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What makes Hyderabad Public School, with alumni like Satya Nadella, Prem Watsa tick?

Other than Satya Nadella, the man tipped to be Microsoft CEO, the 90-year-old school has some famous alumni.

, ET Bureau|
Feb 02, 2014, 11.39 AM IST
Other than Satya Nadella, the man tipped to be Microsoft CEO, the 90-year-old school has some famous alumni.
Other than Satya Nadella, the man tipped to be Microsoft CEO, the 90-year-old school has some famous alumni.
The class of 1984 of the Hyderabad Public School Begumpet was special — even by the school’s uncanny ability to serve as a nursery for some of the biggest names in sports, music, public life, business and entrepreneurship. Shailesh Jejurikar, vice-president of Procter & Gamble’s north American home care portfolio, belonged to that class. As did Satya Nadella, the man tipped to be crowned Microsoft CEO in the days ahead.

Faiz Khan, general secretary of HPS Society and another member of the alumni batch of 1984, has stayed in touch with Nadella ever since he moved to the US to bag a Master of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milawaukee and after that an MBA from the University of the Chicago Booth School of Business. As a result, he played a key role in persuading Nadella to reconnect with his alma mater in 2009 for a reunion.

“It was very good to bring him to the school and talk to our students who have been deeply inspired not just by his achievements but also by his modest and humble ways. He also supported our school by helping launch Microsoft’s iSpark robotics programme at HPS,” says Khan.

The Real Eagles

If Nadella — currently executive V-P of Microsoft’s Cloud & Enterprise group — goes on to pick up the reins at the Redmond, Washington-headquartered software giant, he’ll doubtless be HPS’ crowing glory.

Yet, over the decades, a host of HPS alumni have gone on to soar to great heights like eagles, the school’s emblem. Consider, for instance, Karan Bilimoria, chairman of the UK-based Cobra Beer Partnership, who has fond memories of the school, its grand buildings, and vast playing fields. Bilimoria, who founded Cobra Beer in 1989 in the UK, also fondly recalls the city of Hyderabad — “where I was born” — and his contemporaries at HPS.

One of them, who is also a close friend, is the Nawab of Pataudi’s nephew, Saad Bin Jung, a brilliant cricketer who scored a century against the touring West Indies team when he was only 16, recalls Bilimoria. And Andhra CM Kiran Kumar Reddy “very kindly honoured me in Hyderabad after I became the first Hyderabadi to be appointed to the House of Lords and to become a parliamentarian in Westminster.”

Bilimoria also counts another HPS contemporary, cabinet minister for HRD Pallam Raju as a close friend. “I am in touch with him and last month we were both together at the Prime Minister of India’s Global Advisory Council, of which I am a founding member.”

Hyderabad-based entrepreneur Shaaz Mehmood, joint secretary of the HPS alumni association and one of the younger members of the alumni who passed from the school a decade back, is part of the team that is active in connecting the current students with their alumni. “We have many prominent alumni members who are in leadership roles in government and we also have senior corporate leaders such as Prem Watsa and Satya Nadella. Last December HPS celebrated 90 years through many big events and we hope that such efforts will help our alumni to reconnect with their alma mater and give back to it,” says Mehmood.

Hyderabad Public School's illustrious alumni: Satya Nadella, Prem Watsa and many more 

Free Birds

So what makes HPS tick? Alumnus K Hari Prasad, CEO, central region, of Apollo Hospitals, reckons it is the environment at the school that promotes overall growth. “It’s not just academics; the school gave us freedom of thought in every way. Students are at liberty to focus on sports and other activities as well,” says Prasad.

Adds cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle, from HPS’ class of 1978: “The school did a lot to shape up kids. It gave plenty of room to hone your talent, be it in cricket or chemistry. In fact, students [like me] would often go to school seven days a week as they just loved it. The school offered everything — from great teachers to great sports facilities.”

G Vivekanand, an MP, alumnus of HPS and a member of the governing board, believes it’s the rare combination of strict discipline — “we had to wake up at 5.45 am” — and the freedom of thought and expression that the young minds had that made the HPS culture special.

The spotlight currently is of course squarely on Nadella, and for HPS his elevation to CEO at Microsoft is what members of its alumni association and governing board are fervently hoping for. “He spoke about the importance of the technology back-end at schools in India [when he visited a year and a half ago] and students at HPS were very inspired by their interaction with Nadella,” recalls Marri Adithya Reddy, secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee, who is an alum and member of the HPS governing board. Will Nadella’s next visit to HPS be as Microsoft CEO? Watch this space.

(Additional reporting by Shelley Singh)

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