Friday, May 2, 2014

Why SRM University and Chancellor Pachamuthu are in Focus

While SRM University set a record by attracting 2.12 lakh student applications for its SRM Entrance Examination (SRMEE) recently, its Founder and Chancellor TR Pachamuthu has become perhaps the only Chancellor to stand as a candidate in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls. This self-financing university and this entrepreneur behind are also working hard to enhance their students’ employability through initiatives like the recent ‘Empower SRM’ initiative, as being a self-financing university it doesn’t attract high-quality students, and also because it has a huge number of seats. Now, while SRM University will be waiting for the entrance results and counselling to assess whether better students will opt for SRM this time compared with earlier years, Chancellor Pachamuthu will be waiting with bated breath for 16th May to arrive to know how many votes he has garnered against his AIADMK and DMK rivals in Perambalur.

If TR Pachamuthu was to teach at SRM University, students would have gained much. In fact, they would have gained too much, in subjects like business, law, and politics. Unfortunately, this AMIE engineer and former tuition teacher is not directly teaching at SRM. But nothing prevents students from learning from their Chancellor. Because he is a role model in diverse fields, especially business and politics, and of course, that heady mix of these two.

Which other university’s Chancellor is fighting this upcoming Lok Sabha polls? His political outfit, Indhiya Jananayaka Katchi (IJK) used to be tiny, but not any more. Just days back, IJK became a member of the new NDA in Tamilnadu  - a 6-party rainbow coalition stitched together at the last minute to capitalize on the ‘Modi wave‘, in case it is real.

Rubbing shoulders with SRM Group Founder TR Pachamuthu were heavyweights of TN Politics like DMDK chief Vijayakant, PMK leader Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, MDMK supremo Vaiko, KMDK leader ER Easwaran, and believe it or not, BJP’s namesake chief Rajnath Singh himself!

But for IJK’s Pachamuthu, it is no big deal, because as SRM University Chancellor, he had brought in Narendra Modi himself to distribute degrees to his students. At the 9th convocation, Modi had urged SRM students to create “Google, Microsoft, & Apple in India.”

So, no eyebrows were raised when the Perambalur Lok Sabha constituency was allocated to IJK and TR Pachamuthu became the official NDA candidate or Modi’s man in this landlocked district of the state, bounded by Salem, Trichy, Cuddalore, and Ariyalur.

IJK and Pachamuthu landing their lone seat smoothly was quite unlike the protracted battles that almost all others waged between themselves during the seat allocation talks or rather seat allocation fights.

Though the new coalition is a big win for all in the new Tamilnadu NDA, including BJP and Pachamuthu’s IJK, to extrapolate the same and conjure up that it is a big loss for the state’s real heavyweights like AIADMK and DMK, would be really foolish. Because, in the 2009 elections, none of these six heavyweights had won a single seat in TN, except Vaiko’s MDMK, but which was in a coalition with Jayalalithaa back then.

Why IJK’s lone seat was not contested by any partners might appear simple. IJK is the smallest and the newest political party in the coalition, and their ambition too was likewise tiny - just Perambalur. That was how it was approved by one and all in NDA.

Or is it? There might be more complex reasons to IJK’s sudden flight to political limelight. IJK might be the smallest in TN NDA, but its founder Pachamuthu is arguably its richest coalition partner in the state. Because unlike others, he is not a career politician, but one of the most successful businessmen in the entire country.

At over 33,000 students, his SRM University is one of the largest self-financing private universities in the country, ahead of even single-campus wonder Lovely, and next only to multi-campus phenomenon Amity.

And SRM is not known for low or reasonable fees. But SRM students don’t mind a damn, as they hail from 48 different countries, and they very well know that their parents can afford SRM. And what you get in return for the high fees compensates the pain, if any.

If money can create a great educational enterprise out of nothing, it is SRM. Its main Kattankulathur Campus in Kancheepuram near Chennai is a 250 acres affair. A Central Library with vast resources, air-conditioned auditorium that can accommodate over 4,000 people, IT and Knowledge Management system supporting over 5,000 computer systems and IT applications of the University, 32 megabytes per second Internet Connection, modern Lecture Halls & "Smart Classrooms", wireless-enabled lab and campus, language lab - specializing in English, German, Japanese, French & Chinese, are only some of the academic facilities.

Support facilities include around 40 Buses - AC & non-AC - that ply regularly between the college and the city, 15 Canteens - from fast-food to full-fledged cafeterias spread throughout the campus, retail outlets - Higginbothams book store, Airtel phone booths, Reynolds teller machines, Super Markets, Reliance Webworld with Java Cafe - all within the campus, a 3-Star SRM Hotel, and prayer halls for all major religions, are only some of the outstanding features of this 42-block masterpiece design.

Though the other campuses at Ramapuram & Vadapalani (both at Chennai), and at NCR are relatively smaller, they too are not behind in offering state-of-the-art amenities.

SRM also has extensive and modern hostel facilities, complete with not only South Indian and North Indian cuisine, but with Chinese, Thai, & Continental cuisines for catering to the tastes of its international students.

One can practically study any subject of one’s choice - everything from humanities to medicine and everything in between. Placements too are available for the hardworking students.

Of course, it is another matter whether money can create a great university. Chancellor TR Pachamuthu has gone that extra mile to attract top-talented students to his institution, through various scholarship schemes, but the very fact that such an artificial step has to be adopted for attracting quality, means that the quality-strategy at SRM is not holistic.

Also, no one expects SRM, or any private university for that matter, to do anything beyond namesake charity. The only way out from this quality jinx is industry or philanthropy founded endowments, but that would again naturally flow towards the nation’s premier institutes due to their sole focus on merit, public nature, as well as higher transparency. No business house or donor wants to help a for-profit institute even if it is called a university.

But don’t expect Pachamuthu to give up this next uphill move without a fight. He is an extraordinary entrepreneur who even tied up with ISRO to make his students launch a nano-satellite into space aboard PSLV-C18 in 2011. Named SRMSAT, it has completed 12,000 orbits around the Earth, and is tracked by students from a ground station on the SRM campus.

But at a recent event at SRM campus, when the ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan again appreciated the students for the achievement, Pachamuthu had a different take.

“Yes, we launched it. Yes, we have received praise for it. But, how long can we keep talking about it? We need to keep doing something new in the field of research. So, I ask you to consider placing greater interest in this area,” he told the thousands of SRM students gathered for the event.

How is that for a leader? In fact, NDA, BJP, and its other allies in Tamilnadu would stand to gain much if the IJK founder is handed over the control of raising finances for the NDA campaign as well as for conducting its PR.

The new NDA may not gain much in Tamilnadu in the upcoming election, and may end up only splitting the opposition vote further, thus enabling Jayalalithaa to make a clean sweep this time.

But Pachamuthu will ensure that he will give a spirited fight in Perambalur, a traditional stronghold of DMK, which elected 2G-fame A Raja thrice as its MP.

The SRM Chancellor has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, as it will be a sweet revenge for last year’s infamous IT raids at 45 SRM offices and the CBI investigation against the group for fee related irregularities.

1 comment:

  1. How will be the fee structure? Will it be applicable for a middle class family?



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