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Ashish Munjal, is the co-founder & CEO of Sunstone, an Ed-tech organisation working towards making employability based education interesting and accessible to all. Sunstone is India’s only management programs that offer pay after placement and money-back guarantee fee payment plans. This substantially reduces the financial burden on the students and their families, allowing them to pursue an MBA while becoming financially independent. Ashish aims at bringing accountability to the higher education ecosystem of India through unique fee payment plans and an industry-aligned curriculum.
Ques 1. Being the Co-Founder of Sunstone, what is your philosophy of leadership? How would you describe your leadership style?
A- I believe in empowering my team and giving them space to ideate. When you create a company that is looking to make a large impact on society, one needs to ensure enough freedom and leeway is given to those executing on the field, and my experience has shown me that collaborating, encouraging and empowering the people you work with rewards you way better than if you would have done everything yourself.
Ques. 2 Being the Co-Founder of Sunstone, how do you strategize about the key programs and plans for the marketing and administration of your School?
We believe, in creating an educational brand working towards making a large impact on the student community, marketing should not be the leading metric of your companies success, marketing plays a pivotal role in communicating with the students the initiatives you are taking, instead of being the leading indicator. For instance, if we talk about the pay after placement fee structure, making students industry-ready, taking accountability for their careers, applied specialisation.
These are the pillars of sunstone’s philosophy, the strategy for marketing comes in here to convey these to MBA aspirants in the best way possible. Marketing works hand in hand with the students in communicating and understanding the problem to be solved and the needs of the students.
Ques. 3 The education systems in India and other foreign countries are structured very differently. In your experience, what can an inbound student gain from studying here in your institute?
A- For this, first we need to understand that the issues and problems faced by the Indian higher education and students are very different from that of the western markets. Currently, as a country we deal with the problems of unemployability, a talent pool leaving the B schools is not industry-ready, institutes face the issue of empty seats. We believe, that as an education provider, institutes need to take accountability for the students’ education and students need to understand that they are equal par-takers in this process, by ensuring they are giving all towards becoming job-ready.
This is the core philosophy behind the inception of Sunstones’ pay after placement fee payment model. We work along with the students to ensure they are getting the education at par with the industry in terms of modules, technology, faculty etc. All of these aspects become more rewarding when we take accountability for students careers, through our pay after placement fee structure, which we believe has the potential to be a game-changer for the Indian education ecosystem.
Ques. 4 How does the curriculum of Sunstone ensure the best practice of industry?
Being an MBA student myself, much of what is being taught currently in our classrooms that as a student I’ll never get to use in the real business world. This brings me to the question all management education providers have to ask themselves, “is what we are teaching students relevant to them and making them industry-ready?” For instance, in an MBA, the student covers topics like marketing models, strategy management, how to manage your media spending? Etc. Such concepts students will not be applying this at least for 5 years into a marketing career.
Here B schools have to think about “Am I providing the knowledge the student needs ten years from now or what he/she will apply immediately after graduating?” While making Sunstone’s curriculum we focus on what the industry is demanding right now and how we can provide the right knowledge base and core values that will help the students move ahead in their corporate careers. As a result, we start our curriculum building process at the corporate end rather than starting from academia.
Ques. 5 Any insights into how your university could be more welcoming to students of different races or economic backgrounds?
We have always focussed on the percentage of women in the workforce, students from various backgrounds and geographical areas to increase the diversity in a Sunstone classroom. Currently, the female population in our MBA program is at 32-35%, yes definitely it is easier to find MBA candidates from the metropolitan cities, however, our classrooms show a rich diversity and inclusion among our students and this helps education initiatives like the pay after placement model to reach a wider audience and help more families in the process.
Ques. 6 What do you think should be the University’s top priority over the next 10 Years?
The one vision we started Sunstone with was to take complete accountability for a students career. Many surveys have been conducted wherein the employable MBA graduates was a mere 35%. This is a problem very close to our hearts and this is what we strive to solve from the very beginning. Our goal is that every graduate leaving Sunstone should be industry ready, and even if it takes the next 5 or 10 years, we will continue to work towards making employability based education affordable and accessible.
Ques. 7 What would you like people to know about your university they may not Know?
I would want the students or public to know that there is an educational institute that will stand by them through the complete MBA journey and strive equally hard for a successful career as a student. Piyush and I were just two passionate entrepreneurs who without a background in the educational industry, wanted to create an impact in the Indian educational ecosystem. Our vision is to solve the employability factor and skill gap for Indian students. Our business solves the unemployability problem while walking alongside them for the 2 years of their MBA and post that until they secure a job that empowers them for a successful journey ahead.
Ques. 8 What do you see as Sunstone’s greatest strengths?
Sunstone is a community that refuses to give up in process of taking responsibility for a students career. The Sunstone family refuses to stand by what the Indian management curriculum asks them to teach and are disrupting how the Indian higher education system works. For me the greatest strength, a co-set of people who are willing to take responsibility for a student’s career. The people and their passion for each student’s success are of great importance. They support them throughout their careers.
Ques. 9 What are some of the biggest challenges you see, both for higher education in general and for Sunstone specifically?
As a country, last 8-10 years the seats for MBA admissions have only increased whereas enrollment numbers have stayed overall the same. So as education providers we need to ensure that we provide real value in terms of education and holistic development in the students. In understanding what the student wants from education, we can create a valuable learning experience for the student. We need to ask ourselves, “how are we taking accountability for a student’s career and are we able to change a students life if he/she didn’t come to our institute?" This for us is the greatest challenge while also our greatest opportunity.
The primary aim of Sunstone is to make you industry-ready and prepare you for the real-life situations and challenges that you might come across in your career.
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