Prof Nirmala Rao appointed the Vice-Chancellor of Krea University

Prof Nirmala Rao appointed the Vice-Chancellor of Krea University

A distinguished academic administrator and political scientist, Prof Nirmala Rao, who takes over as Krea University’s next Vice-Chancellor, will steer the university’s vision forward, building on its strong foundations of ethics, innovation, excellence, inclusivity and accountability.

26 July 2022, Sri City: Krea University announces the appointment of Prof Nirmala Rao as its next Vice-Chancellor, effective August 16, 2022.

Prior to Krea, Prof Nirmala Rao served as the Vice-Chancellor of the Asian University for Women (AUW), Chittagong, Bangladesh, between 2017 and 2022. Formerly, she held various positions as the Pro-Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and as Pro-Warden for Academic Affairs at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Prof Rao took her first degree in Economics at Delhi University in 1979, Masters from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and PhD from the University of London. She has published extensively in the field of urban politics and some of her books include Re-shaping City Governance; Cities in Transition; Governing London; and Transforming Local Political Leadership.

Prof Rao has extensive experience of public service and served as an advisor to a range of bodies including the UK Audit Commission and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). For a number of years, she was a lay member of the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales, a non-executive director of Ealing Hospital NHS Trust and member of the Architects Registration Board.  She is currently a member of the Governing Body of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, a Trustee of United World Schools and Honorary Fellow of Lucy Cavendish, University of Cambridge. Prof Rao was elected Fellow of the Academy Social Sciences in 2003 and awarded an OBE for services to scholarship in the 2011 Queen’s Honours list.

Kapil Viswanathan, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Governing Council added, “We are delighted to welcome Dr Nirmala Rao as the next vice-chancellor of Krea University.  As an accomplished academic administrator and scholar with international experience, Dr Rao is well placed to lead Krea University in its mission to help humanity prepare for an unpredictable world.”

On her appointment as Vice-Chancellor, Prof Nirmala Rao said, “It is a great honour to be asked to lead Krea, a prized institution, young, but already ahead in addressing how Universities must adapt to provide the students of today with the education that will best prepare them for the challenges of tomorrow.  I am struck by how enthusiastic and passionate people are about Krea, its cutting-edge and impactful research that has already begun to address an exciting set of grand challenges. Krea gives me hope for a future in which real, deep, respectful dialogue will eventually alter the way we think, work, and relate to one another.  I look forward to furthering the best traditions of the University, building on its innovations, engaging with students, staff, faculty, and the entire Krea community in defining what I know will be an incredibly bright future.”

In Focus: A Sustainability Dialogue with Jessica Seddon

In Focus: A Sustainability Dialogue with Jessica Seddon

In an exclusive conversation for The Krea Communiqué, Jessica Seddon, Member of the Academic Advisory Board at Krea, a Senior Fellow at World Resource Institute and a Senior Fellow at Yale University, shares her interpretation of sustainability and how it’s driven by human dynamics intertwined with social and political landscapes and economic strategies. Jessica  takes us through work on environmental governance and around ‘Air’-a globally shared commons that affects nearly everything we care about. Underneath all these she is deeply focused on the reasons why humans and groups of humans make the choices that they do, particularly with respect to the non-human environment. That has always been her interest – and the latest manifestation of that is air quality and climate change.

She also navigates us through her environmental journey, right from the seeds sown in her childhood as she grew up in the middle of woods and fields and with a family that was very connected to the environment around. Further leading to her conscious embarking on the path in her junior year at college and successive milestones that punctuate her journey.

In reference to the mammoth task that awaits the future generation and how we could groom them to be sustainability-sensitive and conscious citizens, Jessica adds, “I think they are. I don’t think we’re in any position to groom them – we should be in more of a position to be embarrassed that we’ve left so much to them to solve.”

Jessica, when you think of the word, Sustainability, what is the first thing/word that comes to your mind?

Contentment is the first word that comes to mind. Things can only be sustainable – in the sense that they can be carried on for an indefinite period of time without much change if people do not want.

Having said that, sustainability continues to be misconstrued -over time – to mean only ecology, and hence the initiatives have been skewed. How can we attempt to engage with it more holistically in a way that it includes the environment, social and political landscapes that we inhabit?

I would say, thankfully, that this has been changing for the past decade or so. Sustainability is at times thought of in ecological terms as a kind of indefinite carrying capacity – that the present species, surroundings, etc can carry on without shifting suddenly to a new state. However, the role of humans in driving these changes – this lack of environmental sustainability – has been pretty clear for a while and the drivers have also been pretty clear. Those drivers are deeply intertwined with social and political landscapes, not to mention economic strategies.

I think it would be very hard to find somebody who would define sustainability without some kind of reference to human dynamics at this point.

WRI develops practical solutions that improve people’s lives and ensure nature can thrive. Tell us a little bit about your focus areas in the now.

Right now I’m actually only part-time at WRI. I’m a senior fellow there and I focus on air – the lower atmosphere that shapes our health, our ecosystems health, and climate. I also teach environmental governance at Yale, where I am a senior fellow at the Jackson School of global affairs. Environmental governance is basically the study, practice, and experimentation of how we can steer the human and non-human systems around us toward better – perhaps you could say more sustainable – outcomes.

I could go on and on about the air because it basically is a globally shared commons that affects nearly everything we care about – from our health, to crop yields and food security, to storm intensity, to the productivity of renewable energy, to much more. And nearly everything we do – from moving around to cooking to producing to growing food affects it.

But I think underneath that I am focused on the reasons why humans and groups of humans make the choices that they do, particularly with respect to the non-human environment. That has always been my interest – and the latest manifestation of that is air quality and climate change.

Personally speaking, when did you embark on this journey towards sustainability? Growing up, what was your relationship with nature?

I grew up in a rural area in Vermont just below the Canadian border. So in many senses I grew up in nature – in the middle of the woods, fields, and with a family that was very connected to the environment around us.

I only really consciously embarked on an environmental journey in my junior year of college, when I considered becoming an earth sciences major. I ended up not changing at that point but I always did try to work in some understanding about the economics and politics of our species’ relationship with the rest of the environment – not to mention differences in cultural understandings. I was able to collaborate in the mid 2000s with a climate scientist named V Ramanathan and write a few papers about policies toward air pollutants that also affect climate. So in some sense my formal professional environmental career began then.

Do global sustainable initiatives deepen the divide on the planet? The impact of climate change the world is facing today, is fundamentally the result of advanced economies who have now shifted negotiations away from historic responsibility or climate debt to current emissions levels. In fact many of them are outsourcing emissions to developing countries through trade; how can climate finance and policies become more holistic and equitable?

I would hesitate to lump all global sustainability initiatives in one bucket. Some do deepen the economic divide, others try to address it. And you are implicitly speaking about carbon emissions being outsourced – but pollution footprints are actually growing faster than carbon footprints. It’s not just trade it’s also production decisions and The supply chain evolution before covid.

I don’t think there’s really a simple answer about how climate and finance policies can become more holistic and equitable – and I think at the root of both of those things, both of those policy areas, are public expectations and acceptance. Which brings me back to this point of contentment. We’re not going to get very far on holistic and equitable policy and finance until we recognize that the ways of life that are extracting more than the planet can bear are driven by want. I mean want in the sense of both need and the more luxurious version of just greed.

We have been constantly discussing how sustainability is a real work-in-progress. Would you agree?


How much do our individual everyday actions contribute to a collective impact? Can they – if at all – offset the large, environmental footprint of the major industries and the large corporations?

Well – I think the environmental footprint of the major industries and large corporations wouldn’t really exist unless we used and consumed what the industries and corporations produced. That said, many of the choices about how to produce and what kind of environmental footprint is absolutely necessary to meet demand are not individual decisions and so it is unfair to put everything on individual actions.

It takes working together and seeing the goals in new ways.

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. We are almost halfway through. How much progress has the world achieved towards peace and prosperity for people and the planet?

Sadly – I’m not sure how much. In many ways, we seem to have regressed.

And finally, how can we groom the next generation to be sustainability-sensitive and conscious citizens?

I think they are. I don’t think we’re in any position to groom them – we should be in more of a position to be embarrassed that we’ve left so much to them to solve.

Future Forward: A Journey in Sustainability by Anita Arjundas

Future Forward: A Journey in Sustainability by Anita Arjundas

As the world re-imagines its ways and moves towards a more sustainable future, how do career roles evolve in these new contexts? While sustainability no longer stands detached from any career role, young graduates are consciously exploring pathways to be sustainable leaders and champions, working towards a resilient global system in collaboration with corporates and bodies of governance.

The Communications Team reached out to Anita Arjundas, Member of the Executive Committee at Krea University and also Member, Board of Management, an entrepreneurial leader who is passionate about sustainable development, with a request to share her journey in the Sustainability space and her perspective on how the rapidly evolving world today unravels challenges and opportunities for young aspirants in building a career in sustainability outside of research institutions, policy think tanks and grassroot organisations. 

From environmental law and environmental analytics to climate change, tech and environmental communications, the pathways are many. 

“People often ask me how I got interested in sustainability a couple of decades ago, given that I was a corporate CEO then and working on the built environment to boot. It was precisely because of the very environment I operated in and a role that allowed me to drive change that got me engaged and committed to the need for sustainable development.   

Buildings account for close to 40% of energy consumed and greenhouse gases generated. Their share of freshwater consumption and waste generated is also high. With urbanisation levels in India expected to reach 40% in the next decade, a significant part of the built environment is yet to be created. And thus, a significant opportunity to re-examine approaches to creation – quantum and purpose, design and materials, resource type and use, supply chain and life cycle management. But also, to re-craft lifestyle demands and consumption aspirations – after all it’s the people who inhabit and use these buildings over their lifetime that account for much of these numbers!     

Questions such as these and many more face every industry operating in the world today. The world economy consumes over 100 billion tons of natural resources every year – minerals, metals, fossil fuels and biomass, with less than 9% of such resources being reused. While global warming and climate change have taken centre stage in recent times, focusing most of the discussion around decarbonisation strategies and green portfolios, issues around biodiversity and habitat loss, water security, environmental justice and income inequality are slowly gaining currency.

The corporate world of today and capitalism as we know it is being forced to re-examine its role from the perspective of multiple stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, investors, communities, and the planet. A significant shift from Milton Friedman’s definition of the role of business and its singular accountability to shareholders. Skeptics worry whether this perceived shift is just green washing and virtue signalling or at its best – too little, too late.

Given all of the forces at play, young people often want to know if there are adequate opportunities to build a career in sustainability outside of research institutions, policy think tanks and grassroot organisations. From environmental law and environmental analytics to climate change tech and environmental communication – the pathways are many. Specific to corporate careers, I would argue the urgent imperative to develop an understanding of the natural world and the direct and unintended consequences of human endeavour on the environment. If the way business is done has to change, at a scale that possibly only business can achieve, then transformative thinking about strategy, product design and delivery, marketing, risk management, and performance metrics is needed in every function and at every stage of a corporate career, not just for those seeking specialised roles in sustainability consulting or practise.

Business has always prided itself on being at the cutting edge of innovation, solving complex problems and disrupting existing paradigms through its ‘creations’. Maybe it’s also time to think about what it will not destroy in this journey of innovation. For in the end, as John C Sawhill, Former President, NYU and Former President, TNC said, ‘Our society will be defined not only by what we create but by what we refuse to destroy.’” 

Take Ten: Interpretations of Sustainability from the Krea Universe

Take Ten: Interpretations of Sustainability from the Krea Universe

So, what does sustainability mean to you? A question that has more to it than meets the eye. A question that in every sense of the word, holds the entire planet within. Take Ten was initiated as a project to understand the diverse interpretations of sustainability by various individuals within the Krea ecosystem.

While it started off as an innocent reportage on exploring the perspectives of leadership, academic experts, team members and students within the Krea community, over time, this initiative turned into a kaleidoscope – both interesting and thought-provoking, sketched with multiple hues of interpretations and woven in by explanations interweaving through various disciplines, from Humanities and Arts to STEM.

Through these interviews and discussions, the Communications Team invariably were nudged to open their minds to concepts and dialogues which were unique and become aware of a more sensitive and empathetic usage of language revolving the critical concept of sustainability. Over the past few weeks, we have been looking at the idea of sustainability like solving the Rubik’s Cube, attempting to understand cultures, deciphering behaviors to analysing scientific data.

We hope you, the reader, also get to embark on an interesting journey through the words of the diverse stakeholders within the Krea universe and take a moment to reflect on how you yourself may interpret the term ‘sustainability. And that’s just the beginning.

*All views are personal

“Sustainability is a question of human purpose – is our purpose to maximise human potential, or is our purpose to live happily, in harmony with each other and our planet?  We must realise that this is a binary choice; we cannot have both.  Happiness and harmony go beyond climate change, energy, food and water – we must also consider sustainable lifestyle choices for physical and mental well-being, as well as sustainable familial, social, economic and political structures.  Our path from status quo to sustainability is not well-mapped, but if we remain focused on our purpose, I have faith that human ingenuity will find us a way to get there.”

Kapil Viswanathan, Chairman of Executive Committee, Krea University

“Over the last few decades, we have witnessed multiple radical innovations. Innovations that have put immense pressure on earth’s limited resources. This has also put the world as we know it, and the future at risk. Sustainability for me finds its meaning in everyday actions, it denotes conscious efforts to move away from our myopic view of the present and involves integration of solution-based approaches that also serve the needs of our future generations. This would mean shifting away from the lens of ‘business as usual’, and finding more than one possible path to course correct the infinite growth on this finite planet. What we do today will determine the future. When recourse is complimentary and not competing, we can truly affirm that we are headed towards a strong and sustainable future.”

Prof Lakshmi Kumar, Dean, IFMR GSB

“Conservation Biology increasingly adopts the idea of a Safe Minimum Standard rather than a Cost Benefit Analysis for the environment, reminiscent of a ‘First Do No Harm’ notion enshrined in spirit in the Hippocratic Oath. Sustainability could well do with heeding such a conception, rather than the utilitarian advancement of the greatest good for the greatest number. So long as that number comprises only a select element of one species, there is no sustainability to be had, glib pronouncements to the contrary notwithstanding.”

Prof John Mathew, Divisional Chair, Humanities & Social Sciences, SIAS

“The ability to sustain. Sustaining, to me, is to live life with the bare minimum by providing ourselves with only what we truly need and working hard to earn and replenish it. But, in recent times as the comfort levels and luxury levels are increasing drastically, we are tending to overuse the resources at hand as we are not efficient in finding a sustainable way. When there is no sustainable alternative for any activity, products/services then comes the problem of overuse. This overuse in the present will not allow us to live our life in the future, not even a bare minimum life.”

Amulya Sanivarapu, GSB Batch 20-22

“Krea’s vision of preparing young people for an unpredictable future through its interwoven learning approach is founded on the very pillars of Sustainability. Campus life draws attention to how the campus community’s actions and practices can have a ripple effect, immediately impacting the region we are located in. A diverse and inclusive campus community, harmoniously co-existing with the surroundings and contributing to the social and economic development of the region, is how we at Krea embrace sustainability. Making informed choices and decisions, whether it be sourcing food from local vendors, generating direct and indirect employment opportunities in the region, reducing the carbon footprint by using shared shuttle services or public transport, organic farming, working on research projects to help sustain the ecosystem of the region, the sustainability goals are present everywhere. The students of Krea have rightfully taken their place at the University’s Sustainability table, by being active stakeholders in all initiatives to build a meaningful living on campus.”

Vidhya Munuswamy, Dean of Student Affairs

“The idea of Sustainability gathers many themes and like any idea or concept has a deep history. The idea may be old but it gathered momentum only in the 20th century through various national, international and civic efforts and movements world over. There was a time when sustainability spoke to a very urgent and pressing human predicament and the lopsided way in which industrialisation in Europe and North America unfolded, and the way it influenced aspirations for development in post-colonial Asia, Africa and Latin America. It made us re-look at the dominant modes of development, forced us to question the rapid depletion of natural resources, and re-examine the issue of intergenerational justice. It motivated activists, academics, researchers, policy makers, and artists to raise new questions. But over a period of time, the idea seems to have lost its force, its agency. As happens to many ideas and concepts, it was used recklessly, not in good faith and soon it turned it into a cliché.

Today the issues remain supremely relevant but the idea of ‘sustainability’ itself feels worn out, with little creative and active strength left in it to galvanise or animate us. And hence, there are two options left to us: we use the term in a mechanical way and conduct business as usual or alternatively, re-imagine the concept of Sustainability and make it speak to our context, make it work in more honest and creative ways. Suitably modified, it can prompt us to re-define our relationships, to re-think our social relations,  our ways of life and consumption, and our aspirations, and question growing inequalities in the world. It can make us re-define our relationship with the present, past and future. Unfortunately in its dominant usage,  the term Sustainability is trapped in a technocratic vision of the world and therefore, has lost its power of critique. While it is necessary that we generate clean and green technology, we urgently need a radical re-thinking of how we lead our lives on this planet. We cannot say the game will be played as usual and hope to produce a better world. We need to think of how the idea of sustainability can be re-interpreted and re-imagined in ways that can help us to transform the way we lead our lives, and to make structures of power (pollical, industrial, economic and social) more engaged and accountable.

As Nietzsche said, “Can our ideas walk?” I would ask: “Can the idea of sustainability dance? Can it help us choreograph a better future?”

Dr Bishnu Mohapatra, Director, Moturi Satyanarayana Centre for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences

“Sustainability is an inclusive, just, and viable way of life — a holistic approach to every problem-solving and decision-making, encompassing environmental, social and economic factors, with a genuine regard for the underlying cultural, political and technological determinants in a complex world. Authentic Sustainability is more than compliance necessity, risk mitigation strategy, brand building exercise, or development agenda. It is a modus operandi based on synergies and symbiotic partnerships, all the more so in the case of perceived conflicting interests among multiple stakeholders. Individuals and systems are intrinsically interconnected; they reflect and support one another. Aligned, they contribute to a healthy whole, greater than the sum of its parts. Weakened, they trigger a systemic collapse. A Sustainable mindset comes from this realisation that, each time we harm a local ecosystem, or silently watch an indigenous language disappear, or fail to provide quality education to a child, we loosen one more thread in our safety net, thus compromising our very survival.

Finally, Sustainability is about humbleness, too — a willingness to accept that, despite all our scientific advancements and best intentions at heart, we might still be far from finding the best solutions for our troubled world.”

Lidija Stankovikj, Senior Manager, Communications

“To be sustainable is the intertwining of society, environment, culture, and economy. These interrelations are dynamic and constantly need to be optimally balanced to benefit the present quality of life for everyone without compromising future generations.”

Sharon Buteau, Executive Director, LEAD at Krea University

“I believe Sustainability is about living with awareness every moment of our lives. Being sensitive enough to differentiate between our need and greed, taking action to conserve rather than deplete, and following best practices that build rather than break-down, all these reflect our responsibility towards humanity and sustainable living.”

Anuradha Iyer, Director- Development

“Sustainability for long has been defined as the utilisation of resources in a manner that fulfills the needs of the current generation and does not compromise the needs of the future generations. It extends to all spheres of life- economic, social, or environmental. However, its omnipresence in today’s dictionary has turned it into an ambiguous and symbolic framework with no practical ramifications.”

Mitula Sai Subramanian, Cohort of 2023, SIAS

The Journey- From the IFMR GSB Classroom to Leading Transformative Change with LEAD at Krea University

The Journey- From the IFMR GSB Classroom to Leading Transformative Change with LEAD at Krea University

As part of the IFMR GSB Alumni Spotlight Series, we spoke to Preethi Rao, Associate Director, LEAD at Krea University and alum of  IFMR GSB, 2006 on her journey through the years at her alma mater and how the learnings translated beyond to her trailblazing professional path.

How was your IFMR GSB experience-the classroom and the learnings?
The IFMR business school has been well known from inception for the quality of education produced and the top notch faculty that they had on board during my time, and continue to maintain till date. Our batch was an ‘experimental’ batch of only 20 students so we were a close knit and diverse group. This in itself provided opportunities to bring about innovative ideas and diverse opinions to the table. Combined with this, the teaching methods employed by some of the faculty, involving participatory and practical activities and aligned scoring techniques, has inspired a ‘learning by doing’ culture that I have carried forward in my professional career as well. We also had a mentorship model and we were all assigned a faculty mentor which helped us both in terms of pedagogical support and personal development. Academically, I had opportunities to excel, and am a proud silver medalist as well.

Could you share a short gist of the professional path you chose and the milestones along the way ?
When I was studying at the business school, the then Chairman, Mr Vaghul and Dr Nachiket Mor, along with established professors from international universities such as Harvard and MIT, conceptualized and set up research centres to tackle key development issues in India. As a student, I had the opportunity to listen to lectures from eminent scholars such as Prof. Abhijeet Banerjee, Prof. Ester Duflo (Harvard) and Prof. Antoinette Schoar from MIT. As they were setting up the research centres, we were approached by the centre heads for research positions at the centres. I joined the erstwhile Small Enterprise Finance Centre which focused on MSME research and development as a Research Associate in 2006. I worked on interesting research studies, notably on a pan India study on the chit fund industry and how the indigenous financing mechanism provided access for low income households and small enterprises to much needed credit. I had the opportunity to present the research report to the then Hon’ Finance Minister, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, and it received much appreciation. Our research findings were used as supporting evidence for requests for the legislative amendment and included in the report of the Standing Committee of the Lok Sabha in 2015-16. The Lok Sabha passed the Chit Funds (Amendment) Bill on November 20, 2019.

In 2014, the research centres were integrated under a common umbrella called IFMR LEAD. During this time, I took a more management oriented role, overseeing the field and primary data collection operations at LEAD. Thereafter, I moved into more strategic roles, leading innovations and the Digital Payments Lab under our Catalyst initiative. Currently, as Associate Director, I oversee the leveraging evidence function (collaborations, training, learning and communications, and innovations) and contribute to strategic decision-making at LEAD. I also act as the PAC (Policy, Advocacy and Communications) lead at IWWAGE, our initiative focusing on women’s economic empowerment. As part of my growth trajectory, I have been able to build networks and also publish articles in my areas of expertise such as digital finance, open data and small business development.

How did the classes, pedagogy and network at IFMR GSB help navigate this stellar career path?
The business school provided a robust environment to inculcate independent thinking while also encouraging teamwork through group assignments. Such opportunities to work with teams and navigate the dynamics helped in my career where I had to work with and lead teams from different backgrounds and at varied experience levels. As students, we were expected to take initiative and drive our own outcomes, which I continue to imbibe and execute in my current role. We were encouraged to speak our minds and contribute to discussions which has helped in my growth as a leader.

A note from you that we could share with the IFMR GSB graduates of tomorrow?
I encourage the current students of the business school to really think out of the box, try new things and always be inquisitive. Student life provides the platform where personal values can be developed. What we learn and follow as students, will define our approach to life thereafter. So, while this is the time for play, focus on your goals and make sure you get the best out of the system and the experienced faculty members.

Looking back as an alum, are there moments of nostalgia, or an anecdote from your time at IFMR GSB that you cherish till date?
There are many unforgettable moments from my time at the business school. As a day scholar, I had to create multiple excuses (assignments, combined studies) at home in order to get permission to stay over at the hostel. I remember many occasions when we ventured out late at night to coffee shops and ice cream parlors to overcome stress from coursework.

Let’s Walk the Sustainability Talk

Let’s Walk the Sustainability Talk

The Krea University campus centres around the ethos of holistic sustainability. Several projects and initiatives, aligned with the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, aim at increasing resource efficiency, reducing environmental footprint and fostering biodiversity on campus. In doing so, Krea’s green campus continues to promote the values of efficient and accountable use of scarce resources, and supports the wellbeing of all members of the Krea community.

Krea students champion some of the key sustainability-focused initiatives on campus. Three Krea students — Pratibha Khullar, Avinash Panakkal and Sai Balaji Suresh — graciously agreed to take us for an informative and enjoyable Sustainability Walk, showcasing the landscape, infrastructure and conservation practices that are part of this thriving campus that embodies the principles of sustainability.

Avinash, a first-year student at Krea, asserts how important the values of environmentalism and sustainability are for the Krea community. “Here at Krea, we place great emphasis on sustainability, be it in terms of environment, wellbeing or student life”, he says. It is this awareness about the impact of every individual and collective action, that makes Krea an educational hub of inclusiveness, creativity and innovation, where learning is not limited to the traditional classroom.

The Butterfly Garden
Our Sustainability Walk begins with a visit to the Butterfly Garden. Inviting us to explore this beautiful part of the campus, Pratibha, a first year student at Krea, tells us that hundreds of butterflies can be observed in this area every day. “There are dozens of butterfly species seen throughout the year; some of the easily identifiable ones are Striped Tiger, Plain Tiger, Glassy Tiger, Common Grass Yellow, Cerulean, Oriental Grey Pansy and Crimson Rose”, she specifies. The Butterfly Park provides both a visually appealing landscape, as well as cover and protection for butterfly and other pollinator insects.

Biodiversity Zone
As we walk along Krea’s famed Perimeter Pathway, we reach our next sustainability landmark — the Biodiversity Zone. “The water body and the surrounding area are part of a designated biodiversity zone at Krea”, says Sai, a second-year student at Krea. He explains that the zone acts both as a flood control and a large reservoir for collecting rainwater. Due to the high water table and rains, water is available throughout most of the year. This water is used for irrigating Krea’s entire landscape. This is a significant water conservation measure. “We can maintain and keep the campus green thanks to this”, he adds with a sense of pride. These man-made water canals also contribute to the campus microclimate.

Although the entire 40-acre campus is a lush green space, we have dedicated a three-acre area at the north-west of the campus for indigenous and locally-adapted flora, with the purpose of building and nurturing a small self-sustaining forest ecosystem. The biodiversity zone is already becoming a sanctuary for many species of birds, butterflies and other insects that are frequently spotted on campus.

Sai is aware of the value this zone provides to the Krea community and the larger environment. He tells us that the water body and the greenery support many types of insects, birds and fish. There are 37 identified varieties of bird seen and/or living on campus. Among them are the Black Drogo, Indian Roller, Pied Kingfisher, Indian Cormorant and Spotted Owlet. “One of my favourites is the Golden Oriole, which has a beautiful yellow colour and flies around in pairs,” says Sai.

Sai is very enthusiastic about taking the next steps. “We plan to vegetate this zone with native flora and nourish a natural ecosystem; in addition to the existing trees, we plan to plant more than 500 local forest species of trees,” he explains. Since the project is based on the principles of permaculture, the zone has a potential to become a ‘food forest’ vegetated with green leafy vegetables, microgreens, amla, lemon and pomegranate trees. Through several student-driven clubs, such as the Nature Club, Ecology Club and the Social Outreach club, students can actively participate in this project and develop a sense of ownership for biodiversity conservation.

Organic Farm
A small nursery of plant saplings and seed depository is set on campus. A student-led initiative, called ‘Community Organic Farming’, has also started off successfully. The initiative aims at promoting sensitivity towards environmental issues. It provides students a chance to get hands-on experience of what it is like to be working on land and growing crops from scratch. This experience makes one aware of where our food comes from, and instils a feeling of appreciation for the land and for the farmers.

“On this land, we plan to grow a variety of locally sourced organic vegetables”, explains Pratibha. Before expanding the project on a larger scale, the students involved in the project selected a small patch of land to work on as a prototype. They planted a local variety of spinach, after preparing the land to make it cultivable. “After almost a month-and-a-half of hard work, daily waking up early in the morning to work on this land, the result is truly rewarding,”Pratibha concludes with a smile.

Solar Panels
With a constant effort to reduce the carbon footprint, and a vision to make Krea carbon neutral one day, there is a fully-operational 520 kWp solar photovoltaic installation on campus. The solar panels have produced a total of 750,000 kWh of renewable energy. Avinash aptly draws our attention to the importance of using solar energy as a renewable source of energy. “These solar panels help cover around 35-40% of our electricity consumption; they help reduce our CO2 emissions by an amount equivalent to that absorbed by 40,000 trees in one year,” says Avinash. Here are plans to increase the solar panel capacity gradually over the next few years, to produce more green electricity.

Sewage Treatment Plant
Our next sustainability spot on campus is the sewage treatment plant, which not only makes us less dependent on freshwater, but also reduces our overall carbon footprint associated with the process of procuring water through the Water Supply and Sewage Board of Sri City. Our treated water can be used for landscaping, cleaning external spaces, flushing, etc. Pratibha tells us that this is an innovative low-energy technology which involves nearly no moving parts except for the pumps. “All the wastewater from the campus gets treated here. All recycled water is used for the flushing requirements in the campus. This has helped reduce our dependence on the outside source of water. We aspire to make Krea water self-sufficient one day.”

Waste Segregation
As we enter the main Academic Block at Krea, Sai points out the colour-coded waste bins, strategically placed on each floor of the building. “We try to segregate all our waste on the campus by using separate, colour-coded bins for dry waste (such as paper and plastic), wet waste and e-waste,” he explains. The recyclable waste (like paper and plastic) goes to relevant vendors for recycling. Krea has already started a program for organic waste management. Krea will soon have its own compost facility, where all the wet waste generated on campus will be processed. Awareness about the importance of not wasting food is high among the Krea community. “The amount of food waste is quite low, since we make a conscious choice not to take more than we can eat”, says Sai, concluding our Krea Sustainability Walk.

Forthcoming Projects and Initiatives
Kshitij Amodekar, Associate Director – Design and Sustainability, Krea University, delineates the sustainability journey ahead, with several projects and initiatives already in the pipeline.
“Sustainability has various interpretations, and the applications are wide. We are striving to improve our understanding and delivery of these within the Krea community and the extended community around Krea University. While we work on this, we march on with various initiatives in the next year or so like biodiversity plantation, onsite organic waste management, planning new buildings with energy saving systems and planning for expanding our renewable energy capacity, etc. One of the most significant challenges of the 21st century is the human-environment relationship and our collective impact on our planet.”

Watch the Krea Sustainability Walk video here

Unravelling a Narrative on Education, Economy and the Vision Forward with Dr Raghuram Rajan

Unravelling a Narrative on Education, Economy and the Vision Forward with Dr Raghuram Rajan

“Our development has to build on our unique aspects, more specifically on our liberal democracy and institutions, and that will be our strength. The future is limitless.”  

These inspiring words pitched the gateway to a deeply insightful session anchored by Dr Raghuram Rajan, as he shared narratives on the need-of-the-hour remedies for India’s economic recovery, on creating better education and healthcare systems, and working on using hard infrastructure to facilitate access to markets.

In a wide-ranging discussion, with the students at Krea, Dr Rajan also responded to a room brimming with questions and shared his perspectives on various aspects, from making a choice to move away from the rat race, better ways of financial inclusion, entrepreneurship and its merits, lessons from history and the need for young students such as the audience to fight for preserving and advancing the India that we have created, with resilience and optimism.

Dr Raghuram Rajan kicked off the interaction shedding light on the K-shaped economic recovery in India and how poor employment numbers are the key indicators of economic underperformance.

“One of the numbers that really struck me is the female participation in the workforce in India and it was the lowest in G 20 along with Saudi Arabia in 2019.  Even Saudi Arabia has reformed, opening up jobs for women, their labor force participation for women is 33% today, we are still at 20%. We have a long way to go.”

He expressed the need for a reality check, on what could be rectified and done differently. On why a country with definite successes such as the largest two-wheeler industry in the world, ability of ISRO to send missions to Mars for a fraction of the cost as NASA and whose UPI is being emulated in many countries as a case study of fast payments, is still underperforming.

He laid emphasis on creating hard infrastructure that allows connections and access to markets and soft infrastructure such as creating more education and healthcare. He suggested that withing the economy, India focus on services more than goods. He conveyed the importance of investing in people and how the biggest concern today is not economic recovery but schooling, especially of young children in government schools who have been set back by two years and are in the danger of dropping out.

Reminiscing his time at RBI, he spoke of days when they would step out to have a meal at the home of a Class 4 employee, the lowest tier of employment in the organisation. “It was a fascinating sight to see the children of these employees work with Infosys and some as bank managers. In one generation they had moved out of the low level of employment to this, that’s what education can do.”

As the session moved on to the Q&A segment, the questions rolled in succession. Answering one of the queries on disparity, he retorted “We have to work on ensuring quality of education spreads from stronger universities to weaker ones. Universities like Krea should become research universities, so they can train teachers and students at Krea could do a PhD, come back and populate the other universities. Create an ecosystem and spread the benefits. This won’t happen overnight and will take 20-30 years to realise but any vision has to start now.

In answer to a query on colonialism and India and its dire effects on India’s progress, Dr Rajan recommended that we look forward and use history in matters such as dialogues on climate change. “Use it to insist on the right to more emissions than Western countries as they have been destroying the atmosphere for a much longer time”.

Speaking in response to a question on financial inclusion, Dr Rajan emphasised how entities in microfinance do bridge the gap through easy facilitation of credit, but the bigger problem lay in the management of finance by the poor. There is an urgent need of imparting skills and education before providing credit to them. In many such cases, Fintech could step in at places where banks are reluctant and even hand hold them, exploring new possibilities and ways to access.

On being asked to comment on the ‘rat race’ and a way out of it, he advised, “You can refuse to be part of the rat race. There are so many possibilities today. As we grow richer as a country, we can afford basic living in what we do and wherever we are. Then you can look at fulfilment in what you do instead of from the salary you are getting.”

Sharing anecdotes laced with humor from his own life experience, Dr Rajan explained how during his younger days, the choices were limited to either the IIT, the stream of medical science and to some extent the Economics at St Stephens and becoming an entrepreneur was often associated with youngsters who couldn’t land employment opportunities. On how he succumbed to the rat race, studied at IIT and later circled back to Economics. He shed light on how there were innumerable opportunities for the young graduates today.

As a parting note, Dr Rajan left these powerful words with the young audience to mull and act on. “As young people you need to fight for a better India, the future of the country is in your hands. Fight for a country which embodies the best of the past. We have a constant battle on what is best and it’s you who has to decide that. The experiment of India that our founding fathers thought of is a bold one, let’s not lose the best of what we created, let’s preserve that. Do whatever you do with all the energy you have. It’s not necessary to be a social worker or work in an NGO, you can produce the best widget in the world and still add value. Just go out and be the best in whatever you do.”

Lekshmi Gopinathan reports, from the Communications Desk.

In conversation with Dr Vishakha N Desai, Member, Governing Council and Academic Council at Krea University

In conversation with Dr Vishakha N Desai, Member, Governing Council and Academic Council at Krea University

Dr Vishakha Desai is a member, Governing Council and Academic Council, Krea University. She is also Senior Advisor for Global Affairs at Columbia University, and an adjunct professor at the School of International and Public Affairs. She was President and CEO of the Asia Society, a leading global organisation committed to strengthening partnerships among the people, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States. In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed her to serve on the National Museums and Library Services Board. Dr Desai holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Mumbai, and MA and PhD in Asian Art History from the University of Michigan.

Dr Desai, the theme for the International Women’s Day 2022 is ‘Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow’. Why, according to you, is every word in this year’s theme is crucial

The phrase sustainable future, implies that it would be a future that would have consistency, a clear path and continuous renewal. Such a world is not possible if half the human race is not fully involved in creating that future. Equality doesn’t just mean participation but also equity of ownership, where women not only need a place at the table but also have the capacity to change the shape of the table, if necessary, to create a more sustainable future. 

Personally, do you believe that the world needs to dedicate a day exclusively to reinforce, reiterate the role, existence and impact of women in society? What is your view?

I wish we didn’t have to dedicate a day to highlight the role of women in society. It implies that the days in the rest of the year are not about issues and aspirations of women. The main reason we need to highlight women’s contributions on a single day is to remind everyone that this needs to continue throughout the year! Not a token that can be forgotten the next day, but an important step that paves a road. 

In an interview about your recent book, World as Family, responding to the relevance and importance of the idea of the book, you say, “​​the Coronavirus reminds us that no matter where we are, and who we are, the pathogens of the pandemic will affect our bodies the same way. My dancer friend Faustin Linyekula once said, the world lives in our body.” If we were to apply the same principle to the context of gender equality, would you say, women across the world – no matter the countries they are from – are grappling with a common set of issues and are in a sense, united in their fight for equality?

With the exception of a few matrilineal societies, it is fair to say that women in many parts of the world face issues of discrimination, but they are not always the same. As we have learned with Covid, while the pandemic affects people with the same level of alacrity, it does matter how individual countries or local communities handle the pandemic. Similarly, while women suffer inequality universally, how their issues are handled by political and social leaders does affect their well-being. 

You call two countries – India, and the United States – your home. As a woman, have you had to straddle these two worlds, differently? 

Given the different cultural contexts of the two countries, of course, one has to be sensitive to the surrounding conditions. But I do feel that through my upbringing in early independent India in a family of Gandhian freedom fighters, I learned to have my feet firmly planted while keeping my mind and eyes open to the world.  And that has served me well no matter where I am. 

What is your take on the global progress on gender equality?

After the Beijing women’s conference, there was a strong sense that women all over the world will continue to move forward with confidence, but it is fair to say that the progress has been unequal. For example, in India, more girls were going to school but during the pandemic, it affected young female students as well as women workers more adversely than men. In other words, in many parts of the world, new policies may have been put in place, the social attitudes have not changed fast enough because there has been less attention paid to changing the mindset. 

In countries across the world, women even in positions of power have had to make choices that men are less likely to make. While workplace policies over years have attempted bridging the divide, at a time when the world is talking of gender equality for a sustainable future, how do we accelerate systematic support so that women continue career roles while they continue to be mothers and caregivers?

First and foremost, we have to recognize that all societies have to account for the needs of families to provide shelter and financial support and taking care of the children and elders. These functions need not be gendered.  That is the reason some northern European countries are focusing on support for children and elders and not penalize women who often end up being the caretakers. 

Do you believe that the fight for equal rights is an everyday work-in-progress? 


Do you have any advice for students who seek careers at the intersection of sustainable development and gender?

Sustainable development is often exclusively associated with environment and climate change, and it sounds very neutral. But as we are learning now, issues of equity, class and gender do affect how the climate crisis plays out. For example, it is only in the last five years or so, scholars have begun to highlight how the urban poor are more adversely affected by environmental degradation than others.  Similarly, the environmental degradation caused by wood and cow dung-burning cooking affects rural women more severely, and requires a gendered lens.  So, it is important to provide a gendered lens to the questions of environmental sustainability , and in the process expand the definition of sustainable development.  

And finally, if you were to share with us, three women you consider your role-models, who would they be?

My mother, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and my women friends in their late eighties who continue to be engaged, active and always interesting! 

SIAS student conducts a skill development workshop for UG students at Kalasa

SIAS student conducts a skill development workshop for UG students at Kalasa

Shreyasi Patil (they/she), a 3rd year SIAS student at Krea, worked with the Skill Development Office of Chikkamagaluru and Srinidhi Gurunath, MGN Fellow, to conduct a soft skills and design thinking workshop for final year degree students about tackling problems of rural Malnad area.

The one-day interactive design thinking workshop was conducted at GFGC Kalasa, with the final year BCom and BA students aiming to promote soft skills and entrepreneurial values among them.

“The Design Thinking workshop was used to identify problems specific to the Malnad region and why entrepreneurship isn’t developing in the area. Especially in  Chikkamagaluru, which is well known but mostly for tourism.”

Emphasising on what contributed to a seamless building of the workshop, Shreyasi added, “ At Krea, we have a course in the 1st year on Design Thinking and in the 2nd year we have a course named Creative Economy where we build our own company and pitch in front of real life Venture Capitalists at the end of three months. Along with these I have also been part of the TiE – Young Entrepreneurs Chapter where we represented India and won the second position. All these factors together helped me plan the one day workshop.”

Kalasa is a taluk, located deep within Chikkamagaluru. “We had no clue how remote Kalasa was. A couple of government buses ply in this region and some students have to walk 6-7 kilometers each day to reach their schools. The heavy monsoons also create havoc and the students and teachers usually aren’t able to make it to the institutes in such conditions. Added to it the weak internet connectivity, the education of most students at Kalasa are hindered.”

The workshop revolved around combating these issues that the students faced in their everyday lives. They worked through the process of identifying problems, empathising, building solutions and testing the solutions – a reality check on how viable it would be if one were to implement the same.

There were around eight problems which were identified and solutions proposed. The students wrapped up the workshop with solutions like setting up a customer service team which would work as a liaison between rural places in Malnad and the telecom companies. Another suggested a bus for the safety of girl students, as many of them dropped out of school and colleges and got married early because of the lack of efficient transport systems.

Shreyasi has been training and teaching students from a very young age. Yet, teaching and training peers and young adults of their own age was led by their experience at Krea.

 “I was comfortable training younger students, but at Krea, the student experience facilitated by being an extracurricular representative had an impact. I have been able to take up the challenges of teaching people my age. Now I know the vocabulary for it, having the right language and presentation is important. Two years of college at Krea have done to me what years of training by myself couldn’t. College has given me the language to present what I really believe in.”

Shreyasi also trains school students in gender studies through the medium of theatre. On completion of their under graduation, they plan to travel across India and teach gender studies to students across demographics, using theatre. Shreyasi hopes to pursue their future goals in the intersection of art, education and entrepreneurship.

Note From the Vice Chancellor (Thursday, 13th January 2022)

Note From the Vice Chancellor (Thursday, 13th January 2022)

After serious and careful consideration of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Krea University campus residents, it was decided on Wednesday 12th January 2022 to strongly advise students to make preparations to exit the campus. 

All classes were suspended from 12th to 17th January inclusive and the University will facilitate travel arrangements for students. 

Please note that students have been brought back in batches since late August 2021. All those on campus including students, faculty, staff and families were tested recently and any one found positive was placed in quarantine. The same applied to Faculty and families in Sri City who do not live on campus. All precautions as per standard norms have been followed. Please note all, repeat all, on campus are double vaccinated and also that Covid protocols prevail as per norms.

The decision to advise departure follows assessment of an emerging situation. We will continue to review developments and hope students and Faculty can all return to a fully active and functioning campus in safe, healthy and stable conditions. This difficult decision was taken in the interests of the health and safety of all.