An Exciting Journey of Building a Residential Campus & Dreaming Big About the Future
After joining BIMTECH at its old campus in Pushp Vihar, New Delhi on September 2, 1999, I started applying my mind how the institute could build its brand and attain visibility at the national level. Having known the growth trajectory of reputed B-Schools in India and worldwide, I could identify one primary raison d’etre, i.e., a residential campus with the state-of-the-art facilities for students and faculty.
After wide consultation with leading management educationists, I prepared the ‘Vision-2005’ document and submitted it to the Management. The major focus of this document was to build a residential campus with an objective of getting recognized among the top 25 B-Schools of India by the year 2005. It was necessary because our premises at Birla Vidya Niketan, Pushp Vihar, New Delhi was very modest and without a residential character.
My predecessor, Dr C B Gupta, a legendary academician (ex-Principal, SRCC, Delhi and Founder Director, IMT, Ghaziabad) was designated by the Management as the Advisor and my mentor. He advised me to try with the DDA for getting a two-acre plot in Delhi. DDA, being a bureaucratic government body, was not willing to help us and scuttled the proposal with some flimsy legal objections.
In January 2002, I saw an advertisement in the India Today in which, the Greater Noida Authority (GNIDA) offered institutional land for educational institutions. I was excited and started thinking of having a campus around 50 km away from Pushp Vihar, New Delhi.
The matter was discussed with the Management and I sought their permission to submit our application. Our advisor, Dr C B Gupta, was not in favour of moving the campus from New Delhi to Greater Noida, due to fears of losing locational advantages of South Delhi. In the meantime, for expanding the geographic base of our student population, we had started hostels in rented premises at Sarvapriya Vihar and Devri Road. It was a tough decision and full of challenges. I continued to convince our Management that having a residential campus was a sine-qua non for a good B-School and there was no harm in setting up a campus at Greater Noida.
We submitted an application for getting institutional land from the GNIDA at the Knowledge Park in the last week of January, 2002. At that time, there were only a few institutions at Greater Noida and reaching the city was also difficult because the Noida Expressway was not ready and access through Dadri – Surajpur side was always cumbersome.
After some weeks of the submission of our applications, the GNIDA office called us for a meeting and for making a presentation about our plans for setting up a campus at Greater Noida. We identified a student of PGDM-II year to make the presentation. On March 21, 2002, the presentation was made. The CEO of GNIDA Shri Rao was very impressed by the presentation and he asked me about the person who had done it. When I told him that he was a student, it was a big surprise for him. That student was Anshul Verma, who later joined BIMTECH as a faculty and worked with us till 2013. Currently, Dr. Anshul Verma is a Professor of Finance at SPJIMR, Mumbai.
When Shri Rao, CEO of Greater Noida Authority asked me how much land is needed for the campus of our Institute, I said that we needed only seven acres (about 32000 sq. mtrs). Knowing that we were representing an institute owned by Birla Family, he said, “ Why don’t you take at least 20 acres of land? In the future, you will not be able to get more land at current prices, i.e., Rs 850 per mtrs.” I politely regretted his offer and returned to Delhi.
I met Shri R N Jaju, Chairperson, Board of Governors, and told him about the offer of 20 acres of land to buy from Greater Noida Authority. He explained about budgetary constraints and told me that it was beyond our budget for the total project. Today, we realize that had we bought 20-25 acres of land in 2022, we would have become a university of repute.
After receiving the allotment letter of a 7 acres plot in Knowledge Park II in 2002, we started planning for the construction of the campus. Our Founders, Late B K Birla Ji & Late Sarla Birla Ji were very excited about the project of developing a residential campus for BIMTECH at Greater Noida. Occasionally, I used to meet them along with Shri R N Jaju and discuss with them the layout and the design of the campus. Our founders were fond of developing campuses for schools, colleges, and temples. Their aesthetic sense and practical experience for construction projects were pragmatic. They always liked a fusion of tradition with modernity in building designs. They were using the services of a Delhi-based architect Pratap Parikh & Associates for long time who very well understood their liking for aesthetics, design, and quality of every aspect of a campus building.
In 2002, the Indian School of Business (ISB)was established in Hyderabad by a group of Indian industrialists and businessmen with big support from Shri Rajat Gupta, the then CEO of McKinsey Global, USA. Late B K Birla Ji suggested Shri Jaju to take architect Late Pratap Parikh and me to Hyderabad and arrange a visit to ISB to see its beautiful campus and its latest facilities. Both late B K Birla Ji and Late Sarla Birla Ji had visited the ISB campus because their granddaughter Late Vidul Khetan was studying there. They liked the campus building very much. They asked Late Pratap Parikh and his team to imbibe some of the features of the ISB building in the Greater Noida Campus of BIMTECH and in its buildings.
On the suggestions of our founders, the academic building was designed to use natural light and a green environment to create a cool and green environment. In hostels, a cluster model was used in place of dormitories. Central air conditioning was provided to all buildings to maintain temperature both during harsh winters and scorching summers. Overall 55% of the land was used for construction and 45% was kept for open and green spaces.
On the eve of the Ram Navmi of 2003, both late B K Birla Ji and late Sarla Birla Ji were in Delhi to join their annual Ramcharitamanas Satsang at Birla Mandir. On Ram Navmi Day, I was called to Mangalam, Amrita Shergil Marg (their residence) in Delhi in the forenoon to have lunch with them and Shri Jaju Ji. Before lunch, we were sitting with them at the dining table. Late Pratap Parikh was also present with all layout designs. Late Birla ji told me, “Chaturvedi, we have committed sufficient funds to go for a residential campus at Greater Noida on your proposal. This is our commitment to make it a renowned abode for learning management and to do MBA. But what is your commitment to work with us?” I also became emotional and immediately replied, “Sir, I also commit myself for life. I will not leave this institute until it becomes a well-known abode for business education”. Both Birla Ji and Madam were very happy and asked the architect Shri Pratap Parikh and Shri R N Jaju ji to go ahead and start construction.
Bhumi Pooja & Foundation Stone Laid Down Function
On July 30, 2003, a big function was organized at the site of Plot No.5, Knowledge Park 2, near Pari Chowk. Bhumi Pooja was performed by Smt Jayashri Mohta Ji and the foundation stone was unveiled by Shri Nawab Singh Nagar, Irrigation Minister, Government of UP. Shri Nagar has been very helpful to us in getting possession of the land. Within a few weeks, construction work started and the civil construction work was assigned to M/S Omaxe Construction Pvt. Ltd., who was a prominent real estate developer during those days. A project management team was formed with some senior executives of ECE Co., an electrical company of B K Birla Group.
Both late B K Birla Ji and Late Sarla Birla Ji visited the site of the campus on March 29, 2004 to see the progress and take a view of the final shape being given to various buildings. They were accompanied by Mahant Gireeshanand Ji, a disciple of Late Mahant Akhandanand Ji, Vrindavan who was a spiritual guru of our founders. Smt. Bajoriya, a niece of late Birla Ji also accompanied them. A presentation was made by architect Late Pratap Parikh and his associate Shri N P Singh, who is still helping us in adding new buildings and facilities.
Academic Session inaugurated by Dr R A Mashelkar
We were told that the whole campus will be ready within 9-10 months. Accordingly, we had decided to start our academic session by July 1, 2004. But as it happened, completion was delayed and we were told to start the new session by August 1, 2004. We invited Dr R A Mashelkar, a renowned scientist and the Chairman of CSIR to inaugurate our batch of 2004-06 on August 1, 2004. Due to some compulsion, we had to organize this function at the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), Delhi. He delivered a wonderful speech focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship.
Completion of the campus project was further delayed and we were asked to start classes on August 19, 2004 onwards at Greater Noida. We started to give the final touches to our preparations for shifting finally on August 19, 2004. Assuming that some of the faculty working at the Saket, Delhi campus might not like to move to Greater Noida, we had started recruiting faculty, who would be willing to work at the new campus. Dr. A K Dey, Dr Rahul Singh, Dr. L. Ramani, Prof Ashok Malhotra, Prof. Dharmendra Kumar, Prof.K K Krishnan, Dr Anshul Verma, Prof. Gagan Katiyar, Dr. Manosi Chaudhry, Dr. Shashi Balyan, Prof Sanjay Chandwani, Prov V Sekhar, Dr Shilpi Sharma and others were recruited. We had been organizing the visits of the new faculty members and some students from the 2004-06 batch to the new campus which was taking time to be fully ready to start operations.
The dream came to a reality
When we were very near to the new date of shifting i.e. August 19, 2004, many doubts arose as some of the basic facilities and requirements of the campus were not ready. It was a big dilemma because we were to choose between either postponement of shifting or facing the ordeal of shifting. After a lot of discussion among the Management, faculty and students, ultimately, a final decision was taken to shift on August 19, 2004.
Our administrative officials, Mr YS Agarwal, Mr Rajib Sharma, Smt Sheelu Khanna and Mr Vinod Mahipal managed the gigantic exercise of shifting furniture, library equipments and luggage of students and faculty. During rainy season, it was not an easy operation. Ultimately, we landed at the campus on August 19, 2004 with bag and baggage. I remember the scenario on that day. Trucks and buses arrived from New Delhi with students and staff. The passions among students were very intense because they were excited to live at the new campus. On the D-date, internal roads were not ready and there was a lot of mud on roads due to intermittent rains. Construction work was still going on in hostels and there were a lot of flies and mosquitoes.
Challenges at the New Campus
When some parents came to visit the campus, they became annoyed and one of the parents even decided to withdraw his ward. These parents were mainly skeptical of the distance of the campus from Delhi, and also feared of security of their wards. We tried our best to convince them that we would take care of the security and wellbeing of their wards. The first few months were critical due to inclement weather, seepage due to some defects in civil work, and also non-availability of entertainment as well as shopping facilities at Greater Noida.
During the initial years at Greater Noida Campus, faculty members played a very important role in grooming and mentoring the students. Several sports and recreational facilities were created. Brig. Dalip Kapoor, the then Chief Administrator of the Campus, with his vast experience in the army, was instrumental in bringing normalcy to the campus and in providing basic services to students and faculty. Dr Anshul Verma, Dr Shilpi Sharma, Dr Manosi Chaudhuri and Dr Shashi Balain played a significant role as hostel wardens to settle students in the campus life by giving them mentorship and guidance.
Creating Awareness About Greater Noida
Creating awareness about Greater Noida has been a decade long exercise. We were very keen to bring eminent people to the new campus. Many a times, industry people from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida were not willing to visit the campus due to logistic reasons. There was a psychological barrier in the minds of visitors due to poor awareness about the development of the Greater Noida as an urban destination. We had to devise different means and methods to get people to the new campus.
During the last 10 years, we could invite some of the great thought leaders from India and abroad to visit the campus and address our students and faculty. The list includes His Holiness Dalai Lama, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Shri Yashwant Sinha, Dr Subramnaian Swamy, Shri Jairam Ramesh, Late Oscar Fernandes, Shri Jagdish Khattar, Shri Venu Srinivasan, Shri Vinod Rai, Smt Kiran Bedi, Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Dr Prakash Amte, Shri Mahesh Bhatt, Late Farookh Sheikh, Shri Santosh Desai, Shri Hemant Kanoria, Late Dr Abid Hussain, Late Dr Pritam Singh, Dr Jagdish Sheth, Prof M R Rao, Shri Pramath Sinha, Dr Rishikesh T Krishnan, Late Prof Yashpal, Shri R S Pandey, IAS, Dr Santrupt Mishra, Shri Sam Ghosh, Shri Yogi Shriram and Dr Kiran Karnik.
A Dream came to a Reality !
A beautiful and state-of-the-art residential campus at Greater Noida for BIMTECH has given a new identity to the institute. It has created a lot of enthusiasm and sense of pride among the students, faculty, staff and alumni. The residential campus also felicitated a new learner-centric environment because students were now able to keep in touch with their teachers as well as their peers all the times. A dream envisioned in 2002 came to a reality in 2004.