How Arindam Chaudhuri changed the face of education in India, faced adversities and is back at the top of his game.
The moment he entered the room, heads turned towards him. At 5 ft 7 inches he would be easy to miss otherwise. But with his slickly gelled hair smartly held tight with a hair band, pony tail that almost runs till his waist, deep neck T-shirt, tattered denims, a blue gold Lamborghini smart phone perfectly coordinated with his pair of blue gold Thom Browne steampunk sunglasses – at 9pm in the night – it was definitely impossible to miss him. Of course even otherwise the fact is that he is one of the most heavily advertised men and indeed one of the most recognizable faces of India – a prefect example of a self-marketing success story. I wouldn’t lie, one glance at him and I couldn’t but help remember the heading of Siddartha Deb’s chapter on him – The Great Gatsby of India (in his highly acclaimed book ‘The Beautiful and the Damned’). Yes, that’s the first impression Arindam Chaudhuri had on me and perhaps has on many others who don’t know him personally.
One could instantly hear murmurs about the the latest controversies around him. The Delhi High court had recently censured him and barred him from using words like MBA, BBA and Management in the advertisements of his high profile institute, IIPM. He looked completely unperturbed though. And soon enough there were his fans that surrounded him. An owner of a mobile phone company couldn’t stop raving about him. It seems the gentleman’s first PR article about 12 years back was thanks to his consulting firm, Planman. The man started reminiscing of the days more than a decade back when he used to be sitting in the auditorium to listen to his words and told his son to take out as much as possible from him because his time is very expensive and every word spoken most meaningful. In the middle of obliging his admirers – from all walks of life – with selfies, with his trademark ease he gave tips on business to the young chap while recounting how he was clawing his way back after the high court ruling hurt his education business. It was clear he might be down but definitely not out.
That’s Arindam Chaudhuri for you. The face of Private Education in India and a mega disruptor. He is controversial, on your face, unmissable, extremely confident and always talking sense. And yes, never without a hearty and a genuine smile on his face. What is also unmissable is that despite all kinds of coaxing he couldn’t be made to have anything more than a tomato juice. His fitness levels are inspiring (he is a second Dan Black-Belt in kickboxing) to say the least. He is just 3 years short of 50, yet, he could easily pass off as someone in his early 30s at worst. He hasn’t ever had a glass of drink nor has he ever smoked – something that his rockstar attire and long hair wouldn’t let you believe. Just like you wouldn’t really be able to fathom the fact that in last 20 years he has never driven his car fast enough to have had the need to honk (give respect to the man on the street instead of making him uncomfortable about your presence, he says). But then that’s him. I had heard that in his workshops he used to make his participants -CEOs of top corporations mainly- tear off their clothes. Once I got introduced to him, that’s the first question I asked. With a huge laugh he brushed it aside. “Yes, we do a lot of wild things to make them relaxed and open up and I have heard that rumour about my workshops too. But sadly that’s not true. We however did have students of our institute tear off SRKs shirt in our quiz shows!! That’s the kind of body one would like to see in torn clothes, not those of middle aged CEOs, don’t you think?”
My next question to him was does he take his workshops in similar attire? “Well in my workshops I always have a suit on, though of late at times I leave my hair open for the shock value of it. But not in torn denims yet. I am actually so tired of the suited me that given the first chance I break free. And an evening get together of friends, like this one, is the prefect place to be myself.” Yes, being quite a party guy myself, I was seeing him for the first time in an evening get together. Inside the extremely extraverted exterior is actually a completely non-social person as he himself admits. He was there purely because a very good friend of his threw the party. He actually didn’t mingle around. Didn’t meet anyone. Focusing and chatting with only those who walked upto him. “That’s how I am. I actually don’t know anybody nor do I keep in touch with anybody. You may actually call me anti-social”, he laughed. Well he didn’t need to know anybody because anybody who was somebody made sure that they know him.
While his entry was a big bang, his exit was really soft. After about an hour of marking his presence, he was gone. I had luckily exchanged cards. Even his card is one unmissable three layered affair in gold, red and blue – his favourite colour (a friend of mine had told me that Arindam once bought a brand new Bentley and sent it off for a colour change. Needless to mention the colour he wanted was a specific shade of blue). It comes in a blue paper case with a quote on it embossed in a darker shade of blue that says “In the eradication of religion & elimination of income and gender inequality lie the secrets to global humanism”.
A man known for driving a convertible Bentley Azure, talking of removing income inequality. I knew I had to meet him again. I messaged him that night itself. And met up with him again soon. He was candid enough to say he doesn’t meet print media people because they write about him without knowing him. And he had no qualms at what they wrote, but if they were to write with pre-determined notions he wound rather not give them an opportunity to meet him. “I go for only live televised shows. No one can misrepresent me. And if anyone tries to say anything wrong he gets it back live, then and there”, said the fighter in him. Of course, it’s another matter that on live TV shows we have more often seen him take topmost politicians down on issues of national interest. “I can’t name them, but its a fact that during breaks i have had some of them fold their hands and request me to be less aggressive with them”, he says. He does refer to Siddartha Deb. So how come he met him? “I was misled by one of my own people into believing that Siddartha didn’t have any preconceived notions”.
Things of course didn’t work out the way Arindam would have wanted, leading to Arindam filing a massive defamation case on him and the book getting released in India without that chapter on him. Refer about it to him and Arindam is defiant. “Most likely I would have ignored what he wrote about me personally. One may like me or hate me, I don’t really care. But I definitely wouldn’t let anyone get away by writing unsubstantiated lies about IIPM and definitely not about my father. The liar called the defamation suit on himself. He will meet the fate that he deserves”.
Going legal isn’t new to Arindam. In a record of sorts, he got an order forcing Google to remove 78 defamatory links on him and forced the government to block those URLs completely from the internet. Talk about that and he is dismissive “Google is the single largest defamation promoting entity in the globe. Worldwide they are coming under stringent controls and laws. The same will happen in India and just the way they were fined 2.4 billion Euros by EU for promoting manipulated search engine results they will be fined the same and more by countries around the world till they are taken over by an international body that guarantees fair, responsible and ethical dissemination of knowledge. In any case such gigantic monopolies need to be smashed down”. Like one would expect from a real guru, he had instant answers for everything.
Indeed thus, with every meeting my determination to do a cover story on him only solidified. Elite magazine in this exclusive cover story profiles the man himself. Arindam Chaudhuri – A Management Guru & Teacher, Entrepreneur, Public Speaker, Author, Economist and Filmmaker. The meetings and interactions took place with me, Puraskar Thadani, the Editor-in- Chief of Elite Magazine, over three months at various places culminating in London, where the exclusive photoshoot and interview took place for the magazine.
His detractors would love to call him a self acclaimed Management Guru, but truth be told, long before the first time anyone called him ‘self-acclaimed’ media had given him the title of ‘Management Guru’ a hundred times over. On 22nd October 1998, when Arindam was all of 26 years of age, The Financial Express first spotted him conducting a leadership workshop for senior corporate executives mostly double his age and covered him in an article. On July 10th 1999, The Hindu called him a Management Guru for the first time – a title that was to become synonymous with his name. On March 5th 2000, The Hindustan Times did a cover story in its Sunday Edition on him calling him “The Guru With The Ponytail” establishing him as one of India’s India’s leading management voices, as the country moved into the new millennium. And at the age of 28, in the year 2000, he even got a “Management Guru 2000 Award”. His words and speeches made an impact on one and all. The Times of India asserted he is “Inspiration personified” and someone who “sets the stage on fire”, and this too more than 15 years back. In the year 2002, The Hindustan Times called him “The intellectual litterateur of the decade”. Not just in India but globally too, that’s the impact his words made. Financial Times of London called him “The maverick management guru!”.
While his students swear by him, people who have attended his workshops or heard him speak can’t stop raving about him as is visible from their feedback.
When one goes through the list of awards and honours he has got, it seems there is hardly any field of his interest where he hasn’t got a a highly respected award. On 23th September 2007 he was voted for the Life Positive Reader’s Award in the category of ‘Change Agent’ in recognition and deep appreciation of his pioneering achievement in bringing about significant attitudinal change in society. He has positively influenced, inspired and changed millions of lives with his books, speeches, articles and movies and yet at the same time, yet, controversies seem to be an integral part of his existence. Defining one of the most iconic as well as one of the most controversial men of modern India is indeed a tough job. While, with almost 5 million fans, he is the world’s most followed management icon and economist on Facebook, he does seem to have an interestingly large number of detractors, specially in the world of media as well! Maybe because his achievements are enviable to say the least – beginning from being the Former Advisor to the consultative committee of Planning Commission of India in the areas of Education and Social Sector at a young age of 32.
That he is the author of five best-selling books is unchallenged. Two out of them, ‘Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch’ and ‘Discover The Diamond In You’ have been two of the largest and #1 selling books on management and self-help ever in India. His No.1 selling book ‘The Great Indian Dream’, which he co-authored with his father Malay Chaudhuri, set up the tone for a new India that got accentuated by his yearly Alternative Budgets, which he presented for more than a decade on leading TV channels of India. Further, his best-selling book on marketing, ‘Thorns to Competition’, co-authored with his talented wife Rajita, is arguably one of the finest and highest selling marketing books to come out from India. His book on strategy and leadership, ‘CULT’, co-authored with Prof. A. Sandeep has also hit the best-selling list. Apart from these, he is also the author of ‘Planning India’, ‘Indian Power Brands’, ‘Global Power Brands’, and ‘Bollywood’s 70 Iconic Power Brands’.
What is also unchallengeable is the fact that the eight films he has produced till date have won five National Awards, with him personally being the recipient for three of them – ‘Faltu’ in 2008, ‘The Last Lear’ in 2009 and ‘Do Dooni Chaar’ in 2011. His last film based on the life of a middle class school teacher, ‘Do Dooni Chaar’, not only picked up the National Award for the best Hindi Film of the year but also picked up four Filmfare awards – undoing the failure of his first Hindi film ‘Rok Sako Toh Rok Lo’, which coincidentally was also based around school life. In the year 2007, his film ‘Dosor’ got selected for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
He is the Honorary Director of the IIPM Think Tank at IIPM, ranked at one time No.1 in India in Intellectual Impact, No.1 in Global Exposure, No.1 in CSR, No.4 Overall and in Industry Interface and No.6 in Placements as well as Quality of Faculty. He teaches Leadership and National Economic Planning at IIPM. He is also the founder of the Planman Group which has business interests in Consulting, Media & Entertainment; and is the Editor-in-Chief of ‘DailyIndian.com’ and ‘The Sunday Indian’ – the only news magazine in the world that at one time used to come out in 14 languages. He also brings out the leading business magazines ‘Business & Economy’, ‘4Ps Business & Marketing’ and ‘The Human Factor’.
He has been a regular columnist with ‘The New Indian Express’, ‘Asian Age’, ‘Deccan Chronicle’, ‘Mid Day’, ‘Pioneer’, ‘Central Chronicle’, ‘The Sunday Standard’, ‘The North East Sun Magazine’, ‘Meghalaya Guardian’, ‘Echo of Arunachal’, ‘Nagaland Post’, ‘Sikkim Express’, ‘Kashmir Times’, ‘Millennium Post’, ‘Dainik Bhaskar’ (Hindi edition; The No.1 daily newspaper in India), ‘Navabharat’ (Hindi), ‘Asomiya Pratidin’ (Assamese), ‘Dharitiri’ (Oriya), ‘Poknapham’ (Manipuri) and Urdu dailies ‘Etemaad’, ‘Kashmir Uzma’ and ‘Sahafat’; making his columns at one time amongst the most widely read in India covering all parts of India in every other language. In the past, he has also been a columnist with ‘Hindustan Times’ and ‘The Times of India’ and a guest columnist with ‘The Economic Times’, ‘The Indian Express’, ‘Business Standard’, ‘The Financial Express’, ‘The Sunday Observer’, ‘India Today Plus’, ‘Dash’, ‘Gentleman’ and ‘Life Positive’. Apart from writing on issues of burning national importance, he writes extensively on China, Africa and America. Just like in all walks of life that he touches, even for his articles and editorials he has been awarded, – he won “India’s Most Fearless Editor Award” at the 5th Media Federation of India Awards for his scathing editorials in The Sunday Indian.
He is also the founder of the charity, Aurobindo Chaudhuri Memorial Great Indian Dream Foundation – started in memory of his brother in 2002. GIDF works in the areas of health, education, employment and environment. GIDF has supported developmental activities in 2,000 villages, impacting millions of lives across more than 12 states in India wherein it has run primary schools, medical camps and medical vans, supported low-cost open heart surgeries, undertaken developmental and employment-generation work through varied activities like women’s self-help groups, donating sewing machines, building of check-water dams, toilets, schools etc. Cricketing Icon Sachin Tendulkar has in the past supported GIDF activities by lending his endorsement in GIDF ads and campaigns.
An economist by passion and education, Arindam came into national prominence during Bill Clinton’s historic visit to India in 2001 when he launched his ‘Great Indian Dream – India can beat America’, a series of seminars for every Indian. His original contribution to the field of economics can be found in the three theories that he has written about in his book “The Great Indian Dream”. They are the theory of ‘Survival of the Weakest’, ‘The Trickle-up Theory’ & ‘The Law of Increasing Marginal Utility’. His concept of an ideal economy is what he calls ‘Happy Capitalism’ in his book.
His long list of educational qualifications include a B.A. with Honours in Economics, an Honours Diploma in Industrial Engineering, M.A with Honours in Economics, Post Graduate Diploma in Planning and Management, Fellow of I.I.P.M and a nearly competed PhD – he cleared the viva voce of his dissertation the day before we met him and did this story in London (the convocation ceremony is to take place in March 2019).
Often referred to as a serial entrepreneur, Arindam thus brings the rarest mix of practical entrepreneurship, best-selling writings and terrific oratory to his highly sought-after speaking and consulting engagements – making him one of the most expensive speaker of India. Depending upon the venue, crowds of 5,000 to 50,000 have been a regular feature of Arindam’s public talks. From school principals to police forces and from bureaucrats to the armed forces he has motivated them all. As an internationally acclaimed speaker, Arindam has spoken extensively in various cities and universities of America and Europe, including at the Harvard Business School in Harvard University, Kenan Flagler Business School in University of North Carolina and Imperial College Business School in London.
Since 1998, he has been conducting workshops on Leadership and Strategic Vision exclusively for CEOs, MDs, Directors and Presidents from the corporate sector in India. From the Managing Director of Hero Motors to the President of Tata Chemicals, from the Executive President of A.V. Birla Group to the CEO of Ernst & Young, all have taken leadership-training workshops from him. From public sector giants like NTPC to GAIL to private sector giants like Microsoft to ABB, have either had Arindam come over and speak to their executives or have sent their top management people to attend his workshops. This is, of course, apart from a list of virtually every other organization worth its name that has benefitted from his consulting firm Planman’s various consulting solutions. As a celebrated speaker, he has spoken at various annual conferences and national conventions and industry organizations like CII, Assocham, FICCI etc.
At one point with Arindam as its face, IIPM, the business school that was founded by his father (a former professor of IIM Bangalore and XLRI Jamshedpur), Dr. Malay Chaudhuri – arguably the Father of Management Education in India – became widely acknowledged as the largest B-School in the world. In PE circles people still can’t believe that about a decade back he refused a $3 billion valuation, just because he wasn’t ready to budge from his expectations of a billion more. A classic case of wrong judgment. He admits honestly, “Yes, I have never taken a one rupee loan from banks to run any of my businesses. And was proud of my balance sheet and growth figures. I had no arrogance, just a bit adamant and I realize on hindsight, I made a mistake”.
Then of course came the 2014 high court order that wrote that IIPM cannot call itself a B-School. Arindam Chaudhuri was forceful when he said, “That was the most erroneous and undemocratic order ever. And I gave a point-by-point answer instantly through a video message that I posted on our website. Of course, till then, I didn’t know that the basis of that order itself was a fake online ad of IIPM that was presented in court. We came to know of it later when we got the detailed copy of the order. We have filed a case with the internet crimes division. And once the results are out, we will surely find out a way to appeal against the said order. Till then, of course, we have to live with the most undemocratic order ever possible in the world’s largest democracy. Can you believe it, an order that states we can’t use the words management in our ads? It’s such a generic word. If the order had ruled that we can’t write that we give MBA degrees, that were fine – we never wrote it in the first place. We either wrote ‘Dare to think beyond MBA/BBA’ or we wrote ‘Do IIPM’s unique programs in Planning and Entrepreneurship and become eligible for an MBA or BBA…’ from so and so university wherever we had a tie up.”
Arindam supplied us with details of all the issues surrounding IIPM as well as an article that summed it all up. Upon going through it all, what we realized is that IIPM basically has had its unfair share of such roughneck reportage from a group of journalists belonging to a competing publication of one of Arindam Chaudhuri’s magazines, specially during its peak growth period from 2008 to 2014. Our detailed study showed that IIPM has been known for its bold tagline of ‘Dare to think beyond the IIMs’ and that’s what didn’t seem to have gone down well with its detractors.
From Placements to Global Exposure, IIPM has been an institution that clearly redefined education in India. We went through various confidential contracts and agreements that IIPM has with its worldwide partner institutions. And we realized truth was far from what you generally read about on the internet about IIPM. IIPM’s various global partnerships have been the subject of some discussions, perhaps due to the fact that there are leading B-Schools of the world involved in those partnerships. While there are articles, which claim Stanford never, had a tie-up with IIPM, we have with us authenticated documents proving the same tie-up did exist, which resulted in a CEO-strategy workshop too. Another tie up in question has been the one with Chicago Graduate School of Business, but we have read the the original contract and the tie-up did exist, though it was subsequently discontinued.
However, we found that while there are articles on these issues, there are far more articles about the countless other tie-ups that IIPM has had over the years resulting into about 25,000 students going for their global exposure programs worldwide. From Haas Business School, Judge Business School and Darden Business School to NYU Stern, Imperial and Rotterdam, the list just goes on. And truth be told, in India or abroad, we haven’t come across any other institute, which has had as many tie-ups with top notch B-Schools of the world. A thousand plus students from IIPM did a Certificate Programme in Advanced Global Management from Judge Business School alone.
When it comes to placements, acceptably, the media overall has lavished considerable praise on IIPM’s placements, which has regularly placed its students in Fortune 500 companies and leading companies of India. A simple search in Linkedin shows that IIPM students can be virtually found in every other company of India, that too at senior positions.
A point of contention that always comes up while discussing IIPM is IIPM’s accreditation. IIPM claims boldly everywhere that it has never applied to AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) or UGC (University Grants Commission) to get its programmes accredited. Also worth noting is the fact that Arindam was the lone undying voice against these two tainted and controversial government bodies regulating higher education in India. We saw a massive interview of his in The Sunday Observer way back in 1999, where he thrashed the MBA Mafia in this country; we also saw a bold interview of his in the same year on the front page of Delhi Times (those days, there was no Media Net – he emphasizes) where he was lambasting AICTE, leaving less to wonder as to why the AICTE went behind him. A similar article on the MBA Mafia in this country was there in the Op-ed page of The Times of India on 14 January 2000.
In fact, it’s also quite clear that IIPM’s various programmes are offered in the areas of national economic planning and entrepreneurship, and therefore IIPM in any case clearly falls out of the purview of AICTE by the very Act under which it was set up; and not being an University, IIPM surely doesn’t come under UGC. However, thanks to various over-envious reports, UGC, even without discussing the issue appropriately with IIPM in all fairness and justice, overeagerly listed IIPM as a ‘fake university’ on its website. Once they were taken to courts by IIPM (an original copy of the court order has been checked by us), UGC immediately removed IIPM’s name from the fake university list accepting IIPM was not a university, had never claimed to be one and was by itself not giving degrees. As per the settlement in the UGC court case, IIPM was further not required to write in its advertisements that its courses fall out of the purview of AICTE and UGC.
Contrary to all the above allegations which are clearly biased and deliberately negative, a look at IIPM’s main claim to fame actually shows that its courses can be said to be “qualitatively superior and intellectually stimulating” when compared to normal MBA and BBA academic programs. The standard IIPM course itself is 22 months and 1944 hour long, with a heavy emphasis on entrepreneurship and national economic planning, with economics liberally and exhaustively being taught at various levels.
Needless to say, a major chunk of credit goes to Arindam’s relentless innovation and personal aggression.
Here are excerpts of the interview with the man himself who carries off high-end brands with the same elan as he tears down politicians on national TV regardless of their stature:
Q. We know and have researched all about you and your work. Let’s start with something light. What are your personal interests?
A. My personal hobbies and passion include spending time and having fun chatting (‘adda’ in Bangla), watching movies and vacationing ‘ONLY’ with family and closest friends, spending lots of time having fun with my favourite kids and trying to make them better human beings, reading, antitheism, health and fitness, kickboxing, driving, making sketches and playing the guitar. In that order.
Q. How important is luxury to you and what role do brands play in your life?
A. I am a fan of the word brands itself. As a marketing person, I deeply admire and appreciate this entire process of making of a brand. That’s why I am associated with Power Brands, one of the few global benchmarks of branding.
Brands, at one point of time, played a significant role in my life, and my cars, glasses and suits made quite a bit of headlines. But brands don’t make a person. They didn’t then; they don’t now. I would have very happily enjoyed luxury had every person born on earth got free access to good education, health and respectable employment opportunities. Unfortunately, they don’t. So I enjoy the luxuries of life with a fair bit of guilt.
Q. Ha ha. Guilt apart, which are your favourite brands across the spectrum of luxury products you use?
A. Well, when it comes to cars, it’s got to be Bentley. Suits, shirts and denims is Angello Gallasso. Shoes and bags – Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Pens – Mont Blanc and Montegrappa. Watches – Brietling and Breguet. Smart casuals – Dolce and Gabbana and Paul and Shark. Bling – Ed Hardy. Sunglasses and belts – Roberto Cavalli. Perfumes – Tom Ford. Ties – Stefano Ricci. Mobile phones – Toninno Lamborghini. Eyewear – Theo. Guess that’s all that a man uses. They are all excellent in their respective spheres. Of course, it keeps changing with time depending upon who is able to keep ahead of the race. Five brands that have stuck with me over time are Bentley, Theo, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Mont Blanc.
Q. What is it that appeals to you in brands that you use?
A. It’s either, the use of colour blue and classical styling or the use of real and loud bling. Nothing in-between appeals to me.
Q. Tell us about all the controversies around you.
A. Well, when you are a mega-disruptor, controversies are a part of your journey. I don’t talk about them to anyone ever. I have made video answers to controversies whenever they merited an answer or have written exhaustive articles on them. Anyone who is bothered to know about them can Google. You could go there and read all the fake news that is continuously being written on me or you can go there and go through each of my posts on Facebook to know about whom the real Arindam is all about. But yes remember as Lincoln said, don’t trust half the things that are written about me on the internet.
Yes, as for IIPM, I have met most of the owners of today’s private education world at one point or the other. And I have only heard them telling me, we have just blindly copied your model. So, IIPM set off the private education revolution in this country way before others started off. And while I might have been the face of its aggressive marketing since 1998, all credit goes to my dad Dr. Malay Chaudhuri for having the boldness and vision to leave IIM Bangalore in 1973 and start this revolution, which is in its 45th year this year.
Q. Tell us in a few lines what exactly led to the challenging times you faced.
A. Well I personally believed that the government thought here is the largest B- School and they aren’t under our control. Let’s get behind them. And if they, there’s less one can do.
Q. You mean to say there was no flaw in the way you ran your business. Any learning?
A. Well many lessons indeed. Anyone who came with a good new idea worth investing, excited me to start a new company. I used to leave everything free for them to run and concentrate on my writings, classes and seminars. Decentralization was there to extremes. I used to initially meet them only once a year during AGMs and then much later started meeting them once in a quarter to oversee that the money invested doesn’t get destroyed. You wouldn’t believe, I produced films but I never went to the sets. Even for the film with Mr Bachchan I was in the sets for a maximum of 5 days. Everyone wad free to run the show their own way. Initially the incentivized decentralized system worked miracles. And then one day all these people became too big. So they stopped working. Hiked their salaries and took huge teams under them. What one man could do, they took literally ten for that. And they started focusing on their personal PR instead of the business. And when say for example an income tax issue cropped up they put me in the front and disappeared. I actually discovered cases of massive internal corruption. So I am thankful that these challenging times came.
There were friends I had from the marginalized sections of the society, who unfortunately spent their childhood in slums. I put my faith in them, gave them access to education, made them capable and enabled them to buy homes in Delhi. I saw them disappear the moment they thought there was nothing more to gain. There were fresh students whom I had invested in based on their creativity. None of them would have got a fraction of such a chance and freedom anywhere else. But the moment some salary delays started they showed their true colours. I saw it all happening, including with my closest of relations. For all, it seemed, I was just a means to better living. From filing of cases to taking away business to purely backstabbing, everything happened. And I enjoyed every betrayal. Because I knew we would get back, and when we got back we would have one less monster to feed.
Q. You had started IIPM 2.0. What happened.
A. Well we took the IIPM brand name and tired up with a few AICTE institutes. The idea was to add the IIPM economics, entrepreneurship, marketing, strategy and personality development edge to the existing programs of the AICTE institutes and give their students global exposure and placements through IIPM network. These were the key things that differentiated IIPM from others. Unfortunately, students expect a world-class environment with youth and dynamism all around when they pay for the IIPM brand. AICTE institutes look dry and boring and there was a huge mismatch.
Q. So the idea to affiliate lIPM with AICTE brands is dropped?
A. No not at all. On the contrary with about 2000 AICTE Institutes facing a closure, we are looking at a far bigger opportunity. We are looking at taking over the entire management of some AICTE institutions and running it in a complete 360 degree IIPM style instead of a part tie up that led to a mismatch of expectations. All AICTE institutions who aren’t able to run by themselves are welcome to approach us.
Q. What is it that we can expect from you next?
A. We are working on a few new films. Personally I am in the middle of a lot of writing. I hope to release quite a few books in the next couple of years. By 2021, I hope to make IIPM India’s Greatest Global Education Brand and establish the IIPM Manavata Vikas Puraskar as one of the most respected Global Awards.
Q. We have read that in the long run, you would want to enter politics. Tell us something about your highly talked of speech during Anna Hazare’s Lokpal movement in Delhi.
A. Well I was a supporter of his movement and that was the last day before he was to officially end his fast and Aamir Khan was to come and help him do so. I was given a call and told that they wanted me to inspire the crowds as a final spark before the fast ended. It went well I suppose.
Q. Related to that question, your visiting card says you believe in equality of income and sexes. And are totally against religion. What are the five key things that you would do if you were to become the PM of India.
A. Well, firstly I would make extremely high quality healthcare free to every citizen of India.
Then, I would do the same with education till any level.
In the sphere of employment I would have guaranteed unemployment benefits including a respectable place of living for every citizen of India if the nation failed to give them employment; and I would have the ratio between the highest paid employee in an organization and the lowest paid employee at 3:1 as per my father’s theory of wages, because, without removing the existing massive income inequalities you can never have a happy and peaceful world.
I would increase the number of judges in this country by ten times to instill the fear of judiciary and simultaneously would see to it that the police, judiciary and other law-keepers were amongst the highest paid in the country, along with teachers and doctors.
And finally I would abolish the access to religion for all children below the age of 18.
Q. You are a rare person who talks of religion as a part of your vision for a nation. Why?
A. Religion is in the mind of every politician across the world. The only sad thing is that it’s always to use it for exploitative benefits. The truth is, religion is the most harmful, intellectually dwarfing agent in the universe created by medieval men. And it should be abolished and taken to a religion museum where modern day human beings would go and wonder with amusement at the fairytale-driven unscientific ways of our forefathers.
Q. You talk of free education, you have a painting of Che behind your desk, and in fact, you have even named your son Che; and yet, IIPM is one of the most expensive institutes in the country, and you are one of the high profile individual brands in the country?
A. IIPM is a private education body that has resulted out of a nation’s poor education infrastructure in a market driven economy; and IIPM’s fees are determined by market demand and supply forces. It has nothing to do with my personal philosophy. I would be the happiest to see the government giving world-class education forcing IIPM fees to go down due to lack of demand. My entrepreneurial ventures are a product of the market realities in this country, and these should not be used to question my belief system. I have to exist in this market and if that means creating a personal brand or a high-end education brand, that’s how it will be. If I don’t compete in this market, the government is not going to give me free health or free education for my children.
And yes, I believe education is the biggest differentiator between human beings. The bestest of world-class education should be free for all.. I would love to be at the forefront of a free education movement as my next big education initiative.
Q. So free education seems to be your next big idea. Apart from politics, is there any other dream you still nurture.
A. Yes. It happens very often with my father. People come to meet him just to meet a person who has done a D.Sc. I have appreciated and seen this with awe. So, that’s one qualification I want to have after my Ph.D. And I look forward to my son, Che, doing the same.
And yes, I am a 2nd Dan Black Belt in Kickboxing, I am looking forward to my Taekwondo Black Belt next and participating in an international skill display competition in 2021, the year I turn 50.
Q. Any regrets?
A. Yes. After years of trying to learn the guitar, I still remain a beginner in it. Also, one more. I had invested in motor racing. That failed.
Q. Can you tell us where you are off to right now?
A. My wife has bought tickets for the musical ‘Kinky Boots’ for tonight. I have read that it goes far beyond concepts of equality of sexes and I think without equal rights for all kinds of genders, we will never have an equal world.