Sankara Student Leadership Summit – key insights

Updated July 3, 2011:  The Hindu newspaper covered the event today with a short article.

Yesterday the alumni of Sankara School Adyar organized a Student Leadership Summit at TIDEL Park Auditorium. We had 500 students/teachers and the principal and vice principal of the school in attendance. It turned out to be a fabulous 4 hours. I want to share the key insights I picked up with all of you.

1. Principal Subala Ananthanarayanan – Education is not about teaching people it should be about making men. She quoted Rabindranath Tagore’s brilliant Gitanjali – where the head is held high.. [I get the goosebumps everytime I listen to this. It is with such a vision that she and her team have made Sankara one of the top schools in Chennai]

2. A.K. Parameswaran, AVP, Cognizant, Sankara alumni, one of the key organizers
His grandmom said “keep mentioning that it is a good school and it will become one” – capturing Sankara’s journey into becoming one of the top schools in Chennai – the power of expectations. He compared Imagination [Imagine was the theme of the conference] to eating, walking.. and said Imagination is the only thing that has no limit. He also said that we have chosen people from Extremistan careers to learn from. [Excellent context setting speech]

3. TM Krishna, celebrity carnatic vocalist
we generally tend to choose what we are good at rather than what we are passionate about [He mentioned that in the context of how he was torn between Economics and Music both of which he loved] Everyone says creativity is about breaking the rules, but that can only be done by people who understand the existing rules deeply and have humility and respect. Everyone has an artist within them that may yet be not awakened. [His speech was as brilliant as his music]

4. Chittu Nagarajan, Head, Community Courts eBay/Paypal
there are no limitations – marriage can’t stop you, birth of a child can’t stop you, age can’t stop you.. Be passionate about things and course correct on the way. She entered the Legal profession but didn’t like going to the courts and started working on Online Dispute Resolution, an entirely new field which is at the cusp of technology and legal fields. [Heartwarming story of a woman jumpstarting a whole new field in India and putting India on the map after she got married and had a child]

5. TM Karthik, stage actor/corp trainer
there is a story in all of us. Even the most mundane things have a story. He narrated his own experience of going to the USA, for the first time, in the form of a humorous story which had the audience roaring with laughter. [Humor and storytelling is quite a gap today and TMK shows us the way and he got a standing ovation, the only one of the evening]

6. Kartheeban, Cognizant Outreach/Team Everest his friend who couldn’t even buy a longsize notebook for Rs20 made such a deep impact on him. His message – follow your heart even if it means great risks. With extraordinary risks great results follow. His work has already touched 300,000 poor student lives in India. [Audience connected with his story of a young man driven by his passion to serve society throwing away a promising career in software. Goosebump moment]

7. Sairam Kumar, Student Leader, XII-A
He showed how limitless imagination truly is, with several examples of his imagination. [Really loved his idea of vacationing in outer space]

8. Kathadi Ramamurthy, 73 year-old, veteran/celebrity stage actor
he emphasized the importance of presence of mind with several great examples with trademark kathadi humor. In stage acting, if you make a mistake it can’t be corrected unlike tv/movies where mistakes can be edited out. He said life is also like that which is why the presence of mind you learn from stagecraft is crucial. It is very important to have a plan for your life. [His passion for stage acting at his age is very inspiring and admirable]

9. Sandhya Shekhar, CEO, IITM Research Park
3 important reasons why India is the next big land of opportunities –
1. Native Intelligence – to solve problems in India, being Indian is a huge advantage.
2. Frugal Innovation – it is in our nature to be frugal. Gave examples of Nano, Mitticool and Rural ATM which cost a fraction of developed world products.
3.The third is values – values can’t be taught, they must be caught. India has deep cultural traditions and value systems that are soaked in our DNA. Other countries may copy our skills/knowledge but values can’t be copied. 99% of CEOs say they hire for values – skills/knowledge is secondary. She said Sankara school excels in this area [My experience in Sankara School concurs. This is a brilliant point on values. Another goosebump moment]

10. Aditya Maheswaran, Cognizant, India’s youngest Distinguished Toastmaster
he failed 7 times before making a 2 min speech at a toastmasters club he joined when he was 18. Communication is the one common key to success in any field.

Confidence is only one step away, one extra opportunity away. Take the opportunity, more opportunities mean more opportunities to learn. Keep sharpening the axe, learning is continuous. [His stage presence, jumping down from the dais and connecting with the young students was fantastic. No wonder he is a DTM, highest recognition for public speaking by Toastmasters International]

11. Suraj Srikanth, Student Leader, XII-A
the havoc that corruption is wreaking on the country citing statistics (20,00,000 crores black money..) [ He imagined a corruption free India which I’m sure all of us dream of. Wonderful speech]

12. Vote of Thanks by self
Thanked the speakers who took the time from their busy schedules to pass their learnings to students. The student MCs Akshaya and Nikhil (both from class XII) did a fabulous job and so did the timer Dhanya of Class IX who kept the time and helped us finish exactly at 6pm.

Thanked the organizing commitee – Subala Ma’m, Meenakshi Mam, and alumni – Gayathri Viswanathan, AK Parameswaran, Sangameswaran, Padma Murali, Narayanan, Pravin Shekar, Sriram Mukkai, Swami and several others. Everyone has done a lot of hard work to pull this off amidst their own busy schedules.

Thanked the sponsors – Cognizant, Sankara School and several individual Alumni donors. Thanked the Event Managers – Rajeev Menon and team of Cognizant, who had made flawless arrangements at the audi, audi/video, food, water, security.

Thanked the audience, one of the best student audiences I have seen.

It turned out to be a memorable evening. We hope to do better next year.

P.S. The live twitter feed from the event is at hashtag #SSLS11


  1. Quote
    Ganesh said June 26, 2011, 9:56 pm:

    First of all great job to the Sanakar School Alumni for thinking of such an event and actually making it happen. As much as I did nothing to contribute to the event, my heart did swell as a Sankara Alumni. Extremely proud of what the organizing committee has done.

    For folks like us who are remote, Thanks to the live tweets, I had the feeling of being there in a small way. Let us know if remote alumni like us can help in other way other than contributing just money. I am thinking of looking into student exchange during summer for 1 or 2 students. Let me know if this makes sense or if this is already being looked into and if I can help in anyway from USA.

    Sukumar, Thanks for posting the summary and being one of the drivers. You continue to be an inspiration for me.

    Once again, congratulations to the organizing committee for an awesome job.

  2. Quote

    Fantastic coverage,given the expectations from the job these days one would tend to take time off during weekends and really wouldnt want to compromise at all,its a great inspiration to see awesome time commitment to be a part of #SSLS11 physically and also thorugh the active tweets, a brief write up to ensure a vicarious coverage for all Sankara Alumni’s around the world.Kudos!

  3. Quote

    Wow, Wow, Wow Sukumar. I followed the event live through your tweets. That was nothing compared to the post. Brilliant summary of each speaker. Really made me long to be there. Great insights. If the essense of a leader is “inspirational” your event seems to have captured it. Hats off.

    On a side note: I have wondered if the days of bloggins are over with Twitter, which offers so much more ease and convenience. After having read your tweets and the blog, I tend to think that blogs are here to stay. Very inspiring post.

  4. Quote

    Thats gr8 Sukumar, Thanks for sharing the updates on this meet 🙂

  5. Quote

    You have made me live through Saturday again. Some events just click from the word go! And SSLS was one such…
    TM Krishna set the stage with his voice (even without giving it a tune)! Inspiring sessions by Kartheeban’s and Sandhya…had a lot of take aways…
    And one of the finest student audience we will get to see. It can only be surpassed by Sankara themselves next year 🙂 Cheers!

  6. Quote
    Vijay Raghunathan said June 28, 2011, 8:35 am:

    Great to have known about the event Sukumar :). To have celebrities from various walks of life and spanning across ages… is a great connection platform… am just pondering of ‘how about one such for my school?’, and thanks for inducing this thought in me.

  7. Quote
    Kavitha (subscribed) said June 28, 2011, 9:34 pm:

    Great Sukumar…As Archana rightly pointed out it is indeed really inspirational..- Grooming young leaders of tomorrow. Appreciate the time and efforts you have taken towards the same..

  8. Quote
    Vamsi (subscribed) said June 29, 2011, 12:52 am:

    Many thanks for such a nice recap of Leadership Summit. The very thought of exposing young kids to such senior achievers is an inspiration itself. I think this is what differentiates great schools from good schools.

    All the ideas are awesome. I am particularly impressed by TM Krishna’s comment.

    Thanks once again for sharing.


  9. Quote
    Prejitha (subscribed) said June 29, 2011, 11:11 pm:

    Great one Sukumar. A good person is formulated during his school days.Really inspiring one…

  10. Quote
    Naveen said July 1, 2011, 2:59 pm:

    Thanks for the awesome coverage.. Is there a video available

  11. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said July 3, 2011, 7:37 pm:

    Thanks for the kind words Ganesh. One of the side objectives of this event is to galvanize the Alumni into more action. We’ll try to figure out some ways by which remote alumni can contribute. I don’t know what you mean by student exchange?

  12. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said July 3, 2011, 7:39 pm:

    Thanks for the kind words Mouthu. We are all trying to do our bit for the school that sowed the seeds of what we have all become today.

  13. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said July 3, 2011, 7:43 pm:

    Thanks for the extra kind words Archana. Glad you liked it.

    Whenever a new channel of communication opens up, there’s always the fear that older ones will die. Experience shows otherwise – radio is still around. Blogging has a purpose that cannot be served by twitter or facebook. Blogging is clearly here to stay. In fact, the quality of blog posts will improve over time because most of the people would have migrated to twitter and facebook to share their general thoughts which they would have otherwise blogged 🙂

  14. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said July 3, 2011, 7:43 pm:

    Thanks Manikanta. Glad you liked it.

  15. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said July 3, 2011, 7:44 pm:

    Thanks Aditya. Thanks also for participating and making a great speech.

  16. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said July 3, 2011, 7:45 pm:

    Thanks Vijay. Glad you liked it.

  17. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said July 3, 2011, 7:45 pm:

    Thanks for the kind words Kavitha.

  18. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said July 3, 2011, 7:46 pm:

    Thanks for the kind words Vamsi. Yes TM Krishna’s speech was brilliant.

  19. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said July 3, 2011, 7:47 pm:

    Thanks Prejitha. Glad you liked it.

  20. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said July 3, 2011, 7:47 pm:

    Thanks Naveen. We will be uploading the videos in the next week or so.

  21. Quote
    Sriram Mukkai said September 10, 2011, 2:20 pm:

    Videos of the event now available in YouTube. Search for ‘SSLS11’.

  22. Quote
    Ruchi (subscribed) said September 29, 2011, 2:29 am:

    Wow. Reading this blog post itself was so inspiring . I am imagining what would have been the experience for attendees of this event.

    Allow me to digress and propose a Theory. For sometime I have been pondering over the real reasons for phenomenal rise of Social Media , so called Social Media Revolution, in our Society , all over World from last few years. We can say, It is a very recent phenomena . I guess, as I read more and more blogs, I have found answer to my own question. Leaving Commercial & Economical reasons aside, i guess , People all over the world were really fad up of depressing stories like Corruption, Crime , Stock market crash which controlled ” Media” keep planting into our minds and People wanted to hear stories which are authentic, real, genuine, inspiring. What other way could be better than to give publishing power to every individual on this planet. And the ability to connect people to each other via networking platforms. Combine it with the people’s ability to choose. So now people can hear real stories in the form of blogs . ( hearing, passing on and sharing stories which is an age old tradition in itself across cultures ) And from blogs, we know, we are listening to genuine stories from real people who have no other motive but to share their own stories and personal experiences which appeal to mankind. One may argue, why not books serve the same purpose. I understand , the main distinction why blogs are popular is the power to network . While books provide great content , blogs provide content, context and the network. Had it not been for this blog, I would not have had heard the stories which need to be told and preserved and cherished forever, not just by select few but across cultures, geographical locations. Every now and then , I visit this blog, in search of a great story and i am never disappointed any time . I usually don’t spend more than 5 min on a website, not only I stroll here , I comfortably bring my chair and sit here for long hours going through posts, comments to the extent of having conversations with great minds. You would have noticed, I am often tempted to leave my footprints here cause of the truly absorbing blog posts which I get to read.

    Sukumar, once again, Thank you for sharing the story of this event you attended. Truly inspirational.

  23. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said October 9, 2011, 8:32 pm:

    Thanks for the kind words Ruchi. Glad you liked our posts. This particular event was a spectacular one and very inspiring. Your theory on blogging is insightful. Good one.

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