By K. Sridharan, IIT Madras
Founder and President of Sankara Eye foundation,
- ‘Katradhu Kai Man AlavuKalladaduUlagalavu‘- a saying by a Tamil poet, roughly translated as “what you know is a drop, what you don’t is an ocean“. I learnt this from almost everyone I met at IIT; each person I interacted with raised my curiosity in a new area and always showed me how much more there is to learn. These experiences at IIT have made me always curious – even after 3 Masters degrees, I still feel I have a lot more to learn !!!
- Humility: IITM grounded me to the reality that I am among some of the greatest minds on earth, and they were more humble than me (of course we also had the show-offs, but that’s life!!). The top student in my batch – who was also probably the youngest – was simple, humble, very friendly, and was playing table tennis with me all the time. Only when the grades started coming out did we realize what he was capable of. Of course, he was by no means an exception as we had many such geniuses amongst us. This awareness of my peers’ capabilities at IITM definitely taught me how to be humble and appreciate greatness in others.
- Can Do’ and ‘Think Big’ attitude: IITM taught me to think big and get the “can do” attitude to make things happen. Even in class projects, we always thought about the bigger vision, what can make an impact, and what parts could reasonably be accomplished within the given time frame. We learnt that we could accomplish anything we wanted, as long as we put in sincere effort towards it. Many of my friends started efforts in areas that were totally new to them, but became experts at it by the time they graduated from IIT.
- ‘Relax and Have Fun’: IITM taught me to enjoy the small and big things in life – relaxing in the hostels, partying, enjoying the campus itself and the “chai” in the village shops behind campus, and going for triple night shows in the Jayanthi Theater – but all only after a couple of tests.
- The Joy of Helping Others: At IITM, I discovered for myself that helping others solve a problem was a lot more satisfying than my own self-achievements. Nearly everything I did at IITM contributed to this: group study, exchanging notes and books, learning short cuts, understanding friends’ problems and trying to find a solution to it, and many more.Although NSS felt like a chore in the beginning, it became a part of our lives as time went on as we understood the real difference it could make in others’ lives. If I draw enormous satisfaction from the charity work I am blessed to be a part of, the seed was sown in IITM 3 decades ago!!
About K. Sridharan: Founder and President of Sankara Eye foundation, USA (a non-profit making a big difference in India), while also a Director of Software Strategy and Product Management at Intel Corporation.
After graduating with a B. Tech in Civil Engineering from IIT Madras in 1980, Sridharan earned a Masters in Chemical Engineering followed by a Masters in Computer Science. Upon completing these degrees, he began working in the computer field and joined Intel in 1990 (he has been with the company since then). In 2004, he decided to pursue further management education and received an MBA from Pepperdine University.
In 1998, after being inspired by the great work being done by Sankara Eye Care Institutions in Coimbatore, India, Sridharan decided to found Sankara Eye Foundation, USA in San Jose, California with two co-founders. From the get-go, the organization set its sights extremely high, seeking to eradicate curable blindness in India with a motto of “Vision 20/20 by the year 2020”. SEF USA was never merely a vision, however, and the effectiveness of their execution strategies and plans is clear through the results. What began as a single hospital in Coimbatore with 8000 free eye surgeries annually is now 9 hospitals performing over 140,000 free surgeries per year (with a 10th hospital in Kanpur striking ground in January 2012). Each hospital runs with a unique self-sufficiency model, wherein each hospital becomes operationally self-sufficient within 5 years of inauguration by serving 80 percent free patients and 20 percent paying patients.