Achyuta Samanta's pioneering work in social entrepreneurship has earned him global recognition and brought him awards galore. KISS (KIIT Institute of Social Sciences), a school for 25,000 tribal children, which Samanta founded in 1992, is his greatest passion for the moment. While KISS is acclaimed widely, its finance model still remains an enigma to many. In an interview with Dillip Satapathy and Jayajit Dash, Samanta shares his thoughts on future of KISS and KIIT and the status of education as a whole.
The growth of KISS has followed the growth of KIIT (Kalinga Institute of Industrial Training). It's rare to see social service of this order where an organisation has Rs 500 crore of bank loan. We took this loan from nationalised banks for KIIT. From the beginning, we have made this resolution at the KIIT Society that five per cent of KIIT's turnover will go to KISS.
For this year, Rs 40 crore has come to KISS from KIIT's turnover estimated at Rs 600-700 crore.
What are the other sources of funding for KISS?
We have a statutory rule wherein every staff of KISS donates three per cent of his/her gross salary to KISS. We have a staff strength of approximately 10,000, contributing Rs 3 to four crore every year. There are around 500 people doing business with KIIT today including our vendors who donate three per cent of their net profit to KISS. Then, there are 200 elite guardians who park in voluntary contributions ranging from Rs 20,000 up to Rs 100,000 helping us to raise Rs 3 to four crore per year. This way, we are covering 90 per cent of our recurring expenses. The rest 10 per cent comes as donations from different noble persons and organisations, mostly Indian. This is a very good sustainable model for running KISS whose operational cost has worked out to Rs 65-70 crore this year.
Going ahead, what are your plans for expanding KISS?
KISS Delhi is already running at Ishapur village. The present intake is 400 though we have a capacity of 1,200. Branches of KISS are coming up in 20 districts of Odisha. Each branch will have an intake of at least 1,000 poor children. Establishment of KISS campus would cost Rs 15 crore plus in each district. There is also running cost of Rs 3 crore year on year for 1,000 children. To fund these activities, I have approached individuals and corporates to sponsor children at KISS which costs Rs 20,000 per head annually. I have plans to take KISS beyond the country to Bangladesh and Cambodia but things haven't taken off due to time constraints.
Do you think education is the answer to poverty and deprivation?
Yes, poverty alleviation can be achieved only through education. At the Oslo Education Summit held on July 6, the theme for deliberation was 'Poverty Alleviation Through Education'. The world leaders realised that Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had not been achieved since education did not get the focus it deserved, hence there should be a shift from MDGs to Sustainable Development Goals. I am happy that what I have been doing for more than 20 years is now deliberated and recognised at the global stage. As of now, chief ministers of 15 states are in talks with me to set up KISS like institutions in their respective states. I believe, in the next five years, KISS model will be replicated across the country.
You started off as an educational entrepreneur. Where do you visualise KIIT in the years ahead?
I started both KIIT and KISS from scratch in 1992 in a two-room rented house with a humble sum of Rs 5,000. We have driven KIIT in such a way that it is now a national and international player and its presence is not restricted to state alone. We have created assets of thousands of crores at KIIT. There are no branches of KIIT planned and the institution will be stable here. KIIT offers the best placements every year with 250+ companies, including 15-20 MNCs visiting its campus.
Will R&D, innovation remain your focus areas at KIIT?
At KIIT, we have believe in quality upgradation where R&D and innovation have a key role to play. We have started an initiative called 'Academic Placements' where we encourage our students to pursue research at foreign universities wherein they get remuneration more than what they could have got through a job. Our KIIT Technology Business Incubator is widely popular throughout the country. As many as 125 would be entrepreneurs are being trained here and 10 of them have already floated their ventures, including a start-up for LED lights.