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Chetan Kapoor | Chief Executive Officer, Tech Mahindra Foundation, India

Chetan Kapoor is a seasoned visionary in the realm of development, with an impressive track record spanning over two decades. A pioneer in advancing education and skills, Chetan has masterfully paved the way for impactful initiatives.

Chetan led the charge in realizing the "Empowerment through Education" mission, ingeniously giving shape to India's largest urban skill development drive. Beyond his executive role, Chetan's influence extends to being a jury member for FICCI Excellence Awards, a catalyst for reform in skill development, and a driving force behind educational curriculum enhancements in Delhi. Armed with an MBA from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, he's previously steered Edulever and co-founded Agrasar, channeling his unwavering commitment to a just and sustainable world.


Read his inspiring story and ideas.


What’s an urgent issue facing education?


It's the issue of relevance. If you take a step back and look at both what is being taught in our schools today and how it is taught - I’m talking about India in particular but much of it holds good across the globe - you’ll realize that both these aspects have fundamentally remained the same over the past many decades. During these decades, the world has changed significantly, many times over. The challenges and threats that we face today are very different from what it has ever been in the past. Hence logically, the response that you need to counter these challenges and threats also have to be very different. Our schools, barring a few exceptions, have failed to recognize and embrace this shift and continue to operate on an early 20th century model of education.

We are required to spend a major part of our first 20 years in schools. It is well established that these years are the building blocks of who we are and what we become. In that way, the years that we spend at school shape our lives and our worldview - for nearly all of us who inhabit this planet - and therefore shape our future, our destinies. And yet, the national discourse around how our schools should constantly adapt to the changing times is dismally low.

I strongly believe that unless we address this NOW, education faces a real danger of becoming irrelevant. A lot of what is being taught in schools can be learnt outside of it; however, much of what the future would demand from our children can only be addressed in schools - and they are singularly failing to do so.

Signing the board on occasion of 10 years of Shikshaantar, the Teacher Education program that Tech Mahindra Foundation implements
Signing the board on occasion of 10 years of Shikshaantar, the Teacher Education program that Tech Mahindra Foundation implements

Do you have a favorite quote?


When I was around 25, I read the following quote by George Bernard Shaw that affected me profoundly:

This is the true joy in life – that being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. That being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

At that stage of my life, I was trying to find a sense of purpose and direction - which till then had eluded me despite getting an MBA from one of the most prestigious B-schools in India. I was completely unsure of what I wanted to do in life. Reading the above quote - and reflecting on it for several days - set in motion a chain of events (some premeditated, others serendipitous) that led me towards the social development sector where I found my calling. In many ways, the quote by Shaw has been a personal mission statement for me, guiding me during times of uncertainty.

At Chennai, with TMF partner NGOs and beneficiaries
At Chennai, with TMF partner NGOs and beneficiaries

What is the most meaningful part of your job?


Without doubt, it is the opportunity to take actions and decisions that lead to creating value for others - particularly those who have not been as fortunate as the rest of us. In my role as the CEO of Tech Mahindra Foundation, my main task is to help the organization stay focused on our overarching theme of “Empowerment through Education” and on our core value that puts “Beneficiaries First”.

Chetan addressing students of one of the SMART (Skills-for-Market Training) Centres in Chandigarh. SMART is the flagship skill development program for youth implemented by TMF since 2012.
Chetan addressing students of one of the SMART (Skills-for-Market Training) Centres in Chandigarh. SMART is the flagship skill development program for youth implemented by TMF since 2012.

How did you end up where you are today?


It's a long story. But if I were to look back, I am where I am today because of the values instilled in me as part of my upbringing, which led me to look for meaning at an early stage of my life. It's also because of the faith reposed in me by the organizations and institutions I'm privileged to have been a part of, for which I'm eternally grateful to them. Of course, several lucky turn of events have contributed to my being here. And last but not least, the steadfast support I've received from my family throughout the journey. For more on my journey, and some of my learnings along the way, you can refer to this post on my blog.

With beneficiaries in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha at a project visit
With beneficiaries in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha at a project visit

What gives you fulfillment in life?


For me, fulfillment comes from:

  • Ending each day with a sense of gratitude

  • Bringing about continous incremental improvements in almost everything I do

  • Finding a sense of equilibrium between contrasting and sometimes opposing forces that rule our lives. Understanding that there are polarities to be managed in almost everything we do is essential to achieving results without compromising on the fundamental values and principles that define you.

 

1000 Spotlights: Why We Give reflects our mission of giving back, to mentor and to inspire those around us. Through a series of interview questions, we explore intrinsic motivations behind why we give, and talk with those inclined to make a difference in the lives of others. If you are involved in charitable activities, volunteer and paid academic engagements or in community service, we want to talk to you.


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