How this Indian-born American ensured his village in UP got the educational institutes it deservesShruti Kedia & Shinjini Chowdhury
Established in 1997, businessman’s Vinod Gupta Charitable Foundation provides the girls of Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur village education and vocational training.
Within the quaint village of Rampur Maniharan, in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district, surrounded by a dry parched land, lies an education complex where students from nearby towns, and even cities, flock to for studies in agriculture and sciences. With a population of over 22,000 the town is home to the Hillary Rodham Clinton Nursing School, an educational institute inaugurated by former United States President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton.
Founded by Indian-born American businessman Vinod Gupta, the college is one of the multiple interventions supported by Vinod Gupta Charitable Foundation. His aim is to help uplift the village, his hometown, where he grew up, and to provide infrastructure and educational support to women of marginalised societies through sustainable initiatives in the field of education.
“If the life of one girl changes through education, she changes three families – one, her own, second the in which she gets married into, and third the one she builds. This moves the nation on its path to progress,” the 72-year-old self-made businessman says.
The founder and former CEO of Infogroup, a big data and marketing services company in the US, Vinod has donated over $50 million for numerous philanthropic endeavours in the US and India. Borrowing $100 from a bank to get started, Vinod had grown nfogroup from a one-man operation to a global employer of over 5,000 with annual revenues of over $750 million. Under his leadership, Infogroup acquired over 45 companies, and it was subsequently sold in July 2010 for $680 million.
But the business magnate had humble beginnings in small-town India. The village in which Vinod grew up in did not have access to electricity, good roads or toilets. His passion for education goaded him to leave his village and join IIT Kharagpur, and in 1967, he moved to the US for further education.
After getting his Master's degrees in Agricultural Engineering and Business from the University of Nebraska (on scholarship), Vinod joined Commodore Corporation as a marketing research analyst and by 1972 after borrowing $100 from a local Nebraska bank, Vinod founded his own business, American Business Information (ABI).
In 1997, he decided to give back to the village he was raised in and provide access to education, a cause that is close to his heart. And so Vinod returned to his village to set up the Vinod Gupta Charitable Foundation with an aim to provide “quality education” to rural girls. The Ram Rati Gupta Women’s Polytechnic, named after Vinod’s mother, trains women in vocational education and skill development through various courses in fashion designing and textile designing, among others.
Recognising Vinod’s contributions to the society, former US president Bill Clinton, in his book Giving, described the company as one that "has made a concerted effort to hire people who were on welfare, as well as people who are disabled or who have to support themselves after getting out of unsafe domestic situations.”
Clinton appointed Vinod to serve as a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. He had even wanted Vinod to serve as the United States Consul General to Bermuda. However, due to prior commitments, Vinod had to decline the offer.
“But we continued to be good friends. We both know that we don’t need favours. We believe in good friendship, a few laughs, and a round of golf. Eventually, he came to India in 2000. He visited Rampur and laid the foundation of the Bill Clinton School,” Vinod recalls.
The Vinod Gupta Charitable Foundation uses education as an empowering tool for women to become economically independent and socially secure.
The education complex at Rampur includes the Bill Clinton School and the Hillary Clinton Nursing School, the foundation stones laid by Bill and Hillary Clinton respectively. The Bill Clinton School has modern facilities that aid good education, such as smart classes, an art and crafts laboratory and a well-stocked library. Served by “dedicated and caring faculty members”, the school has a present strength of 1,152 students, of whom 589 are girls.
Varsha Bansal, a student from the first batch that passed out of Hillary Clinton Nursing School, recalls the time before the institute was set up in her village. Lack of access to education limited her option and dream for pursuing medicine.
“After the institute was set up, I would travel to the institute from Shamli, and return home every evening to take care of my children,” she says. When Varsha passed out in 2015, she cracked the interview at a reputed government hospital in Meerut, where she now works.
The Hillary Clinton Nursing School offers courses in general nursing and midwifery, auxiliary nursing, and baby nursing and child care. Committed to developing skills of its students, the school has 11 lecture halls and six laboratories. It has also incorporated a simulation laboratory within its fold, and currently has 357 students on its rolls, of whom 320 are girls.
The path to a sustainable career
Over the years, the foundation has also contributed significantly to the wildlife conservation in India and is actively involved with Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, providing monetary funds and material to the forest guards, rangers and guides.
The foundation is funded primarily by the founder himself. Donations and contributions from interested individuals are also accepted. A science centre is also being planned for the education complex with an investment of Rs 7 crore. Modern facilities are envisaged, with laboratories for physics, chemistry, biology and computer science, which will provide much exposure to students of Rampur and adjoining areas like Saharanpur, Shamli and Deoband.