Giving a new lease of life to young ones at Udbhav School in Hyderabad, RBL
Bank has been catalysing growth and reducing social inequalities
PI nnocent smiles and cheerful shouts reverberate in the air. It is lunch time and the children are eagerly waiting for their mid-day meal. For these little ones, every morning at Udbhav School is a step closer to their dream—of getting the best education that will enable them to have a happier life. Their smiles, innocence and hope are contagious. “Udbhav School is an initiative to create a model school system,” explains T. Muralidharan, founder and chairman, TMI Group. A graduate from IIT Madras and an IIM Ahmedabad alumnus, he is actively involved in the two Udbhav schools in Hyderabad—one at Fatehnagar and the other at Rasoolpura. The Fatehnagar branch has been adopted by RBL Bank (as the board at the entrance says) and is known as Udbhav RBL School and the Rasoolpura one gets voluntary support from RBL Bank and is a standalone Udbhav institution. These schools are managed by IIM Ahmedabad Alumni Association of Hyderabad (IIMAAAH) and educate around 1,000 children from the nearby slums.
“The trajectory of Udbhav Schools is to educate 10,000 children.Our vision is to create a low-cost institution offering high quality education. This is possible if it is technology-driven in terms of teaching methodology and teaching aids where teachers act as facilitators. The other two aspects related to achieve this objective are volunteerism and raising funds. For this, we have been fortunate to get the support of RBL Bank. They initiated a unique cyclothon fund raiser called UMEED 1000. The bank had an existing cyclothon programme, initiated by ace cyclist Jasmeet Singh Gandhi. This is a 10-day cyclothon, covering 1,000km and we requested RBL Bank to help raise funds through this,” elucidates T. Muralidharan.
He goes on to explain, “We have a ‘Vision (Mission) 25’, where 25 role model students will be created in the next five years. We will take care of their education in all the ways possible, including special coaching sessions and free education kits. The coaching will empower these 25 students and help them seek admission into premier professional institutions such as IITs, IIMs, medical colleges, law schools or any other professional subject. The long-term vision is to make this school a prized institution where children from affluent families start enrolling and the fee paid by them will fund other deserving students.”
Talking about the association with Udbhav School, Shanta Vallury Gandhi, Head–HR, CSR & Internal Branding, says that for RBL Bank, CSR is more than a mandate—it is a way of life. Guided by the values of partnership and respect, Shanta Vallury Gandhi adds, “We are committed to financial inclusion. Around 75 per cent of our portfolio is centred on livelihood. This includes education, skill development and actual livelihood opportunities. We run multiple programmes, forming the cornerstone of RBL Bank’s entire CSR strategy. Partnering with Udbhav schools works beautifully for us. Here, students from the urban slums of Hyderabad study till class X. Those who do well in class X, we motivate them to keep up the good work till class XII. The top performers will actually get an opportunity to join the Ashoka University which is neither an easy entry nor a pocket—friendly option. Once they are equipped with professional know-how, they can find work, support their families and the cycle of giving back to the society continues.
The journey of Udbhav School began in 2007. The school was started by N.J. Yasaswi, founder of Institute of Chartered and Financial Analyst of India (ICFAI). It was then known as ICFAI Republic School. After the founder’s demise, the future of the school went into chaos. But an enterprising headmaster approached sponsors and donors. He got support from Dr G K Jayaram, an IIMA Alumnus. In 2012-2013, Kasturi Trust managed the schools and they were named Ekalavya School. In April 2013, IIMAAAH stepped in to take over the management. The school was renamed as ‘Udbhav School’.
Talking about the yesteryears, CEO of Udbhav School,
Ravikanth G. says, “During Mr. Yasaswi’s days there was
a centralised kitchen and food was supplied to the school
at a nominal amount, earning it the nickname ‘Rs 10
school’.” He joined the set up as a consultant in 2019. The
schools are now provided with mid-day meal by Akshaya
Coming to the journey and the contribution the schools have made to the society, he adds, “We have illustrious students. One of them is now a software engineer in the US and has donated Rs 1 lakh. Another girl is a dentist and has migrated to Canada, another one is a chartered accountant.”
Shanta Vallury Gandhi
Head–HR, CSR & Internal Branding
While the school is open for all underprivileged ones, preference is given to the girl child, particularly of separated parents or abandoned mothers, or handicapped parents. The teacher-student ratio is 1:20 and PTMs are held every month. “The income of parents too has shown improvement,” T. Jayanti explains.
And this is no mean feat, as Rasoolpura is the biggest notified slum in the city of Hyderabad. Academic consultant Krishna Kumari visits both the schools. She says, “The food provided by Akshay Patra is a big attraction for the students to attend school. Within two years of the management taking good measures, the change was visible in 365 students in Fatehnagar-190 girls and 175 boys. Udbhav Rasoolpura has a student strength of 585, with 251 boys and 334 girls.” Kalpana who works with Akshay Patra, says, “We feed nearly 400 children everyday. And with this meal, a good amount of nutrition is assured.”
Narrating a case of brilliant minds emerging despite abject
poverty, Krishna Kumari cites the case of young Janardhan. “He
lived under a flyover with an abusive father. Close to the dates of
the board exams, he was nervous as there was no place to study
under the noisy bridge. We keep the school premises open till late
during exams for such brilliant children. Janardhan cleared the
boards with a CGPA of 9.8/10. Now he is pursuing his 10+2 in
The results of regular education have been seen in myriad ways. Headmistress at Fatehnagar, T. Jayanti says, “Cleanliness and hygiene have improved considerably. The habit has carried on to their homes and the locality, which is also clean now.”
Not just old students, new ones are happy too. Young Kirtana is among the happy lot. She says, “The standard of teaching is very good. I am keen on taking up B.Sc. Agriculture because I love flowers, plants and trees.” Scientific temper and innovation are encouraged and the schools have upgraded facilities and labs. There is an Agastya Lab on the lines of Atal Tinkering Lab. On display are some innovative prototypes made by the students. The idea of making a cantilever bridge came to Nagendra and Kartik while watching a movie on TV.
Curious about the operations of this, the duo ended up making a model that functions flawlessly. Their career choices are diverse— Nagendra wants to become a cop, Kartik wants to do hotel management.
Rajeshwari, who is in class IX, wants to specialise in civil engineering. She has developed a prototype of automatic street light device. “We have ‘A grade’ teachers who produce ‘A grade’ students. I want to turn Agastya Lab into a very good lab,” she says.
Not just classroom teaching, physical education is equally strong at the schools. Santosh Bidarkar, physical education teacher at Fatehnagar, says, “Students love sports and focus is on traditional and indoor games. As we don’t have a large playground, our students practice at the municipality ground, this is 2 km away. They have participated in state and national handball tournaments and two of our girl students have represented the school in international tournaments.”
To this, Shravan, physical education teacher at Rasoolpura, adds, “We have five medallists in sports such as power lifting,
baseball, softball, sailing, hockey, kho kho, kabaddi, and
athletics. The students practice sailing at the Yacht Club
of Hyderabad on Tank Bund while rest of the games are
practiced at the Gymkhana Club and hockey stadium.”
Kho kho and football are popular games. The students are
given a good diet too.
Lakshmi is in class VIII and has been sailing for the past three and a half years. She is a bronze medallist in the national tournament and ranks 11th internationally. She wants to become a champion sailor. S. Parvalika is a power lifting and weight lifting champion at the district and state levels. She has won a bronze medal at the nationals.
Emphasis being on a holistic curriculum, Vedic maths is also taught. Sai Ganesh, who is in class IV, says, “Maths is my favourite subject and I want to join the police services after completing my studies.”
The ambience at the schools is one of inclusion and harmony. Headmistress at Rasoolpura, Ashiya Begum has 19 years of commendable track record in the education sector. “These children are so resilient. They have shouldered the burden of their families. Siblings Zubia (class VIII) and Sameer (class VI) are fending for themselves and a mentally retarded elder brother, as their father abandoned the family. Their mother eloped and married another man. The children live with their maternal grandmother who is now 80 and can’t work anymore. Zubia takes tuitions after school hours and is a topper,” she cites these stories that make the heart cry and cheer at the same time. She goes on to talk about Vasanthi in class X. “She lost both her parents and lives with her maternal uncle along with her two siblings. The two elder siblings also study here and have part-time jobs.”
Along with the children, parents too get a new way of life. Tayyaba Begum’s three children are associated with Udbhav School. Her son, Syed Aftab, after completing his class X from Udbhav School, is now in final year BCom. Her elder daughter Sana Begum is in inter first year and Sania Begum is studying in class X at Udbhav School. Her husband is physically challenged and a daily wager in a factory. His meagre earning makes it difficult to make ends meet. “Our children speak highly about their teachers. We come from a very conservative family and though I am trained as a beautician and wanted to use this skill to earn, my in-laws and husband did not want me to step out of the house. But he is supportive of educating the children,” she says and is happy her three children now will get opportunities to lead a better life.
Everything doesn’t happen by plan, some things are just a thought turned into reality and the story of UMEED 1000 is just that. Jasmeet Singh Gandhi talks about his association with RBL Bank and Udbhav School. “UMEED 1000 was serendipity. I met some entrepreneurs in Bengaluru who were helping children with Retinoblastoma in 2014. Shanta and I wanted to support this cause. During the conversation, Shanta discovered that the person head - ing the NGO, is an avid cyclist. They came up with this idea of a cyclothon and she committed my name. So, RBL Bank became our prime sponsor, taking care of the cyclist’s expenses. I am not a pro-cyclist and had done only 50-60 km at a stretch–1,000 km needs so much more preparation,” says the lead cyclist and coach of UMEED 1000. In fact, the braveheart went on his first 1,000 km trip from Mumbai to Bengaluru all alone. Slowly, with time, the passage evolved and the one-its-kind fund raiser has garnered a lot of attention lately.
“As the cyclothon promotes employee engagement at RBL Bank, we plan it around the places where the Bank has presence. We had to do a lot of preparation, such as finalising the concept, coming up with a name, designing the logo, planning the route, and then preparing the body and mind for raising the endurance level. I began practicing about three months in advance. I took the help of a trainer, got myself a good bike.” Over the years, the response has been heart-warming. And the focus is on educating the girl child.
For RBL Bank, a genuine purpose and tangible results are the motivating factors. For all the people involved, contributing to a cause that benefits a larger section of society is a driving force. Shanta Vallury Gandhi says, “Employee engagement is a critical aspect of our initiatives. When we started in 2014, our volunteering hours were minimal. But this financial year, we clocked 26,000 hours of employee engagement and it is growing. Building our entire future plan, we looked at multiple opportunities. In health, we work on Retinopathy for diabetes patients and Retinoblastoma that is eye cancer in children. We have been supporting a NGO in Dharavi for the last five years. They run a facility for Retinopathy, check-up for Cataract and surgery.”
For education, the bank started by supporting multiple schools
and has multiple initiatives, even in remote areas like Alwar and
Mewat. “The desire to support Udbhav School in Hyderabad
emerged after the first successful fund raising cyclothon by
Jasmeet Singh Gandhi, from Mumbai to Bengaluru. This was a
fundraiser for children affected by Retinoblastoma. We named it
UMEED 1000. We raised close to Rs 30 lakh. This success encour
aged us to keep this fund-raising programme going. In the second
year, more people came forward and three of our employees cycled
from Mumbai to Delhi. That year we raised more than Rs 1 crore.
The strength of volunteers has been growing. We treat our volun
teer employees as on duty. They have a daily 100 km gruelling ride
and we give them all the support in this. The trust and joy of con
tributing to a cause have shown many benefits—they perform
better and are more compassionate.”
Looking at this remarkable shift in all ways, Shanta Vallury Gandhi says, “Our flagship Udbhav School project is a model school. And we have so much support from the experts running it. We will now tie up with an NGO that trains children for medical, engineering, and other professional courses. We have tied up with multiple NGOs to provide livelihood opportunities for children.”
RBL Bank has tied up with an NGO called Agastya which runs incubation centres, encouraging students to think differently and be innovative. The aim of the bank is to make every project selfsustaining and the same is applicable for Udbhav School.
Besides education, RBL Bank supports community development
in many ways. A water treatment facility has been established at
Udbhav School, Rasoolpura.
RBL Bank also supports Pune Connect. This is an initiative to augment income for women, particularly, housewives who cook nutritious food. An online market platform has been created for these women from where they can sell their food items. “This is a kind of kitchen service, which is working successfully to feed the calorie and health conscious young workforce working in cities away from their homes,” explains Shanta Vallury Gandhi.
For vocational training, the bank is supporting a fashion designing course in Gujarat. In the drought prone Marathawada region, farmers have been taught drip irrigation for rice cultivation.
bank has also partnered with an NGO to build machines for making
refined rice. Bee farming is being taught by an NGO called Under
the Mango Tree at a research and training centre in Gujarat; skill
support is being given to migrant labours in Rajasthan.
There are regular blood donation drives. The ‘Joy of Giving’ bazaar is held frequently. In a country as diverse as India, the initiatives never dry and the road to purposeful living is a long one. And RBL Bank is part of this journey
Jasmeet Singh Gandhi
Lead Cyclist & Coach UMEED 1000
A techie with experience of working in MNCs, how did the cyclothon happen?
I represented my college in badminton and cricket. I play tennis and have always had an active lifestyle, but in 2009 I developed a knee problem. This was operated on and the doctor advised me to stay away from high impact sports. I then had two options-- swimming or cycling. As an outdoor person, I focused on cycling.
After chancing upon a cause, how did you prepare for it?
We reached out to friends and family to see who could help. In the first year, 2014, we supported an NGO in Bengaluru that was funding the treatment of children suffering from eye cancer (Retinoblastoma). Post that, we have been raising funds for girl child education with our NGO partner in Hyderabad. RBL Bank has been our main sponsor and supporter every year. Besides, we approach other corporate CSR teams, RBL Bank customers and employees to support us in raising money. We do a lot of physical and mental training, which is equally important. Our cyclothon is always held in December due to cooler weather. After a lot of deliberation, we chose to name it UMEED1000. Umeed means hope and 1000 denotes the kms we cycle every year. Now, six years down the line UMEED 1000 is a brand. From a solo rider in 2014, we have managed to inspire 35 bank employees to cycle the entire route in 2019. Our itineraries take a lot of diligent preparation. We travel 100 –125 km a day and there are direct interactions with school children, employees and dealers of our sponsors because the entire journey is about creating awareness and local support. Sometimes, we have to go off-the-track too to fulfill employee or sponsor engagement commitments
Your experience with Udbhav...
Udbhav has been our NGO partner for the past four years. The management team is really passionate about girl child education. They leave no stone unturned in terms of taking care of the cyclists, motivating us along the way.
How would you sum up the entire experience?
We have a reliable partner in RBL Bank and a committed NGO partner in Udbhav. Our aim is to educate 10,000 students in five years and we already have over 1,000 girls being educated. Last year, Udbhav had 100 per cent result—all the students secured a first class score. Besides this some of the students are representing India in sports at national and international competitions. This helps us to think bigger and do more for the deserving children.