By Alok Joshi
By sheer coincidence, I came across
a TED talk on YouTube that got me thinking about a plethora of issues. Most importantly, what struck me most was the inspiring journey of a middle-class boy from Dehradun who had a vision, not only for himself but for the society at large. He dared to dream about doing something on his own in the then nascent field of computer programming and chose to be a job-provider instead of being just a job-seeker like many of us.
This story is about Prof (Dr) Kamal Ghanshala, the Founder of Graphic Era group and the President of Graphic Era Hill University (GEHU). I have never met him but would love to do so. In his talk delivered in Hindi on 22 June, 2022, he narrates his journey of success as an ‘edupreneur’ spanning almost three decades. After all the hard work culminating in successive achievements, he comes out as a very simple and humble person through his talk.
In the 1990s, Dehradun was traditionally famous for its schools but not higher education. After completing his studies from Karnataka University, he returned to Dehradun and started a computer centre from the living room of his parental home with a paltry Rs 29,000. It operated from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. (attracting office-goers) with 14 chairs which he had to carry to set up his class-room every morning. Instead of entering into easy partnerships, he chose the path of struggle to follow his passion. He proved that he was good and established his name and credibility. He also successfully completed the task of computerisation in Garhwal University.
The Graphic Era Technical Institute was formed in 1998. In 2008, it became a deemed University. Three years later, GEHU was formed with two campuses, Dehradun and Bhimtal. It is a matter of pride that Bhimtal campus pass-outs get placements in Infosys, TCS and Amazon. GEHU today has 22,000 students on its rolls and 70,000 alumni. He did not rest on his oars and went on to set up an 1100-bed hospital in Dehradun and plans to open a Medical College soon. It took him almost 2 years to get NOCs and 6 months to get clearances for an electric connection for the hospital meant to save lives of people. But he did not stray from his focus.
His talk has two messages; one directly for the youth who want to be entrepreneurs like him and the other indirectly for the Government.
Young people should have dreams. Before the first dream becomes a reality, they should nurture the next dream. They should take small steps at a time. No need to put big money at risk in the initial stages. Think and invest in bits and bytes, as he says. There are bound to be many hurdles on the way. One needs a lot of patience. Never give up. Just pursue your goal and ignore the detractors. It is wrong to expect that Government will provide jobs to everybody. Have courage to engage in start-ups and grab self-employment opportunities.
I think what he says needs to be taken seriously by the State Government. It’s time to do away with avoidable bureaucratic channels and take bold decisions. Good governance is all about facilitation. Kamal Ghanshala has an enviable track-record of providing quality education with proven credibility. In my view, someone like him should be one of the advisors in the field of education in Uttarakhand. The region can benefit a lot from his experience and expertise. Venturing out of the cozy realms of Dehradun to Bhimtal is an index of his love and commitment for the development of the people of our hilly region.
As a step further, authorities should make use of the knowledge and experience of a vast reservoir of retired people available in Dehradun. Many of them have returned to their roots and are willing and waiting to give back to society.
(Alok Joshi, a Gold Medalist in English Literature and Linguistics and an MBA from Europe, has vast management experience spread across countries. He is a freelance writer, editor and author of “12 Sweet and Sour Years in China” – True stories of an Indian.)