From watchman to IIM Professor: The Facebook post that made Ranjith R famous

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Ranjith Ramachandran the man who made it from a watchman to IIM Professor

Going viral on Facebook is  an inspirational story of Ranjith R or Ranjith Ramachandran, who toiled hard and relentlessly, to become a professor at Indian Institute of Management Ranchi. He reminded many of former President, K.R. Narayanan, who rose from his humble background to study at London School of Economics and join the Indian Foreign Service.

Posting his implausible yet extraordinary journey of life on Facebook, which has garnered likes in thousands, Ranjith says: :“I was born in this house. I grew up in this house. I live in this house. With lots of happiness, let me tell you an assistant professor of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) took birth here. I want to share my journey from this house to IIM-Ranchi. And I will consider it my success if this fuels at least one person’s dreams.”

The house he mentions is the uploaded picture showing a dilapidated tiled hut covered with a tarpaulin sheet to prevent rainwater from seeping in. From this unplastered, doorless two-room dwelling with a black tarpaulin wrapping the roof, Ranjith 28, did his doctorate in Economics from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

The hut from where Ranjith Ramachandran lived to rise from a watchman to IIM Professor

Ranjith was born to Ramachandran Naik and Baby R. While his father worked as a neighbourhood tailor, his mother was a daily wage labourer under the rural job guarantee scheme, at Kelapankayam in Panathur. Belonging to the Marathi Scheduled Tribe community, the couple could only study till Class V. Yet, they knew the importance of education in one’s life, and admitted Ranjith in Government-run Model Residential School for boys from tribal communities at Vellachal in Pilicode panchayat.

Talking about his schooling days, Ranjith says, “I was at MRS till Class 10. The government footed all my expenses. So I did not know much about the financial situation at home.” He went on to join a government school at Balanthode for his higher secondary education. And it is here he fell in love with economics as the subject really interested him!

Face-off with tough situation

Finishing schooling, Ranjith joined Rajapuram’s St Pius X College to study BA Economics. At this juncture did he realise how tough the going was at home and even considered giving up pursuing education, in order to help out. But then lady luck smiled and he came across an advertisement for a night watchman at the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited telephone exchange in Panathur. He got the job which was what he needed at that point desperately.

“I worked as a watchman there for five years — all through my degree and post-graduation days,” he says. Starting at a salary of Rs. 3,500 per month, in his fifth year he earned Rs, 8,000 per month. He topped the college and his mantra was simple. “I studied during the day and worked at night.”

Tackling IIT

On completing MA Economics at Kasaragod’s Central University of Kerala, Ranjith applied for Ph.D at IIT-Madras. “I had always wanted to do Ph.D and so applied for IIT-Madras with not much hope. The main attraction of the institute was the scholarship fund so that I could help at home. To my surprise, I got admission, and that was a welcome start,” remarks Ranjith.

Being a cosmopolitan institution, IIT-Madras had students from all over India. Ranjith faced the barriers of language and culture. Hardly feeling at home, he wanted to quit. “I was even afraid to speak. Before coming to Chennai, I was used to speaking only in Malayalam.”

Feeling “academically inadequate” he decided to move on. It was then his guide Dr Subash Sasidharan, an associate professor in the department, and his wife, Dr. Vaidehi, who stepped in. They convinced him to fight back before accepting defeat.

“From then, I got this strong will to succeed. Many of Subash’s sir students were working in premier institutes. I also wanted to get there,” he observes. There were many others too who helped him to blend and complete the Ph.D. he reveals.

Ranjith went on to complete his PhD with three publications in four years and three months, and IIT gave him a fellowship for pre-doctoral research for the remaining nine months. “It was an incentive for completing my PhD early,” he says, On completing his PhD with three publications in four years and three months, IIT gave him a fellowship for pre-doctoral research for the remaining nine months.

August 2020 saw Ranjith becoming Dr. Ranjith.

Landing in a job

Ranjith began working as an assistant professor at Bengaluru-based Christ University at their Department of Economics. “The first thing I did was apply for a loan to build a home for my parents and siblings,” he says. Before the loan could be sanctioned he received his appointment letter from IIM, Ranchi as assistant professor.

Talking about why he shared his story, he explains: “A lot of dreams have wilted before they could bloom in thousands of huts like mine. They should be replaced by stories of realising those dreams. That’s why I told my story.”

He could not be far from the truth as at his home itself he has motivated his younger sister, 24-year-old Ranjitha K.R. who is a post graduate in Economics and a B.Ed. “He is the most qualified person in our family. I will be next,” she says.

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