Vikram Kumar - It Is Very Important to Listen and Understand the Person on the Other Side (General Manager - NIIT Foundation)


I start my day with self-reflection for not more than 5 minutes just to check that what I can do better today. Every day is different and challenging and I have a good team to take care of our customers by timely responding to them all the time. We at NIIT Foundation follow Genuine Contact methods and tools to conduct meetings and to reach out to each other. These tools help me to reach out to the team with all care and empathy.

It is very important to listen and understand.

Tell us about your background, journey, and upbringing.

I worked with children and youth, both in and out of school and college, for two decades now and had been associated with prestigious projects like Hole-in-the-wall, School in the cloud, and Jaadu Ginni Ka- a Financial Literacy Program. Jaadu Ginni Ka is a mass Financial Literacy training program where we have trained 3.3 million people by leveraging technology and online tools.

I specialize in implementing large projects and project start-ups. I also initiated many innovations in education technology and was part of several research projects, both in the development lab and in the field at slum and village sites in India, Africa, and South-East Asia.

I studied MBA (IT) from Amity University, NOIDA, and did a Diploma in Computers from NIIT, Delhi. I recently did a certificate course on Leadership from IIM, Bangalore.

I started my career with NIIT- R&D and wrote many programs in the early days of my career. In my current role, I am heading strategic partnerships and visibility at NIIT Foundation.



What made you interested in this field and how did you narrow it down?

I am a science graduate and I got hired in NIIT-R&D when I was in the last semester of the course. At that time, I dreamt of becoming a software professional and go to the USA like many others. I started well with NIIT -R&D and worked on various innovative projects. Digital documentation of Museum Artefacts was one such project.

After a couple of years or so, Dr. Sugata Mitra (Chief Scientist, NIIT-R&D) started a research project on Minimally Invasive Education. This research project was supported by Delhi Govt., IFC and ICICI Bank and I got opportunity to work in this research project.

Over the next decade, we did extensive research in self-directed learning, in many places, and through many cultures. Each time, the children were able to develop deep learning by teaching themselves. We decided to call the method of instruction we had developed Minimally Invasive Education (MIE). The rest of the world continues to call it the ‘Hole in the Wall.’

I remember Dr Sugata Mitra wrote in his book on Hole in the Wall, “While his colleagues were busy moving to Bangalore or the United States, Vikram went to the heart of the many children and their parents from villages all across India, Africa, and Cambodia.”

Later in 2011, I too got a chance to work with a US-based firm and visited the USA which was my dream.



What does your typical workday look like?

I start my day with self-reflection for not more than 5 minutes just to check that what I can do better today. Every day is different and challenging and I have a good team to take care of our customers by timely responding to them all the time. We at NIIT Foundation follow Genuine Contact methods and tools to conduct meetings and to reach out to each other. These tools help me to reach out to the team with all care and empathy.

It is very important to listen and understand the person on the other side to create a life-nourishing environment. We also practice the Whole Person Process Facilitation with the team to gain collective wisdom.

Having honest conversations, keeping trust, and encouraging the team to take a goal or idea and run with it, makes them more productive.



Several global companies have come out and thrown their support behind not needing a formal education. What is your opinion about this for your field?

I would not say that formal education is not required, or it is not valuable but will certainly say that what all we need along with our education. The sole purpose of this life is to be happy and healthy; isn’t it.

The Education system that exists now was created 300 years ago in the British Empire which was created to produce more clerks and managers. We certainly need to change our education system and curriculum. Several research works are going on and many people are talking about this.

The famous “School in the cloud” research by Dr. Mitra has also proven that just by asking ‘Big Questions’ from the students, they can improve their comprehension, communication, and computing skills which are considered to be the most important in this 21st century.

I was also part of this research work with Dr. Mitra at 3 schools in Maharashtra, 1 school each in Delhi, and Jharkhand. We found similar results in all the places. This experiment is happening all across the world and producing broadly the same results.

How does it sound to have a curriculum of ‘Big Questions’? This teaching methodology needs to explore and follow more.



Google, Adobe, and most MNCs have a strict policy around sharing ex-employee data. How can one approach background checks in this situation?

This is a bit tricky question to answer. There are many assessment tools available that will tell you about the type of person and their qualities. Also, when we connect with anyone genuinely and allow them to open up by being honest, you get to know more about the person on the other side. In the Genuine Contact methodology which we follow at NIIT Foundation, we give the person the opportunity to open up and share about themselves.

I think if we know that the person is good and can be considered for the hiring if he has a strong desire to learn, has problem-solving abilities, and can deal with the conflict. All these can be checked in a couple of rounds of conversations and by using assessment tools.




How has your field evolved over the years and what future changes do you predict?

The training and skilling domain will continue to witness emerging online learning or hybrid learning models driven by continuous learning. Technological advancements and training & skilling will go hand-in-hand, to not just help individuals in their work but allow businesses to keep pace with new trends and evolve with technology.

Technology is constantly evolving; new skills are needed to cope with the changing business dynamics especially the changes that happened due to the COVID19 pandemic. Therefore, the need to upskill/ reskill and many times acquire fresh skills is the need of the hour.

The future of training and skilling will see the convergence of technology with clearly defined business objectives to drive change and ensure a smooth transition across industries.



What advice do you have for those eyeing this career?

तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु - It is written on the logo of one of the premier business schools in India – IIM, Bangalore and which means - Let our study be enlightening.

One should always check that whether your learnings are helping others learn from it. Are you enabling people around you? You will only able to do so when you will keep yourself updated all the time. It’s very important to upskill yourself and sometimes reskill yourself to match the pace with the world.

During difficult times like this pandemic, we constantly need to see that what are the things that are emerging now and what are things getting obsolete.

Based on that, you can upskill and reskill yourself to face the potential challenges that may arise.



Which is your favorite book and why?

The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley. My blog name - Rational Optimist (vikramks.blogspot.com) is also inspired by this book. This book is all about how happiness and prosperity (mental as well as material) evolve. A delightful reading filled with insight and wit. This book is a nice combination of subjects like History, Philosophy, Economics and Biology which we generally don’t find in one book.

A must-read for you if you are interested in knowing - ‘why human life has so consistently improved’ and ‘how human civilizations move forward’.


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Interviewed by - Vanshika Jain

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