30 Most Influential CEOs to Watch 2020

Open Brackets Learning: Making Learning Open for All

The new-normal will require new-skills irrespective of the profession, position and profile you are. Employee, employer, entrepreneur, intrapreneur, start-up or solopreneur; gig mindset or corporate mindset – all of us need to now proactively upskill and new-skill. Also, every experienced and visionary leader understands that skills that make-up for the critical success factors of an employee cannot just be limited to technical and/or functional skills but must also include soft and behavioural skills.

Enabling this critical new-skilling objective for organizations and people is where Open Brackets Learning steps in as a partner; breaking the mould through its learning solutions with offerings such as 2020 Skills, New Age Leadership, Intuitive Solutions for the New Normal and Future of the Workplace.

In conversation with Viraj Kalra, Co-founder of Open Brackets Learning

Q. Could you tell us a bit about your journey as an entrepreneur and a leader?

I began my journey 20 years ago at Perfect Relations, which is one of the largest PR companies. I started as a communication expert for PR and brand strategy. At Perfect one critical career element became crystal clear to me. Not only did I enjoy working on ‘communication’ as strategy but that I was good at it (consistent client feedback). That’s where my journey in terms of making communication strategy, a central part of my offering began. Over the next 20 years, I refined it to the point that enabled me to become a coach, leader and finally also an entrepreneur. I co-founded my first company, White Ladder, and then last year co-founded my second company, Open Brackets. And at the heart of it, what we have in common between me and both of these ventures is that we help our customers grow as organizational, personal and institutional brands through communication, experiences, engagements and interactions with their internal and external stakeholders.

Q. Let’s talk about service efficiencies. How efficient are your learning and training strategies? Could you tell us about the success rate at Open Brackets?

For our B-2-B clients, our efficiency is measured based on whether they want to renew our services after their present agreement or contract is over. In the last ten years, I have worked with close to 300 large corporate including prestigious brands such as Accenture, India Today, PepsiCo, ByteDance, Nestle, Cognizant, Pernod Ricard, Sterlite, Fresenius, Envestnet Yodlee, Foresight Group and Uflex. All of these clients repeatedly work with us, some for as many as 10 years. So, this means that they are more than happy with our services. Another check of efficiency for us comes from the feedback we get from the participants of our training and coaching sessions. Our trainers and coaches have always scored in the top 0.5% percentile on participant feedback across diverse engagements.

Additionally, we provide training and learning services also for the B2C customer, our tagline after all is “Making learning OPEN for all”. An individual can walk-in and book a seat for an upcoming batch of a program he/she is interested in.  

We differentiate ourselves from others in the B2C training space by ensuring a direct interface between the facilitator and the participant. Many online courses by leading learning brands have something in common – all of their content is self-consumable. When you enrol for a course - you download a pre-recorded video, webinar or deck. But at Open Brackets Learning, all our training programs and learning programs are constructed with a live facilitator interface. This enables the participants to contextualize their learning through questions, first-hand feedback, and suggestions. That’s how we ensure that we get a near perfect participant-rating.  

We have about 275-hours’ worth of live training content available for our participants right now and on average, our participant-rating at the moment on a scale of 1-5 is 4.87. This is about 15-20% higher than the global. average.

Q. What other CEOs do you look up to, and why?

I look up to many of them. But my recent and current favourite is Elon Musk. I think in recent years, a leadership style that I (partially) endorse is his. Why? Well, because he is a prime example of a leader with a larger-than-life vision than life. You can clearly see that he’s not doing what he’s doing for profit. Whether it’s SpaceX or Tesla, all of it is clearly about changing the way the world consumes energy or changing the way the fate of the human species on the planet is going to shape up. So, his vision is larger than life. It is a vision such that is infectious, inspiring and worth emulating.

Q. What is Open Brackets Learning looking to do for the coming year?

The terms ‘new-normal-relevant’ and ‘contextual’ are going to mean everything to us. Because when our competition is putting out generic content, our offering will be contextually different for every learner, every module, and every industry. Contextual, new-age, live, interactive and experiential learning content is what we specialize in, and we want to keep increasing that four-fold every year. That’s the plan for the future.

Leading from the Front

Viraj Kalra, Co-founder: Mr. Kalra has over 20 years of experience in leadership roles in multiple industries like Education, PR, Retail, Media, Consulting, and L&D. In addition to being the Co-founder of Open Brackets Learning, he is a distinguished speaker and leadership coach. While he has an impressive portfolio of clients which includes PepsiCo, Sony, GSK, Pernod Ricard, Fresenius, NIIT and India Today, he also engages with faculty, management and students of prominent universities and educational institutions.

“Contextual and new-age digital learning content is what we specialize in and we want to keep increasing that four-fold every year. That’s the plan for the future.”

“We provide training and learning services for not just enterprise B2B clients but also to the B2C customer. Our tagline after all is ‘Making learning OPEN for all.”