Press Coverage

Tea Lounge
by Vinita Deshmukh
October 16, 2000

In this mad, mad world of websites and portals, did you know: That a Puneite who is a very prominent academician in the prestigious Harvard University is playing an important role in the life of thousands of Indian youngsters? That his unique portal addressing the future citizens of our country is a fitting tribute to the brains and zeal of Indian youngsters who are making it big in several professions and enterprises, across the globe? And that his portal has three objectives that are very dear to his heart: "education, India, and giving back to the communities that have helped me in my career"?

Let's give a big hand to Prof. Srikant Datar, the senior associate dean and the Arthur Lowes Dickinson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University. He is also now the co-founder and director of - the education website addressed to Indian students seeking to study abroad.

As a child, he has worked in slums, cleared the garbage in the neighbourhood, and collected funds for social causes, all thanks to his mother, Sarlatai Datar, president of Nagrik Chetna Manch, chairperson of Sindh Housing Society in Aundh and former corporator of Pune.

For Sarlatai, her son's par excellence academic record and now his dabbling into the internet, are some proud moments that she savours. Says she excitedly, "If you see him, you will fall in love with him. He is not only handsome, but very humble. His success, apart from his brilliance, has been his good nature. Also, whatever he does, he does it with perfection.'' And so she has no doubt, that every Indian student who surfs through this site is sure to benefit.

What made him start an education portal despite his ever-busy schedule? Says the Boston-based academician, through an e-mail note from London on a trip to Europe, "When two of my former students contacted me with their proposal about a plan to serve the youth of India by building a portal dedicated to education, I was very excited. I remember the difficulties I had in obtaining information when I decided I wanted to do a Ph.D. in 1980.''

He proudly elaborates that, "As a founder of iMahal, it has been my pleasure to help define and grow a website that praises achievement and promotes success, whether in school or in one's career. Any student, planning to go to college, will find a world of valuable information on the iMahal Education website. And any young professional, starting a career or planning to make a career change, will find just the right guidance they need."

iMahal clamis to be the largest, the most comprehensive and proprietary Education Resource on the web. The current focus is on higher education; that is, the college and university education. The geographic coverage is India, USA, Canada, and UK. You can find Engineering, Computer Science, Business (Commerce), Sciences, Arts, Law and Medical colleges and universities in these countries. You can also access information on college rankings, admissions requirements, entrance examinations, financial aid, immigration/visa, and student and alumni associations. They also have the iMahal College Finder which creates customized lists of colleges and universities.

Prof. Datar's academic background could make anyone go green with envy and be in awe of him. A graduate with distinction from the University of Bombay, he received gold medals upon graduation from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, as also a gold medal from the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India. A Chartered Accountant, he holds two masters degrees and a PhD from Stanford University.

Says Sarlatai, with immense pride, "He completed his CA in a record time of three years and was seeded, sixth. When he was pursuing Cost Accountancy, I never saw him study real hard, but when I went to the institute to fetch his results, I was astonished to find that he had topped the examination. Destiny also played a vital role in the shaping of his career. He wanted to pursue chemical engineering but did not secure the required marks. So, he graduated in BSc in economics and mathematics. Maths was always his favourite subject. He just loved to acquire degrees and sometimes I used to be exasperated at this passion of his."

"He has received several awards in universities abroad," says Sarlatai, unable to hide her pride. For example, he received the George Leland Bach Award for Excellence in the Classroom at Carnegie Mellon University and the Distinguished Teaching Award at Stanford University. He is a co-author (with Professors Charles Horngren and George Foster) of the leading cost accounting textbook, `Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis.' According to Sarlatai, millions of copies have been sold, benefitting students of the relevant subject.

For Datar, the creation of iMahal has helped enhance his personal interactions with his students. Says he, "Over the years as a professor at the Harvard Business School, I have received many requests for advice and assistance. There are, unfortunately, too few hours in the day to respond to all of them in the detail that I would like to. By helping to expand the iMahal offerings, I have found a way to effectively help many more people."

"iMahal goes beyond mere compilation of educational facilities. For example, our `Dear Mentor:' column provides the most relevant and candid advice about college and careers that you can find on the Web," vouches Datar.

His student, Lokesh Datta, co-founder, and CEO and President of iMahal, was one of the two students who inspired Datar into this venture. Says Datar, "I am extremely proud of both the content and design of the iMahal site. Lokesh and his team have put in an amazing amount of time into creating a site that caters to a really important need. At every step, iMahal's management has kept the needs of the Indian youth in mind when obtaining and presenting information. They have constantly tried to reach out to the community to understand what else they can do to be helpful. Their only goal has been to serve as well as they can. As a result, I have heard many positive comments about the site. My friends who have visited the site recommend it to others who have children about to enter college or about to start or change careers.''

Says Lokesh Datta, "I am often asked the question: Why iMahal? It is a question we have asked ourselves many times. Yes, there are many other portals already. So who needs yet another portal? No one if it's just another re-cycled portal! While the multinationals are going about recycling their plain old portals, built for other markets, and re-labeling them for India, we set out to design a brand new portal, designed from the ground up only for India. We don't believe that India and Indians deserve to be an after-thought and served recycled goods. For us at iMahal, India and Indians are not the second thought, not the last thought, not even the first thought. For us at iMahal, India and Indians are the ONLY thought.''

Doesn't that give a lovely feeling of pride, all so very Indian. Just how much Datar is charged up with this project can be gauged when he says, "Few things excite me more than my involvement with iMahal. It has provided me with a unique opportunity to give back to the country that gave me so much.''

So, you, the young and the bright, what are you waiting for? Just check into the internet and enter this portal, to find out what awaits you in your education and career. Remember, it's a Puneite who's made things as easy as a click on the cyber mouse!



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