A simple middle class boy born with limited facilities and an average student who always had inclination and passion for sports. A humble boy, to the Director of one of the most reputed brands of Education in Mumbai, the journey of Yogesh Patel has been nothing but inspiring.
It was almost two and a half decades ago, this ambitious young man who did not like the educational and admission system prevailing back then decided to start a school of his own. It was a journey which started in the 90’s and now his two most loved babies- SVISKandivali and SVIS Gorai went on to become one of the most sought after schools not only in Kandivali but all over Mumbai.
Such is the aura of this humble man, that in a span of 24 years, thousands of students every year pass out from his school but still he manages to recognize instantly any of the kid who tries to contact him. Such is the charm of his persona, that when you are sitting with him, you will feel he is younger to you!
Exactly 8 years after I passed out from SVIS, I sat with the same person I came to meet almost two decades ago with my parents for admission in Junior KG! Yogesh Patel who has a habit of staying connected with everyone and taking time out to meet ex-students and parents this time had a warm session of lunch mixed with interesting conversation at the MCA.
Here are some of the excerpts from the candid interview we had with Yogesh Patel –
What was your journey all about and what were you like when you were a kid?
I was an ordinary kid, not that good at studies. I belonged to a middle class family and we lived in a 10ft by 10ft room with my father doing a job. In my childhood we had to fight for small things, be it clothes or toys, we had to wait once in a year for some good occasion like Diwali when father would gift us. Back then we never took anything for granted as we knew the value and joy of every little thing in life. Since beginning I loved sports and whenever I used to go to Churchgate at those cricket maidans.
Watching players practice in their cricket gear, it always gave me a dream to one day play like this! Though I could not achieve the dream of becoming a player but I definitely achieved the dream of giving India some of the most talented players and a renowned school specially for Cricket, where people come from far to take admissions now!
What was the reason you started in this field and established SVIS?
I started at the age of just 19, working at my father’s finance office at Kalbadevi in South Mumbai. In 1988 – 1989, at the age of 22, I began assisting my father Shri Shantilal Patel & his group of trustees in the administration of Bombay Cambridge School at Andheri, Mumbai.
I was only 22 when I entered this field with all my dreams and ambitions. It was way back in 1993 when I went to a particular school for my niece’s admission that I found the entire system of schools and colleges back then unorganized. It was during that day itself I decided that one day I will be opening my own school and change the quality of education in India. It was also the fire in me to change the education system. Someone had arrogantly told me from the place where my niece was denied admission that if you don’t like it, open your own school and I accepted the challenge establishing SVIS in a span of one and a half years from that day.
What were your early days like, how was the struggle?
I used to go at Bombay Cambridge school where my father was a trustee. I used to go there and learn the nuances of running a school. The struggles and pain. With limited finances it was really difficult, from employment of the best teachers to the construction, the MHADA permissions, it was just not easy to establish a school being a lone fighter.
From Dahisar to Goregaon, I went myself to stick posters of our school. I would again go the other day to the same places to ensure that the posters were intact. But yes, that was also the first and the last time I went to put posters because from the 2nd year, the admissions started in full flow through word of mouth, I used to work 20hours a day and still I work everyday with maximum utility of hours. The foundation of SVIS was laid at a vacant plot in the area Gorai Part I, at Borivali West in the year 1994 in a span of less than 2 years. However, as it is said, no change is brought about without a struggle. SVIS, the brand that we know of today, faced a mammoth hurdle as admissions were granted in December 1994 & the entire construction of the school had to be completed before June 1995 (school opening)!! SVIS, Gorai now had a student strength of 5000+, but, the demand for admitting more students grew incessantly. Within just 3 years of its inception, SVIS had to come up with its second school at Kandivali West.
In June 1998, SVIS Kandivali was established & soon had a student strength of 7000+, the largest for a single school in Mumbai!
From just 1600 students in the 1st year, now in 2018 we have more than 17,000+ students passing out and going on to become successful engineers, doctors, pilots, scientists, sportsman, journalists and actors. I established the Spring Club in the year 1999 – 2000, next to SVIS Kandivali which was way ahead of time with state-of-the-art Gym / Sports (cricket coaching, squash, badminton,lawntennis,library,Dolby Digital theatre) / Swimming (semi olympic size pool)/ Horse riding to enable my students all-round development& growth! I believe that if you push the children on the ground than they will not only grow physically but also mentally. It will also divert them from computer games and Mobile phones.
There must be reasons why SVIS went on to become a big success?
Back then in the 90’s to the early 2000’s, SVIS was the only big school in Mumbai. We were the original trendsetters in the 90’s when it came to quality of education. Be it any caste, color, religion,rich or poor, we welcome every student to thrive at our school. We celebrate every festival with pomp. We had the most unbeatable infrastructure, transport system for students, one of the best teaching staff which is still the same even today. We always believed in Value Based Education and not just emphasize on pure textbook education. We also played all sports with full vigor, our annual day event is also one of the biggest and most disciplined in Mumbai with every student getting an opportunity. My passion for making good education accessible to one & all at affordable price, led to my historic achievement of admitting special children into the regular school system. I appointed dieticians, special educators, counsellors, etc. who took extra efforts & care to bring these special children at par with regular ones!
This news spread like wildfire & even the Spastic Society of Bandra, Mumbai began referring special students to SVIS!! A student of the school, Krishna Sheth, is India’s first blind martial artist. He has won international accolades in Taekwondo and Karate. It was after recognising this boy, the government introduced a special category for disabled kids in Taekwondo. He has been nominated for The National Award for the disabled by the Maharshtra State Government. He has won many International Awards and stood 2nd in the 8th World Taekwondo Culture Expo. The greatest advantage of SVIS is its equal weightage given to Academics , Sports, Cultural events, Fine Arts, etc. I also saw to it that maximum number of my students got a chance to showcase their skills on stage in Annual day. The students excelled in their performances especially in promoting social causes like awareness & elimination of dowry, female infanticide, child labour, caste discrimination, global warming, etc.
Is it true that SVIS also became a leader when it came to Mumbai Cricket?
Back then, school cricket used to be played more by South Mumbai schools. Schools from Western Suburbs could not defeat the elite schools from South Mumbai. SVIS students broke the 104 year old record by bagging the prestigious Giles Shield of Cricket. No school beyond Mahim had won the Giles Shield since 104 years. They also broke the record of112 years by bagging the prestigious Harris Shield. In a way, we brought cricket to the Western Suburbs.From our student Shardul Thakur who is currently playing for the Indian Cricket team and Chennai Super Kings in IPL smashing 6 sixes in 6 balls in Harris shield, churning out World Class Players like Rohit Sharma, Shardul Thakur, Siddhesh Lad, Harmeet Singh to the current U-19 Mumbai players SuvedParkar, Karan Shah, Atharva Poojari, U14-Mumbai skipper Ayush Jethwa, we have become a cricket specialist school with students coming from different states to take admissions in our school.
In a span of last 20 years, SVIS became a big daddy of all sports, it defeated the powerful elite schools which is quite a testimony that SVIS is a leader when it comes to sports and especially cricket.
Can you name some of the cricketers who passed out from our school SVIS?
Harmeet Singh(IPL & Ranji Cricket), Siddhesh Lad (IPL Mumbai Indians and State Level run machine), Rohit Sharma (Current Indian Opener and only player two score two time ODI Double Hundreds), Shardul Thakkur (Current Indian Pacemen) who all play for India and in IPL have passed through SVIS. Even Mumbai’s current run machine and U14 skipper Ayush Jethwa is from SVIS.
What was the real story of Rohit Sharma and his struggle?
Rohit was just 12years in 7th standard when Dinesh Lad Sir came to the office for admission. Dinesh Lad who is our cricket coach assured me that this boy will make a big name for us through his cricketing talent though right now he can’t pay fees to get admitted. I made an exception and gave him admission into the school. His coaching, kit and everything was then taken care of by the school till he passed out. Even after he left the school, Rohit was given assistance. Once I went personally to buy a bat from Ahmedabad almost 18yrs ago. I gifted him the bat through the hands of the legendary RamakantAchrekar Sir. SVIS’s cricket coach Dinesh Lad Sir honed his skills, polished his talent and today what we see is the superstar right in front of our TV’s!
Each and everything that I have achieved in my life is only possible due to the blessings of Almighty God, I am just a mediator. The success of both my schools is due to the wonderful team of Heads, Teachers, Coaches, Students and Parents.
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From fighting with the judicial system to ensure proper age group cricket is maintained in cricket to giving freeships to single parent child, to kids of the defence personnel, to giving free membership to aspiring sportsmen in Spring Club so that students can focus on fitness, to personally looking after the things even till date makes him a very special individual.
It was for his staggering journey and his contribution in the field of Education that Yogesh Patel was also awarded the Girnar Award in 2000 from the hands of the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra Shri VilasraoDesmukh.
Yogesh Patel’s memorable journey was also deemed fit by the prestigious Marquis Who’s Who, USA in 2004 Edition. Marquis is an internally renowned chronicler of world’s outstanding individuals who have noteworthy achievement which leave behind a long lasting impact on the society.
Even at this age he works out, eats healthy, reads and promotes healthy living amongst his students and when asked why do you need to work out now, he quips’ if I stay fit than only I can advise my students. Says the energetic youth inside him as we conclude our inspiring conversation with him over a soup of Mushroom at the MCA Club as he gets ready to leave for office in his ever loyal Mahindra SUV which we used to fancy back then whenever he would make a grand entry into the school at morning!
From Editor’s Desk