Antano Solar John and Harini Ramachnadran, Co Founders A&H Consulting
Antano Solar John and Harini Ramachandran detest the clichés traditionally used to describe the work they do. The duo counsel entrepreneurs and businesses, but don’t call themselves business consultants; they help individuals transform their habits and behaviour, but stay away from the term ‘self-help;’ they have transformed schools to get a 100 percent pass percentage, but don’t bill themselves as ‘educators.’
Meet John and Ramachandran, co-founders of Chennai-based School of Excellence, which ‘installs’ fundamental changes in individuals and businesses in a short time, to bring disruptive transformation.
“Excellence Installation is a trillion-dollar industry globally,” says Ramachandran. “It is as fundamental as electricity—just as electricity first brought lights and then enabled every industry, the technology of installations can disrupt the way several industries function.”
The duo was in Delhi recently to train a batch of EIT (Excellence Installation Technology) entrepreneurs. Over the past eight years, School of Excellence has trained more than 600 EIT-enabled entrepreneurs across the world, including in India.
With fees ranging from Rs 4.5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh, and a course spanning two to three years, the duo boasts of marquee clients such as AR Rahman's Sunshine Orchestra, several Padma Bhushan awardees and filmmakers, and partners in the US, Australia and Singapore. Edited excerpts from an interview with Forbes India
: Q. You don't call yourself life coaches. But the ‘installations’ and changes you aim to bring are largely what life coaches also try to do…
Life coaching, as a field, doesn’t make changes to the core of an Individual; it does not engage any diagnostics to bring about a change in behaviour. Life coaching, in fact, focuses on awareness and execution within the boundaries of your innate nature. If consistently observed, it could lead to habit changes in the long run.
Our approach involves making immediate behavioural changes, and making them natural so that we can predict the long-term compounded consequences of even a simple shift. We accept limitations as the nature of a person.
Excellence installation is different because it makes the transformation in minutes—this could take years in coaching. So even though we are not a business consulting firm, we have been able to provide business and market insights for the entrepreneur to succeed in both conventional and unchartered business terrains. This is also the reason that award-winning coaches and trainers in the wellness industry, including those who have helped world champions like Olympian Sakshi Malik, have committed themselves to EIT education. Q. So you continuously monitor the progress of the individuals and businesses?
Our minimum engagement with a client runs for two to five years. Meticulous documentation of the set of changes in each individual at every pivot provides wisdom of what kind of changes produce what results and for whom, and not only for the short run.
Every three months, we review what their life has been like across various pillars: Relationships, career, family, wealth, emotional intimacy, health, personal evolution. And at each pivot, we do a comprehensive set of installations on a one-on-one basis, which enables them to make the next big leap. These installations comprise development of fundamental capabilities such as the ability of clean perceptual positions, systemic thinking, rapport and influence across a wide range of people, and sensory acuity. This is in addition to external and internal behavioural changes that help better emotional mastery, reorganisation of unconscious priorities, the capability to detect and reject unconscious patterns, habits and behaviour of others, so one can stay protected from harmful influence. Q.What's the most common problem that people come with? How do you change it?
Once people have accepted a habit or certain limitations for 10-15 years, they tend to make their peace with it and build their lives around it. We help them recognise how limited their life and experiences have been because of this, and interrupt that pattern by making specific adjustments. Another common problem is unconscious priorities—this is a big reason why people first come alone, but later come in as families.
There are several procedures we use to make these changes innate. Our favourite method is to use storytelling, with precise feedback of unconscious responses. Such stories have an impact on the unconscious mind. There is a specialised region within the brain’s angular gyrus that allows humans to comprehend metaphors. The function of this region is cross-mapping. Storytelling can have an installation effect when the listener is in a state of high performance, or when this region is active. Just like the eyes, ears, and other organs that have a physical role to play, the understanding of metaphoric representation is an ability physically baked into our neurology. Thus, storytelling continues to be one of our favourite methods to produce transformations. Q. You also claim that habits and nature can be changed in a compressed time frame…
Yes, they can. It is true that the nature of a person does not change easily, and neither do habits.
In our approach, the actual change in behaviour happens during the session, not after. And this can be tested immediately. After the installations, when they go back to their world of family and work, they find themselves automatically making new choices and find themselves in a better state of mind.
If you look at how things work in nature, a real change happens in a moment. A deep shift happens when there is an external event that triggers specific emotions. However, one does not have to wait for a tragedy for change. What if we can figure out the technology to replicate, recreate, on-demand, the internal shifts that create the change, instead of the change happening in random, based on life events? That is what EIT is all about.
Take, for instance, helping a person overcome the habit of worrying perpetually. This can be life changing. Helping people to stop worrying without taking care of other capabilities could stop the only thing that gets them to actually work every day! Q. The field that you operate in India grapples with two fundamental issues: Lack of awareness and scepticism. How did you deal with these challenges?
Our initial few years were all about testing the technology and pushing it past its boundary conditions. Having a successful full-time job gave us the financial freedom and time to be able to do this without the pressure of having to make ends meet. Our work earned us the endorsement from co-creator of neuro-linguistic programming, Dr John Grinder, in 2012. We continued to pursue more opportunities that came our way, as well as actively reached out to solve unsolved challenges. This is how AR Rahman’s project of working with underprivileged children came our way. Within eight months of our work with them (about two interventions per month), he launched as the Sunshine Orchestra; today, they perform all over the world. Our history of successes in a short time, relationships with people in our respective careers, and our personalities made it easier for people to work with us exclusively.
However, when we had to commercialise the work we were doing, we had to battle scepticism. One of the bolder moves that helped us reach more people was a 365-day money-back guarantee. A lot of people thought we were crazy to make such an offer in a market like India. But we believed that when people genuinely feel the difference of breaking free from limitations, they will be grateful and not exploit the money-back guarantee. Such a promise was heard of for digital products, but not for a service. In three years and having catered to thousands of people, we have had only three refund requests.
The second thing that helped us reach more people is our obsession with data. We wanted to track long-term consequences, so we endlessly extended free re-visits to people for several years, so we could track the long-term effects over time. And this got many people to bring their family and friends with them each time they came back.
We also started EMI (equated monthly instalments) options that people could pay over two years. So, in a sense, they can get instant transformation and benefits now, and pay later.
Though we have discontinued money-back guarantee now given that we have gained acceptability, we do continue to give EMI to keep the entry affordable, acknowledging that one-on-one sessions do bear high costs.