The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Foot in IIM but heart on dust bowl uplift

Ahmedabad, March 19: His Bihar village didn’t have a high school, but polio-afflicted Nirmal Kumar’s CV would still be stunning.

Like many at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A), the 26-year-old doesn’t aspire to a Wall Street job. However, his eyes flash with the big dream he’s nurturing.

Having made the leap from a Siwan backwater, Nirmal wants to return to his roots, but with an idea that he believes could change the lives of people in Bihar.

A budding entrepreneur, he wants to use advanced technology to create a one-stop provider of basic facilities. The building blocks of his venture — Community Information and Communication Centre — will be in place by September. Over time, the centre will offer health care, education and entertainment in villages.

Nirmal, in the first year of his MBA course after having cleared the gruelling CAT last year, has made up his mind to opt out of placements, due in the spring of 2008.

Showing the precision of a corporate strategist, the diminutive student predicts an annual turnover of over Rs 2,000 crore for his centre in 13 years. His aim is to be a globally recognised figure in rural development. That ambition has been emblazoned in red on a chart in his hostel.

“I am going to set up a profit-making company that will work in the rural areas. The pilot projects will begin in Chhapra, Siwan and Gopalganj before the experiment is repeated in all Bimaru states,” said Nirmal.

Nitish Kumar would be delighted to have him. During his visit to the campus last year, the Bihar chief minister was impressed with presentations made by students on ways to bring about social change in rural Bihar.

Offers for financial assistance to set up the Rs 5-crore centre have already started flowing from overseas financiers. Nirmal has made presentations on his plan to over two dozen IAS officers, banks and venture capitalists. Three professors, including one from IIT, are helping him take his idea from the drawing board to the dust bowls.

“The profit that I will make will be ploughed back,” says the son of a school teacher, who hadn’t heard about IIM until he graduated.

He was teaching at a private institute in Hyderabad when he learnt that some of his friends were preparing for CAT. The possibility of becoming an entrepreneur excited him, and he realised a degree from the top B-school would stand him in good stead.

“Everything was dormant in me. Attending classes at the IIM-A has given me tremendous exposure, confidence and a lot of networking capabilities,” says Nirmal.

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