BR Venkatesh is a familiar name in advertising. After all, he had put in 28 years starting with Ambience, then Spear, Percept, Euro RSCG, HTA Fulcrum, Maxus, and GroupM, where he held several leadership positions.
In his last stint, he was Group Finance Director at GroupM based in Sydney. Only after he got there did he realise that the stint would spark in him something that would take him in an entirely new direction.
If Venkatesh proved his mettle in advertising before making a shift, his wife Tejaswini took the turn with 30 years of experience at Union Bank of India and ANZ Bank Australia.
Venkatesh and Tejaswini have been promoting entrepreneurship since 2009 as a mission – for nation building by creating job creators. They have conducted more than 1000 full-fledged entrepreneurship training workshops (48 hours each) across India and Kenya. During the pandemic, they did over 320 online sessions.
This is in addition to mentoring existing entrepreneurs, helping with goal setting for youth and spoken English for street kids and regional language medium students in junior and degree colleges or vocational training institutes.
Speaking on the second innings, Venkatesh recollects, “Deputation to Australia was a life-changing experience. If a country with just 25 million population can achieve so much, why is our country (with a billion-plus) lagging behind? If China can achieve, we felt it can be done in India too. That’s when me and my wife gave up our jobs and started looking out for an option which would help our nation, especially youth, to think differently and move from jobs to business. We decided to get ourselves trained in entrepreneurship and then moulded the curriculum to match Indian conditions.”
The first year of operations in the second innings was ‘very disappointing’, says Venkatesh. They had fathomed that colleges and educational institutes were the best place to promote entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, none of the colleges gave them even a minute’s hearing, he rues. The response was the same at skill imparting institutes.
“The turning point came when we were asked by YMCA Principal DN Nagar-Andheri, ‘How useful will it be for my students training to be beauticians, tailors, plumbers and electricians?’ We did a pilot programme for them, wherein on the first day the Principal himself sat through the entire session,” explains Venkatesh.
For the next four days, the Principal did not attend. But Venkatesh and Tejaswini came to know post the programme that he had called up all the skilling centres of YMCA and informed them about it.
“Since then there has been no looking back; sheer word of mouth and quality of our sessions have made great impact,” he says.
From the grassroot level to IITians, the team has conducted programmes across India and also in Kenya for the government of Kenya’s livelihood programme.
The educational institutes they have associated with are SNDT (Juhu), Don Bosco Institute, Sinhgarh College, Vivek College, Burhani College and Sophia College.
The early stages saw the former ad man partner with an organisation, only to part ways when the latter’s commercial intent was evident. Venkatesh then started MBTLA Academy, run by him and his wife, as a voluntary service without any charge.
The couple are also associated with Maharashtra Government through MCED, a few NGOs, institutes conducting skilling programs. As entrepreneurs, everyone from future beauticians to tailors are guided on how the knowledge can be converted into businesses.
He adds, “We have helped many self-help groups to improve their working from a selling point of view. Most of our work is voluntary, we are doing this as a nation building exercise and not a commercial activity. We do get paid by some for carrying out this activity but we do not insist on payments. Our intent is to reach maximum and create job creators!”
Awards and accolades have followed but Venkatesh clarifies that he has not kept track of them since that was never the goal.
While promoting entrepreneurship is the couple’s mission, there are other aspects that add even more colours to the palette of their lives.
He’s an avid sports lover and active sportsman, a qualified cricket coach and umpire (from Cricket Australia); and a member of Cricket Australia and Mumbai Cricket Association. Two of his wards represented India Under-19 in the World Cup. One of them, Atharva Ankolekar, was Player of the Series as well as Player of the Match in the final which India won in 2019.
Tejaswini has doubled up as a visiting faculty teaching banking and finance, and entrepreneurship, for the last 11 years.
The husband and wife are also passionate singers and they even own a recording studio. While it saw four or five people coming in its early days, the number has swelled to over 200 now. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6.30 to 9.30 pm, the Venkateshes can be found indulging in music at the studio and even managing events there.
Life is going full blast for the duo in their second innings. If entrepreneurship training and mentoring, event management and singing weren’t enough, Venkatesh is also part owner of outdoor agency Symbiosis Advertising.
Needless to add, he also mentors the shop as part of his entrepreneurship promotion mission. Fusing advertising and entrepreneurship training, that role perhaps represents the fusion of his first innings and second.