Why giving is better than receiving. A farmer's son explains
Son of a farmer, Gopi Reddy, who recently won prize money of Rs 1.5 lakh as part of Godrej LOUD -- an initiative for students to live out their unfulfilled personal dreams -- wants to use the money to sponsor the education of two bright students from the Zilla Parishad school where he studied up to class 8. Read on to find out what inspired Reddy' dream and what makes him an exceptional young achiever…
They say one good turn deserves another.
Gopi Reddy, who is one of the eight winners of the Godrej LOUD initiative (where winners get Rs 1.5 lakh to fulfil their dream) this year, is a perfect example of this.
12 years ago, the son of a farmer, Reddy was brought to Hyderabad city from Ravulapenta village of Andhra Pradesh to be educated by his paternal uncle.
He went on to receive a fully-funded scholarship after class 12 that took care of four years of his engineering education.
Reddy is currently pursuing his MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi and wants to use the prize money of Rs 1.5 lakh he received from Godrej to realise a long cherished dream!
His 'dream' was selected from over 733 applications sent by B-school students from across the country.
And what is Reddy' dream?
"I want to sponsor the education of two deserving students from the school I studied in my village," he says.
When he shared the news with his father Narsi Reddy, the latter told his son: "I am glad you have not forgotten your roots. I am very happy for you."
From an ignorant village school kid to an MBA student at one of the country' most sought after business schools, Reddy' journey to success has not been an easy one.
But he fought against all odds and emerged victorious.
Without the help of private coaching, he not only managed to top his school in class 10, but also scored an impressive 97 per cent in the Common Admission Test.
The aspiring social entrepreneur who' previously worked at Infosys, Pune says he finds his inspiration in N R Narayana Murthy who "made it to the top despite social challenges."
Reddy is thankful to his uncle who funded 90 per cent of his high school education.
The 23-year-old now wants to use his education to mentor and improve the lives of several students like him who come from poor economic backgrounds.
In this interview, Gopi Reddy takes us through the various moments that defined his life and tells us what inspired him to keep going…
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Image: Gopi Reddy
'I was ranked among the bottom five of the class'
When did you move to Hyderabad and what were the problems you faced?
I studied at the Zilla Parishad School up to class 7. Then my paternal uncle who is a geologist suggested that I move to Hyderabad for my secondary education.
He enrolled me into Sri Sai Public School in Hyderabad, which followed the ICSE curriculum.
Within the first few weeks of joining the school, I realised that the next three years were going to be difficult for me.
The school was five times the size of the one in my village.
Everyone in my class came from good family background and spoke fluent English.
I had to struggle with basic communication.
My classmates grasped better than me and I had to work extra hard because I could not afford private coaching.
In the first few semesters, I did fairly well in most subjects except in English in which I scored 40 on 100.
This brought down my overall score and I was ranked among the bottom five of the class.
Realising my condition, some of the teachers offered to help. My English teacher took extra classes and helped me improve my writing and speaking skills.
How did you manage to study for your board exams without any coaching? What were the challenges you faced?
It was never easy to study without external coaching, particularly when my classmates had access to more study material and resources.
The competition was tough and until I reached class 10, I was nowhere close to the top 10 scorers.
But I wasn’t willing to give up, not yet. Instead of complaining about what I did not have, I decided to use what I had to the best of my advantage.
I took help from my schoolteachers, solved papers and worked on my mistakes. I scored 93 per cent and topped the school in class 10.
But unfortunately I lost my mother who succumbed to dengue fever. So, I could not celebrate my success. Thereafter I took science and scored 89.3 per cent in class 12.
Tell us a bit about your experience of participating in Godrej LOUD. More importantly, why did you pick this particular 'dream'?
Godrej LOUD was launched in our campus. That’s how I first came to know about it.
After I got a job at Infosys I had gone to my village. I’d noticed that nothing had changed in the last decade.
The children who went to the Zilla Parishad School did not know that a different world existed outside Ravulapenta.
Some of my batch mates from school still live there. Some got married early and some others are doing odd jobs to meet ends.
Had my uncle not brought me to the city, I’d have been one among them too.
Whatever I am today is courtesy my uncle. There's nothing I can do to repay his kindness.
When Godrej LOUD was announced, I instantly knew that it just the right opportunity I was looking for.
I wanted to give the kids in my village the advantage I had. That’s why I chose to sponsor the education of two kids from my school in Ravulapenta.
Image: For representational purposes only
'I'd like to sponsor the education of two bright kids after they complete their class 10'
How do you plan to use the winning amount of Rs 1.5 lakh to realise that dream?
I have already communicated to my school principal that I’d like to sponsor the education of two bright kids after they complete their class 10.
I will be using 2/3rds of the winning amount towards this scholarship.
Two students who pass their class 10 from the Zilla Parishad School will be selected for the scholarship based on their academic proficiency, financial health and inputs from class teachers.
I have shortlisted two junior colleges in Nalgonda where I would like them to study and finish their class 12.
The sponsorship will cover tuition fee, lodging, food, and medical expenses for two years.
During these two years, I will continuously monitor their performances and mentor them about the career options they can avail of after they complete class 12.
I will be spending the remainder of the winning money towards organising a one-day school trip to Hyderabad.
I have written to the Infosys team at Hyderabad for arranging a one-day trip for students from classes VIII to class X to explore the Hyderabad office and interact with its employees.
This I believe will acquaint the students from the village to the corporate environment.
They will know how an organisation functions and it might help them see bigger dreams and improve the conditions back home.
What will these two students do after class 12? Do you have any plans to fund their higher education as well?
I had approached a few NGOs to find out if they can help me with funds for the education of these students.
But the problem I’m facing is these organisations want to enrol them in a skills training centre that’ll get them a job in a call centre or factory say in two or three years.
That idea did not appeal to me because I want to give them a sustainable career. I am talking to other organisations as well.
In case I don’t manage to get funds in the next two years, I along with my uncle plan to invest a certain amount of money, say Rs 3 lakhs in mutual funds, which will give us at least 10 per cent returns at the end of the year.
This money I aim to spend towards the higher education of the two kids.
Image: Gopi Reddy is one of the eight winners of Godrej LOUD this year
Photographs: Courtesy Perfect Relations PR
'If your effort and intent is genuine, you are bound to succeed'
What are your future career plans?
After completing my MBA, I would like to consider taking up a job and take care of my family. Meanwhile, I will be working on improving my managerial skills.
Ten years down the line, I want to be a social entrepreneur and work towards improving the lives of students like me.
I’m also deeply concerned about the condition of farmers in my village.
Every time there is a drought, the yield is affected.
Perhaps, land acquisition followed by mechanisation can be of help.
It will not only generate employment but also take care of labour problems due to mass urbanisation.
I want to equip the farmers in my village with a sustainable source of income.
What are your greatest learnings?
I have learned that no matter what challenges life throws at you, never give up. Life will throw an equal number of opportunities for you to rise up.
I did not understand the value of education until I moved up the career ladder.
I have realised that success is defined by how educated and aware you are about the things around you. For that, you have to rise above challenges like poverty and lack of resources.
Another important lesson I’ve experienced is that if your effort and intent is genuine, no matter how poor the idea or execution is, you are bound to succeed.
What’s your advice to young readers?
Always remember that perseverance is everything.
All of us are bound to face challenges and failures. If something or someone pulls you down, try not to lose focus.
Work hard and improve your performance from good to better, better to best.
Never complain about what you don’t have, instead work on making it better.
Think about the benefits the next generation of your family will enjoy. That should motivate you to work hard today.
Image: For representational purposes only
Photographs: Stephen Hird/Reuters