Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oceanic Consultants, BPO Intelligence and Object Next Software Makes OCA Group a 440 Cr Business House

CHANDIGARH: He used to sell decorative candles to the newly-wed couples along the roadside in Chandigarh. "I was never interested in studies, and I always wanted to do something of my own," says Naresh Gulati, who is now the owner of Rs 440-crore Oceanic Consultants Australia Group (OCA Group).

From selling candles to wholesale cloth trading, to cosmetics wholesale and teaching at Aptech Computers to running a computer centre, the 39-year-old tried his hands at many things before homing in on overseas education consultancy business.

The journey has not been easy for Mr Gulati who flunked in class 10 and performed miserably in college. But he is now a guest lecturer on entrepreneurship in leading Australian universities.

Armed with a diploma in electronic data processing, Mr Gulati went to RMIT, Melbourne, in 1995 for a post-graduate course in information systems. However, destiny had scripted a different chapter for him.

"When I reached there, I realised that I had been duped. I was promised a job in Melbourne by my immigration consultant, and that would have helped me clear the loan that I took for going overseas," recalls Mr Gulati. For the next six months, Mr Gulati came in touch with several students who had met the same fate. And this made him think about a fantastic business opportunity-immigration consultancy business.

Mr Gulati came back to Chandigarh in 1996 and started Oceanic Consultants. "Chandigarh had over 110 such agencies at that time, and I was discouraged by many not to venture into this business, says Mr Gulati. "There was a time when I had to choose between two options-paying the rent or using that money for advertising. I chose the latter and the risk paid off,".

In three years, Oceanic Consultants had opened branches in Ludhiana, Patiala, Jallandhar and Amritsar. However, the franchise model was not sustainable as quality was getting affected and people were not interested in investing money. Moreover, established players such as Study Overseas and IBP Education created a dent in whatever little marketing that Oceanic did.

Oceanic Consultants then zeroed in on company-owned office model. And the decision paid off. Oceanic now has 20 offices across India and plans to take the count to 60 by 2013.

"We opened our Australia office a decade back and the UK office last year. By the end of this year, we will be present in US and Canada. Punjab offices have now started to become profitable, while others will soon follow suit," says Mr Gulati.

He saw another opportunity in printing and distribution segments of universities. "In 2005, we developed a new technology enabling online orders of prospectus printing, postage and tracking from India to anywhere in the world. This outsourcing facility has helped universities save 25-65% of their profits even when our investment in starting BPO Intelligence was A$ 1,000," adds Mr Gulati.

In five years, BPO Intelligence is the leading company in Australia with 29 of the 39 universities using its services. Seven of the eight universities in New Zealand and eight clients in the UK also use these services.

The next year, another idea on software solutions for the education industry lead to formation of Object Next Software with an investment of A$ 5 million. In 2007, after a corporate restructuring, the OCA Group became the parent company of Oceanic Consultants, BPO Intelligence and Object Next, based out of Australia. The companies have been winning accolades from Australian Business Awards every year since 2008.

This year, Oceanic Consultants won the Australian Business Award for best enterprise in personal services industry. While Object Next won the award for best new product, BPO Intelligence won the award in two categories - product value and product excellence.

The Fairfax Media Group's Business Review Weekly ranked BPO Intelligence as the 12th fastest growing company in Australia this year, up from 93rd in 2008. Today, it contributes to more than 30-40% of the group's total revenue of $A 20 million. To make the Oceanic Consultants meaner and leaner, Mr Gulati brought in PriceWaterhouseCoopers last year to do a performance management of the entire system, and at the same time added a virtual private network connecting all its offices across different countries.

Mr Gulati feels that India will fuel the growth in overseas education even when the Indian government is rooting for foreign universities to come and set up shop.

"The demand for quality education and a global qualification is high in India. We plan to capitalise on this demand and become a global player, enabling admissions from any place to any place in the world. We're investing heavily into technology, which would allow us to hold global webinars providing virtual access to everyone," adds Mr Gulati.

Tags:Naresh Gulati, Oceanic Consultants, OCA Group, Overseas Education Franchise, Study Abroad Franchise, Immigration Franchise, immigration consultancy business, BPO Intelligence, Object Next

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