Interview with Paramdeep Singh–Director of Pristine

About Pristine

Pristine is a pioneer in trainings in India for international certifications like FRM, PRM, CFA, CFP and industry oriented courses like financial modeling in Excel, etc. Pristine is now one of the largest authorized training providers in India and has a significant presence across the world (through its unique online offering). It is a leader in finance training in India and has online presence across the world. It has rapidly established its name owing to its unique topic expert model and innovative training methodologies.

Paramdeep, Atul, Sarita, Pawan

The organization has been formed by professionals having work experience in Private Equity, Investment Banking, Consulting with Goldman Sachs, Reliance PE, Standard Chartered, Accenture, CRISIL and who are alumnus of IITs and IIMs.

We had an email interview with Paramdeep.

Q1. Tell us something about how you thought about starting Pristine? What was the main driving factor behind this?

We were working with some of the most renowned names in the investment banking, private equity and consulting industry. While doing our work, we realized that there was a huge gap in the kind of education that we got from colleges and the kind of skill that was required in job. For example, while studying at IIMs, nobody speaks about the clear role of sales in finance job. It is a hard reality that even when you are working in Investment Banking (One of the core finance jobs), 50% of your time goes in selling (be it equity sales on behalf of your client, or the pitching exercise to get mandates, etc.). To bridge this gap of theoretical knowledge and the knowledge and skills required in jobs, we conceived the idea of starting Pristine.

To make sure that our content and teaching methodology is always in line with the latest industry requirements and trends, we always engage industry professionals for our classes. We term this model as topic expert model TEM.

Q2. What are the requirements that you had to fulfill to make it fully functional: infrastructure, IT, logistics, team members, etc?

As a startup, we did not have the luxury of a huge capital base. We started our office out of our homes and initially just the 4 partners were responsible for all the sales, execution and coordination. Luckily all four of the partners knew each other very well and are well networked. We gradually started partnering with a lot of educational institutions and corporate clients and always took care to have the optimal investment in IT – be it online platform for synchronous learning or asynchronous learning.

Now we are a 16 member large team, have two offices 1 in Mumbai and 1 in Delhi, good tools for online education and we get a lot of support from our partners.

Q3. Who are your customers and how exactly do you help them? Talking about the market, how do you estimate its size?

Pristine has been associated with some of the most reputed corporate clients and educational institutions. Pristine has worked directly associated with NISM (educational body promoted by SEBI), HSBC, Mizuho Bank, Webaroo and has trained participants from  IDBI, State Bank of India, STCI, HSBC, etc. The main focus areas of training have been Risk Management, Quantitative Analysis, Financial Modelling in Excel, Derivatives, etc.

Pristine has also been directly involved in training students of IIM Calcutta, BITS Pilani, SIMSREE, Welingkar in the area of financial modelling in excel, corporate finance, risk management, etc. Apart from that Pristine has taught students from almost all leading colleges across India.

There is a huge surge in demand for quality certifications in India. People have started investing a lot of time and effort in certifications of repute like CFA, FRM, PRM, CFP, financial modelling in Excel. Currently over 35,000 students are giving these certifications in India alone and this market is growing at 25+% points each year.

Q4. Tell us about the terms used in your venture: CFA, FRM, PRM, GARP, PRMIA?

CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), FRM (Financial Risk Manager), PRM (Professional Risk Manager) are some of the most prestigious international certifications in the area of finance. These certifications are conducted by independent organizations and are recognized as certifications of excellence in the area of corporate finance, risk management, quantitative analysis, etc.

Apart from clearing the exam, to get the charters you need to have relevant work experience. One gets a definite career boost in the field of finance, if one clears the certification.

FRM is conducted by a body called GARP, PRM is conducted by a body called PRMIA and CFA is conducted by CFA Institute, USA.

Q5. What is your business model?

Professionals and students pay training fees for the certification courses. We have more than 350+ faculty pool to deliver theses trainings at various locations in India and abroad.

Pristine has been focusing on student success in all aspects by:

  • Having a strong focus on Intellectual property and has its own material
  • Bringing innovations in the education market by creating products like visualizeFRM (Summarized formula and concept charts), summarized recordings (for revision) and online synchronous classes (for added convenience of students)
  • Employing the Topic Expert model It has the largest network of professionals (350+), who provide participants with practical perspective on various subjects
  • Using world class methodologies like Excel Models, content and training that is very time effective
  • Becoming authorized training providers for the various organizations that conduct the certification exams. Right now Pristine is the largest training provider for professional certification examinations.

Q6. What is the value of innovation in your business?

Certification training for finance is right now at a very nascent stage. There are a lot of players entering the market without ensuring the quality of training/ processes or original content. As the sector achieves maturity, players would have to focus on innovation for better results and quality. Pristine has a strong focus on innovation. We have been the pioneers in the area of content development like VisualizeFRM, Summarized visual charts for CFA, Online revision class recordings, books and material on risk management, our own financial models for various industries like Infrastructure, Power, etc.

We think that the final success of organizations in this domain would be driven by innovation.

Q7. How you market your products/services?

In education success is dependent to a large extent on word of mouth publicity. Pristine has been focussing on customer delight by innovating on the content and teaching methodologies.

We are authorized training providers for most of the courses that we conduct. One of the advantages of having original Intellectual Property and strong focus on IPR is that a lot of people trust you. These organizations help us reach our students and show our capabilities.

We also rely a lot on Google advertisements to reach potential students.

Q8. What is the scope of expansion and what is your vision about it?

We have found that there is a gap in industry requirements and the curriculum that students are studying. Pristine is planning to launch placement oriented programs aimed at helping college graduates reach the desired job profile. An important area of the training would be counseling the students for the right job. Pristine would also be working with a placement partner to ensure the right opportunities for the students.

Pristine is also working with colleges authorities to provide industry perspective to education.

Q9. Any hard lesson that you learnt as an entrepreneur?

It is a tough market!! So if you are planning to become an entrepreneur be prepared to face rejection!! We found that the market behaves a lot different in real world, than what appears in paper and theory. So any assumptions that you make about your market, be prepared to throw them out of the window, when you start working actually on the ground.

Q10. Any advice for future entrepreneurs from your personal and professional experience.

Be prepared to work VERY HARD and form a good team. When you start your company, in the initial years, there are going to be teething troubles. You need to have someone to fall back to. For this a good and committed team is a must! In my view, this is the most important factor in success of organizations.

After you decide that you want to do it, don’t stop. Take the plunge!

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