3rd Great Lakes International Entrepreneurship conference – Highlights

The 3rd Great Lakes International Entrepreneurship conference with the theme ‘Entrepreneurship in education’ was conducted at the Great Lakes campus under the aegis of the ‘Orchid pharma centre for excellence in technology, innovation and entrepreneurship (OPCET)’ yesterday. The conference saw an array of excellent speakers talking on the theme and driving the importance and relevance of the same in today’s context, especially in India.

Right after the inception of the conference, nearly 50 students – drawn from government schools in the villages surrounding the campus – proudly displayed lamps provided to them, thanks to Dr. AK Rao – Founder, One Child-One Lamp.

One Child-One Lamp is an initiative of Thrive Energy which aims at reaching out to the children of bottom of pyramid with their innovative and cost effective lighting solution. In India, 130 million school children depend on kerosene lamps for their lighting needs. A villager spends close to 900 Rs annually on kerosene, which also pollutes the environment by emitting carbon monoxide. One Child One Lamp addresses these problems by their cost effective and environment friendly LED Solar lights.

Starting the proceedings of the conference, Dr. Bala V Balachandran, dean, Great Lakes, said that the Indian business education scene is at a crossroads. “There is a need for academic elegance to meet business relevance”, he said. On entrepreneurship, he expressed his wish to see more and more Indians becoming job creators rather than just job consumers. He also hoped that, in the subsequent batches, at least 10% of the students who pass out go on to create value (by becoming entrepreneurs).

(L to R): RS Veeravalli, Lakshmi Srinivasan, Akhila Srinivasan, Dr. Bala, Dr. Dan Papp, BS Raghavan, S Sriram

Professor RS Veeravalli, Director, Corporate initiatives and Executive MBA Programme, Great Lakes, elaborated on the context of the conference. He grabbed the attention of everyone in the audience by running through some statistics. When he said that the size of the pie in the education sector will be 50 billion USD by 2015, all of us could not help but assimilate the enormity of the potential of “Edupreneurship”

A special address by BS Raghavan, retired civil servant and former chief secretary, West Bengal, followed.  He said that for education to succeed, it has to be approached in a holistic and integrated fashion and conceived in the broadest state possible. He lamented that teachers, whose job it is, to make education come alive, have themselves, become slaves to salaries. He hoped that they view their profession as sacred. In a sweeping and hard hitting fashion, he called upon everyone in the audience to become educators because “The school begins where the family ends”.

Despite the national knowledge commission headed by Mr. Sam Pitroda making a series of recommendations to the Government, he said that there is a gap in the area of “human development”. Commenting on the prevailing lack of innovation in the education sector, he gave a contrasting example of his own experiment with the model of ‘single teacher schools’. “Innovations can help bypass and circumvent systemic deficiencies”, he said.  Concluding his speech with the famous quote “I think, therefore I am”, he expressed his wish to see Great Lakes collaborating with the national innovation council in the near future.

Dr. Dan Papp, President, Kennesaw state university, delivered the chief address for the conference. By combining three different definitions, (from an entrepreneur, a business man and an academic), he said, an entrepreneur is “someone who takes an idea, combines it with money, marketing and management skills to create a successful and profitable business organization that meets the needs of the society.” He called uncle Bala, an academic entrepreneur. He asked potential entrepreneurs to take advantages of the advancements in information technology, shed the ivory tower mindset and leverage policy changes, if they wanted to make a mark in the education sector. Before concluding his address, he said that “an education entrepreneur thinks things that are not and asks, why not and how can I do it?”

Inauguration of the alumni alcove

Mrs Lakshmi Srinivasan, principal, PS Senior secondary school thanked the management of Great Lakes for pioneering the concept of imparting management education to students at the higher secondary school level. Students from the school were awarded certificates as a mark of successfully completing the course.  Mrs. Akhila Srinivasan, Managing director, Shriram life insurance and trustee gave the commemoration speech. She reiterated that, primary schools should inculcate in children, a spirit of righteousness.  Dr. Dan Pepp and Mrs Lakshmi Srinivasan unveiled the Shriram capital alumni alcove, a forum for the alumni of Great Lakes to come together.

This was followed by Colloquium  on “Innovation and Ecosystem in Edupreneurship” where the august group consisting of Dr K.C.John(Managing Director, Agnity India) ,Mr Sameer Mehta (Founder, Atlas Advisory),Dr A.K.Rao( Founder One Child One Lamp), Prof N.T.Arunkumar and Ms. Mridula Ramesh( Executive Director, Sundaram Textiles Ltd) discussed on Innovation and Ecosystem in Edupreneurship.

Dr K C John talked about how education entrepreneurship can be used for encashing India’s demographic dividend. He said that the next technology disruption will be in India in Education sector. Prof Arun Kumar shared his experience of starting iDo ,it is a volunteered corporate social responsibility initiative, employees have the option to contribute more (than the standard desired contribution amount) or an option of no deduction. Ms Mridula Ramesh presented a case study how TVS group came up with a sustainable model of CSR , where they addressed the unaddressed section (school drop outs)by equipping them with vocational training followed by the placements.

Mr. P Kishore, Managing director, Everonn Education Limited gave the valedictory address. He narrated the inspiring story of his humble beginnings in the small town of Ooty in Tamil nadu. Tracing the growth of Everonn, he credited the seeds of the company to his thought of taking computers and education to government schools. He promised Great Lakes that Everonn would gladly provide digital content, if the Karma Yoga program run by the institute requires. Embarking to raise 50 crores and ending up raising nearly 7200 crores, with an IPO oversubscribed 145 times, Everonn’s story is truly extraordinary and one that would inspire many an entrepreneur to seriously consider ventures in the sector of education.

The conference ended with Professor RS Veeravalli duly acknowledging the efforts put in by members of CIECOM, the entrepreneurship committee at Great Lakes. The conference enriched the knowledge of Gladiators about the immense opportunities in Edupreneurship . It motivated us to consider Entrepreneurship as a career and thus contribute back to the society through our future innovative and sustainable business models.

-Aarti Pandey and Sivaraman Natarajan

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