Ashish Katta is an Indian-born Australian Entrepreneur and currently the Managing Director and CEO of iCollege Limited (ASX: ICT), the largest vocational education company listed on the Australian stock exchange by market capitalization. iCollege is currently bidding for a hostile take-over of Redhill Education and other education companies listed on the Australian stock exchange. Suppose successful will possibly create the largest vocational education company in the Southern Hemisphere with a market capitalization of over INR 1000Cr. Mr. Katta is known for picking up companies that are underperforming and turning them into market champions.
The most recent was iCollege in 2018, which had a market capitalization of less than INR 10Cr when he took over as the Managing director and CEO and turned the company into an INR 500cr company within three years.
Q1) It has been an incredible journey. What do you attribute your success to?
"People" would be a simple answer, I believe in a simple mantra "build an effective team, and the team will build an efficient company". Arthashastra has heavily influenced my recruitment strategy. Shilavan (character), Pragnya (Capability to think on his feet), Vangmi (Communication skills), and Daksha (observation). Unlike the traditional methods of looking at Experience and presentation, I have always focused on the above that have got me results.
Q2) You now have decided to take on a much larger challenge with AITA. What is the main goal of this association?
I am a big believer in the concept of Matrubumi and Karmabhumi, wherein the individual is indebted to both his motherland (India) and the land which provided us opportunity and stature (Australia). AITA was formed to promote bilateral relationships between the countries both in trade and investment both ways.
Q3) There are quite a few organizations that claim to do similar things, which is AITA's point of difference.
There are quite a few organizations that promote bilateral trade. Our difference is that we handhold companies for company formations to grow to find funding partners and supply chains. We work for hand in glove with the companies that want to enter new markets in Australia and India. There are many opportunities available in Energy, Critical minerals, Technology, food, resources, and defence. Both the countries have shown commitment to increasing trade via various initiatives, including Australia India business exchange (AIBX) and Comprehensive strategic partnership initiative. We act as facilitators of these objectives by helping companies set and achieve goals in the markets.
Q4) What have you focussed on with AITA until now?
Our focus has been mainly around the Education, Healthcare, and Technology sectors at this stage. We also have early-level developments in the critical minerals sector. We recently hosted Germii Australia, which partnered with Softbank robotics to develop and deploy pathogen-killing robots, including COVID-19, to create covid free spaces for Indian distributors and hospitals. We have been able to help Germii to set up its Indian subsidiary and are in the final stages of deploying the devices. In addition to that, we have also introduced accredited Blockchain certifications in India. Blockchain is on a tipping point, and there will be a huge requirement of people in this domain very
Soon. On this front, we have tied up with PACE IIT & Medical to introduce the certification in India, and we have a few things in the works to make sure this gets deployed to various sectors across India.
Q5) Who is involved in this with you?
On the Australian side, we have a mix of leaders from different sectors, Simon Tolhurst (Sr. Partner HWL Ebsworth, Largest law firm in Australia), John Sayers (Business Leader, Owned Regional express airlines, ocean earth surfing brand, etc.), George Addison (Adviser to Queensland Govt.), Hon Craig Wallace (Former MP and Minister for Queensland from 2004- 2012).
Q6) What can we expect to see in the coming future?
We are intended to put a renewed focus on introducing Indian companies to Australia and Australian companies to India and ensure that we cement the trading relationship between both countries and provide our help to the great initiatives taken by both the govt. There would also be a focus on education primarily (Skill development/ Vocational education) in India. We are also looking at opening channels for increasing bilateral private investments across the borders in multiple sectors. We have initiated our efforts in making this happen and are already making big strides in that direction.
Q7) How do movie making and films fit into all of this?
Movies play a very large role in how an entire generation is shaped, particularly in India. Bollywood has a huge impact on all aspects of our lives, whether fashion or how we perceive life. The purpose has always been to better people's lives, may it be via education or films.
Q8) Can you give us an insight into your projects?
My home banner, "Druid Motion pictures", co-produced "Operation Goldfish", a Telugu language movie in 2019. We have a couple of projects, a web series directed by the versatile actor Vijay Raaz and an Australian film "double or nothing" based in the 1970's Gold Coast. In addition to the above, we search for a Hollywood A-lister to star in "Kakori" based on Kakori train robbery in pre-independence India. All there-production work has been done, and we are looking at the casting at the moment. Kakori, I believe, will be a milestone in my journey when completed.
Q9) Why do you think now is a good time to launch this?
Australia and India have always had good trade relations; however, with the pandemic's after-effects and the current political climate vis-à-vis a decline in the Australia-China relationship, India is increasingly being looked at to fill the void in the economic activity in Australia. Both countries have long shared a cultural connection, and both elected representatives in the two countries seem to be on the same page about this, which makes this an even more appealing prospect from either end.