academy, into a global powerhouse in just six years
Barinder Hothi We provide education programmes across the globe, typically to business and IT professionals. The core areas of our portfolio are professional certifications requiring high levels of accreditations such as Prince2 and Agile Training [for improved project management skills] and Itil [for better IT service management].
Dilshad Hothi We’d spoken about launching our own business for three years before we did it. By late 2008 the economy was suffering. With a lot of people out of work, demand for education and professional qualifications was very high. It was the right time to launch, negotiate venues, secure resources and hire the best instructors, first in the UK and then worldwide.
Barinder Hothi Dilshad is chief executive and I am managing director but we didn’t sit down and divide our roles. We were fortunate to have been very successful in our careers in large blue-chip companies, typically in strong sales and marketing roles, which helped bring the product to market.
Dilshad Hothi Barinder is excellent at management, leadership, guidance and setting processes. I support her with business vision, concepts and identifying where the opportunities lie within the market. I can execute my ideas and Barinder can put them into practice really quickly, tweaking strategy or changing a product line in as little as 45 minutes.
Barinder Hothi Being husband and wife means having the security of working alongside somebody you know inside out. You don’t have to think about some of the complexities you might if you went into partnership with a third party – like trust, loyalty, being aligned.
Dilshad Hothi The first few months it was difficult to break into the market but we were rightly positioned and scaled up quickly in the UK. One of our biggest successes was being able to launch in so many countries so quickly – the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and the UAE.
Barinder Hothi Thankfully, funding wasn’t a big concern as we made sure we were financially stable before we went into this. The business has no debt and we’re proud not to have an overdraft. Launching in recession, people think you’re either absolutely bonkers or you have seen an opportunity you can accelerate.
Dilshad Hothi Globally, the professional education space is worth more than £5bn. We’ve a permanent presence in 15 English-speaking countries with partners in Asia and Africa who resell our training. We manage a lot of the work from here but we work with local partners and advisory firms because each market is so diverse and compliance is so important.
Barinder Hothi We’ve grown the portfolio rapidly. Our product development team research the driving factor in each market, the up-and-coming qualifications and what is happening in the technology world.
Dilshad Hothi The biggest challenges have been calculating the investment in infrastructure needed to grow. We decided not to over-invest – but every time we grow we seem to under-invest. We had 100 staff when we moved into our new office before Christmas. Now we have 190 staff and have rented a second floor. We will create 300 jobs in the next year or so and that brings more opportunities to retain our existing staff as they step up into leadership positions.
Barinder Hothi We are building a technology hub to serve our growing business and enter the market as a professional services provider in the space of IT services offering application development to structure support. With the global IT skills shortage, investment in the technology hub is key to creating a buzz around the brand.
Dilshad Hothi As we build our portfolio we are trying to position ourselves as the Amazon of the education industry. Markets are more open when English is widely spoken. Germany, Spain and the Netherlands are markets we wish to enter, but we’ll have to invest in translating material taught by local tutors in those languages.
Barinder Hothi We’ve revenue targets of £100m by 2018 and aim to achieve this by expanding into areas such as apprenticeships, higher education and recruitment. I like to think we represent the true British entrepreneurial spirit making a global operation function from Bracknell, Berkshire.
The Knowledge Academy vital stats
Industry Education and training
Offices Bracknell, Berkshire
Turnover £22m last year with revenue targets of £35m this year
Global presence 650 cities in 158 countries