Saint Catherine of Siena said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” This sentence comes to mind when one thinks of Mr Albert D’Souza — visionary, philanthropist and renowned industrialist. The first time I got to interact with Mr Albert was at the book launch of Let The Real You Stand Up by Alfonso Elengikal, former editor of THE TEENAGER TODAY. Mr Albert was the guest of honour and I was struck by how much he has accomplished, his contribution to society and how simple he is. In a very special way, this is inspiring — he is testimony to the fact that so much is possible in one’s lifetime. There is so much of impact that we are capable of creating! Mr Albert has accomplished so much, built successful businesses and educational institutes that are directly contributing to skilling talent in India. Here is just a glimpse of the multiple roles he carries out and his numerous accomplishments.
Albert Wilfred D’Souza is the Chairman of Aldel Education Trust which has established various technical and professional educational institutions at St John Technical Campus, Palghar, offering education right from elementary schooling to Engineering, Pharmacy, Hotel Management, Arts, Commerce, Science and MBA courses.
He is also the Managing Director of Printania Offset Pvt. Ltd., a leading print house in India. He is the Chairman of Model Co-op Bank Ltd., Vice Chairman of the Christian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Member of the Catholic Council of India, Advisor – Higher & Technical Education, to Archdiocesan Board of Education – Bombay & Diocese of Mangalore. He is also an Executive Committee & Governing Board Member of several minority technical institutes all over India.
He has been felicitated with the Papal Award for Printing Entrepreneurship in 2004, and has also been the recipient of Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2003 and 2007.
I had the wonderful opportunity to connect with him for this interview.
Sir, you have accomplished so much; tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur.
I was born in Udipi and did my primary education at St John’s Higher Primary School, Shankerpura and secondary education at S.V.H. High School, Innanje, Udupi. Since my elder brother and maternal uncle were working in Mumbai, I too came to the city after completing my secondary education. I joined the ITI in Printing Technology at St Francis Technical Institute in Borivli and stood first among all students at Maharashtra level. I was then selected to appear for the All India Competitive Exam in Printing Technology and was declared the topper. Following this, on the basis of my merit, I was selected by a leading private printing concern as a management trainee. The managing director of this concern was impressed by my hard work and sincerity, and on the basis of my performance he sponsored me to pursue a part-time diploma in printing from J. J. School of Arts.
At a young age itself my hard work, involvement and observing nature helped me grasp the skills of the printing industry very quickly. This impressed the people of the print industry whom I was serving. They recognized my talent and encouraged me to start my own venture, which I did in the form of a small printing press with just three employees in a single industrial unit. This was the beginning of my printing career, which blossomed to great heights. The single unit of Printania began in the year 1982 as a proprietorship firm and gradually grew into Printania Offset Pvt. Ltd., a renowned print house not only in Mumbai, but also in several other parts of India.
What inspired you to get into the field of education and what is the vision that sustains the energy and the passion that you have for youth?
I have been in Mumbai since about 43 years and my printing business kept me connected with rest of India. Mumbai being a transit city many youngsters come to Mumbai and struggle with the hope of pursuing careers but without having the desired qualifications. This made me think of the need for higher education institutes. The Catholic community having many schools and general education set-ups, I encouraged the religious congregations in Mumbai and elsewhere to start and run higher professional educational institutions and offered my help to do so. With our efforts were soon able to set up 8-10 institutions in Mumbai and equal number of institutions outside Mumbai. These included Engineering, Management, Hospitality, Nursing and other colleges and these are educating our youngsters in large numbers.
Regarding my own institutions in Palghar, basically I belong to an agricultural family and since I had a passion for cultivation, I bought about 20 acres of agricultural land at Palghar in Vasai, where I started cultivating paddy, coconut, chikoo and other crops. During regular visits to my farm I observed that Palghar was a tribal area. There were not many educational institutions in this region and hardly any higher professional educational institutions. I received support from the local community and since I had the experience in helping to start such institutions, I started my own campus at Palghar in 2008, under Aldel Education Trust, with a vision of ‘Excellence in Serving to Educate and Educating to Serve’. The campus has institutions offering Engineering, Pharmacy, Management and Humanities programmes. With increasing demand, diploma programmes in Engineering and Pharmacy were added followed by a CBSE school and a junior college.
My vision is to create a ‘Centre of Excellence’ in existing areas of higher education and in the additional programmes that are being planned. In the near future, St John Educational Campus should be able to provide holistic education in a wide array of programmes for any student desiring to pursue higher education. India has vast resources and is fast developing. My wish is that our young and dynamic youth realize this potential and become stakeholders of this developing India.
When and how were the seeds of reaching out to society, building society sown? What drives and inspires all the work you do?
I have been brought up in a family of social motivation and concern. My parents and grandparents created awareness and sensitized us to societal needs. In the early stages of my career I realized that every person has an internal desire to develop himself, but may not be able to accomplish his dream for reasons that may be beyond his reach. Over the years I was convinced that one of the prime reasons for a successful career was higher education and that professional qualifications almost always resulted in gainful employment. The desire to see many more of our youth with better prospects has been the driving force and inspiration for me. Education and skill development are key factors in all areas and supporting this cause has been my key motivator.
What is your advice to youngsters who are beginning to think about and design their career?
It is essential that every youngster, boy or girl, study up to the age of 23 years. Pursuing a post-graduate degree is vital to achieve one’s goals. They should develop technical competencies and have a special skill in a chosen field so as to become gainfully employable. Education develops all three dimensions of knowledge, skills and personality, which along with values and ethics result in a person becoming readily employable. My message also to this young generation is that after they gain reasonable experience as employees in their respective areas of expertise they should take up the challenge of being entrepreneurs. This will contribute to the growth of our country.
What are the important qualities to be a successful entrepreneur?
A successful entrepreneur should possess the following qualities:
- An innovative and enterprising mind.
- Good financial planning.
- Risk taking ability.
- Alert and looking for opportunities.
- Adapt readily to the changing business environments.
- Ability to work for long and extended hours.
- At least two good friends or mentors who are dependable and will always support you unconditionally.
Your message to our readers.
I have always believed that opportunities are available; it is our perception of situations and how we respond to take charge of them that decides the outcomes.
Two of my chosen quotes which reflect what I would like to convey to the youth are: “Sea is common for all, some take pearls, some take fishes & some come out with just wet legs. World is common to all but we get what we try for” and the second: “Everything is easy if you want to do it, everything is difficult if you don’t want to do it”
I would also like to tell our youngsters that whatever they have learnt or studied to step into a profession, is not permanent. To build and design your career path you need to update yourself with relevant knowledge and upgrade your skills to keep yourself abreast with developments in your field and rapid improvements in technology.