How an Insurance Agent Found His Calling as a Successful School Leader

How an Insurance Agent Found His Calling as a Successful School Leader

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Shree Samaratha School, Pune

Shivaji Gawande, Shree Samaratha School, Pune

Shivaji Gawande comes from a farming background. He attended a village school and later moved to another village for upper primary education. It was there that he found a spiritual environment that transformed his life. Reflecting on his experiences, he shares, “Spirituality helped me discover my life’s purpose, values, ethics, and developed my social-emotional skills. I used these skills to collaborate with my peers and improve my performance.” Even at a young age, Shivaji excelled academically and dreamt big. “I wanted to make a positive impact on others’ lives and my own, which is why I took an entrepreneurial root.”

Shivaji Gawande comes from a farming background. He attended a village school and later moved to another village for upper primary education. It was there that he found a spiritual environment that transformed his life. Reflecting on his experiences, he shared, “Spirituality helped me discover my life’s purpose, values, ethics, and developed my social-emotional skills. I used these skills to collaborate with my peers and improve my performance.” Even at a young age, Shivaji excelled academically and dreamt big. He wanted to make a positive impact on others’ lives and his own, which is why he embraced an entrepreneurial mindset and chose the commerce stream.

Believing in hard work and financial independence, Shivaji completed his graduation with the support of the Kamwa Shika Yojana. This scheme enabled him to become financially independent while pursuing his education. During his college years, he worked in a soccer club. When it comes to his vision of entrepreneurship, Shivaji took action to turn his dreams into reality. “I have always loved reading, so I spent a lot of time in the library during my college days, reading business magazines.”

As his first step towards entrepreneurship, he ventured into the mushroom harvesting business right after graduation, with the full support of his family.

After analyzing business outcomes and considering his financial resources, Shivaji realized that he lacked sufficient capital. This led him to switch to a service-based business where he would require less investment. “I decided to work with an insurance company where I didn’t have to invest a significant amount of money. I took an exam and received training in marketing.” It was during this time that Shivaji’s passion for marketing emerged. He worked as a collection agent in a credit co-op society until 2008. While working, he continued to aspire to own his own business. Inspired by his uncle, who served as the director of the school he had attended, Shivaji was drawn to a leadership position.

When the opportunity arose to become the chairman of a co-op society, Shivaji seized it. After some time, he acquired the trust of that co-op society and successfully ran it for three years.

Inspiration Behind Opening The School

Even while managing a co-op society, the dream of establishing a school never faded for Shivaji. Mr. Totare, the director of one of his previous schools, played a significant role in guiding him to transition from the cooperative trust to an educational trust. During this time, Shivaji got married, and his wife shared his passion for the education sector. He deeply appreciates his wife’s strong support and contribution.

Shivaji fondly expresses, “She is an exceptional person who inspired me to open a school. Despite having already completed her MCom, she pursued her BEd to support me in running and expanding the school. She worked as a teacher to gain valuable experience in teaching and management skills, which she later applied in our school. She truly brought life to my dream of venturing into the education sector, and she has always been my constant motivation.”

Also Read: How This School Leader Created A Pocket-Friendly School For The Underprivileged In Karnal

How The School Started

With the support of his wife and the guidance of Mr. Totare, Shivaji embarked on his journey of opening their first school in 2011. The school began with 100 students, and they carefully identified parents from the middle-class worker’s community, as Shivaji believes that education is not just a business but also a responsibility towards the nation. Drawing upon his marketing knowledge gained from the insurance business, he utilized effective strategies to promote and grow the school. Year by year, they increased the student strength by 100. Today, in 2023, the same school branch proudly educates 1800 students.

After a couple of years, they expanded their vision and opened a second branch at a different location, initially enrolling 70-80 students. Currently, this branch flourishes with 1200 students, showcasing the continued growth and impact of their educational endeavours.

How Varthana Supported Shivaji

In the inspiring journey of his success, Shivaji expresses deep gratitude towards Varthana. He emphasizes the crucial role they played in his school’s expansion. Shivaji shares, “When we were planning to establish more branches, we needed additional funds for purchasing educational materials and covering other expenses. It was Varthana that fulfilled this need by providing our first loan of 5 lakh rupees.”

“This support was instrumental in our growth, enabling us to open new branches. Seeing our progress, we decided to purchase land for the school, which required substantial funds. Recognizing our good repayment history, Varthana extended a loan of 1.25 crore rupees.”

“Having already established two branches before taking the loan, we were able to expand to a total of six branches with the help of this funding. The financial help not only facilitated the opening of new branches but also allowed us to make necessary improvements in the existing ones. As a result, we were able to increase our student enrollment by 1000 after receiving the loan.”

Proud Moments

Shivaji takes great pride in leading a team of 250 dedicated individuals in his school. Every year, when they come together and he witnesses the happiness and joy within his school family, he feels an immense sense of pride.

Shivaji’s wife was honored with the Yashashree award on Women’s Day for her remarkable contributions to the education sector. This recognition further fuels his pride and admiration for his wife’s commitment to making a difference.

Shivaji’s dedication to his work has not gone unnoticed, as he has received prestigious accolades such as the Shikshan Maharshi Award from Nakshatranche Dene and the Grambhushan Award. These awards serve as the cherry on top, acknowledging his significant contributions to society.

He believes education plays a vital role in nation-building, and takes pride in his modest contribution. The underlying purpose of becoming an entrepreneur was to make a positive impact on society by creating employment opportunities. When he witnesses his students thriving in various sectors, a sense of fulfillment washes over him.

Also Read: How This School Leader is Promoting Quality Education in a Challenging Locale

Running The School During Covid 

“A great leader is someone who can support and uplift their staff during challenging times,” Shivaji shares his experience of running the school through the pandemic. “My entire staff stood by me during this crisis,” he says. When the school had to close its doors, Shivaji claims they swiftly transitioned to online learning, and the teachers demonstrated a remarkable willingness to adapt to new skills. “They learned how to use online platforms and encouraged parents to do the same.”

Parents also played a crucial role by providing their children with smartphones and helping them access online meeting platforms for learning. “Even the Physical Education (PT) teachers conducted online sessions to keep the students physically active within the confines of their homes,” he was quick to point out.

He further adds, “When the school reopened, all the parents sent their children back, allowing the implementation of a recovery plan. To address the learning loss experienced during the closure, the school reduced the number of leaves and extended school hours to offer additional remedial lectures. They also acquired the Lead Program through Varthana, which proved invaluable in narrowing the learning gap after the reopening. This program enabled us to analyze students’ learning levels and identify their weaknesses, allowing teachers to plan lessons accordingly.”

Future Vision

Shivaji possesses a strategic mindset and an expansive vision for his team. He dreams of expanding the school chain, aiming to increase the student enrollment to 5000-10000 within the next 3-4 years. Furthermore, he harbors an ambitious and long-term goal of establishing 20-25 branches, enrolling a staggering 1 lakh students within the upcoming 10-12 years.

The vision doesn’t stop there. Shivaji envisions the creation of international schools equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure, offering students a wide range of amenities and activities. He aspires to transform classrooms into technological hubs, embracing advanced tools and resources to enhance the learning experience.

His future vision is characterized by growth, innovation, and impact. He dreams of making a profound impact on a larger scale by inspiring others to provide quality education. He believes in sharing his journey as a successful school leader, encouraging and motivating others to follow suit. Through his strategic leadership and determination, he aims to expand the school chain. His team’s collective effort serves as a testament to the resilience and determination of the entire school community.

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