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“Leadership is all about helping others rise”, Mr. Kaushik Akiwatkar shares his philosophy of leadership with the youth

Last Modified : December 27, 2017

Interview by Sakshi Aggarwal

Mr. Kaushik Akiwatkar, Director of Rishihood University

Kaushik Akiwatkar is currently working with Rishihood University as Director for Development and Operations. In the past, he has worked with Gujarat Technological University (GTU), Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) and Youth Connect Magazine. He has completed bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from Gujarat Technological University and later did Master’s in Post Graduate Diploma in Management with marketing as specialization. He was also involved in a research project on ‘Educational Innovations Bank’: Decentralized Professional Development and Quality Enhancement in Public Schooling" under guidance of Prof. Vijaya Sherry Chand at Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA).

Mr. Kaushik is actively helping various corporate groups to help establish private university and academic institutes. He is also on board of academic council of Swarnim Startup & Innovation University to help develop course curriculum. Kaushik has more than 5 years of experience in Marketing and Business Development in Media Industry and experience in building Startup Ecosystem in Academic Institution. He has worked with few student startups during his college days, later he was appointed by Gujarat Technological University as Project Officer (Entrepreneurship). He played a crucial role in framing (i) Start-up Policy and framework for Students of Technical Institutes under AICTE, (ii) GTU’s Student Startup Policy, (iii) Policy & Procedures for GTU’s Technology and Business Incubator and (iv) Framing Course for Minor or Specialization in Technology Entrepreneurship course for engineering students. He has delivered more than 70 workshops, seminars and talks at various academic institutes. Have also authored 2 research papers and 45 Case studies, to name few, (i) Understanding Structure of Business Incubators, Startups and Government Policies (Fostering Entrepreneurship Culture) In Indian Context and (ii) The Role of Government Policy in Fostering Entrepreneurship and Innovation Culture and case studies in the field of Innovation and entrepreneurship. (iii) Case Studies of 45 Schools from Banaskatha, Chhota Udaipur and Vadodara district of Gujarat State on Improving Quality in Public Schools: Strengthening School Management Committees.

Rishihood University

Mr. Kaushik Akiwatkar’s experience in the education industry

In my life journey till today, either I have studied, or I have taught. I believe education is not a profession, but a passion that pushes you to make a difference to the world. Certainly, the education industry is one of the largest industry in terms of size, the country has more than 1.5 million schools with over 260 million students enrolled and about 751 universities and 35 thousand colleges. Observing the size, this industry is surrounded by many challenges. Two major challenges in this industry are gross enrolment ratio in conjunction with the quality of education. The number of students in college in comparison with the number of students who should be in college is just 19% in India. Just to hire one software engineer, companies take hundreds of interviews. Another challenge is the quality of education with increasing GER, one reports says by 2020 India’s GER will be 30%, which means adding another 22 million students to the higher education system. And if we apply normal student-teacher ratio, we are talking about millions of teachers which is a huge number. How will we find them? If you are entrepreneurial at heart and challenges motivate you at work, then this is the industry you should be in.

Mr. Kaushik Akiwatkar’s philosophy of leadership and leadership style

Leadership, according to me, is about helping others rise. Greatness comes not from the position but helping someone build a future. All of us in the position of power have obligation to pull others up. Last month, as I took the office of Director at Rishihood University, I look at my responsibility not as accepting a position, I look upon as accepting a challenge and responsibility and an obligation to make it possible for people who are passionate about the work they are in at the university to achieve the level of greatness so that they can be on leadership position sometime in the future.

Mr. Kaushik Akiwatkar on importance of time management

It is said you cannot create time, but you can manage it. Managing multiple projects at the same time has always been difficult but at some point, you learn by self-experience. And IT tools like Trello, Google Keep, and others also help you to manage time efficiently.

Mr. Kaushik Akiwatkar’s relationship with the students

When you talk in the language in which they speak, including the same kind of youth terms they use in their day to day conversation you have already developed a connect. Then whatever you speak is very well understood. I have made my contact details available to all the students who have attended my lectures, seminar or talks. Many of them are connected with me on Facebook and other social media platforms. I like to interact with young students as they are full of enthusiasm, creativity with all vivid imaginations.

Mr. Kaushik Akiwatkar on growth of Indian economy via student startups

Entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking ability are key to the growth of any nation. Potential entrepreneurs are too precious to be missed out. They need to be identified, supported, nurtured and leveraged to success for the benefit of all in the society. Since they are the only sources of new value creation, innovation, new wealth creation and most importantly new jobs generation, their role as agents of economic growth, can never be overstated. Students have the minimum amount of risk (in management terms we call it as de-risking) during college days if they want to start on their own as an entrepreneur. they have very less to lose.

Mr. Kaushik Akiwatkar on how he encourages students with ideas and how he helps them to successfully achieve their goals

Spreading entrepreneurship in scale is always a challenge- a challenge that is worth taking. But how we really do that,one of the kinds of institutional effort during my tenure at Gujarat Technological University, we innovated how final year engineering students did their projects. We encouraged students to visit industries, villages and rural India (we called it Shodhyatra) and asked them to observe with help of Design Thinking methodology. Based on the observation s students were asked to work on one problem from the pools of many, they identified during Shodhyatra. After completion of final year project, students who were interested in taking their project further were helped with raising funds for prototyping. University would fund some projects and help them with incubation space and other facilities. Some projects which had social inclination would be helped through crowdfunding. Personally, I deliver workshops on entrepreneurship to encourage students to work on new ideas.

Ideal school environment according to Mr. Kaushik Akiwatkar

I believe an academic institution should be on the mission to develop the culture of “with the application of knowledge”. This meant that the institute would be involved in teaching, research and consulting. The impact would be greatest if it were the combined result of all activities, so faculty must engage in all three activities. Secondly, academic activities can flourish only when faculty is given the fullest freedom. In an academic institution, excellence cannot be ordered. It springs forth when people are given the space to grow and to express themselves freely. Thirdly, the idea of a faculty-governed institute where decision-making rests primarily with the faculty and not with the director or the board. This is the kind of environment I feel is ideal.

Rishihood University

Suggestions for the current youth and the aspiring students

My only suggestion to students would be to understand yourself and select the course and institute which interests you, without getting influenced by your friends or family. If you are not comfortable with yourself, you will not succeed. So, it is completely critical to know who you are, what you like, and be comfortable with it. Try to learn, read and understand as much you can, in the field of your interest. Because after you graduate, what will matter the most is what you can do and how will you do it. And that’s going to be very important for your future.