Achyuta Samanta went from a humble chemistry lecturer at a city-based private college to an edupreneur in 1992. As an agent of change, he spearheaded a highly ambitious proposition — Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT), an institution to impart professional courses — with a paltry investment of `5,000.
Today, after two decades, he stands tall having realised his dreams and established many edifices of learning under the flagship KIIT and another exemplary residential institute Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), a one-of-its-kind institution in the world, which imparts education to tribals free of cost from KG to PG level. The 48-year-old bachelor has received innumerable awards and accolades for his achievements. Not one to rest on his laurels, Samanta still has several other plans up his sleeves. Excerpts from an interview...
How is the journey so far?
Challenging and satisfying. Setting up an institute in Odisha, still considered a backward state, was not easy. From a two-room rented building to an all encompassing educational hub in 400 acres of land was really hard. Bank loans were difficult to procure and I had no background or backing. For a village rustic who lost his father and worked in the fields to get educated — had just stepped into the capital city to earn a decent living — aiming to bring up an institute that would have visibility all over the world, was herculean indeed. I had promised to make both KIIT and KISS one of the best and today, I am happy that I have been able to do it.
Tell us about the offerings at KITT and KISS.
KIIT and KISS were started at the same time in 1993. But the professional courses came much later in 1997. KIIT offers engineering, management, medical, art and architecture, law and fashion designing, whereas KISS offers classes from KG to PG level. KISS has turned into a role model for other institutions worldwide and people are following it in a big way. At present, KISS has 20,000 tribal students with 50 per cent girls, who are offered free education and residential facilities and there is also a 15 per cent reservation for KISS graduates in KIIT’s professional courses.
How did you manage to elevate your institutes to education empires?
Apart from my savings, initially I borrowed money from relatives, friends and well-wishers to manage the institution. Once the institutes started showing promise, we depended on bank loans.
How different is the education scene now from what it was two decades back?
It has improved and advanced a lot. It has been spreading across the masses. Each and every child, irrespective of caste or religion, rich or poor, is interested in a good education, something we didn’t see much back then. This is a big paradigm shift that has seen mushrooming of educational institutes everywhere.
Where do you see all your edifices of education in 10 years from now?
I am looking beyond Bhubaneswar to set up 20 KISS branches in Odisha’s tribal areas. I also want KISS to expand contagiously across the globe to cater to the needs of poor children who crave proper education. Work has started in Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh and Delhi. I am in talks with the governments of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. As far as KIIT university is concerned, I will make all efforts to maintain and enhance the quality of all professional programmes.
KISS is a role model for the world at large. You must be elated.
It is arguably one of the best educational institutes today. I started it with the purpose of providing free education to tribal children. I wanted to fulfil their basic right to education. Odisha has 62 scheduled tribes and most of them are poorest of the poor.
Once you arm them with education, they merge into the mainstream and prove themselves. I have invited the who’s who from all spheres of life to this institution. They have appreciated the endeavour.
How would you like to be remembered?
I will be happy if people remember me as a good human being. It is up to them to remember me in whichever way they want. My mother despite being an illiterate is my inspiration. She used to tell me that if five people don’t consider you a good human being, there is no purpose in life. I am following her principles.
How do you spend your free time?
I work 18 hours a day and run my office from under a tree on KISS campus. With so much to do, I am left with no time to read books, watch television or catch cinema, though I read newspapers.