From watchman to IIM professor, Ranjith pursued his dream with will and grit

 All his life Ranjith R (28) lived in a leaky hut at Panathur in Kasaragod; his parents had studied only till Class 5

Published: 11th April 2021 05:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th April 2021 02:16 PM   |  A+A-

Ranjith's house

Express News Service

KASARGOD: “I was born in this house. I grew up in this house. I live in this house. With lots of happiness, let me tell you an assistant professor of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) took birth here. I want to share my journey from this house to IIM-Ranchi. And I will consider it my success if this fuels at least one person’s dreams.”

Ranjith R, 28, who has a doctorate in Economics from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, took over the Malayalam internet space a day ago after posting his incredible life journey on Facebook.

What especially tore at netizens’ heartstrings was the photograph of Ranjith’s house of 23 years -- an unplastered doorless two-room shed and a leaky tiled roof wrapped with black tarpaulin. Sharing the post, Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac applauded the “extraordinary will power” displayed by Ranjith, whose journey to overcome social and financial backwardness to learn and grow reminded him of former Indian president K R Narayanan.


“He (Ranjith) is our inspiration and motivation. I am following in his footsteps,” said Ranjith’s younger sister Ranjitha K R, 24, who has a PG in Economics and a BEd. “He is the most qualified person in our family. I will be next,” she said. Ranjith was born to Ramachandran Naik, who worked as a neighbourhood tailor, and Baby R, who was a daily wage labourer under the rural job guarantee scheme, at Kelapankayam in Panathur.

The couple, who belongs to the Marathi Scheduled Tribe community, had only studied till Class 5. However, they knew the importance of education, and admitted Ranjith to the government-run Model Residential School (MRS) for boys from tribal communities at Vellachal in Pilicode panchayat. “I was at MRS till Class 10. The government footed all my expenses. So I did not know much about the financial situation at home,” he told TNIE. For higher secondary education, Ranjith joined a government school at Balanthode, where he got interested in economics as a subject.

'Worked as watchman for Rs 3,500 per month'

After schooling, he joined St Pius X College in Rajapuram to pursue BA in Economics. This was the time he realised that the going was tough at home. Even as he was considering dropping out to help the family, he saw a job advertisement calling for a night watchman at the BSNL telephone exchange in Panathur. He applied, and ‘luckily’, got the job. “I worked as a watchman there for five years — all through my degree and post-graduation days,” he said. Though his salary was Rs 3,500 per month initially, it went up to Rs 8,000 per month in the fifth year. “I studied during the day and worked at night," he said. Ranjith topped his college that year.

After completing his post-graduation at the Central University of Kerala in Kasaragod, Ranjith joined the elite IIT-Madras for his PhD. At IIT, however, Ranjith felt like he was alone in the middle of a crowd. “I was even afraid to speak. Before coming to Chennai, I was used to speaking only in Malayalam.”

After a year, he decided to give up on his PhD because he felt “academically inadequate”. But his guide Dr Subash Sasidharan, an associate professor in the department, would have none of it. He took me out for lunch for a week and convinced me to fight once before accepting defeat, he said. “From then, I got this strong will to succeed. Many of Subash’s sir students were working in premier institutes. I also wanted to get there,” he said. 

Ranjith went on to complete his PhD with three publications in four years and three months, and IIT gave him a fellowship for pre-doctoral research for the remaining nine months. “It was an incentive for completing my PhD early,” he said.

Last October, Ranjith applied for the post of assistant professor at IIM-Ranchi. By December, Bengaluru-based Christ University offered him a job at the Department of Economics. “The first thing I did was apply for a loan to build a home for my parents and siblings,” he said. Before the loan was sanctioned, however, he got the appointment letter from IIM. “A lot of dreams have wilted before they could bloom in thousands of huts like mine. They should be replaced by stories of realising those dreams,” he said. “That’s why I told my story.”


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  • A k Sehanobis

    It is worth emulating for those specially who give up so easily.
    1 month ago reply
  • Ahobala

    India's future lies in the hands of ambitious hutment swellers that dot across the country. The govt must mak it happen fast
    1 month ago reply
  • Kiran Mahesh Nair

    1 month ago reply
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