From selling candles to helping students fulfil foreign dreams

By Alkesh Sharma, IANS,

Chandigarh : From selling candles and fabric to teaching computers and from establishing an overseas student recruitment business to a software outsourcing company, Naresh Gulati has covered an enviable journey to entrepreneurial success.

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With a clear dream of becoming an entrepreneur right from childhood, Gulati started his venture in candle retailing with just Rs.5,000. Today he is the owner of a $150 million empire with offices across India, Australia, New Zealand and Britain.

“I always believe in my dreams and look at positive aspects of life,” Gulati told IANS, sitting in his three-storey well-appointed office in the upscale Sector 9 of this city, not far from the landmark Sukhna Lake.

“I started selling candles at the age of 15 on the pavements of Chandigarh to assist my family. Then I also sold fabrics door-to-door in city shops. Those were the difficult days of struggle, but they helped to cultivate a fighter spirit in me,” he said.

His ambition then made him pursue a diploma in data processing and he started working as a computer teacher. Although he also set up his own computer centre in the city, the urge of doing something big took him to Australia in search of greener pastures.

Gulati then went to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia in 1995 for a post-graduate course in information systems and that’s where he started learning about life in an altogether different light.

“I had limited funds. I borrowed from a moneylender. I was told I could earn handsomely while studying in Melbourne but on reaching there I realised I was deceived by the agent — I wasn’t told about visa restrictions, tax deductions and other expenses,” he said.

“I had to sleep on park benches many times as I ran out of funds,” he said, even as his entrepreneurial spirit and the urge to help fellow Indian students also made him realise a future opportunity during those difficult times.

“I was not the only one going through that trauma. There were many other Indian students like me. That anguish prompted me to venture into the student recruitment business. In 1996, I returned and started Oceanic Consultants with a capital of only Rs.143,000.”

Since then, Oceanic has sent over 10,000 students overseas in tie-ups with institutions like the Northern Michigan University, University of Cincinnati, Middlesex University, British Institute of Technology and e-Commerce, Cambridge International College and Canberra Institute of technology.

“We wanted to help students by providing genuine information, guidance. We don’t charge students anything. We help them in the application process, applying for visas and in getting admission in the institute of their choices,” he said.

“There are many black sheep in this business. They paint a rosy picture before gullible students to send them abroad. People are running education consultancies from homes and one-room offices. They have tied up with second-rate colleges, charging huge sums.”

Oceanic, which has its headquarters in Melbourne, has bagged several Australian awards. Besides helping students, it runs two more ventures — business process outsourcing intelligence unit and Object Next Software.

“In 2005, we started the outsourcing intelligence business with an investment of $1,000 to help foreign universities increase their revenue base. We help cut the high costs of prospectus, catalogue printing, distribution, postage and tracking of students.”

Today, Gulati said, Oceanic has a good number of clients in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Britain. “Over 70 percent of Australian universities and more than 65 percent of New Zealand universities are our clients.”

His focus now is on the third line of business that was launched recently — Object Next Software, which is specially meant for increasing the efficiency of educational institutes.

(Alkesh Sharma can be reached at [email protected])