Friday, April 16, 2010
Top quality education
COLUMN: AT THE HELM
Dr. G.P.C. Nayar, the chairman of the School of Communication and Management Studies Group, at Kochi, runs one of the best business institutions in Kerala
By Shevlin Sebastian
Dr. G.P.C. Nayar, the chairman of the School of Communication and Management Studies (SCMS), gets up at the unearthly hour of 4 a.m. to indulge in his passion for reading. So, he will read international magazines like Time, Newsweek and Forbes, as well as major local newspapers.
“It is through this extensive reading that I get many creative ideas which I use for my institution’s growth,” he says. In between, Nayar will also send replies to e-mails, as well as go for an hour-long morning walk.
At 9 a.m. Nayar sets off to his campus office at Kalamaserry. He has the trappings of success: Nayar moves around in a chauffer-driven S Class Mercedes Benz. At 9.30 a.m., he holds the management committee meeting.
“All decisions concerning our seven institutions are taken during this daily interaction,” says Nayar. Participants include his two sons, Pradeep and Pramod Thevannoor, and daughter-in-laws, Radha and Indu.
Thereafter, he has a series of visitors. “The majority are those who are seeking admission,” says Nayar. Most of them bring recommendation letters from powerful politicians and other influential people.
“Since I have to live in society, I have to agree to a few deserving candidates,” admits Nayar. “However, it is less than 10 per cent.” (Incidentally, the SCMS, which is regarded as one of the best business schools in Kerala, is also one among a few private institutions that do not take capitation fees).
Apart from people seeking recommendations, Nayar meets professors and lecturers who have come from abroad. The SCMS has tie-ups with universities in Australia, Switzerland, South Korea, England, and America. Foreign faculty, who come for a long duration, end up teaching the full course. “Thus, the students get global exposure and are benefited,” says Nayar.
At 5 p.m., Nayar returns home. A 45 minute swim in his backyard pool, followed by two pegs of whisky, and the stress is out of the system. Nayar again reads national newspapers like the Times of India, before he calls it a day at 9 p.m.
His life seems uneventful, but there has been plenty of drama in it. Nayar remembers the time when he decided to start an engineering college in 2000. He sent an application to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). After an interval, the AICTE replied asking Nayar to show, within five days, the proof that he had the minimum 25 acres that is needed to start a college.
Nayar had identified the land, near Karukutty, but did not have the Rs 3 crore needed to buy it. He rushed to his long-time bankers, the State Bank of India and, with his potent persuasive skills, he convinced them to lend him the money within one day.
With Pradeep, he went to Karukutty, bought the land, got the documents, and left the same evening to Bangalore where the AICTE official was waiting. However, there were many more ups and downs, and Nayar had to make more than 50 trips to New Delhi, before the approval was finally granted.
“It was the biggest turning point in my life,” he says. “Before we started the engineering college, we had an asset base of Rs 20 crore. But now that has gone up to Rs 786 crore.”
Asked how SCMS has stayed ahead of the rest, Nayar says, “I have always insisted on quality from the very beginning. So we have very good courses, an efficient delivery system, and top class mentors. I get good people by paying very high salaries. We also maintain absolute discipline on the campus. Without discipline, you cannot have quality education.”
So what does this doyen have to say about the state of education in Kochi?
“Ten years ago, there were only two professional institutes: the Cochin University's School of Engineering and the Model Engineering College at Thrikakara,” he says. “Today, there are more than 60 institutes and they include medical and engineering colleges, management and nursing institutes. This is a very good sign.”
The signs are good, but the state has a discouraging culture. “Kerala is the most hostile place for an entrepreneur,” says Nayar. “Both the UDF and the LDF governments have always been against self-financing professional institutions. I feel frustrated.”
To continue to grow, Nayar has shifted his focus to Bangalore, where he is planning to establish a couple of management institutes. Future plans include setting up a university.
“The Karnataka government will enact laws so that universities can be begun by private organisations,” says Nayar. Wipro already has a university, while Nayar has identified 140 acres, 35 kms away from Bangalore, to start his own university. So Karnataka’s gain is Kerala’s loss.
“The Kerala government has been against its own people for decades,” says Nayar.
(This column traces the daily life of leading personalities in Kerala)
(The New Indian Express, Kochi)