“Be yourself, be original,” stresses Priya Kumar, the well-known motivational speaker, bestselling author and corporate trainer, who is also the CEO and Chief Facilitator of Priya Kumar's Training Systems (PKTS).“Sometimes financial support and a little encouragement can be a great relief and motivator to survive trying times,” she shares and “passion, commitment to excellence are the greatest vehicles of expansion,” is what she advises. Priya Kumar has been awarded as the Women Leader inIndia, writer’s category and has shared the stage with orators like Jihn Buchanan, Amitabh Bachan and Kapil Dev.
She shares the story of her journey of breakthroughs, her highs and her lows and what makes her different in talks with Meenakshi Rohatgi of YourStory.in--
What methods have you chosen to engage your audience/customers? And why do you think they are so impactful?
I do experiential trainings. Words can only inspire but it is experience that locks in the learning and gives you the confidence that you can execute that which you learnt.
I use spiritual rituals and martial arts activities as analogies for creating success at work. For example, I get people to walk on fire (without getting burnt), people walk on broken pieces of glass barefoot (without getting cut), they smash karate boards with their bare hands. These activities are so impactful because a) you have never done this before b) you think you can’t do this c) you do it with ease. So people are on such a high after doing the activities that it is literally a lesson learnt for life. Imagine if you walk on burning coal unharmed, how can you never look at your life the same way again. These experiences cause a shift in perspective and sometimes that is all that is needed to make meaningful changes in your life.
People will forget theories and words and lectures, but they cannot forget experiences especially the ones that involved their own greatness.
Let us know about your entrepreneurial journey and how and why you started with your venture?
I was always an entrepreneur. I think necessity gives birth to an entrepreneur. I started working at the age of 13, teaching my classmates to earn a little pocket money. What I didn't know is that no matter what age you start working, you are going to work for the rest of your life. My tutorials were a great success. I taught over 1900 students in 9 years.
At 22, I got fed up of teaching and thought I would make a change. I was a public speaker and a story teller. Those were my skills in creating a smashing business out of teaching, and so the next level for me was training. I quit teaching and spent two years in gaining my foothold in the training industry. My decision to change my career was against everyone else's advice. In two years I had spent all my savings with no real head start as a corporate trainer. I finally launched my training company at 24 and the rest was history.
Why did I start my venture? Actually I am too undisciplined to do a job with someone. I like to work on my own terms and my own time. I cannot follow a routine and I don't follow the conventional style of thinking. So starting my own venture, being my own boss, daring at my own expense, risking at my own stakes was something that was the only option. I feel entrepreneur is a mentality. Its a way of thinking, of creating, of achieving.
Tell us what are the methods which have helped popularize your venture and reach across to the right people?
My popularity has been and is still supported by recommendations. I think there is no bigger medium of credible popularity than word of mouth. I have never advertised. I have only done my job well and that is what has taken me across the world.
Passion, commitment to excellence are the greatest vehicles of expansion. Steve Jobs was an example of that so much so that he has not just created a customer base, he has created a cult.
I use the social media platform to stay connected with my audience and that keeps the visibility and the demand going.
How long did it take you to make your venture stable? What were the factors that helped?When I started my training company it was very very tough. I was only 24 years old and I was too young to actually teach people who were twice my age. But I was a good orator and I think I got hired out of sheer amusement by the management to see what this young kid on the block had to say.
I still remember that when I was 24 years old I was flown to Chennai for a workshop with the employees of reserve bank ofIndia. I was the only one in the group who had black hair. Everyone was senior to me. But as I said, I am a story teller, and the audience were really hooked and engaged. And that is what gave me the confidence that I was on the right track.
I think what really contributed to my success was that I soon developed my own individual style. In the start I would create my modules and talks by coping content from other trainers but then that didn't work for me. I felt I was speaking someone else's words. This is a trap for a lot of trainers who derive their content from the works of others. So, I developed my own style, my own stories and my own bank of experiences. And that is what led to my phenomenal success. So when you come to my seminar you get a unique incomparable experience.
It took four years for my company to become profitable. Though the over head expenses were not much and neither was the initial capital investment but sustenance is a big expense. My mother helped me survive the four years, she loaned me money to keep afloat. Sometimes financial support and a little encouragement can be a great relief and motivator to survive trying times and I am glad that I did.
What are the essential lessons that you'd want to send out to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The first lesson I would like to share from my own experiences of mistakes is - be yourself, be original. Because when you are original then your greatest compliment will be when others will want to follow in your footsteps or copy you.
When you start on your own then you have to be your own motivating force. Things will be tough and you will be the only one to take the blame for them. Do it gracefully.
Know that you have within you the force to make things go right. You just need to keep moving on. Quitting is not an option for quitting would only mean that you are giving up on your own creativity and freedom to work and to live.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you are down. It’s ok to reach out to people to take a loan or a favour as long as you promise to return it and keep your word.
No matter how much money you make, no matter how much people may try to undercut your professional fee, never compromise on your deliverable. Don't evaluate the value of your work to the value you earn in money. Give more than what your client can ever pay you and your success will be guaranteed.
What do you suggest they do in trying times?
As an entrepreneur it is the trying times that deters a lot of people to take the plunge. Like I said, in trying times, economise on funds. Keep your chin up. Have friends around who can support your emotionally. Don't be scared to ask for help. If you stick on, you will make it. There is no isolated success. Success is a collective collaboration of support and belief of others in your project.
Do you think that your unique methods have helped spread your likeliness?
Oh yes. Because I am different, I stand out. The greatest asset of an entrepreneur is his originality. There is no point in following in someone else's footsteps and expecting to be recognized. As an entrepreneur you have the freedom to do and build what you like, so might as well create your own niche. And when you do that, people will flock to you.
With how much capital did you start?
I started out in 1997 with all my savings which amounted to 9 lacs. I exhausted my resources in two years in trying to establish myself. Then I had to take further loans of about 6 lacs to survive another two years before I actually saw profits.