Royally recognised: former maritime executive Capt Raj Mohindra’s educational consultancy work has been endorsed by Queen Noor of Jordan and by Prince Charles By James Brewer
Capt Raj Mohindra, whose career contribution to the wellbeing of Indian naval and merchant shipping has reaped much praise, is now a celebrated high achiever in a completely different field: planning and setting up educational institutions.
He is especially proud of the royal acclaim he won for his leading part in the creation of India’s first United World College. As managing director of Mumbai-based Raj Mohindra Consultants Pvt Ltd, a leading educational consultancy firm, he leads a team that has guided many other projects at home and abroad.
Queen Noor of Jordan, president of United World Colleges, awarded Capt Mohindra a special commendation over the Indian project “in recognition of his outstanding skill, courage, selflessness and absolute determination in the accomplishment of this long-standing dream.” She said: “His commitment is exemplary within the history of United World Colleges.”
Queen Noor has said that the goal of the educational movement was not simply to produce educated young people but also to nurture activists for peace and future leaders who can help resolve the challenges within their own societies and build bridges between communities and cultures. The Prince of Wales, a former president of the movement, added his appreciation of Capt Mohindra’s role in setting up Mahindra United World College in India.
The academy, 40km west of Pune, was opened in September 1997 with the financial support of the conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra – which is involved in a vast range of businesses from aerospace to energy to logistics to finance and insurance to powerboats. The prize winning campus for 200 students aged 16–19 covers 175 acres and combines modern architecture with local materials to give the feeling of life in a hill village. The college has dedicated much of its land to the nation as a biodiversity reserve, under a geodesic dome, that was opened by the Prime Minister of India in February 2008.
It is a far cry, but a triumph on a different plane, from Capt Mohindra’s days as head of the tanker department at the Shipping Corporation of India during the dangerous days of the Iran-Iraq war and later the conflict arising from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. As general manager (commercial) at the major shipping group, he was confronted with the need to safeguard vessels carrying imports of crude oil from Iran during the so-called “tanker war.” In 1981, Baghdad had attacked Iranian ports, and three years later began to aim Exocet missiles at Iranian and neutral tankers and the key oil terminal of Kharg island. In response, a shuttle service was organised to carry 2.2m barrels per day to customers of Iran. India succeeded in keeping its oil imports flowing, despite attacks on a total of 71 merchant ships in 1984 alone. Mr Rajiv Gandhi, the late Prime Minister, commended the Shipping Corporation of India for its courageous role in sustaining supplies of oil to India throughout the Gulf War.
After leaving his shipping berth, Capt Mohindra (his earlier career included naval diplomatic posts in London, and a period as Commander (Logistics) of India’s first aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant) became chief executive of Indian Express group of newspapers, and later a founder director of the Mahindra United World College of India, and its first chief executive and project director. The United
World Colleges movement began in 1962, educating young people including those affected by the political conflict in the Cold War era, to act as champions of peace. There are now 12 such schools and colleges, and their alumni include Prince Willem-Alexander, who graduated in 1985 from UWC Atlantic College, Vale of Glamorgan. He will become King of the Netherlands after Queen Beatrix abdicates later this year. Capt Mohindra says there is considerable demand from aspirational members of India’s middle class for high quality, international schools, and private entrepreneurs are rushing to tap into this market. He and his colleagues aim to build on their track record of setting up and advising on educational facilities of world-class standard.
A further area of endeavour for his company is establishing collaboration between Indian and foreign universities, especially in engineering and management studies, and helping overseas universities establish a presence in India. Sometimes the consultancy works alongside architects to ensure that the design of a learning establishment meets the required curricular and organisational needs, advising on equipment, information technology, laboratory design, computer centres, and multi-purpose halls. Clients can be assisted in selection and recruitment of faculty members, both Indian and expatriate.
Consultancy assignments have included a rural educational complex in Gujarat for 5, 500 students, including over 250 who were mentally and physically challenged. Among many other prestige projects, the American School of Bombay retained the company as consultants for an expansion project including a new campus in Mumbai to cater for the expanding expatriate community. Raj Mohindra Consultants has worked on the planning of a home for senior citizens in Mangalore, based on a study of accommodation for the elderly in the United States. This home proved so popular that it has a long waiting list. For further details, please see www.rajmohindraconsultants.com