Where Hope Was Better Than The Result, A Historian’s Perspective

G.R.G Matriculation Higher Secondary School offered us an interesting group – MPCC: Maths, Physics, Chemistry & Commerce. We should definitely thank the management under Chandrakanthi Govindarajulu and the accommodative Principal Mabel Charles for giving us this option. Fifteen of us chose this group and several among us became engineers or management graduates. One of my classmates Dr. Ganesh Devaraj (Founder – Soliton Automation) went on his Ph.D in the USA.
Well, this option gave us the chance to do either a commerce or an engineering programme. P.S.G College of Arts and Science was ready to admit students with statistics or mathematics along with commerce or accountancy for pursuing an undergraduate programme in commerce (B.Com). We just chugged along. I wanted to be a historian / archaeologist and wanted to discover more of the past. Besides these aspirations, I wanted to discover a treasure belonging to the yonder era and firmly believed that there was one waiting for me ! However I did not want to disappoint my engineer father and therefore chose this group.
All of us took up our education seriously but I did not do my plus two well. To put it straight, it was my worst period when it came to studies. I just scored 674 out of 1200 and my father was disappointed. My classmate Santossh (Founder – Lambodhara Textiles Limited) did the same group and he chose to do a commerce degree. His family had founded the prestigious engineering college, CIT (Coimbatore Institute of Technology) and yet he gave his own justification by stating that commerce was the lifeline required at that moment. My bad marks pushed me to pursue his path and the accommodative Principal of PSG, D.K.P.Varadarajan was kind enough to allot a seat for me. I must thank G.V. Muthuswamy Naidu of the PSG family for helping me in this regard.
My friend Santossh stated that B.Com was stepping stone and one could do an MBA thereafter. His father the millowner V.Radhakrishnan was also of the same opinion. He put us across to Dr.R.N.Swami, the first Ph.D in taxation law in India (former visiting faculty to management institutes like Bajaj in Mumbai). Santossh, Manoj Rajani (Founder Sri Venkatachalapathy Builders) and myself used to meet Dr.Swami and discuss on a number of issues. It motivated us to do our entrance exams later. We enrolled ourselves with the Brilliant Tutorials and went ahead by coaching ourselves. Santossh was the hard worker amongst us and was also a task master. He would have fun but yet do the right things at the right time. His mother Vimala Radhakrishnan was a great support to all of us in this regard. She used to make us do the English bit better. Reading the articles in Reader’s Digest and going through the page ‘Its pays to enrich your word power’ was thanks to her. I still remember doing five words and five problems a day. We did the words mish mash, hodge podge, ambivalent, ambidextrous on our way to Ooty on a bus ! Quite a few good natured people guided us. Those were times when Entrance Exams were yet to become businesses. I remember doing my entrance exam coaching classes for BE at the Sarvajana Higher Secondary School during the tenure of S.S.Rajagopalan. However we did not have centres for B School entrances those days. The seats had been few and the Government of the day was just waking up after a deep self induced slumber.
We met a number of corporate executives who had done their management education in IIMs. One such person was Rajendran. His inputs were interesting. While the right answers gave us marks, the wrong answers would reduce marks. It was a problem for there was no place to guess and tick the answer. All the questions belonged to the objective type variety. My other classmates from GRG and PSG joined the race. This included A.R.Srinivaasan (Radhakrishna & Co), C.V.Govindarajan (school first in the commerce group) and N.Rajamancikkam (Non Resident Indian). Govindarajan (C.S.Meals & C.S. Grand Café) was the only one who joined work and the rest of us joined a management programme.
Entrance Exams had to be taken in order to move ahead. Santossh and myself did the maximum number of exams. We took the CAT (Common Admission Test for required for joining an IIM), XLRI ( Xaviers Labour Relations Institute), CWE (Common Written Exam for joining B Schools in Mumbai), BIT (Birla Institute of Technology – Ranchi), Pondicherry Central University Exam, PSG and the entrance exam for BSMED (Bharathiar School of Management and Entrepreneur Development, Bharathiar University – Coimbatore). It was time to do a Bharat Darshan under the guise of these exams. We flew to Mumbai to do the CWE and therefore we got a chance to see more of it. The stay was in Manoj Rajani’s grandmother’s house on Pedder Road. It was huge three bed room apartment with a few balconies. We visited Narsi Monji, Jamnalal Bajaj and I did my entrance in S.P Jain. One of our friends Nirupama Mallani did her entrance too in Mumbai. Her father Hiralal Mallani was a popular cotton trader and was also a farming pioneer who had established a very nice mango farm. She later did her MBA with us in Bharathiar.
Our friends Junaid Ali Sait, Veerashivakumar joined us to Pondicherry for our entrance. We went to the former French colony in their Dolphin. Santossh and myself went to Chennai in order to write our XLRI entrance exams as Loyola. I did my TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) in Chennai and had done this trip on my own. However, the idea of going abroad got dropped simply because one had to do one more year in order to fulfil the four year under grad requirement. I had already got a number of application forms from many US B Schools. This included that of Harward and Stanford. Well it gave me an exposure which was to become useful. We wrote the PSG and Bharathiar entrance exams in Coimbatore itself. Dr.S.R.Narayan Sastry of CIT helped us with the maths / quantitative parts really well. He helped us to fill the forms, write the statement of purpose etc., He was a brilliant scholar who excelled not just in maths but operations research as well.
Santossh and Manoj had done well in Mumbai. Therefore they were selected for the interview and group discussions. I did not get through. I just got through with Bharathiar and did my interview and group discussion quite well. Santossh had done well in Bharathiar and he got selected. Dr.R.N.Swami and Dr.Ranganayaki of the PSG Institute of Management were in the interview cum group discussion panel those days. Quite a few eminent executives and academicians from around the country were also in the panel. In spite of doing very well, I was wait listed number one because of my community background. I was elated when I learnt that the first person did not join and therefore it was possible for me to join the MBA programme. Santossh, Rajamanickkam (my B.Com classmates) and myself joined the MBA programme at BSMED. However Santossh was keen to seek his MMS from Mumbai. He prepared for the CWE and took it once again during his first year. He cleared it and joined Sydenham in Mumbai. I remember visiting his college in Mumbai. Destiny took him to the Maximum City. Now I remember visiting Lord Venkataramana in Tirumala Tirupathi after our admissions. So many people had helped us those days.
Our Principal at PSG was quite supportive. He used to sign all our flight concession tickets without any hesitation. This helped us to save the cost of travel. We stayed at the Century Club in Bengaluru. The entrance exams helped us to discover India as youngsters. It was hard work and fun too. My grandmother Lalitha Bai, father K.Govindarajulu and mother Aravindakumari were extremely supportive. I must say that my father went the extra mile in order to ensure that I succeed in my endeavours. Santossh and his parents were great motivators. They used to discuss on a number of good subjects with me and it has helped me a lot. I began reading books like Made in Japan by Akio Morita (Founder Sony) because of them and my father too. The preparations shaped me and I understood that hope was even better than the result.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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