The Silicon Review
We are changing the way people engage and learn in this digital world: Rajiv Rajendra Organizations that have not only survived but thrived have focused with a laser-like intensity on the execution, productivity and performance of the business. But homing in on traditional business results has also escalated demands of the workforce. Staff cuts, tighter budgets and increasingly difficult workloads have created an environment in which employees are feeling overworked, undervalued and disengaged. So, while a focus on business results may have served organizations well in the short term, it won’t be enough to keep them ahead of the competition moving forward.
In light of the above-mentioned concern, we are delighted to present Aktrea – dedicated to helping create an empowered workforce by improving employee learning and engagement and making them agents of change.
Aktrea was established in 2009 and is headquartered in Singapore. It has offices in the USA and India.
Interview Excerpt: Rajiv Rajendra, Founder-CEO & Ajay Ramachandran, Head of Engineering
Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
Aktrea was founded in 2009 with an objective of using technology to change the way professionals around the world were learning and sharing their knowledge. Over the years, we have managed to build intelligent learning tools and increase automation in the area of learning and knowledge sharing. We have lowered the entry barrier for people to share their knowledge in an engaging way and have enabled the creation of practice-based engaging learning tools.
How successful was your first project roll on? Share the experience.
Our first learning project was the ‘Market Simulator’ – much like a flight simulator for pilots. It would allow practitioners – bankers, corporate employees and management – to play the role of banks, central banks, corporates and investors in a simulated global financial market and learn how markets work and decisions are made. It is one of our most successful offerings, with thousands of participants having gone through this exciting experience. The excitement and the practice-based approach to very important real-life knowledge, as well as the excellent participant feedback and more importantly, retention of learning, gave us more insights and belief in the concept and our methodology, and we have been able to build on that.
What kind of mixed responses have you received from your consumers over the years? How have they motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?
With the development of technology, reducing attention spans and people ‘living’ online, learning techniques and digital knowledge sharing have to evolve. But change does not come easy, and there is often a lot of resistance to change. When we started, replacements for traditional learning methods involving PowerPoint presentations and e-learning were most prominent, and ‘games’ and ‘simulations’ were thought of as frivolous activities for children. That was the status quo – but when children learn so effectively from games, they learn by practicing and do so quickly, why can’t adults? So, there was resistance, especially from conservative leaders.
While we were replacing old world methods, our values remain old world. We maintain the old relationship school of customer service – where we act as customers’ trusted advisors and long-term partners. This along with the change that disbelieving customers saw in their own learning and retention allowed us to break through and engineer that change.
Also, while we now have many ‘off-the-shelf’ products, our initial solutions were fully customized – our customers appreciated our work and would always provide feedback on how to improve and what to include. This gave us invaluable inputs from a customer perspective and taught us to always design from a customer point of view.
About the adaptability, how do you stay relevant to the consumer interests and needs in this highly volatile market?
Having been pioneers and first movers in quite a few parts of our domain, we had the advantage of being able to set the pace and the product definitions. In our world, we are explorers, testing the untested, charting the waters and exploring the unseen. While others call us disruptive we simply see ourselves as agents of change. This allows our customers to benefit from the most cutting-edge thought processes and push boundaries where their peers are still holding on to older world technology and practices. Also,
our decisions and advice are always with a longer term perspective, not reactionary but aligned with customer strategy and DNA. This allows change to happen which is intrinsic and meaningful, and not simply for the sake of change.
How does your company contribute to the global IT platform?
We are always looking at the latest changes in the industry to see what is relevant to us. However, our real contribution here is in democratizing learning. Our product offerings allow anybody to create gamified learning solutions very easily and rapidly. There is a great need today to learn new skills quickly and effectively to be relevant. Our contribution to society at large is to help in this process.
Do you have any new products ready to be/getting ready to be launched?
Indeed – coming up very soon are:
As a question on sustainability, where do you see your company a couple of years from now?
We see ourselves as having added value to many more enterprises (where people have improved their learning), helped the social sector improve learning and awareness, assisted CEOs with their employee side of their digital strategies, and having set the trend in engagement and learning for professionals the world around.
The Brains Behind The Operation: A Brief Background
Rajiv Rajendra, Founder-CEO: Rajiv Rajendra has spent many years covering different aspects of banking and business management across geographies. He has advised customers on leading their businesses, managing their financials and risk, conceived and executed client solutions to increase efficiency and lower cost, set-up, managed and grown balance sheets and businesses, been a part of exciting new business launches across continents, and migrated and led outsourced critical business and financial processes. Rajiv has pioneered the use of Gamification and Simulations for enterprise-training and has personally led over 5000 participants’ in simulation training sessions. He has also authored two novels and two business management books.
Mr Rajendra earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from PSG Tech, India, and a Master’s degree in Business Management from XLRI, India.
Ajay Ramachandran, Head of Engineering: Ajay Ramachandran brings nearly 20 of experience in building software across small and large organizations. He started his career working with Microsoft on the Active Directory and Identity Federation Teams inside the Windows Server Group. For a change of pace, he worked with startups Blue Vector Systems and ROC IT Solutions. At ROC-IT and Blue Vector, Ajay worked on the backend of the platforms as well as the crucial integration components. The platform supported a wide range of applications focused on using technologies like RFID to streamline various supply chain operations. Ajay was a key member in both building the integration components and getting the system to work on the Distribution Center (DC) floor for one of the biggest drug store chains in the US. His experience allows him to combine the agility of the startup world with the discipline required to ship enterprise grade software.
Mr Ramachandran earned a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York.