Student Media Body of IIT Kgp

 

Jewels of KGP: Mr. Shailendra Kumar

Posted on Jan 24, 2018
Jewelstory

“To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion. In their well-being and prosperity alone, lies my happiness.” Many of us have taken this oath but how many make it a practice? Well in this edition of “JEWELS OF KGP” we have a personality who has practiced and realized those lines in his life. He is the founder and president of “Nalanda 2.0”, a non-profit and non-partisan think tank. He is also an author of the book “Building Golden India”. Presenting you one of the best all-rounders of ’87 batch, Mr. Shailendra Kumar.

EARLY LIFE AND SCHOOLING

Shailendra Kumar hails from a family with a patriotic background. His father was in Indian Army and like other wards of defence personnel he too had his early education in Kendriya Vidyalaya. Thus, he grew up travelling around the country due to frequent transfer of his father and mostly lived in army cantonments. There was a visible and perpetual display of love for country. Since childhood, he was imbibed with a sense of patriotism. Recollecting the lines of community song they used to sing together and cherishes upon the idea of bringing back India’s Golden age of Takshashila and Nalanda (“Takshashila Nalanda ka itihaas laut kar aayegaa.”)


Shailendra Kumar

Mr. Shailendra Kumar

GOOD OLD DAYS

For Shailendra Kumar, IIT Kharagpur was a game-changing experience and the best four years of his life. He made friends for life. In school, he had won many debates, played badminton, and been on top of his class but in his first year, he did not even make it to the interhall cricket team in RK Hall! Upon reflection, in the first few weeks of being at KGP, he made a conscious decision to be among the best all-rounders in his batch. For him, this meant focusing on the most important priorities and not wasting time. That also meant being good in academics, sports, participating in extracurricular activities, and volunteering. Working with friends for Hall Days, Spring Fest, Illumination was awesome and exciting. Cheering RK hall and IIT KGP team in competitions was exhilarating. Towards the end of his first year, he ran for Gardening Secretary post in RK Hall. The budget was a mere Rs. 600 and there was no garden. But he won unopposed. The fact that RK did not have a garden actually was appealing to him. He wanted to create something. He came up with a plan, sought and got help from IIT administration and was able to install benches and grow flowers. His hall mates were pleasantly surprised by the results. Even though RK’ites did not win the inter-hall gardening contest, the Hall Council recognized his efforts by creating The Best Secretary award. He was the first RK’ite to receive this award. Till this date, it is among his most coveted recognition. Playing hockey in the wing led to scrimmage with fellow enthusiasts between A and B block. He was selected to be in RK’s hockey team. Soon thereafter, he was selected to be in the IIT hockey team.

One of the most exhilarating moments of IIT experience was winning the silver medal for KGP in inter-IIT meet and gold medal for RK in the interhall competition. Towards the end of the third year, his seniors approached him to run for Hall President. He was humbled and honoured. With their support, he ran and won. As Hall President, he learned a lot. Encouraging Freshers to volunteer and participate in sports and extracurricular activities and seeing them find their roots were deeply satisfying. So was organizing the Hall Day, selecting captains for the various teams, being there for the teams during practice and games, making sure the budget made sense and was spent wisely, and so much more. President S. Radhakrishnan, the leader whose name is given to the hall, was an eminent teacher. One of the most exciting initiatives was reintroducing the Teachers Day event at RK. This included organizing an art competition for students from local schools and a special event commemorating his birthday. It was also a lot of hard work. He is thankful for the opportunity to serve the RK community.

At the end of four years, he was happy to have surpassed his wildest expectations set in the first year: representing RK in drama, debate, basketball and hockey, being adjudged the Best Secretary and elected RK Hall President. By the end of the second year, he had decided that he wanted to pursue a career in global business. At the same time, he wanted to apply his engineering skills and knowledge before pursuing MBA. So, he did an internship after his second and third year in automobile companies and joined Eicher Goodearth after graduating from KGP in 1987. After two years at Eicher, he left for the US.

HIGHER EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE

After completing his under graduation in IIT Kharagpur, he pursued his MBA from Indiana University, Bloomington. Even he got married to the lady of his life there in Bloomington. From 1991 to 2006 he was an executive in several Fortune 500 and Silicon Valley based corporation such as Applied Materials, FMC Corporation and Lam Research, and he was co-founder and CEO of two startups. Throughout this time, he was volunteering for the IIT alumni network. He became the President of the IIT Foundation and was part of the founding team of the Pan IIT alumni movement in the USA. In 2006, he quit his job as Senior Director, Corporate Strategic Planning at Lam Research to pursue his passion for higher education. He spent around six years as an administrator at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego.

At UC Berkeley and UC San Diego, he worked with university leadership team, deans, faculty members, directors of several interdisciplinary research centres, and staff. He was involved in building and strengthening industry-university partnerships across diverse industries and geographies, establishing and managing cross-border university-university collaborations, initiating and executing new development strategies, and leading teams to deliver funding to build and enhance excellence in education, research, and service to the society.

He was also instrumental in establishing the UC Berkeley-IIT Kharagpur collaboration, in which close to 45 IIT Kharagpur students spent 8-weeks conducting research at UC Berkeley. The collaboration was also a catalyst for UC Berkeley students spending their summer at IIT Kharagpur as part of the Cal Energy Corps initiative, and the establishment of the PK Sinha Center for Bioenergy at IIT Kharagpur.

TAKE ON INDIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM

On being asked about India’s education system Shailendra shares his deep concern about the challenges and excitement to make an impact. In the next 35-50 years, India must educate and prepare 700 million to 1.3 billion young men and women for their lives and careers. The challenges and opportunities are immense. India’s higher education system is already struggling. In fact, by all accounts and all key metrics, it is in crisis. We need fresh thinking, comprehensive reforms, and a sense of urgency to transform the system. There is a lot written about India, but hardly anything about its higher education system and how deeply it affects our individual and collective future.

This topic was so important to him that he spent over 16 months working full-time writing his book. He fervently hoped that his book sparks conversations and actions to create positive change in India’s higher education system as soon as possible.

THE BOOK

About his book, he says that in June 2014 he decided to write the book Building Golden India: How to unleash India's vast potential and transform its higher education system. He wrote this book for the educated youth, the professionals, and those who want to be part of gamechanging India and the world. He believes that the first step toward solving a problem is to acknowledge it. India was once called a “Golden Bird”. While history can be quite contentious, Shailendra hopes we can agree that building a Golden India is not just a dream but a vision we can rally around and collectively bring to reality.

NALANDA 2.0

To take the ideas in the book forward and realize the vision of a world-class higher education system for India, I started Nalanda 2.0 (www.Nalanda2.org). Nalanda 2.0 is a California based non-profit public benefit corporation. Its purpose is to improve access and excellence in higher education. It will achieve this purpose by:
1. Educating stakeholders: writing blogs and articles, making presentations, participating in panel discussions, and meeting people 1:1 or in small groups.
2. Providing non-partisan evidence-based policy recommendations and advisory consulting services.
Its initial focus is on India. Stakeholders include the public, government and government agencies, universities, corporations, foundations, philanthropists, and non-governmental organizations in India and around the world. It also includes Indian diaspora, especially in USA.

AWARDS AND HONORS

As we already know that Shailendra has always remained an all-rounder and so he does received many awards and honours to his name. Earlier this year itself, he was humbled and honoured by two developments: IIT Kharagpur recognized him with the Distinguished Service Award and a Nobel Laureate presented his book to Prime Minister Narendra Modi!

MESSAGE TO KGPIANS

It has been 30 years since Shailendra left IIT Kharagpur and he has been back several times. Each time he came he felt that he came back to his home. IIT Kharagpur is a special place and offers a unique opportunity for all the students to grow personally and professionally.
He says, “Dear students and future fellow alums, I have the following advice for you. Be ambitious as you are an IITian and among the 0.2% of students enrolled in India’s colleges and universities, set your goals for career and life, and commit to a plan for short and long term. Enjoy the journey and make the most of the opportunities and your time at IIT and beyond.”
KGP Ka Tempo High Hai!

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