Disclaimer: The following write up is based on my interaction with Sri Sandesh Maganalli on several occasions. Due to the untimely demise of Sri Sandesh Maganalli on 11-May-18, the write up hasn’t been vouched, and thus, subject to errors.
A young officer in the 8JKLI (Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry, Siachen) regiment of the Indian Army experienced uneasiness in his abdomen all of a sudden. It was unusual. He had been training strongly and was amongst the fittest officers. On a detailed examination by the doctors, one of the greatest ever shockers was heard, “Officer, we’re sorry, you have just one kidney working for you”. His dream of serving his motherland all life had turned into reality about a year ago and now, it was shattered. The officer had to call it a day, after having spent 24 years of his life with a single objective, to restart life with a new purpose. He was not prepared for it, to say the least, considering more than half his life was spent to build himself to join the armed forces. “I had no technical skills to get employed. Neither did I have enough experience to be recognized by the industry as an ex-serviceman. The job market had nothing great happening in 1995. I felt like I had taken birth again”, he says. The medical condition played many games with him including disastrous games of death which he came over by kidney transplantation, not once but twice, but Lieutenant Sandesh Kumar Maganalli has risen beyond the grounds that life had set for him.
Business was one and perhaps the only option open to Sandesh. For him, even now, the word business relates to the dairy business. Ever since his childhood, he has loved the activity of going around with the cows and buffaloes, washing and milking them. Having spent his childhood in a small village in North Karnataka, Sandesh thought that farming and milking the cows are the only two ways to earn a livelihood. After leaving the Army, Sandesh’s fight for survival had to begin and these were the avenues that lay open before him. He started the dairy business along with his brother. In a few months, Sandesh was selling milk like hotcakes and soon, he was selling about 800 liters of milk every day. In true spirits, he titled those milk packets as ‘Indian’. After a year, Sandesh got into the farming. His family owned about 40 acres of cultivated land in Huvvinahadagali, a village at a distance of about 90kms. Every week, he would travel, stay at the farm for 2-3 days and return. He learnt the life cycle of a variety of crops including paddy, maize, pulses, groundnuts, coconuts, etc. The work interested him a lot. Even today, Sandesh likes to sit with the nature and do anything that can get his hands into work on compared to taking a pen and a sheet of paper to write something.
Those days, Sandesh’s mother ran a school that catered to primary and secondary education. Way back in 1989, she was instigated by the fact that there was a need for a good educational institution in Davangere. She took a bold step to erect a building with financial help from relatives and thus, the school came into existence. In 1996, Sandesh suggested his mother to add English medium content to the school. Further, after a lot of effort, they extended the classes to high school. The school primarily catered to lower and middle class students to get basic education at affordable prices. Sandesh and his brother were passively involved in this entity helping their mother whenever the need arises.
Life was very ordinary. Everything was calm. There was nothing exciting and Sandesh was not able to cope up with this plain vanilla life. He had already done all that he could in respect of the dairy and farming activities. Just then, in 1999, both the brothers were introduced to the network marketing giant ‘Amway’ by a team called Network-21. Sandesh jumped in to the opportunity as the business process kindled him. In line with what he expected, Sandesh grew at an envious pace. He was moving around places, meeting people and growing his network. His talent was recognized and soon, he became one of the most coveted persons in the Network-21 team. “Network Marketing taught me a lot. It gave me a whole new perspective of the world, people and their dreams. In the process, I met a large number of successful people and learnt business as well as inter personal skills. I polished my skills of building a team, working through brain storming sessions, objective decision making process and the building blocks of success”, acknowledges Sandesh.
Network Marketing was a new concept in India and was picking up with a good pace with companies like eBizel, RMP, RCM, etc. mushrooming into smaller cities. Sandesh active involvement with Network-21 and aggressive marketing plans lead to a lot of travel. He loved every bit of his work and he seemed to be in one way traffic. In the process, though his mind kept racing, his body started showing signs of slowdown. Sandesh’s kidney had almost stopped functioning. Everyone was struck when the doctor told that the kidney had become defunct and the only way to save his life would be through kidney transplantation. Life had not just come to the shores but had seemingly entered the deep waters. Getting someone to donate a kidney was a herculean task. Kidney transplantation itself was a new concept for Indians those days. Sandesh’s mother immediately insisted that her kidney should be taken for the operation. On March 1, 2001, an operation went on for 8 hours and with all the efforts by the doctors, the almighty graced a rebirth to Sandesh.
What was even more miraculous was that Sandesh was all fit and fine in just about 8 days and was back to work. “I never felt there is any problem with me. Perhaps, my mind was too strong. It never took time to look at the pain or problems that the body was going through. It’s only the doctors who feel the difference”, Sandesh smiles, “If not for timely detection, perhaps, things would have been totally different”. Some learned people claim that the word ‘entrepreneurship’ has been derived from the Hindi word, ‘Anthar Prerana’ (internal inspiration). It refers to energy, a push or a drive that comes from within us. Sandesh was full of such energy and he was back at Network-21 and it appeared like nothing ever happened. Way back in the 90s, when Sandesh was traveling in a train after his IMA days, a book titled ‘Tough times never last. Tough people do’. He purchased the book. He never read a page from it. However, he kept staring at the cover for hours until it became a permanent imprint in his brain. He says that this is the first thing he recollects whenever he poses a challenge now.
The doctor had advised Sandesh to take 4 tablets a day to ensure that his body functions in sync. After a few months, considering that his financial condition was not too good and each tablet cost Rs 75, coupled with the strong feeling that he had recovered after the operation and did not need medication anymore, Sandesh started skipping 1 tablet a day. That did not make any difference to his health. Sandesh was happy to save Rs 75 every day and told himself that a rupee saved is a rupee earned. A year went by. Another year went by. In mid 2004, Sandesh started experiencing health issues again. He knew it was the same reason. On diagnosis, the bad news waited. The doctor asked Sandesh to go in from Dialysis treatment on a regular basis. “The human body is designed to reject any foreign object that enters into the body, irrespective of whether it does good or bad to the body. These 4 tablets are given to ensure that such a rejection of the transplanted kidney is avoided. But then, with what you have done, the body has recognized the kidney does not belong to it and it will no more work in sync. In simple words, you have screwed it up big time”, the doctor said.
Sandesh was speechless. He broke down, “My wife is carrying. I just want to live to see my child. Doctor, please do something and save me”. It was complete chaos in one moment. It was complete silence in another. Silence has a unique strength to define chaos and it does it so well.
The doctor advised dialysis for the time being. In the initial weeks, Sandesh underwent dialysis at Bangalore. Soon after the situation looked a little better, Sandesh felt that he had becomes perfectly alright and moved back to Davangere. There, the dialysis continued. The situation was bad. To save Rs 50 on auto fare, Sandesh would uncomfortably manage sitting behind his brother on a motorcycle to drive to the hospital. He would not listen to anyone. He started getting certain weird thoughts on his mind on how much he is getting from the world without giving anything. He felt bad for his wife and mother who did not even have a gram of gold. Life appeared null and void from every perspective. From a brilliant officer to what he had become, the journey was filled up pains. Nails were literally placed on every path he walked on. After couple of months, Sandesh realized that the dialysis centre was using low quality of chemicals which not only threw the bad particles out of the body’s system but also the good particles, aka nutrients. On inquiring, the hospital mentioned that they cannot afford to buy higher quality chemicals as local patients can’t afford them. Sandesh’s problem was aggravating.
Problems are merely situations that seem difficult to handle. Way back in 1983, when Sandesh was in 7th standard, life broke down on him as his father expired. It was indigestible, unimaginable and a totally impossible situation. “If not the school and the scholarship, perhaps, I would have been an illiterate today”, says Sandesh. However, what is commendable is the interesting incident that happened in his life a few months down the line. Sandesh knew the great financial stress that his family was in to. His mother did get a job but Rs 300 did not suffice. They rented their own home for Rs 400 and lived in a slum paying Rs 120 and thus create an income of Rs 280. Sandesh decided to take the onus of the family by giving up studies and taking up work. He jumped the school compound at night with all motivation. Luck favored him and he did not get caught as he proceeded to the railway station. On reaching the station, Sandesh felt the chill. He understood that this is not going to happen. He sat on the bench, afraid and clueless, with the ticket that he purchased. In a few moments, the entire station was filled with his classmates who had discovered his absence and came over to hunt him. Seeing them, Sandesh jumped on to a train and hid in the toilet. The train moved. For 2 hours, Sandesh locked up himself in the toilet. He was shivering with fear having no idea of what was going to happen. Yet, he was certain that he will handle whatever happens.
Hunger is another problem. Having no money when hungry is yet another. Having no money, being hungry in a moving train is one more. At Gadag, a determined Sandesh got down to begin a new journey. In the next 2 days, the only deal he did was bartering his most loved possession, the Hero fountain pen, for 2 plates of idlis. Nobody entertained him when he asked for work and a disheartened Sandesh took a train to Davangere. Of course, he tried his luck sitting amid many hundred people in the train coaches and the kid went unnoticed. He walked to his home after reaching Davangere with a lot of fear. Everyone at school and his home were concerned and things had turned worse. On seeing Sandesh, his mother asked, “What time do you want to go back to school?” and he replied, “6 pm”. The pace of resolution was unbelievable as his mother gave him no option nor initiated any discussion. The next day, the school gave him more surprises. Against his expectation of getting thrashed with punishments, everyone was considerate and welcomed him back. The way he looked at the world had changed significantly, perhaps forever.
Sandesh was born with only one functional kidney. The fact was only known when he faced difficulties while in the Army. Very recently, the lone functional kidney was replaced with one from his mother. With all that Sandesh had done, this one too had stopped functioning. A second time kidney transplant, in medical opinion, was impossible. Sometimes, unfortunately, the only way one can move ahead is the impossible way. In those times, kidney sales had become a new found business. Poor people sold one of their kidneys for money as they all discovered that the body can survive with just one kidney. To bust this racket and avoid such activities, the Government had made it mandatory to get the Law Secretary’s approval before any kidney transplantation. This was asking for too much for genuine cases. Sandesh’s mother-in-law, this time, decided to donate her kidney. A second time kidney transplant was no less than a gamble. Without much delay, a petition was filed before the Law Secretary for his approval. An appointment was set. Soon, Sandesh and his mother-in-law found themselves before the Law Secretary’s office. About 15 patients waited in line and Sandesh was the second. “I was the only person who appeared to be fit and fine. Everyone lied down with no energy and I kept questioning myself if I really have a problem. The doctor had certified my condition. The scenario was so bad that I couldn’t control the tears that flowed down from my eyes”, recollects Sandesh.
It was nearly an hour and the first patient who went in had not come out. There seemed to be some problem. The patient came out saying that the Law Secretary is very busy with some critical issue and probably, everyone will have to leave and come on some other day. It was disheartening. Sandesh was called in while some officials came out of the office. They asked the remaining patients to come the next day and the patients were terribly upset and depressed. Luck played its role and the green stamp was put on Sandesh’s papers. As he walked out, there was hardly a smile on his face. It appeared to all as if his application was not considered. Sandesh kept thinking about the remaining 13 patients who will have to strive another day. He had completely forgotten the purpose of his visit and also the fact that his case had gone through. He kept thinking about the troubles these patients faced, which he had heard from them while they all sat when the first patient was inside. He was dumbstruck, sad and pained.
Having obtained the permission, the doctor scheduled the surgery the next day. On 21 Dec 2004, while Sandesh was on anesthesia for many hours, efforts and miracles worked in tandem. The kidney transplantation was successful. An unusual incident happened after Sandesh gained sudden consciousness. He started shouting slogans in agony. He had been dreaming on how he was standing at the borders and how he killed the terrorists. Perhaps, the inability of the Government to serve the requests of the patients on their death beds was perturbing him a lot. As important is the law, so important are the execution abilities. Sandesh wanted to look at God. An unusual request, his family members brought an idol of Lord Ganesha and placed it in his hands. It took time for him to calm down and for people around to understand what was happening. In a matter of seconds, Sandesh had gone back to a deep sleep. Even today, everyone is as clueless as they were on that day when they try to find how or why this happened.
Like earlier, Sandesh walked out of the hospital with perfect health in 8 days. It was incredible. Immediately, Sandesh sat down with his brother and they had a long conversation. “I had been living on nothing over the last 10 years. I had been doing a lot of things, some did well, some did not and some turned into absolute non sense. I had been randomly throwing myself around everywhere. Nobody would want to live such a life. On one hand, I was frustrated with my own life. On the other hand, the love of everyone around me kept me hopeful. My family has been the greatest pillar of my strength. My wife was carrying and she did not let me feel even for a moment that I had let her down, thought I knew I did. I received financial assistance and tremendous emotional support from so many friends and alumni of the school as I went through the second transplantation. I did not want to give up on the hopes and efforts of so many people. I needed to sketch a plan, at least to tell the world that my life was worth being saved”, Sandesh, a very emotional person, was clearly crying as he narrated these words before me. He wanted to do something commendable. He wanted to add whatever value possible to the society. He wanted to make a difference.
In the process of a huge brain storming, Sandesh observed that there was enough evidence to prove that education was helping people across the world lead a better life. There was also ample evidence showing that in the race of staying ahead, the world has confused literacy as education. Most educated parents are overdoing the process of taking care of their children and in the process, children miss out certain critical skills like emotional intelligence, ability to face failure, overcoming certain obstacles, persistence and natural problem solving skills. Children were hooked to the computers too early and were becoming dependent on machines too early. Quality was compromised to attain speed. He, along with his brother, put forward his proposal to take forward the small school that his mother was running yet. It costs, sometimes monetary and sometimes non monetary, to bring about change. About 400 students studied in the school paying a fee of Rs 600 per annum. A tough decision of increasing the fees was required to make a beginning. Considering that there were a couple of schools to cater to the students who leave, Sandesh was assured that no student will face troubles due to this decision. His mother agreed reluctantly. With his decision to increase the fees to Rs 1600, the strength unexpectedly tumbled instantly from 400 to 120. Facing heat from every stakeholder, aka his mother, brother, students, teachers and parents, Sandesh’s entry was not welcomed.
Sandesh’s adventure with education had begun. He started looking for options, alternatives and various ways to add value to the school. The schedule was revamped. There was an increased focus on teaching methods, extracurricular activities and all round development of the students. Sandesh was stepping outside the boundaries of conventional wisdom and the risk was definitely high. He firmly believed that all round development is the need of the hour and was certain that this would be the USP of the institution that he planned to build.
Sandesh proposed to his family that they should expand. He said that they could start one more school. The idea was vehemently opposed as Sandesh’s idea had already created enough damage at the existing school. The first year had gone by. There was no significant change but a lot of significant activities were under process in the background. The school had made a decent name for itself and the admissions in 2005 were smooth. They observed that some kids who left the school had returned for admissions. This was the first credible instance of success in Sandesh’s life. However, it was too tiny to be recognized. Sandesh tireless efforts to add value to learning as well as look for other opportunities continued. For a moment, he dreamed that he should build a school like the one he studied in, Sainik School, Bijapur. Soon, all his decisions were revolving around this dream. He kept putting up the idea to expand the institution but there seemed to be no chorus.
One day, Sandesh, an avid learner by then, attended a seminar by Ashish Rajpal. At the end of the seminar, it was the time for feedback. In his feedback sheet, he read
- STOP – Seeking others’ approval
- CONTINUE – To dream big
- START – Collecting specific evidence in support of your dreams
Sandesh realized that he had turned tender after whatever happened with him. Once known for his aggressiveness, he had changed a lot over the last one year as his focus changed. It was time for him to get back to his own style, being the josh machine he is, being the gutful decision maker he is, being Sandesh. He took a bold decision, much needed one, to exercise his plans. His hunt for premises began. In line with his objective, the focus continued to be on areas that were void of a good school. On identifying one such area and zeroing in on a building, Sandesh estimated that he would be about a lac of rupees. He didn’t have a dime. Not willing to give up at any cost, Sandesh approached a philanthropist, Nallur Rajkumar, and asked him to contribute towards the cause. Sandesh also mentioned that the school will be named after his parents. Rajkumar agreed to contribute Rs 50000 towards the school. The first credible step towards his dream was taken.
X is an underdeveloped area in Davangere. Children were sent to schools that were quite far considering that they would walk to the school. They would cross a railway gate each day to reach the school and get back home. There was no school on the other side of the gate. The population density of X was definitely huge. The market appeared tailor made to Sandesh’s considerations. By 2007, NDPS was up and running with 256 students enrolled at the school. It was the only school in this locality where people had just started realizing the value of education and thus, wanted their children to learn. By the next year, NDPS built a tremendous goodwill as students performed extremely well. The student strength jumped to 556. NDPS’s USP was its affordable fee structure and the locality. By another year, NDPS was running at its full capacity of 800 students and Sandesh’s appetite was growing.
Sandesh started looking out for expansion in different cities. Bagalkot and Bijapur were on the top of his list. He was visiting many cities and looking at possible ventures. There were numerous instances of discussions which almost reached agreements. However, for some reasons, none of them took off. For instance, a building in Mudhol was located in an area with exactly the same kind of population, literacy rates and density as desired by Sandesh. The building belonged to a religious organization and they insisted that the local management of the school be entrusted to them. Sandesh was not willing to be entangled with any religious or political affiliations then. In another instance, Sandesh and his brother drove close to 300kms on a bike to look at a building Belgaum. The treasure hunt was on. The adventure was on. The journey was turning exciting. “I love the journey and do not ado much on the destination. The destination is certain and will be reached some day. Every learning and experience comes from the journey. The destination is merely a break to embark on a new journey”, says Sandesh, “The drawback with modern education system is that it focuses on teaching children ways and means to survive in this world while ancient education system focuses on building people to build the world. In those days, there were neither books nor computers. Knowledge was transferred from one generation to another through stories, discussions and experiences. However, the greatest advantage of modern education system is that it has made mass education possible. We are trying to blend the advantages of both the systems to build Edu Asia.”
In the long run, good schools are named so by what the alumni does for the world. The academic performance of the students is merely a measure to get admissions for the next year and increase the fees. The educational institutes become successful if they can ignite the fire in the bellies of the students. The ‘anthar prerana’ is high in good schools. Sandesh’s school days have been wonderful. After seeing horses at Marina Beach, Chennai, Sandesh kept insisting his parents to let him learn horse riding. Sandesh had cleared the SSBJ entrance exam then and had been called for an interview. He was not interested in staying away from his parents and thus, did not show any inclination. Just then, his mother took him to the horse stable at SSBJ and told him, “Now, it’s up to you”. A rush of energy inspired hopes in him and ensured he gives his best at the interview on that day. But then, after he joined SSBJ, the schedule was so jam packed that Sandesh could not spend too much time with the horses as his focus shifted from horse riding to cricket. Sandesh was also the football goalkeeper at school, thanks to the fielding skills cricket taught. India had won the world cup of 1983 and Sandesh was an assumed player for the next world cup. He received the award of the best cricketer of his batch and that was last thing relating to cricket that happened in his life. Life changed after Sandesh joined the National Defense Academy in 1989. At NDA, Sandesh couldn’t get to play much cricket but made a considerable achievement, this time in hockey, by becoming the academy’s hockey goalie. Life had been full of surprises and Sandesh had been making the best of whatever came up before him.
Being focused is very important. When Sandesh had some idle time, though he knew that he would need a lot of time for his expansion plans in coming months, he agreed to start a dhaba alongwith another friend who was unemployed. It drained a lot of time, energy as well as money. Sandesh recognized that he was losing focus and his energy was being diluted. The dhaba never made a good business and headed to close down in a few months. “I was not listening to people. I can say that I was a little, or rather very, overconfident. I failed in some businesses where I worked purely on guts and assumptions without proper plans. However, in the process, I have realized the importance of a pen and paper. I was leading a sort of nomadic life with complete orientation on actions. If not for my brother backing up my guts with required formalities or processes, I would not have sustained for long in this world”, Sandesh says.
One of the biggest decisions at EduAsia was taken in 2009 when Sandesh decided to go ahead with the plan of buying a 7 acre land at Karur, Ranebennur to build a residential school. It was a gutful decision to approach the bankers for the loan. After many formalities and due diligence, the project was funded with Rs 60lacs by Shree Beereshwar Co Operative Bank, run by Ajeet Annasaheb Jolle. Further, Canara Bank funded Rs 76lacs and additional Rs 40lacs towards the project. The balance funds came from well wishers who had unquestioned faith in Sandesh’s energy and objectives. Raising Rs 3 crores was not really a hurdle on Edu Asia’s way as its progress over the years was visible and of course, had built tremendous goodwill. Today, the school employs about 140 people has more than 400 students from Class I to X, of which about 50 live in the hostel.
In 2011, Edu Asia marked its presence in Raichur and Ranebennur by taking over existing schools. Edu Asia is now actively considering plans to expand into Tanzania & Brazil. One string that is holding back is the regulatory requirements. Edu Asia is now planning to incorporate a company and take over as the management of the schools facilitating better legal status as well as opening up many avenues to explore.
“The school taught us to take decisions with calculated risks at a great speed. Amid all adventure, we have committed all mistakes and corrected them at a very young age. The morals learnt are a part of our system without our notice. There was no choice at school for many things. There was only one way and that was the right way. School was the perfect guide. We have learnt to travel that path by force, or by choice, and today, we take that path flawlessly. Staying together, especially in times of distress, has made us humble. Our decisions, our value systems, are all due to the stories of past. In simplest words, the basic elements to lead life were injected in our blood streams at the school”, Sandesh says.
Other reference points
- Money, Time and People are the 3 most essential components of life. These must be applied appropriately in the right proportions to all situations to get required results.
- Trust is a very essential component of life. I have been cheated on a couple of occasions for believing blindly. However, I still believe that though believing could be dangerous, not believing can be deadly.
- Your control on any situation ends once you make the choice/decision. The consequences are not in your hands.
- Do uncomfortable things now to grow comfortable in future.