Considering the wealth divide as the biggest threat to the society, nations and the world, Ravi Sharma wants to use technology for enhancing education and employment everywhere since he is a firm believer that technology has all the answers and that actually brings him closer to us.
Shardul Pandey: Dear Mr. Ravi, I welcome you in the globally distributed order of internet growth to let our netizens know your story.
Ravi Sharma: The world is passing through unprecedented times when the gap between the haves and have-nots is increasing by the day. This is the biggest danger to the stability of society, nations and the world. At the same time, it’s the biggest challenge for the Governments and civil society worldwide. What’s even more surprising is that it’s happening in the era of technology and in spite of technology. Whereas I strongly believe that it is only technology that has all the answers for creating jobs and creating a more homogeneous and harmonious society.
While working as CEO of Telecom MNC and Power company for several years, I was very comfortable in my career but the thought of misery of poor always troubled me. Finding a solution to the poverty & unemployment and addressing the vice of wide gap in society motivated me to chart an alternate path. One had realized it quite early that there are two sets of the problem that needs to be tackled. First is the education to poor and second is employment for the educated youth. Though both may look related but in reality, they are not. One needs to tackle them separately. However, most governments worldwide are having a different focus and that focus is to retain power and therefore they would always create a highlighted chart of problems of the country but would give the solution of a black box. These governments mostly get away because people at large are not aware of their rights as a citizen. One thing that can help both is to awareness towards citizen rights and responsibility. I believe that the awareness of rights & responsibilities will transform residents of a country into true citizens in the real sense.
The thought of solving the above two problems for the society at large made me leave my CEO job and start a mission; a mission to address education for poor children and develop technology frames to create jobs. The mission has started with deep foundation. Thousands of poor children are availing access to best education Infrastructure and teachers through Prama Jyoti as the first step and further course is in making. I am confident that we shall be able to solve the above 2 issues with the help of strategic deployment of technology solutions.
Shardul Pandey: The word ‘Jyoti’ is generally well understood in India but nowadays not many people understand the word ‘Prama’ so I think our netizens must come to know that as well.
Ravi Sharma: This is a very relevant question particularly for netizens across the globe. Prama is a Hindi word and stands for Goddess Saraswati; the Goddess of knowledge as per Indian mythology. And Jyoti stands for the flame. So the complete meaning of Prama Jyoti is flame of knowledge; the essential vision contained herein. Prama Jyoti is involved in spreading knowledge through different programs where computer education leading to the introduction of the Internet is at the core of each program. We believe that knowledge of computers is essential to unlocking the employment potential of the internet. We believe that Government across the world have been able to realize only a fraction of true potential of the internet for the benefit of citizens whereas a great potential is yet to be explored. And that’s why I believe that technologies like the internet have all the answers to our biggest problem of employment. Prama Jyoti also teaches English language and the purpose of the same is to enhance the confidence of children for interaction but most importantly it’s to make them comfortable in exploring the internet and work on various programming techniques that are yet to be taught in Hindi medium. I hope it brings clarity to the netizens that at the core of Prama Jyoti is the great purpose of spreading technology.
Shardul Pandey: You were one of the youngest and most highly paid Indian CEOs hired by an MNC so what did evolve this?
Ravi Sharma: I assume your question is about evolvement from corporate to social service.
First of all, for me it’s not social service but conscience service; means I am doing it for the satisfaction of my conscience.
To relate to the evolvement from corporate to social, I must share a little background of my childhood and adolescence days.
My life’s journey has been very interesting. I was born in a mud house in a small village of Uttar Pradesh in India and most of my initial education also happened in very small places. I distinctly remember carrying empty gunny bag and wooden slate to my first school. The classes were held under a mango tree and we used to make use of a bush stick as writing pen (Kalam). The schools thereof were slightly better but not too different considering that they were all run by state government. Hindi was the medium of education till I got admission in the University of Roorkee that’s known as IIT now.
Looking back I feel that Hindi medium education was the best thing that could have happened to me. It helped me to read and understand not only thought-provoking literature by finest poets and writers of Hindi but also helped me in understanding our ancient literature and culture closely.
Let me also add that one used to spend all school holidays in the ancestral village working and wandering in agriculture fields. I enjoyed village games and I am happy that many of them are now making entry into urban society as well.
I believe that roots of values are still deeper in villages.
In short, I spent my childhood in the roots of Indian society closely linked to ground. This helps me to not only to relate to the poor people of our society but also helps in understanding their aspirations & problems.
Whereas the initial part of my life was rooted in the village, the second part showed me the world of business and technology around the world. The people involved here were full of ambition and confidence. And though the aspirations and problems of this set of people were very different than those rooted to the ground, yet it was clear to me that it’s only technology that has answers of the problems of both these worlds. These two worlds look different, sound different and live differently but both want to protect the core of their existence and that’s the freedom & privacy.
Being one of the youngest CEO of my time, I got the opportunity to look at things and situations from the top and find solutions. While I was happy in my own world of accomplishments and achievements, I was deeply perplexed at the plight of poor, misery of have-nots. I concluded that the life of poor and have-nots can only be improved through education and technology. There was an inner call to shift priorities in life and therefore I founded an NGO with the name of Prama Jyoti in 2009 with a mission of “Education first !” And adopted 5000 children for education.
By the middle of 2012, the resolve of working for the upliftment of society was becoming strong and it’s when I decided to leave my corporate job and work for the education of poor kids not only to help them in traditional education but also in understanding technology. Therefore the schools were well equipped with computers etc.
I am very happy that one could see the entire spectrum of society and relate to both sides. That’s what helping me to now live a much more meaningful life of helping poor.
Shardul Pandey: How have your family responded to you coming out like this?
Ravi Sharma: From the beginning of my childhood, we were taught about the wider aspect of the word “Family”. In Shastras, we call it by the phrase “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” that means that entire world is my family. In immediate terms, I was taught that everyone who wishes and prays for my well being is my family and I was taught to extend the same care and warmth to my wider family as I was expected for my blood-related family members. Therefore my family includes my friends, teachers, colleagues and neighbors in addition to my blood-related family members. Having defined the family, I must say that I am deeply indebted to my family for always extending their love, support, prayers, and blessings to me.
I learnt from my family that if God gives us more than what we need; be it in the form of physical possessions or in the form of energy; then it means that he trusts us that we shall use the extra portions of physical possessions and energy for adding value to lives of others, for those who are not as fortunate as we are . This thought got ingrained in my mind and therefore one is following the same mantra in my life. Prama Jyoti or my other social activities are guided by the above childhood learning from my family.
Within my immediate family, everybody supported my move from corporate to social service. I am indebted to my family for their teachings & my learnings that actually shaped me.
Shardul Pandey: I think this conversation can help many more leaders moving further from the corporate trap so I wish you to be successful by increasingly making more people succeed.