Stalwarts 2021

Education Stalwarts 2021 | Preethaa Ganesh, Vice-President of Vels Group of Institutions | Leaders in Education

Preethaa Ganesh, Vice-President of Vels Group of Institutions, one of the top Leaders in Education is with EducationToday sharing her experience.

Ms. Preetha Ganesh is one the youngest Vice-Presidents in India to manage a huge conglomerate namely the Vels Group of Institutions, which comprises 36 institutions, 30000 students and 6000 staff in India, Singapore and UK. Holding this enormous responsibility at the young age of 24 is complete testimony to her excellence, hard work and perseverance; and is what deems her a true visionary.

Ms. Preethaa pursued her early education at her father’s school and despite being a bright student who did very well academically, people were always under the impression that the school was partial towards her. This accusation of favouritism led her to decide on not pursuing her higher education at her father’s institution even though he operated one of the best multidisciplinary universities in Chennai. 

She thus applied to SSN College of Engineering, Chennai through the general merit category and proved her excellence by being graduating as a topper from there too.  She then joined the London School of Economics to pursue her Master’s in Management. Going there to lead an independent life and meeting a lot of people from different cultures and backgrounds, made her undergo a journey of self-discovery and return as a completely different person. Now, about two years later, she is the Vice President of Vels Group of Institutions and manages all the institutions under it. 

It is her “never give up” attitude and competitive spirit that have contributed to her success today. When she was younger, she was an avid chess player. Every weekend, her mom would pack a lunch bag which she would take and go hunting for chess competitions, and would manage to win all of them. She has always put a lot of pressure on herself to make sure she emerges as a winner. It was this attitude that has helped her today to understand how to strategically run 36 institutions in 3 countries. In addition to this, she always maintains a forward-thinking approach, and is also quite strategic in nature. She tries to predict what can happen in the next 3-4 years, and starts to come up with effective strategies. Her excellent time-management skills are also highly laudable, and she often speaks of how she plans out her entire week every Sunday, and makes sure to achieve everything on her list. 

On stepping into the education sector, Ms. Preethaa Ganesh noticed the narrow-mindedness of the masses and their inability to understand the importance of new courses; which is a huge shortcoming for the education sector and for the consumers.

Year after year, the number of students opting for engineering courses and commerce courses has gone down significantly. Also, the number of students who show interest in new courses such as Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, data sciences, etc, has not grown exponentially. Sadly, those skills are the ones that are in demand and promise a bright future for the next 10 to 15 years, at least.

Lack of awareness in skills required for the present and the future, and less or no exposure to the courses that are offered keeping in mind the skills required are the main factors for this gap. At the institutions under Vels, student counseling is provided to help them understand the various options that they have, according to their interest levels, future career prospects, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, value added courses are offered to prepare them to thrive in the competitive world and bridge the gap between their campus to corporate life. This enables them to enjoy their conventional learning as well as acquire the skills that are actually required to scale up in their careers.

The field of education faces plenty of challenges and hurdles on a day-to-day basis, but the biggest one in Ms. Preethaa’s opinion is the high dependence on paper-based applications and processing. Traditionally managed educational institutions have been relying a lot on forms, application papers and documents at various levels of institutional management.  Admission for instance, starts with an enquiry form, moves towards an application form, and follows up a checklist where a lot of previous sets of documents are taken physically from the students to compile them all together as an application. 

This was a major hurdle that the Vels group decided to curb. The entire process was digitized and today, the group follows a no-paper policy in admissions. To run an institution that operates without a paper-based process was one of Ms. Preethaa’s visions, which she successfully achieved.

The source of inspiration through the course of Ms. Preetha’s journey has undoubtedly been her father who holds a ‘rags to riches’ story. After the demise of his father, he had absolutely no money during his second year in college, and he was unable to pay rent or his college fees. He had two sisters, so he had to take the responsibility of running the family on him, along with simultaneously managing his studies. That was when he realized that there must be many students like him, so he should start an institution that delivers affordable education in order to prevent their studies from getting hampered, especially in situations where they are unable to pay. 

Today, Vels University is known for providing affordable education in Chennai, while offering over 150 courses. On an average, there are new admissions every 6 months, and from each batch, nearly 1000 students receive free education. These students are shortlisted on the basis of merit, sports, other talents, etc. 1 out of 6 students receive free education at Vels University. This vision of Dr. Ishari K Ganesh has been Ms. Preethaa’s greatest inspiration.

Following her father’s footsteps, she strongly believes that offering education to the next generation is her responsibility. She looks forward to hunt third world countries who are deprived of education; she wants to go to places like the tribal regions of Africa and Cambodia to provide the children there with basic education. That’s one vision she has set, and is striving to work towards it. 

On being asked about the pillars of support during her journey, Ms. Preethaa always credits her family- her father, mother and grandfather who are all educators as well. They possess the abilities and experience to give wings to her young dreams and fresh ideas. Her other source of support has been her staff, i.e., her Vels family.

Very recently, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Ms. Preethaa came up with the idea of ‘V Fund Women 2021’, a start-up to pitch competition for female entrepreneurs. Over 500 participants from across the country registered for this, and the shortlisted candidates were given the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of eminent judges. Five winners were selected and were awarded with seed money of one lakh rupees each to promote their entrepreneurial ventures with incubation support from Vels University.  Further, five eminent women personalities were recognized as ‘Women of the year 2021’

For the upcoming professionals in the field of education, the message Ms. Preethaa would like to give is “Education is a responsibility. So, if you are educated, it becomes your responsibility to educate someone. No matter what level you’re on, you should have the innate responsibility within yourself to educate someone with something you know that would benefit them. I believe in the concept of education being a lifelong journey; and that one needs to instill in themselves the quality of lifelong learning”.

Do check out experiences shared by our top 50 leaders in education. All of the Leaders in education who have shared their experience with us have been motivating and life changing.

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