Chairman and managing director, Educomp Solutions Ltd
Retired chief material manager, Rourkela Steel Plant
Shantanu Prakash is familiar with the small-town claustrophobia that is common to “steel kids” from central and eastern India. Growing up in Rourkela, where his father worked at the steel plant, Prakash had the typically idyllic lifestyle around family and friends with the constant gnawing feeling that there’s got to be more to life.
While other parents bought gifts, he got books, and grew up on “intellectual conversation that sparked off something that was larger than the influence of a small circle”. Raised on a constricted income, that was the norm among public sector employees in the 1970s and 1980s, Prakash moved to Delhi in 1988 after class X to live with his grandparents and study at the Delhi Public School.
Photo Pradeep Gaur/Mint
The move liberated him.
Immersing himself into all activities cultural and entrepreneurial, Prakash dabbled in theatre, rock shows and revelled in the “large literary canvas” he was offered, both as a means to do something interesting and to earn some money. Though he stayed academically conventional, with a B.Com from Shri Ram College of Commerce and an MBA from Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, something unconventional still remained in him.
“When I came out of IIM (in 1988), I knew I didn’t want another job,” says Prakash from Gurgaon. “My whole frame of reference was my father who worked in SAIL (Steel Authority of India Ltd) for 30 years, before retiring and moving to Delhi without enough money to buy a home. I wanted something of my own.”
He partnered an education entrepreneurship with a friend, setting computer laboratories in schools, before starting Educomp Solutions Ltd in 1992, which became a full-fledged company in 1994. Today, Educomp Solutions is a global education solutions provider with 14,000 employees, reaching 26,000 schools, 15 million learners and has a market capitalization of Rs 4,451crore.
“The big change,” says Prakash, “came in 2005-06 when we realized we needed to be relevant to India’s education ecosystem, providing educational and vocational capacity to middle India. There is this tsunami of young people in India who need access to good education, not just a degree.”
Even though it’s a company for profit, Prakash says everything they do serves society. “India has a 400 million workforce, of which less than 10% have the opportunity for vocational training. India’s overall economic growth will suffer if you don’t have the human capital,” says the 46-year-old.
Prakash does not see his journey this far as a consequence of struggle, but of challenges. “I started with zero capital, everything was from scratch,” he says. “But it depends on how you perceive it. When you come from a small place, your whole circle of influence is small.”
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