Ask him of his favourite food, film, or bookhe draws a blank. He does not have a favourite quote either. Because, Ramdas Pai lives, breathes, mulls and dreams of Manipal Universitythe ISO 9001:2000 certified group of institutions run under the flagship of University of Manipal in Education.
Started by his late father, the legendary Dr TMA Pai, he admits that the university and its associated centres are his only passion. An otherwise mild mannered man, Ramdas, 73, is resolute when he says that he wont rest till the university is ranked with the worlds best (read: for him it means at par with Harvard). I want to take Manipal to a level where students would aspire to be in it, like they aspire to be in Harvard, he says. He admits that he takes a vacation only when his daughters are home from the US. The rest of his hours are spent looking after the university.
Despite being his be-all and end-all goal, Pais foray into his fathers world, in his own words, was accidental. I felt that I had an opportunity to take this (the university) further. So, I did, he says matter-of-factly. We were a cricket team of six sisters and five brothers. My sisters are in America and most married doctors. My brothers were in the business of law, corporate finance and engineering. My youngest brother and I got involved in our fathers vision almost accidentally, he reminisces. But, let us not put the horse before the cart.
Ramdas Pais father Dr TMA Pai was a doctor, banker, academic, philanthropist and a legend. He abandoned his ambition of making it big in Hong Kong to fulfill his mothers dream of seeing her son help out his people first. Living under the shadow of such a legend was not too hard. The times were different. There was a certain degree of formality in the interaction between a father and a son. We respected the man that he was. If he was around we would be in our best behaviour, yet we would approach him for all our problems, Ramdas says.
And he remembers that his father was supportive of all his decisionsto pursue medicine first and then travel overseas for a two-year fellowship in hospital administration at the Albert Einstein Medical Center (Philadelphia). The course, he stresses, helped him tackle challenges in managing a chain of institutions with transparency, administrative honesty and with a global outlook.
However, Rome wasnt built in a day. After his fathers demise, Ramdas and cousin (Late Ramesh Pai) ran into a very public four-year feud, which gave Ramdas the courage to call a spade, a spade. After my fathers death my cousin (Ramesh) played a positive role. But, one of his sons in particular did a few things that did not sit straightIt was then that I approached our board and took a call. In our fight, he (Ramesh) lost the first round. He then approached C. Subramaniam, the then finance minister. When he failed to receive Subramaniams help, he (Ramesh) went to Dhirubhai Ambani, who appointed Dutta and Company (a solicitors firm) to settle the matter.