Finance is the kernel of the operation of all businesses. The institutions leave no stone unturned to hire the best of the fund managers, trade experts, economists, finance advisors and think tanks to make profits and venture towards expansion and deepening its roots. The bigger the institution, the tougher is handling this critical element of finance. Beginners know the rules of the game, but a veteran knows a whole list of exceptions.
I would like to share my story, story of a person who was neither a beginner nor a veteran, but a child pushed into the quagmires of poverty to struggle and emerge as an empathetic person who would put all his energies to see that no other human being in my sphere of knowledge suffers from what I had to go through. If one assesses and analyzes the three decades of work we have done, several pages can be written down on how we managed financials and established two self-financing institutes to improve the education access to millions of children and changing the educational landscape of Odisha.
I did not go to an elite school or Ivy League institution in some foreign country. I had never undergone formal training on finance. How would I even learn about finances when the only luxury we thought of was a square meal. There was no advice I ever got about savings or investment. I was born in poverty and brought up in extreme deprivation. At the age of 25, with a small sum of Rs 5,000 or 100 US dollars at that time, I started KIIT and KISS as they are known today. I sometimes get astonished as to how it has been possible without any backing, training and pedigree. Is it a fluke? And then I internalise, how these institutions have been the product of struggles we undertook to battle Himalaya-like-barriers and strategic financial planning besides the will of God to give a Midas touch. Today, I can humbly state that as a social entrepreneur, educationist, philanthropist and a humanitarian, I have always done long term financial modelling and strategy without knowing the jargons of prototype, expansion and viability.
In the initial period of making of KIIT and KISS, precisely from 1992-95, I took hand loans and borrowed money from here and there to give a fillip to my dream, which was not as big as one would imagine after seeing the scale and scope of KIIT and KISS today. These minor hand loans were taken to run ITI. It was only in 1995, with the wave of liberalisation and bank loans becoming easier, that I took loans from a nationalised bank to expand ITI into a formal college that would offer professional degrees in Engineering and Management besides others. The institutions which were founded by the loans have now grown in stature, recognition and repute and are appreciated by one and all.
The financial viability of KIIT and KISS is very good. In the last 25-30 years, we have never defaulted in payment or repayment of our bank loans, interest and other dues. Our salary, emoluments, promotion for the staff and employees have been adhering to Government of India guidelines. We do nothing but the best for our staff. We have always paid our taxes without any evasion. It is pertinent to mention that we purchased all the 400 acres of land from Government or Private bit by bit without resorting to any unscrupulous means. For its transparency, KISS has been certified by Guidestar India as a platinum level NGO. By the grace of God and our planning the institutions are well managed. You would not be able to find another individual who is running the world’s largest tribal institution with such a wonderful model, careful planning and skilful execution.
From a level of instability and struggles, now KIIT and KISS have become financially sustainable institutions with a scope of buffer. Over 32000 students currently pursue education at KIIT and KISS respectively. 30,000 students have passed out from KISS and over 50,000 from KIIT. There are 10,000 permanent staff and 5000 non permanent staff at both KIIT and KISS combined.
The scale at which KIIT and KISS functions is much above all educational institutions in the country. *We have been able to create capital assets much greater than the liabilities we have.* In fact, we have built academic infrastructure for research and development besides world class physical infrastructure through our prudent investment for our state and nation. Our intervention in the realm of sports, sports infrastructure and handholding sportspersons has been one of its kind for any university to accomplish. All these adds up to capital building – both physical and human for state.
Our financial model has been appreciated by the then RBI Governor, Raghuram Rajan who said that it is a unique financial model and nowhere in the world has he seen a beautiful model like ours. The expenses of the world largest tribal institution KISS, of which recurring expense is around Rs 100 crore per annum is met by 5% of KIIT’s turnover, 3% of every staff’s voluntary contribution, 3% of profit from business associated with KISS and KIIT, benign donations from guardians and well wishers besides charity and other Government of India grants. Running such a gigantic institution, with the tribal children is embedded in risks and soaked in difficulties but it is not impossible. We have maintained it for the last 30 years.
To sum up, I want to drive home three important points –
One need not be big to start something. One can start small, move from strength to strength and build institutions that go beyond its founder. The institutions live forever and become an asset for the nation.
One can only be big when one is disciplined. It was my financial discipline to give money back that made me plan carefully and strategically create a financial model that would become sustainable and run on its own.
Engage in public good. If one does noble work honestly without any selfish design, the universe also conspires for success. One does not need to be too rich to engage in social service. KIIT and KISS started at the same time, but struggled and grew together. The growth of KIIT blossomed KISS in the process. People, Foundations and Government all collaborate for it to work well. KISS is an example of such a model.
Financial sustainability comes from the discipline, intention and the execution and KIIT and KISS are the blueprints of effective financial planning models turned into proven examples and forerunners in the field of education, sports, tribal uplift and outreach work.