The upcoming Jagannath Cultural Academy and Research Centre (JCARC) near Ahmedabad will be an epitome of the growing Odia presence in Gujarat. A sizeable number of Odia entrepreneurs have scripted their success stories in the state. JCARC is the vision of some progressive-thinking members of the Orissa Socio-Cultural Association (OSCA), Ahmedabad.
One of the brains behind the centre and general secretary of OSCA is Badhri Mahapatra. He came to Ahmedabad in the 90s and after 13 years of doing job, started his own venture in partnership, called Sanguine Management Services in 2006. “While doing job, I realised that the infrastructure and attitude of the people in the state is very favourable for entrepreneurs,” says Mahapatra. The firm was turned into a private limited company in 2007 after which more domains were added to its kitty. Besides, clean development mechanism, which is their forte, Sanguine works in areas like customised market research and feasibility studies, new venture and project management, social sector and CSR advisory and human resource and financial advisory.
“In 2010, I got into another partnership to start an injection moulding company under SIMA Industries, near Ahmedabad. More additions were made in 2011,” says Mahapatra. There is a twinkle in his eyes at the mere mention of JCARC. “The centre will work in areas like education, vocational skills capacity building, arts and crafts, culture, literature and philosophy. The academy is meant for everyone. The architecture of the complex takes inspiration from the Odia temples,” explains Mahapatra.
The growth of management and technical institutions in Odisha created a pool of skilled people who found opportunities in Gujarat with its ports, corporate houses, industries, PSUs, infrastructure and financial institutions. Gujarat also provided opportunities to artisans in the diamond and textile industries of Surat and the stone carving industry of Surendranagar district. Many senior professionals are also getting involved in major projects. One such example is Dr Harish Patnaik. After retiring as chief general manager of the State Bank of India, he became Executive Director of the Golden Gujarat Growth Fund ltd in 2009. Subsequently, he has been appointed CEO of the fund. Dr Patnaik is also involved with other projects.
Like Mahapatra, Rabi Panda too has started his own enterprise called C G Infotech in Ahmedabad. “I come from Behrampur in south Odisha. I joined an infotech company in Ahmedabad in the ’90s. I was touched by the informal culture and entrepreneurial spirit of the city. While working in infotech companies, I earned a reputation in the field of computer hardware and software integration. This led to starting my own small computer enterprise. We provide computer systems, networking, internet and video conferencing solutions. Our hardware supplies and advisory services are backed by training programmes and annual maintenance contracts. CG Infotech’s clientele includes leading educational and research institutions, NGOs, business enterprises and individual professionals,” says Panda.
While Mahapatra and Panda were impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of Gujarat, Pooja Manjula Shroff found a lack of central board schools in Ahmedabad. “I hail from the feudal family of Surangi in the Ganjam district of Odisha. I post-graduated in management from Utkal University and also studied at IIM-Ahmedabad. After marriage to techie and infotech entrepreneur Pratul Shroff, I came to Ahmedabad and felt the need for a professionally run school in the city.” She took the Delhi Public School (DPS) franchise to start a school in 1996. “This was the first DPS in Gujarat. The concept appealed to me as they had the experience and expertise to guide our foundation and yet offered a reasonable amount of flexibility for us to introduce our own concept,” she explains. “DPS was not known to the people of Gujarat. We had to first establish a reputation. Many felt it was a mistake to set up a CBSE school of this scale. It turned out into one of the biggest schooling success stories in Ahmedabad. There are now two DPS schools managed by us—one at Bopal west of Ahmedabad and another at Maninagar in the eastern part of the city,” says Pooja. Following the success of DPS, Pooja started Calorx Foundation to full fill her dream of Calorx International School. “I wanted to have my own school brand, Calorx. Not wanting it to conflict with DPS, I opted for an International Baccalaureate board school in Ahmedabad. I started Calorx Public School with K-12 CBSE curriculum at industrial towns like Mundra Port, Rajula which is near Pip-a-vav Port and Bharuch where there are a number of PSUs and industrial estates. I have recently taken over a school on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. We have also started Calorx Teachers University. The critical numbers that have built up over the years with so many schools and institutes, from KG to university, ensures that we can attract qualified educators and professional administrative teams, invest in technologies and systems, and carry muscle as a corporate group,” says Pooja.
She is a social entrepreneur, who is also the founder of Visamo Kids. It provides accommodation to deserving children from underprivileged families and supports their education in Ahmedabad’s good schools. It came into existence as a temporary shelter in 2001 during the earthquake for those rendered homeless during the calamity. Pooja’s other social initiatives include Calorx Prerna, which is a special school for dyslexic children.