Washington, DC - Indian American serial entrepreneur Vinod Gupta, a 1967 graduate of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, in an exclusive interview talks of Learn, Earn and Return philosophy based on his humble beginnings and leaves a message for the next generations of IITians.
Speaking to Tejinder Singh, editor of India America Today and Small Business Reporter, Vin Gupta as he is fondly called, speaks of his humble beginnings, support of his illustrious father and teachers and making it big in the United States but then deciding to give back to his village and to his prestigious alma mater Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.
Gupta recognizes the role of education in developing the leaders of tomorrow. Through his charitable foundation, he has given more than $50 million to help advance education across fields including: business, science, information technology, communications, intellectual property law and wildlife preservation.
Gupta has established Vinod Gupta School of Management and Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law at the IIT Kharagpur campus. To transform the lives of young men and women in his native district of Saharanpur, about 100 miles from New Delhi, Vinod built in his birthplace of Rampur Maniharan: the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Nursing, William Jefferson Clinton Science and Technology Center and Ram Rati Institute of Technology.
In his professional journey, his latest entrepreneurial venture http://Infofree.com is revolutionizing the sales lead and mailing list industry for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Small business owners and sales professionals can maximize their sale productivity with unlimited search, select and view of over 16 million business records, 225 million consumers and hundreds of specialty databases. Exclusive features like unlimited background searches, business credit reports and a free customer relationship management tool, CRM101, makes infofree.com an entrepreneur’s one stop shop for every marketing need.
Teji: We are in Washington DC with Vinod Gupta 1967 batch (of Indian Institute of Technology IIT Kharagpur) and you have a philosophy of Learn, Earn and Return. Will you like to elaborate on that?
Vin: You know we grew up in a village and I was not born into any wealth we didn’t have any money and… but the village provided the education and I kind of feel indebted to all those teachers who were making 40 dollars a month and they gave a great education to us. And as a result of the education then getting into IIT and getting education in the USA it allowed thousands of us to have a better living and be able to earn substantial wealth.
But at that time when you say ok if you have wealth what do you do with this now. If we give it our kids they are going to waste it. Its best to invest it back in our community back into our villages, back into our students, or the kids so they can do the same thing. If we have a philosophy of Learn and Earn and Return and if we keep doing it, we will leave this world a better place.
Teji: You have already established Vinod Gupta School of Management; the Law School… the medical school is coming up. What next?
Vin: There is no lack of things we can do. I think the IIT system needs lot more than just technical education. They need education…that’s one reason I set up the school on management. If we have engineering students technology students and they learn about management it makes them a better graduate. Same way having intellectual property law education since the world is moving towards intellectual property and if they learn about intellectual property law they can be lot more productive and they can contribute to the wealth of the country.
I am thinking they need education in different languages. Because these students are going all over the world and it would be nice for them to learn Spanish and German and French and Mandarin and all these languages and to have a school like that does not cost that much money but it will be good for them to gather education. I also proposed they should have as part of Law School a library and a conference center so they can have major conferences in the intellectual property law in the same school.
I also suggested we should have a music school. The same students who are spending all their time in learning technology and engineering let them learn about music. Music is such a part of our lives and having music school would be great. There is no lack of things we can do at IIT system or our village.
Teji: Talking of IIT I went to RK Hall of residence and the students were very happy with you. They were calling you Saint Vinod Gupta and all the improvements that you have done. Are you planning to go back and do something more there?
Vin: You know that in IIT Kharagpur most of the dorms were built in 50s and they have not invested enough money in making those dorms more habitable. The bathrooms and the dining hall and the kitchen and I when went back and I saw those conditions.
I said that this is not the right way of doing it. They need to invest and improve the facilities but somehow the system does not lend it itself to improving facilities. They just think let those students live in those pigeon holes without any kind of quality. And that was one of the reasons I invested money in RK Hall in improving the bathrooms in improving the classrooms and Suhas Patil provided the broadband connection to every room.
And also the kitchen area and dinning room -- provide some more televisions in the students room, in the common room.
What I suggested that every alumni should adopt there hall of residence and improve the quality of life there. So that means the whole institute, all the dorms will improve in quality.
But I ran into some problems here because they have this Hall Council and they said you cannot improve one hall you have to improve all of them. I said, I cannot improve all of them. But I can improve one. I would love to see lawn maintenance get all the trash out of there. Make it like a model hall of residency like we have in this country. So I would like to do more if I can.
Teji: Shifting from IIT if we…in your village...Rampur which I recently visited, there is an extraordinary improvement in the quality of education. Hillary Clinton School of Nursing, Bill Clinton School. There is a vibrant community that is growing. Will you like to say something about how that started where is it is heading?
Vin: I would tell you a story when I was there with President Clinton in my village and when we were walking and there was this guy selling vegetables on the side walk and he called my name and I didn’t know who he was and he said do you remember I went school with you. And he was selling vegetables. I told President Clinton, I could have been selling vegetables here but its because of education that some of us could get out of village not everybody could get out.
I would like to see more and more children in the village and especially the girls get the quality education so they can get out of the village and improve their lives.
There is lot to be done over there. There is no end to it. But one thing I am happy is that the government of India has given a major emphasis on education and healthcare and we are seeing the results of that.
Teji: Especially in the Hillary school of nursing , the intake Is 40 students and hundreds applied. It is a big step forward. Are you planning to expand?
Vin: Yeah because first of all I was not happy with this intake of just 40 students I think we can easily educate 100 girls every year and this is 3 three year program. Now we would like to introduce more healthcare related education like medical technology, operating MRI machines, operating Xray machines, testing, blood testing.
These are some of the fields which are highly sought after. There is a huge demand for those. They naturally lend towards employing women so if we can educate village women. So if we can educate more women village women into these technologies they will have no problem in finding damn good jobs.
The other thing which I found was once they get good education they are also able to attract better quality husbands. The guys or the boys from those villages who have good jobs and they would like to marry the girls of areas. If they have education, they can speak good English, they can cook, and they know the western ways then they find those girls to be lot more attractive mates. Even if they don’t work, they can raise children and improve the quality of the next generation.
Teji: In Saharanpur and in Rampur when I went there was a lot of talk about your dad -- his influence on you or in general as a human being he is very respected and all. Would you like to say something about it.
Vin: Well growing up in a village there were not too many educated people and since he was very well educated in Lucknow University and the medical college so definitely he had more respect amongst his peers. And the fact that some of us got educated and they did very well in their lives then the credit goes to our teachers and my dad. He did emphasize on the education and that was our ticket out of that misery in that village.
Teji: What is your message to the present and the future students of IIT Kharagpur?
Vin: I think my message to them is that they should…first of all they are extremely lucky to get a very high quality education at the expense of tax payer’s money. I think every student should feel indebted to IIT system. And the only way for them to pay back is that they should, you know, give to IIT system as much as they can whether it is financially or they give their time or give their any way they can contribute to IIT system and make it a better system.
Unfortunately a lot of IIT graduates once they leave, they just think they are done with it. No we are done with it.
IIT system is like our mother and we have to make sure that we go there and visit and contribute as much as we can. So that’s my message to them.