Q1. Tell us something about you?
My roots are in Udaipur. My grandfather migrated from our ancestral village Mandalgarh near Bhilwara and settled in Panchwati in udaipur. My father was a law graduate and served as a judicial officer and retired as a judge from Rajasthan High court. My mother was a homemaker. We were three siblings – two brothers and one sister. Though being from Udaipur I never studied or lived here and did my schooling from various towns where my father was posted. I did my secondary and higher secondary schooling at Happy School, Alwar affiliated to Rajasthan board. My critical years were all in Alwar.
My contact with Udaipur was 2 months of summer holidays every year with my grandparents where all my cousins would join me and we would be a group of ten kids. It was like a student camp – highly enjoyable. We used to spend time at Saheliyon ki bari, Fatehsagar, and Mohta park at Chetak which had a small library.
Q2. We would like to know about your college life?
I joined BITS Pilani in 1971. My school life was spent in a protected environment of huge government houses. Pilani was my first exposure to competing on my own in the outside world. At BITS Pilani all of us came as toppers of our schools but soon we realized that we were competing against students as good as or better than us. So in such an environment you get to benchmark yourself against the best. The best thing I liked about BITS Pilani was that from day one you get a single occupancy room at hostel. So you have your privacy and you get a lot of time to yourself. In college most of us who were from Rajasthan Board faced the problem of spoken English.
(On being asked: How did you cope up with this problem?)
BITS had a very good system to deal with this problem. As soon as you joined, you had to appear for an English exam and those found weak were put in the ‘Make up English’ course. This prepared us to be more confident with English Language. Also we started reading Times of India everyday.
At Techno NJR I see many students using Hindi medium schooling as an excuse for not doing well in their Engineering courses. Having gone through this problem myself; I know that it just needs some efforts to overcome this problem. Subscribing to English newspaper, reading out portions of it, making a small group of students with similar problems and communicating with each other in English; all it needs is to make efforts. Many students can write good English but lack good verbal or communication skills. What I personally believe is that if you can write well in English it means you can think in English and if you can think in English you can definitely speak it with some practice.
(Soft skills are overshadowing the technical skills as well as academic skills?)
No it is not true. You do need communication skills to express your technical skills. Stress on soft skill has come in focus because it has been found that Indian students, mostly Hindi speaking north Indian students lack these skills though they may be good in technical knowledge. This certainly is a major issue with Udaipur students. Techno NJR therefore lays a lot of stress on soft skills- spoken English, aptitude, personality development, group discussion etc.
After graduating as a mechanical engineer from BITS, I joined University Business School at Chandigarh which was fast coming up as a good business school. I was selected by Voltas, a TATA Group company as a management trainee and placed at Mumbai. That is where my professional life began. It was my first and last job and I worked there for ten years mostly in their international business division and travelled to many countries.
Q3. Your enterprising nature is one of the several attributes of your multi-faceted personality. So we would like to know something about your business ventures.
It took me 5-8 years to know what business was all about and by then I had decided to be an entrepreneur. I left my job in 1987 and moved to Delhi to set up my company Lifestyle Exports. I realized that there was lot of scope in the upcoming electronics sector and there were many small units manufacturing electronic items in and around Delhi. We manufactured electronic products like radios, B/W and color TV, PA system etc in Delhi and exported them to Africa. Subsequently in 1992 I set up a joint venture in Kampala, Uganda for assembly of consumer electronics items for African market.
My mentor and guide in business was Sheikh Abdul Fatah Marafie, Chairman of powerful Marafie group of Kuwait, who supported me in my initial years of business. He gave me the opportunity to supply many items to his companies in Kuwait and the major breakthrough came when I got a significantly large order for supply of marble from Udaipur for renovation of his hotels which were destroyed by Iraq in 1992 invasion of Kuwait.
In 1995, I tried my hand at TV serials and promotional films also. Only notable promotional film I made was a promotional film for Indira Gandhi Hockey tournament with Shahrukh Khan, Anil Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and others.
For the last five years I have moved myself away from businesses and I am currently focusing all my energy on Techno India NJR.
Q4. Being a part of the corporate world what inspired you to enter the Education Industry?
It was not planned. I was focused on my business but a series of unfortunate events took place in 2001-2003 which completely changed me and my life. In these two years I lost a close friend Jitendra Ranawat and his son Navdeep.
Jitendra Ranawat, known as Makku in our friends’ circle was a livewire business executive. He was a very close friend of mine. He worked for Aditya Birla group in Indonesia and then partnered up with some Malaysian Indians to set up a factory in Kuala Lumpur. We shared our zest for life and our favorite pastime was to play at premier golf courses around the world. For me he was more than a brother and a great friend. His death made me realize that we do not control our destiny and it changed my focus from earning money to do something for the society.
On 12th June 2003 (7th day of Makku’s death), Meera (Makku’s wife) and I set up Navdeep Jitendra Ranawat Charitable Foundation with an intention to set up an Engineering college in their memory at their hometown Udaipur. It took us five years to organize enough funds for the project and finally Techno NJR was established in 2008. Our dream has been to create an institution on the lines of BITS where quality education is provided at reasonable cost.
(Journey: Techno India NJR)
Techno India NJR is a non-profit organization in real sense. People were puzzled when we declared at its inception in 2008 that we will not accept any donations for admissions against management seats. In last five years every single admission against the management seat has been on merit and without any donation. Both Mrs. Meera Ranawat and I, we do not draw any salary or profit from Techno NJR. Every single rupee earned by the college is spent on its faculty, student welfare or setting up international quality labs.
All of us at techno NJR family which includes management, faculty and students are focused on raising the standard of this institute so as to be counted amongst one of the finest institute in the country. It is also an institute where girls can stand shoulder to shoulder with boys and build a career in engineering in a safe and disciplined environment
It is necessary for any institute to have certain minimum number of fees paying students to remain self sustaining and financially viable. But at the same time accepting unsuitable and unserious students can compromise the quality of the institute in long term and therefore Techno NJR has kept away from race amongst colleges for filling seats through whatever means.
Q5. Do you relate yourself to the students in today’s engineering colleges?
Well at BITS, we have gone through a highly competitive environment, whereas in today’s private engineering colleges this fierce sense of competition is missing. As number of engineering colleges and seats has grown manifold, there has been resultant fall in the quality of students joining Private engineering colleges.
I am generally blamed for putting tremendous pressure on students at Techno NJR. Many senior faculty members at Techno NJR also share my view that we need to create pressure on students for making them perform better as they need to compete with the best in the country when they pass out. We like to benchmark them against students from good colleges in Banglore, Pune and Mumbai.
There is no doubt that these students are bright and smart but they have to learn the value of discipline and hard work: both required for success in life. Four years that they spend at college should mold them to become a professional later in life. We can not take an easy view that college years are meant to be fun only.
Q6. Every student who joins an institute expects 2 things out of the institute: Quality Education and Best Placements? Has your institute been able to provide what the students are looking for?
Providing quality education is the mission for Techno NJR. Good placement is always a product of good education. Students are recruited based on their skill and knowledge and organizations start believing in certain colleges more if their students are found to be performing well in the organization. This is a slow process. At Techno NJR we make students go through grilling academic process, train them for soft skills, and prepare them to be industry ready by equipping them with required skill sets. This has resulted in most Techno NJR students being placed with companies like TCS, Ericsson, IBM, Zensar, Tata Chemicals, Sears holding, Secure Meters, Ambuja Cements and also companies in Udaipur like Pyrotech, E-connect, Siddhi Webs etc.
At Techno NJR we are aware of our role of preparing students to face highly competitive job market. Today only 25% of engineering graduates find a good job due to high supply of fresh graduates from various private engineering colleges every year. At Techno we have never allowed fake placements and campus selections which many colleges resort to for publicity to fill their seats. It is very easy to understand why a small company from Noida & Vijaywada, will come to recruit students from Udaipur – they just come to make money from unsuspecting students /management. Fooling students through such fake campus selections can destroy the career of these students.
Techno NJR has tied up to industry leaders like SAP, Oracle, CISCO, CDAC, e-Infochip, Rockwell etc to provide industry oriented trainings and certification to students so that they carry with them industry required skill sets when they pass out.
Students of Udaipur engineering college have to understand that finding a good job is becoming difficult for all students including those from IIT/NIT/Govt. colleges. India’s GDP has been around 6% for the last 2 years and it will need life-size positive change in the economic growth to create more productive jobs for fresh graduates. Most companies are not in a position to increase its bench strength, it is therefore important for students to work hard on their trainings and skills to become productive from day one for the organization they join. Most organizations have moved away from training fresh graduates and are looking for well trained ready for the job graduates.
Q7. Sir we would like to know you views about RTU?
There is no doubt that RTU has improved in the last 2-3 years in terms of administration of examination and results declaration. Exams are conducted on time and results are announced in a reasonable time frame. However it needs to update its syllabus and curriculum more frequently keeping in mind current industry requirements. They also need to add more courses which are currently in demand like Mechatronics, Petroleum engineering, Nanotechnology etc. RTU curriculum has lot of theory but not much application. Industry looks for engineers who can apply their knowledge to the problems. This is one big gap.
I was told that world renowned Carnegie Mellon University (Techno NJR conducts their iCarnegie courses for students) has developed a four year B.Tech curriculum in consultation with industry bigwigs like Microsoft, Yahoo, IBM, Cisco and Apple. I believe it to be a dream curriculum for any computer engineering graduate which will create an engineer any company in the world would love to employ.
(Why not apply the curriculum designed by Carnegie Mellon University at techno NJR?)
We are affiliated to RTU and have to follow their system till we become an autonomous college or university and create our own syllabus. It does not mean that we can not pick up few things from such dream curriculum and implement in our college in parts. One of the reasons we have tied up with Cisco, Oracle, iCarnegie, CDAC is to introduce their industry oriented courses. We have also tied up with IEEE to offer international certification like SWEBOK, CSDA and CSDP to Techno NJR students.
I have an advantage that I am not a pure academician. I have been exposed to academic processes in last 5 years but I have also worked in the industry for many years and understand what they seek in any employee they hire. It is this dual experience I use to create systems at Techno NJR where students imbibe academic excellence along with skill sets required by the industry.
Q8. What do you think is the future of engineering if students are more diverted towards the management side after graduation?
It is natural for students to follow educational degrees which can enhance their earning potential. Mangement degree like MBA is one such degree. Mangers need to have an analytical mind and an engineering education makes you more analytical than any other course. Therefore more and more engineering graduates are enrolling for management education. You will find that more than 50 % students at premier institutes like IIM’s and ISB’s have engineering degree as graduation background.
(What is the future of engineering?)
No country can afford to neglect engineering education as it is the driving wheel of progress of any country. World’s progress depends on new innovations and new technologies and engineers create these changes. They are the creators of things, drivers of production systems. Students have to understand that engineering is becoming cross functional. Every product and process involves inputs from various engineering streams. For example a car needs input from many branches of engineering- Design, Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics, Rubber Technology and others. Engineering education will have to incorporate this cross functional requirement of Industry by exposing students to courses outside their branches and also by creating cross functional projects where students of many branches can work together.
Q9. Being a businessman and an Education Campaigner what according to you is the role of engineering education in development of industries and vice versa what is the role of industries in inspiring students to become good engineers?
There needs to be extensive interaction between academics and industry. If they work together it will create a win-win situation for both. Rather than lamenting at universities for not producing graduates who are fit for their industry, they need to take a step forward and work jointly with universities to bring in changes in curriculum and trainings to enable universities/colleges produce engineering graduates suitable for them. After all, industries also cannot grow unless they get steady supply of suitable manpower from universities.
Worldwide big corporations work together with universities in many ways: joint research, internships, and projects. Regular interactions between these two result in industry friendly curriculum and students with some basic industry trainings. Some companies like Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Agilent, Texas Instruments etc have launched university alliance initiatives in India. Similarly companies like IBM, Infosys, and Wipro are setting up centers of excellence in various engineering institutions.
Industry bodies like NASSCOM, CII, FICCI and local chambers of commerce need to create suitable platforms where educational institutions and industry leaders can meet, interact and understand each other.
Q10. What according to you is biggest difference between engineering education then and now?
In our time there were limited engineering colleges in Rajasthan – BITS, MNIT (Then MREC) and MBM. Admissions were tough as there were limited seats. Only best students could get admission. Now admissions are very easy and that somehow gives an impression to students that engineering education is easy. This is not true. Admissions may become easier but engineering education still is very demanding and needs a lot of hard work by students. A good engineering degree needs a lot of hard work, high quality project work and intensive industry training. Engineering students of today are not able to stand up to these requirements.
We encourage students to spend 7-8 hours in college every day to attend classes, perform practicals, projects and interact with teachers and other students. Students learn the best from each other. In addition we have created a city centre equipped with industry level equipments for research work in electronics, computer lab with internet connection, library, reading rooms and the like where students are expected to spend time in the evening hours or till late at night. These students have to join industry and are expected to work till long hours in their working life so they need to take hold of this habit at college level only.
Q11. What is your take on studying abroad? Is it beneficial?
Many children in my family and my colleagues’ families have studied abroad. Most of them settle down there after studies. Some of them come back. There is a huge difference between education process in India and Universities in Europe/USA. In India we stress a lot on theory whereas in abroad stress is more on projects and practical aspects. Students there learn to be more independent and are more easily absorbed by the industry.
I have a started a new group at Techno NJR which will guide students interested in studying abroad after their graduation. This group includes Techno NJR professors who have studied abroad like Pankaj Porwal who spent few years at Cornell University and Piyush Javeria who studied at Uuniversity college of London. They will guide students to prepare for their GRE, IELTS/TOEFL, and selection in suitable universities, application processes and scholarships. Admissions at International Universities are lengthy processes and have to be initiated when students complete their third year itself. Education abroad is not as expensive as it looks. Student scholarship, loans and assistantship are easy to get these days and ones you start earning you can repay everything in 2-3 years.
We have already made a start in this area. One student Dhananjay Rathore went to Southampton University, UK last year. Another student Ajay Porwal is likely to join New York State University (NYU) this year. I expect at least 15-20 students of Techno going to US/UK universities every year in near future. We are already talking to some well known universities in US for a tie up for admissions of Techno NJR students. I visited US few months back for this purpose and would visit again this year to take this process further.
Q12. Sir, what has been the biggest influence in your life that made you achieve so much?
I have had many influences in life. Education at BITS, work experience at Tata group, my father – an upright judge, people who supported me in initial years, Meera Ranawat who has absorbed her personal pain to do good work for the society, students and faculty of Techno NJR, and my daughter Nonika who has mastered the art of molding me the way she wants.
Q13.What message would you like to give to the youth of Udaipur?
Dream big and create capabilities to live up to those dreams. There is no replacement to hard work and sincerity. India’s biggest advantage is its young population, but if the country is to progress this colossal majority of youth will have to be converted into educated and employable young population.
Q14. How is Udaipur growing in your opinion in every aspect and how can we contribute to the development of Udaipur?
We need to honestly introspect as a city that how cities like Jodhpur or Kota have moved ahead of Udaipur in last few years. We have to create more industries and more employment opportunities for the city to progress. We can not progress solely on the basis of wealth that nature has gifted to us – tourism, marble and minerals. There has been a lot of progress in the direction of education but we have to create trained and skilled manpower pool so that big industries feel confident to set up big projects here.
We can not progress by being just a retired man’s dream destination for settling down. I do see many new initiatives in software industries by youngsters. We also hear about big investments by Pharmaceutical companies.
Q15. Sir, your word for UdaipurBlog and to its readers?
Blogging is the best way for any youngster to spend his creative energy and share his views with others and contribute to the society. Countries and societies grow only by exchange of ideas.
My congratulations to the young team of ‘UdaipurBlog.com’ that has created this excellent and vibrant platform for Udaipurites. I would like them to organize a meet of Udaipur bloggers to find ways to popularize blogging and make Udaipurblog the true voice of Udaipurites.