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10 Indian college dropouts who turned out just fine

Last updated on: May 29, 2014 09:22 IST

10 Indian college dropouts who turned out just fine

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Smriti Irani, India's new human resource development minister, hasn't completed her graduation and yet achieved success in life. She shares august company.

Much is being made of Smriti Irani's education background.

The new minister of human resource development has been at the receiving end of jibes for 'not even (being) a graduate'.

While it may be part of her job profile to look after the country's education system, Irani isn't the only one to achieve success despite an incomplete education.

As a matter of fact, she is in elite company.

So here we have it: 10 famous Indians who never completed their graduation, yet turned out just fine! :-)

Do you believe a college degree is necessary to be successful?

Post your comments on ZaraBol here -- #Does-college-degree-matter?

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Image: Smriti Irani
Photographs: Reuben NV/Rediff.com

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Sachin Tendulkar

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Legend. Master Blaster. These are just two of the many adjectives used to refer to the greatest cricketer of our generation, Sachin Tendulkar.

Most Indians worship the ground he walks on.

Cricketing greats including Brian Lara have called him the greatest cricketer of all time.

He's played for India for almost quarter of a century and remains the only player to have scored 100 international centuries, the first to score a double century in a One Day International, the only batsman to clock 30,000+ runs in international cricket and the first Indian to aggregate more than 50,000 runs in all forms of cricket.

While every cricket fanatic in this country wants their son to be the next Sachin Tendulkar, we're not sure how many would appreciate their wards failing in Class 10 like he did. :-)

Fortunately, the magic Tendulkar created in the 22 yards that defined his life more than compensated for his failure in academics.

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Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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Dhirubhai Ambani

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Probably India Inc's greatest rags-to-riches story is that of a school teacher's son giving up education to support his family. And setting up a multi-billion dollar company, Reliance Industries.

Dhirubhai Ambani was 16 when he left for Aden to work in an oil refinery; he never managed to complete his education.

By the time he passed away, he was counted as one of India's greatest entrepreneurs and one of the richest men in the world, employing thousands of people far more qualified than himself.

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Image: Dhirubhai Ambani
Photographs: Reuters

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni

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He steered India to a World Cup victory almost three decades after we first won it in 1983.

As of 2013, Forbes estimated his earnings at $31.5 million and ranked him at No 16 on their list of highest-paid athletes.

Time magazine listed him among the 100 most influential people the world in 2011.

SportsPro has counted him among the most marketable athletes in the world.

That, for you, is Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who never completed his graduation because he never appeared for his exams! More here!

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Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters

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Pritish Nandy

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 Among the many hats that Pritish Nandy effortlessly juggles, there's one that's missing -- the hat that he would have worn if he had graduated.

Nandy, a multi-talented media personality, is a Padma Shri-winning poet, designer, painter, photographer and journalist.

Among the publications he has edited are The Illustrated Weekly of India, The Observer of Business and Politics and The Sunday Observer.

Soon after, he turned his attention to television and has hosted and produced several shows on public and private channels. He was also responsible for starting India's first cyber cafe (remember those?).

Today, besides being a prominent columnist, Nandy runs a successful entertainment, news and media content corporation -- Pritish Nandy Communications -- that has produced more than two dozen films including the critically acclaimed Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Chameli and, more recently, the Farhan Akhtar and Vidya Balan-starrer Shaadi Ke Side Effects (2014).

Read Pritish Nandy's columns here.

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Image: Pritish Nandy
Photographs: Abhijit Mhamunkar

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Gautam Adani

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After giving up on his degree in Commerce from the Gujarat University, the much-in-the-news-due-to-his-close-ties-with-Narendra-Modi Gautam Adani went to Mumbai to work as a diamond sorter before returning to Gujarat to help his brother in their plastics business.

The Adani Group that he founded in 1988 has its presence in coal mining and trading, oil and gas exploration, generation and transmission of power, gas distribution and ports.

Gautam Adani's net worth according to Forbes is $6 billion, which looks like this in figures -- 6,000,000,000 -- and approximately like this in Indian rupees -- 353,220,000,000! 

Which isn't so bad for a college dropout, is it? :-)

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Image: Gautam Adani
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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Subhash Chandra

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Subhash Chandra started a vegetable oil unit instead of completing Class 12.

At the time he was 19.

He then began exporting food grains and entered the packaging business in 1981, under the brand name Essel Packaging.

In 1988, he set up the huge amusement park, Essel World, on the outskirts of Mumbai and a water park, Water Kingdom, both of which were the first of their kind in the city.

It didn't take him long to set his eyes on the Indian television industry which, till then, was dominated by the state-run Doordarshan.

Pretty much singlehandedly, he revolutionised the business with Zee TV, the Hindi General Entertainment Channel, and started India's first private news channel, Zee News.

Today, the 34 channels that air under the umbrella of Zee Entertainment estimatedly reach 700 million viewers in 169 countries.

At 63, his net worth is about $2 billion and, the last we checked, his education has little to do with his empire! :-)

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Image: Subhash Chandra
Photographs: Reuters

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Joy Alukkas

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Back in 1987, Joy Alukkas thought it might not be such a bad idea to drop out of school and help his father in their jewellery business.

This was, as it turns out, the best decision he ever made.

Today, he owns the eponymous chain of jewellery stores that has some 85 stores in India and the Middle East.

When he isn't dabbling in the currency exchange business or launching yet another Alukkas store, Joy Alukkas makes a killing with his charter aircraft service that caters to politicians, businessmen and godmen.

As of October 2013, Alukkas' net worth was $640 million and he ranked 99 in Forbes' list of India's richest people.

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Image: Joy Alukkas
Photographs: Courtesy Joyalukkas

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PNC Menon

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In 1976, Puthan Neduvakkatt Chenthamaraksha Menon ran into a certain Brig Gen Suleiman Al Adawy in a hotel lobby in Kochi.

At the time Menon, who'd dropped out of a Thrissur college after his father passed away, was running a small interior decoration business.

The brigadier, who was in Kochi to purchase a fishing boat, invited Menon over to the Sultanate of Oman to collaborate with him.

Menon went back home, found an atlas and located Oman on the map. He'd never even heard of the place before!

It has been a long journey since then.

Menon went on to found Sobha Developers Ltd, a prominent multinational real estate company, and is one of the richest men in Oman.

Forbes estimates his net worth at $1.3 billion and quite aptly credits his source of wealth as 'self made'.

Not too bad for a college dropout, right?

You can read PNC Menon's fascinating story here!

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Image: PNC Menon
Photographs: Girish Unnithan/Wikimedia Commons

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Vinod Goenka

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Instead of completing his graduation, Vinod Goenka skipped college entirely and joined his father's small construction business in Mumbai.

Over the years, he expanded it to form Dynamix Group and then went on to join hands with Shahid Balwa to form DB Realty, one of India's largest real estate firms.

Goenka's net worth was around $1.01 billion, according to the Forbes' 2010 listing.

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Image: Vinod Goenka
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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Rabindranath Tagore

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Surprised to find a Nobel Laureate in the list?

While he did attend a school in Brighton, England, Rabindranath Tagore was largely home schooled.

Though he enrolled at the University College, London, he left England without completing his degree.

Tagore not only went on to redefine Bengali literature and music but also became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1913).

Do you believe a college degree is necessary to be successful?

Post your comments on ZaraBol here -- #Does-college-degree-matter?


Image: Rabindranath Tagore
Photographs: Creative Commons

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