Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

The Roy Chowdhury Saga: How a single family shaped the educational landscape in Eastern India

"A conversation with the First Family of Education in the East and the story of how Techno India Group was founded"

Published: Jul 10, 2020 02:48:22 PM IST
Updated: Jul 12, 2020 03:04:50 PM IST

Techno India Group is a widely acclaimed knowledge management group headquartered in Kolkata, India, having offered education to almost a million students from Kindergarten to PhD level in the last 35 years. Here is the awe-inspiring tale of the very successful first generation Technopreneur - Founder and Chairman Prof. Dr. Goutam Roy Chowdhury and his family, together dedicated to enhancing quality private education in India.

The Roy Chowdhury Saga: How a single family shaped the educational landscape in Eastern India
Prof. Dr. Goutam Roy Chowdhury started his entrepreneurial journey in the education sector at a very young age. His modest background as the son of a junior government officer did not prevent him from achieving academic (and later entrepreneurial) excellence, as his educational path led him to study Economics, Statistics, Mathematics and Computer Science from the most prestigious national engineering and statistical institutions.

A single day at a corporate position was enough to tire him of employment subjugation and big bureaucracies. After he resigned, he started dedicating his time to setting up a computer training centre from his garage in his parents’ house, in Hooghly, West Bengal. This homemade entrepreneurial and resourceful instinct made him earn the name of ‘the Steve Jobs of the East’. He started with only 5 INR in 1984, which he dedicated to printing flyers that he hoped would attract students. Little did he know that these 5 rupees would prove to bring such a high return on investment. Between 1985 and 1994, he opened and ran 70 Computer Training Centres at existing colleges, years before computer awareness and access were popularised. He then brought himself closer to several Eastern State governments by executing large-scale e-governance software projects, including printed voter ID-Cards, which at the time was as visionary as computer education.

To anyone who is lucky enough to have met Prof. Dr. Goutam Roy Chowdhury, it is easy to feel the depth of his dedication, which is still as vivid as in 1984. ‘My goal is to eradicate poverty in India through education’, would he firmly assert. His optimistic and ambitious leadership style has enabled him to achieve inclusive and explosive growth, inviting colleagues, friends and family to get involved within the scope of his dream, and guiding them towards ideas that sound impossible until History tells us that they were in fact not so insane.

In 1998, his dream crystallised into the foundation of Techno India Group (TIG) under which he started his own engineering colleges. Today, this mega consortium counts more than 80,000 enrolled students and 5,000 staff. In 2012, Techno India University, West Bengal was founded as the first accredited private university in West Bengal under the Chancellorship of Prof. Dr. Goutam Roy Chowdhury, following the steps of Rabindranath Tagore, founder of Visva-Bharati University almost 100 years earlier.

He could not have achieved this dream alone. From the year 2000 onwards, Mrs. Manoshi Roy Chowdhury added her benevolent yet firm leadership to the Group’s top management team, taking the sole responsibility of developing Techno India’s schools. In 20 years, she single-handedly gave birth to almost 20 schools across West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, in which more than 15,000 students are currently studying, and whose academic results, innovative pedagogy and most importantly accessibility for students from underserved backgrounds in small towns and villages are flatteringly spoken about. A student of Loreto Convent with higher studies in Zoology, Journalism and Mass Communication, Mrs. Roy Chowdhury’s involvement soon moved beyond management of just the schools, as she stepped into the overall Administration of the Group as Co-Chairperson. It is also interesting to note here that her father, Prof. K.D. Mondal, who she considers her biggest inspiration, was the first person on both sides of the family to have gone abroad to study (Mining Engineering from Glasgow University), and was instrumental in setting up the first engineering colleges of the Group as a Founder Director. A woman of substance, power & positivity, Mrs. Roy Chowdhury is the ultimate operational head of the Group as well as the guardian of its core values and educational quality in her role as the First Lady of Techno India Group & University. She is the glue that holds the TIG family together, with grace, empathy, patience, humility and a strong willingness to give back to society. She is currently involved in advising and working with various organisations like the Rotary Club, chambers of commerce including FICCI, ICC, BNCCI and NGOs like Seva on the ground level, to promote various social and philanthropic activities.

In 2017, Mr. and Mrs. Roy Chowdhury’s son Meghdut came back from studies abroad at the prestigious HEC Paris, Stanford University and Tel Aviv University, driven back by his love for Kolkata and a strong willingness to use his skills for the betterment of his homeland. The dream of enhancing the Eastern part of the country is a drive that trickled down from father to son, as Prof. Dr. Goutam Roy Chowdhury’s aspiration has always been to make the brain drain wave from Bengal take a U-turn. In a meeting with the honourable ex-Chief Minister of West Bengal he had famously said: ‘I will change the direction of the train taking students to the South of India for Technological Advancement back towards West Bengal.’ Today, not only are students from many other states of India coming to Techno India instead of migrating to South India for their higher education, but the Group has become home to many international students as well.

Even before reaching 20 years of age, Meghdut had already shown that he inherited the entrepreneurship DNA. At 19, he founded his first venture in Kolkata, BlooperHouse Studios, a music recording studio that he thought would bridge the lack of high-end facilities for local independent artists to shine out – and rightly so. When he came back from his foreign prologue, Meghdut wasted no time in adding tremendous value to Techno India Group by kickstarting Technopreneurs’ Surrogate Ventures, which offers Eastern India’s budding entrepreneurs its first mentorship-driven incubation programme. In the beginning of 2018, he initiated another venture, Offbeat CCU, Kolkata’s first integrated experiential learning hub, an 8-storey building combining facilities for education, entertainment, and hospitality under the same roof. Through this venture, Meghdut is trying to redefine the Future of Education by focusing on curiosity and interdisciplinarity. Recently, in 2020, under his father’s leadership, Meghdut and his team inaugurated the Future-Proof Labs, Techno India’s Open Innovation arm in order to unleash daring innovation at the regional level. Continuing on his innovation-bound journey, Meghdut will be one of the executive heads of the first AICTE-accredited MBA in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Venture Development launched under Techno India University, West Bengal for the academic year 2020-2021.

In 2018, Techno India Group family welcomed Pauline Laravoire both as Sustainability Director and daughter-in-law. Pauline had also studied at HEC Paris, where she met Meghdut and graduated with a master’s degree in Sustainability and Social Innovation. Passionately driven by impact, Pauline has a proven expertise in social entrepreneurship, social impact assessment and sustainable development strategy. She deployed these skills at Techno India, where she dedicates her time spreading awareness about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and multiplying the students’ learning and working opportunities on related matters. With this objective, she founded Y-East, first aggregating and networking platform gathering organisations and professionals working on sustainability with a specific focus on East and North East India, which currently aggregates close to 100 professional organisations. A flagship project under Y-East is The River Rangers, which tackles the Ganges’ plastic pollution issue through clean-up drives, public awareness and technology. Pauline’s responsibilities find resonance with already existing philanthropic actions of Prof. Dr. Goutam Roy Chowdhury, whose constant endeavour has been to provide economic opportunities to rickshaw pullers, daily wage workers, domestic helps, drivers, gardeners, office peons, security guards, and education opportunities to their children through generous scholarship programmes. She will also be heading the upcoming MBA in Sustainability Leadership and Social Impact to open in the academic year 2020 at Techno India University, West Bengal.

This cocktail of strong leaders along with their teams has taken Techno India Group to new greater heights. Today, the Group features 4 Universities, 22 engineering colleges, 12 business schools, 5 diploma colleges, one ayurvedic college, 2 upcoming medical colleges, 18 Industrial Training Institutes, 30 schools, 22 high-end R&D Labs, 3 Multispecialty Hospitals and 4 Hotels and Resorts. The Group also stands out for its very strong focus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In the past few years, the Group diversified its educational streams, built up new modern amenities such as IoT Labs and VR Labs, shaped up an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Eastern India, organised an impressive series of conferences and hackathons, such as the latest Future-Proof Hackathon, a virtual competition which gathered more than 1,700 participants during the COVID-19 lockdown to provoke the young generations in reimagining a post-Covid world. The global pandemic has also highlighted Techno India’s able crisis response capacities through its charitable arm “Techno Supports” under the guidance of its Co-Chairperson, Mrs. Roy Chowdhury. The Group has been delivering essential items around the city and to NGOs through the “Offbeat Essentials” initiative, curated countless complementary online educational programmes, set up a mental health helpline called “Monoshij” and mass-produced hand sanitizers and masks through its R&D facilities just to mention a few. Tomorrow, the Group will continue its trajectory towards innovation, emerging technologies, organisational responsibility and internationalisation with a stronger focus on medical colleges and infrastructures, continuing its expansion on both quantitative and qualitative aspects of education.

As part of his second innings, the Chairman of the Group is spearheading a giant project in the field of medical advancement by setting up 30 medical colleges across the world and recently initiated his dream project of setting up several Bio-Technology parks to repurpose 10,000 acres of barren land. A strong believer in life after 60, he has taken a special initiative to bring senior citizens back to the workplace to avoid wastage of their intellectual capital.

The Roy Chowdhurys are not like any other family. They are a set of individuals all entertaining a very strong devotion to enhancing access to education, each in their own way, through complementary skills and focuses covering visionary innovation, entrepreneurship, technology, teaching-learning quality, sustainability. And most importantly, the Roy Chowdhury household is full of a very special energy that is to be rarely found nowadays: the capacity to dream about a better, smarter, more equitable tomorrow – and to dare to pursue it.

Disclaimer: The views, suggestions and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Forbes India journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.