The Change Makers – Regeena Jeppiaar, Director of Jeppiaar College of Engineering

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It might seem like great audacity in the way they leverage emerging trends, technology, finance and sheer brain power to get things done in ways not done before – they are bold leaders in their respective businesses whose growth, innovation and presence in that world is marked by success and something so big and so impactful, that it changes the landscape.

They are change makers. They see things – and it is in their transformational genius, that organisations under them go from being ordinary to exceptional. And how do they get their ideas? Simple – they work at it.  They focus on pursing their goals, are never satisfied with the ordinary and are certainly not lucky. They just were and are committed to the pursuit of excellence, dreams, creativity, passion and innovation. They are the doers and are persistent individuals who understand potential is of little value if it fails to be realised! They focus their efforts on shattering the status quo, challenge norms, break conventions and encourage diversity of thought. The message here is simple: don’t just play the game – change it. And above all they are the ones who truly understand the value of serving something beyond themselves.

The Change Makers (4)

We have here four such individuals who have literally changed the name of the game. In their respective fields of design and architecture, education, jewellery and the real estate. Meet Krithika Subrahmaniam, architect, Anand, Director NAC jewellers, CEO & Founder Stylori, Srinivasan Gopalan, CEO of Ozone Group and Regeena Jeppiaar, Director of Jeppiaar College of Engineering – all of whom have lots to show for when it comes to their work and the strides made through the years and the difference it has made to the landscape of their pursuit.

Text – Chitra Mahesh

Photographer – Karthik Srinivasan

Make up – Naturals Lounge, TTK Road, Alwarpet, Chennai

Regeena Jeppiaar, Director of Jeppiaar College of Engineering

The very name Jeppiaar has grown to be synonymous with excellence in education and the Jeppiaar Educational Trust was formed in 1987, with the sole purpose of providing cutting edge technical education that is both accessible and affordable by establishing premier colleges of Engineering and Management studies. Under the aegis of the Late Col Dr Jeppiaar, the Jeppiaar Engineering College was inaugurated on August 15, 2001. The Managing Director of the college and the daughter of the founder, Dr Regeena J Murli has led the college from its fledgling state to an institution to reckon with. It is said that the vision of this young lady and her dedication and pursuit of excellence to the cause of technical education combined with her dynamic approach to leadership, has made a telling difference to the growth of the college.

My father was a pioneer in the field of education. He was the President of the engineering colleges he started all of his own. His mission was to provide engineering education to all students across barriers. And for those who could not afford it, he ensured that scholarships came in handy and education could be provided. Every year, there are many students who come from the villages and from extremely poor backgrounds, but are given this opportunity to enhance their lives through education.

Today we produce nearly a lakh students through our various institutions and also provide placement to nearly 80 percent of them. A lot of them go abroad for further studies or get involved in entrepreneurial start-ups.

Do you see many changes in the engineering education system?

Yes engineering is changing constantly. Now it’s not just about the syllabus, there also needs to be a lot of industrial exposure, practical experience and several workshops. Text books alone won’t do and these are all needed to bring out talent and get students involved in projects. The government has also started funding projects which are promising and excellent. For our part we have tied up with several companies to come and teach and provide practical experience and also place students in core companies.

Would you say you provide quality education?

We have qualified doctorates, I am one too, who guide students and the department heads along with supportive staff to impart the syllabus along with all that is new and emerging in the respective fields.

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How do you rank yourself?

We are now 8 and 9 out of the 500 engineering colleges in existence and we produce several gold medalists along with a superior quality of education, authoring path-breaking books and have well known educators and authors on our list.

How much are you able to fulfill your father’s vision after his demise?

The thing is our father always prepared us for the roles we play today. Even as a child, I have been encouraged to be at the colleges and learn how to run an institution of excellence. To be fair, our mother was equally encouraging as she always wished for us to accompany our father – my sisters and I – to learn. It was always about learning. My father came to Chennai as a very ordinary person, he was a police constable, but with lofty dreams. He started this institution and saw it grow from strength to strength. He was also in politics for a while being very close to Mr MG Ramachandran, but withdrew after his death to dedicate his life to education. After we were born he saw us as lucky mascots because his empire grew and grew and he wanted us to carry the name forward with an eye on quality education to even the poorest of the poor. I miss him a lot and I was devastated when he died. But I think about how he would want me to carry on and I make myself strong. I still feel he is around and I talk to him everyday especially when I have a difficult situation on hand.

There are other businesses you are involved in too right?

Yes there are other businesses like water, milk, steel, cement and now we are coming up with a power plant, which is another feather in our cap. All my sisters (they are four of them altogether) are also involved in all aspects of the various institutions and industries and we hope we will grow this legacy that we are known for.

In what way have you personally made a difference here?

I have initiated more of an industry-focussed education. Plus I have ensured that sport plays an important role in the overall scheme of things by bringing about the women’s volleyball team and the men’s football team. We have a sports quota and we sponsor everything for those playing these games. They are given scholarships and our teams have won several championships including the state championship conducted for volleyball. We promote the welfare of the students through such activities and also scout around for talent among the backward areas and those with no support or financial backing.

What difference is this institution making?

We do everything to upscale ourselves. We keep learning and quickly incporporate whatever is new. We are placed between one and ten in terms of quality and we strive very hard for results every year. To take care of every student is our motto and it is not important how he enters the college. It is important to see how he exits with all life skills and knowledge to go and conquer the world outside. That is what my father believed in.

What about future goals?

We wish to be a research centre and adopt several villages, digitize them and implement things that can improve their lives and make quality education easily accessible to poorer students. We aim to introduce new courses and adapt swiftly to new trends.

And as a change maker you believe in?

Being receptive to new trends and working to ensure our institutions are in the forefront of all things innovative and futuristic. If it is going to help my students then I might take the plunge in politics. If it helps to change the students’ environment and quality of life, yes, I would certainly consider entering politics.

Your personal mantra?

Aiming low is a crime. Aim high because you have only one life to live. Try out everything do not hesitate to speak out. Life this one life to the fullest. There is no limit to what you will achieve!