Made in Chandigarh: Live by your values, says Shoolini University’s pro-VC Atul Khosla
A fan of Le Corbusier & a self-confessed perfectionist, Atul Khosla an IITian who helms Shoolini believes our archaic education needs a major overhaul.Updated: Sep 14, 2018 11:46 IST
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
A fan of Le Corbusier & a self-confessed perfectionist, Atul Khosla an IITian who helms Shoolini believes our archaic education needs a major overhaul.
I started my career as a consultant with McKinsey and Co in 1995. After over seven years of international work, I co-founded a company called The Everest Group in India, the world’s leading outsourcing advisory firm. I then helped launch a-connect with its headquarters in Zurich. From there I moved back to India as the country head of a company called Oliver Wyman. From 2014 onwards, I have been pro vice-chancellor of Shoolini University, Solan, founded by my father Dr P K Khosla. I am in charge of all the new initiatives and innovation that takes place there.
I was born in Chandigarh and spent my early years here. My brother went on to study at PEC. I lived here when I returned to India even though my work was primarily in Mumbai. These days I live in Solan next-door. But Chandigarh is where my heart is.
I studied aerospace engineering from IIT, Kanpur. I was told that I was the first student to clear JEE from Himachal in those days. While at IIT, I learnt to fly a plane. I wanted to become a rocket scientist but I was so weak at mathematics as compared to others in my class at IIT that I decided against it. Later, I did my MBA from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management.
My Chandigarh Connect
We used to live in Sector 8, and I started my schooling at Christ High School. But soon my father moved to Oxford in England and we followed him. I returned to spend another year in school here before we shifted to Solan. I remember cycling to my school and even to Rose Garden and the Sukhna Lake. I was always fascinated by this beautiful city. We returned to it frequently to eat ice-cream and play video games. When I returned to India, I made Chandigarh my base. And I know when I finally decide to hang my boots, I will in all likelihood choose this city.
Area of Expertise
It is innovation and change. That’s what I do to education at Shoolini. I believe the existing way of teaching is archaic and needs a major disruption. We invite corporate leaders and subject matter experts to deliver courses as workshops. We use technology and artificial intelligence. We encourage students to learn through research and they deliver amazing results. Every day, I have a new problem to solve, and I have never been happier in my life.
My Secret Sauce
I am extremely ambitious and driven. I stretch myself way beyond my capability. That is why I want Shoolini to be among the top 200 universities of the world. Though I am very passionate about my work, I never compromise on my values.
The Turning Point
It was my entry into the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management. I had come to Mumbai to work in a tech company after graduating from IIT, but soon I figured it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Since the entrance for only the Bajaj institute was left, I took the exam and cleared it. It was life defining for me. The other turning point of my life came when I joined McKinsey. I was among the 10 youngsters they selected and we were featured on the cover page of India Today. It was a tough place to work in but it made a me a leader and a perfectionist besides giving me tremendous confidence. I still remember Ratan Tata was my first client and he asked me, a 24-year-old, to address him by his first name.
What I Owe to Chandigarh
Everything. The city made me aspirational. It inculcated in me the desire for excellence. It also made me a huge fan of Le Corbusier. Earlier this year, I took two weeks off to follow Corbusier’s trail from France and Lyon to South Africa and Switzerland. It’s from him that I learnt minimalism and functionality. These concepts apply to education as well.
Things I like to Do in city
I crisscross the city frequently, and often take out time to grab a cup of coffee at Elante. When I have time, I enjoy visiting the lake, the rose garden and the rock garden, which is very inspiring.
How has the City Changed?
It is lost. It should have been a world heritage site but people have changed its character. Chandigarh has to decide what it wants. It’s got neither culture nor the economy and it is losing its character. Either preserve your character or go the Singapore way and get a culture.
The Changes I would Like to See in the City
I would like the whole of Chandigarh to be declared a world heritage site. The authorities must do something to revive Sector 17. It can be a great promenade but it’s turning into a vending zone.
The Best Advice I Ever Got
My first boss at McKinsey told me, “You need to be respected, not always liked. If someone says you are nice, treat it as an insult.”
My Advice to Youngsters
Be happy and live by your values. There are plenty of opportunities in the world. If you are happy and have a spine, you will create a strong enterprise.
First Published: Sep 14, 2018 11:46 IST