Attracting talented and committed champions – Food for introspection

After an exciting last weekend (check the previous blog), Monday and Tuesday were earmarked for a Soul-to-soul and heart-to-heart sharing session to create a vision and organizational frame work for an institution of Education and Research. I just knew that session is at a retreat thirty five kilometers from Gurgaon. As I had to pick up one eminent gentleman from central Delhi and reach Gurgaon to car-lift Satya and Puneet, I left Noida home at 7:30am, and finally reached the Om Shanti Retreat at 10am. Only on reaching I realized that it was Northern India Regional centre of Rajayoga, the spiritual movement of Brahmakumaris(BK). All their centres spread across the globe actually come under one umbrella of World Spiritual university, with global headquarters in Mt. Abu.

Though I have been to premises of a few spiritual movements earlier too, this visit was a different one as we stayed in the premise for two days. This enabled me to experience the place more intimately. From the moment you enter the premises to the moment you exit, you are treated like a special guest, in the sense, there is always one Bhai or Behan, a BK, as they are also referred to is around to facilitate you. You step out of your private space, the BK is there to usher or guide you. Every guest is treated with the ‘seva bhav’, as if you are the guest visiting from the ‘SUPREME soul’, SHIVA, the all powerful inanimate incarnate. It resembles a retreat out of those ‘mythologic films’ that I have watched in my childhood, where the princess has birds, bees and flowers as her company in a tranquil and verdant surroundings.

The retreat accommodates 150 resident BKs, all in ubiquitous white attires, who have a regimented yet joyful schedule of starting the day at 4am and ending the day at 11pm. During the day, they involve in four meditation and interactive sessions that dwell on pursuit of the truth, apart from carrying out their responsibilities of cooking, gardening, generating solar power (200KV plant), conducting spiritual sessions, manning the guest houses etc.

The facility includes one academic block with 8 large classrooms, and two serene meditation structures that are very aesthetic and spiritual to just experience, wherein you are left to yourself to spend any number of hours. The place attracts scores of guests from around the world on any give day. We came across over 100 of them from as far places as Russia (a dance troupe), Portugal (yoga and meditation troupe) on one hand to Vishakhapatnam and Mysore (from other Rajayoga centres, BKs who dedicate their life) on the other, all in pursuit of exploring the internal journey.

As part of familiarization of the campus, we were put through a few mandatory processes (I felt) – visit to the hi-tech Rajyoga museum that has installations talking about journey of life and significance of the inner journey on day one, the second day an introductory session for Rajayoga and meditation, early in the morning for little over an hour. In all there were four BKs who facilitated our stay of two days at the retreat, all looking alike in their white attire, soft-spoken and eager to facilitate.

During interactions, I realized that each one has been in this movement for almost a decade, one of them since childhood. One striking discovery was that they were all professionals with varied experiences. The guide in the museum was a qualified engineer with a few years of experience in L & T, the guru for the meditation session was a physician (doctor) from Karnataka, the contact who arranged our stay there was an MBA from Narsee Monjee, and the constant companion was a postgraduate facilitated by the movement itself. Except for taking care of their stay and food, the movement does not pay a penny, and yet you see such an amazing commitment and passion. No wonder the whole campus was running like a clock-work, amazingly professional yet very spiritual and enlightening.

In fact, after experiencing the place, we four were discussing that a corporate has a lot to learn from the OM Shanti Retreat. I left the campus with many introspective thoughts. These thoughts took me back to another interesting journey that I went through in February.

On Feb 13, I received an email from one gentleman, Rakesh –

“Dear Mr. Sreenivasan,

This is Rakesh from BHUMI in Hyderabad. You had helped us with our Dronacharya & Ekalavya Mentoring Program in 2006. The program is in its 3rd year now and we have scaled up the program to reach out to 1000 Govt school children (most schools are in slums). We have also developed a unique framework and a specialized training program for mentors. We have also introduced Tutoring as part of the program this year.

http://bhumi.in/dne/index.htm

We have just successfully concluded a 5-day transformational leadership workshop for the coaches , mentors and tutors of the program. The workshop is called “Leading to Light”.

http://bhumi.in/leading_to_light.htm

Will keep you updated on the progress of the program

Need a small help from you. I copied my elder brother Naresh in this mail. He is an IIMB alumni from the class of 2008 and is currently with McKinsey in Mumbai. He is exploring franchisee options of Career Launcher and is looking at an advice from you. Would be grateful if you could help him with his queries.

Regards
Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu
BHUMI
www.bhumi.in
weblog: http://rakesh-will-do-it.blogspot.com/

To cut the story short, I had interacted with Naresh a couple of times and on Feb 21st, when I landed at Okhla HO, I was surprised to see Naresh in the office to sign as franchisee. He shared that he was inspired by his younger brother Rakesh’s work with slum children and wanted to get into education. Influenced by Rakesh, Naresh explored the portfolio of the work CL family is doing and was so moved by our work that he wanted to be part of our education movement. He has since jumped on to the CL journey. We have him on board, within ten days of start of his exploration.

So these two experiences – Naresh’s joining CL leaving McKinsey and the professionals devoting their life at Rajayoga movement, have lead me to a few introspective questions –

  1. What does talented people really look for in an organization?
  2. What makes them jump even without expecting a penny in return?
  3. If we articulate and anchor ours as a movement in educational transformation, will more capable lot move in?
  4. How do they feel motivated for so long doing the same thing day in – day out (as in the Rajyoga movement”?
  5. What sort of work in the education space if we pursue consistently we will have talented people flocking and championing the cause?
  6. What sort of environment will make each one thrive and excel?

Though every year a few capable lot move out of our movement and some do come back a while later, I for one is keen to retain and also attract many more to enrich, enliven and enable the movement for long time to come. Kindly comment and give feedback that may answer a few of my introspective questions.

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Inspiring Weekend with great gurus

The weekend Feb 27-March 01, was one of the rarest weekends of my life. I happened to be at various forums / institutions / venues including our very own IWSB, that gave me another opportunity to experience six inspirational gurus who have contributed to our nation – Prof Ishwar Dayal, Prof Krishnamoorthy Kannan, Prof. Kiran Seth, Prof. Srivathsan, Prof. Anil Gupta and Pt. Ravi Shankar. I am eagerly looking forward to great years ahead with all these great gurus guiding our education movement in one way or other. All of them are already involved to some extent with an exception of Pt. Ravi Shankar. I shall share briefly about each experience and share their links with you for more explorations if you are keen on.

Feb 27, 2009

Prof. Ishwar Dayal – I have got to know him for a little over a year now, ever since he accepted to anchor the academic council of IWSB. It amazes me how an eighty-four year old can be so active and agile, so sharp in grasping, thinking and communicating, so passionate about learning and facilitating, and above all so hardworking to put twenty-year olds to shame. In one of our interactions he shared that he still invests 4-5 hours every day in reading and writing. No doubt, it is the secret for his publishing a couple of thought-provoking books every year. At IWSB, I got to know from the students, that he made many of them redo their projects till he was satisfied with the result, each time going through every project report and presentations to the minutest details. I have participated in the academic review meetings anchored by him, and every occasion has been a great learning in every way – academic planning, faculty recruitment, curriculum philosophy, design of the courses, depth of the courses, approach to delivery…. It is very humbling to see such a guru devoid of any ego, the sole aim of his is to bring excellence to any work he does. It is indeed a privilege to have him at IWSB.

He is now-a-days preoccupied with how do we get more students to IWSB, to gain from the pioneering work the institution has started. One way is to get it affiliated with a reputed university. The explorations are on, as luck would have it, Prof. Kannan, VC, Central University of Nagaland was in Delhi and we met him the very evening,

Prof Ishwar Dayal has been associated with IIMs since sixties, first with IIMC, then IIMA and finally as founding director of IIML. He has also chaired two national committees on reforming management education in India. You just need to google to know more about him.

Prof Krishnamoorthy Kannan – Prof Kannan could even be called as father of Indian Stem cell research. I came across an article that said that India missed a Noble prize in Biology that should have been hers for asking, alluding to his remarkable work. Though a trained researcher in Chemistry, some how this stem cell research attracted him and he devoted considerable time and effort there. I got to know him during the last year’s SPICMACAY national convention that was hosted by Central University of Nagaland. His grit, determination and passion to integrate the mainland India with the seven sisters of north east made him root for the SPICMACAY convention at Kohima. Thanks to his persuasive skills, the DONER (department of north-east region) got excited and with Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer at the helm, the convention happened. Prof Kannan had to face staunch opposition from many local quarters, saying that he is hell bent on foisting alien Indian culture on the indigenous culture of Nagaland. He made sure to integrate many indigenous music and dance forms with the national convention.

His pet project now is to create a national education grid in such a way that all professors of eminence are accessible and deliver courses on the web to learners and the learners would pay nominal amount to learn and access from them. There are over a six lakh engineering students, even if one pays Rs. 10/- for every interaction, the professors will be handsomely compensated for their effort and would reach scores of passionate learners. The first of such grid was inaugurated in September between IIIT Tiruvananthapuram with University of Nagaland. The other gentleman who anchored this project is Prof. Srivathsan, then director of IIITD and current Pro-VC at IGNOU responsible for tech-enablement of educational delivery.

Check out http://www.nagauniv.org.in/menu/vcdesk/index.html

Feb 28, 2009

Prof Srivathsan – When I opened the newspapers early in the morning, I saw on the front page an advertisement talking about Annual Convocation of IGNOU, and unmistakably the text had the concepts pet to Prof. Srivathsan written all over, including the national education grid etc. I picked the phone and called him, asking if I could attend. He immediately invited me to the event.

At the appointed three-o-clock in the afternoon I reached the beautiful campus of IGNOU. The convocation was underway and I realized that over six lakh students are graduating this year across the country and the convocation was broadcast live on edusat and also webcast live, thanks to Prof. Srivathsan. After the convocation, he personally took me to introduce to many dignitaries at the event, a humble human being that he is.

Prof. Srivathsan, has been associated with IIT Kanpur and IIIT Trivandrum earlier and also NPTEL project of IITs ( NPTEL Channel on Youtube ) to empower every technical institution of this country. He is an amazing learner, inquisitive and self-taught. His ability to grasp whatever he comes across is amazing. He has created kisan-net with web and television integrated for kerala farmers that helps them in every way – predicting weather, to advising on planting crops or sowing seeds, to helping them reach their produce to market. He wants to scale the same thing at the national level apart from integrating the education grid.

You have to experience him to really understand how he comes out with so many ideas and solutions to every challenge, as he talks.

He is crisscrossing the country to make the education grid happen. If all goes well CL will be playing significant role in this education grid project.

You can know more about him at http://www.ignou.ac.in/aboutus/prof_krs_pvc.htm

Prof. Kiran Seth

Before IGNOU convocation in the afternoon, I was at the National Executive meeting of SPIC MACAY that was held at IITD in the morning. One person, a frail looking gentleman, whom you may not usually spot out in the crowd but for his attire : kurta-pyjama. Very unassuming, humble and ever motivating, Dr. Kiran Seth has done a yeomen service to this nation in promotion of its composite culture and heritage, that even all the departments of culture have not done together since Independence.

The SPIC MACAY, one of a kind movement originated over 30 years ago with an aim of promoting Indian Classical Music and Culture among youth. Over the years this movement has become a very vibrant and enabling one for scores of students and youth in schools and colleges across the country and also in many countries where Indian diaspora is active. Over 3000 concerts every year, graced by the stalwarts of Indian classical music and dance is no mean achievement. All this has been possible because of passionate and untiring effort of one human being, Dr. Kiran Seth, who is preoocupied with this movement, every day since its inception. Under Dr Seth’s guidance scores of volunteers, unsung soldiers, in the nook and corner of the country devote time and effort to further the cause of the movement by interfacing, interacting, organizing and facilitating performances and workshops. This movement would not have come this far without the active promotion and support by artistes, doyens of Indian Culture, who have given their lives for the cause of music, dance and culture.

Though I have been associated with the movement for the last 24 years, I have been actively involved at the central office only for the last one year. I have learnt a lot by interacting and sharing the same space with Prof. Kiran Seth.

An interesting article about him in mint http://www.livemint.com/2007/11/27000636/Kiran-Seth–Without-playing-a.html

March 01, 2009

Prof Anil Gupta

If you spot him in a street corner, you would wonder who he is, some may even ignore him. Always in a khadi kurta and pyjama with a flowing beard, this man has single-handedly put the nation on the innovation map of the world. He was at IWSB campus on Sunday as the chairperson of the committee to select the top six business plans from the national competition of IWSB, SRIJAN. He spent some time interacting with Satya and me about his vision for the nation, planting a sapling at IWSB and scribbling an inspiring message for the future entrepreneurial leaders of the country.

By the end of the day, the five month long national event came to a close with best six plans being recommended, including ‘renaissance’ a venture to bring grass-root innovations to the market place; ‘Magic Brick’ that will insulate and keep the interiors cool, while reducing the cost of construction with its interlocking mechanism; ‘BookMate’ a concept of book rental to be introduced in railways that carries four crore passengers every day.

Prof Anil Gupta, initiated the movement SRISTI for sustainable technologies. His honey-bee network, predominantly driven by compelling volunteers spread across the hinterland of this country so far have culled out 20,000 innovations that have been documented, quite a few of the patented and handful of them guided to the market place. His endeavours brought government to create NIF (national innovation foundation) that prof Gupta anchors. The impact has been such the NIF type of institutions have been initiated in 40 countries across the world and Prof Gupta advises each one of them.

You can know more about him and his endeavours by visiting www.sristi.org

. check out the ‘inspiring’ tab for more videos on Sristi movement.

Pt. Ravi Shankar and Anoushka Shankar

I rushed from IWSB to be at the Nehru Park in the heart of Delhi for ‘Music in the Park’ event organized by SPIC MACAY. It was a special day as Pt. Ravi Shankar is performing in the company of Anoushka. By the time I landed at the park it was beyond seven in the evening. I have missed over an hour of the concert. I went round and round the park to find a place to park my car. It was very unusual.

As I neared the arena, I noticed that the temporary periphery erected for the arena was very very winding, and I was wondering why such a huge arena. I realized only when I entered, that the arena was almost to its brim, with over twenty thousand ‘rasiks’ in the park with four giant screens showing the Raviji and Anoushka performing. The next one hour was simply magical, with 89 years young Raviji initiating every rendition and Anoushka taking the tempo of compositions to the next level in the company of accomplished tabla maestro.

The crowd was gaga about the evening. I have never seen such a huge crowd anywhere for a classical concert in my life. It was a great evening to cap the inspiring weekend.

You can explore more about Raviji and Anoushka at http://www.ravishankar.com/

I am eagerly looking forward to great years ahead with all these great gurus guiding our education movement in one way or other. All of them are already involved to some extent with an exception of Pt. Ravi Shankar. I am thrilled to be a disciple for life time.

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