Editor-in-chief, Daijiworld Weekly
Mumbai/Mangaluru, Jan 4: A man of many facets - Albert W D'Souza is a wizard in printing technology, a banker and a passionate educationist who has made it big in the distant Maharashtra has his roots in Mangaluru. Born in a small village Pangla in Udupi district, Albert went on scripting success stories one after another following sheer hard work and commitment towards humanity. Today, he is wearing many hats in the corporate world.
He is the CMD of Printania Offset Printers Pvt Ltd, chairman of Model Co-operative Bank and chairman of Aldel Education Trust besides vice-chairman of Christian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He turned 60 on Sunday, January 1, 2017. On the occasion, Hemacharya met him in Mumbai to know secrets of his success and find out his future vision for his three key sectors – printing industry, banking and education.
We may have observed entrepreneurs excelling in a single chosen field of their specialization, but certainly not in multiple fields. But here is a person who has gone beyond the established norm – he is a doyen in the printing industry, an admirable banker and a passionate educationist, but all of it with a sense of charity and social cause. Many who know him closely don't see him as a whole-time businessman for he is more focused on social causes; spending more time in mentoring, guiding, and addressing youth, fellow businessmen and media on his favourite subjects– entrepreneurship, social responsibility and business re-engineering.
It is Albert W D'Souza for you, a different person altogether, personally and professionally. He is shy of the limelight and never gives an interview or likes to talk about himself. It was through my persistent calling wherein I impressed upon him the fact that an interview with him will motivate a thousand youths in small villages, who after reading about his life, will surely think twice before embracing a white collar job. The occasion is apt, as Albert stands on an eventful milestone in his life on January 1, 2017, as he completes 60 years. Anything coming from him as a message on this day will be worthwhile.
Albert W D'Souza was born on New Year's Day in 1957, to Alex and Elizabeth, both Jasmine flower farmers in Shankerpura in Pangala. Being born in a family of farmers, Albert inherited hard work and devotion to duty as his religion. He completed his early education at St John's Higher Primary School, Shankerpura and SVH High School run by the Sode Mutt of Udupi, before proceeding to Bombay, the City of Dreams.
He equipped himself in printing technology through technical education at St Francis Technical Institute in Borivli and joined a private printing press of repute as a management trainee. At the same time he pursued a diploma course in printing technology from J J School of Arts and obtained a degree from Mysore University.
Albert's enterprising career started in 1981, when he founded the Mount View Mangalore Stores and Cold Storage, in Borivli. In the year 1982 he initially started Printania Printing Press on a small scale which later upgraded to Printania Offset Pvt Ltd. As years rolled by, this printing press progressed tremendously with the state-of-the-art printing technology. Today, Printania is a much sought-after name for quality printing both at national and international levels. Printania takes care of the printing needs of many pharmaceutical, insurance, petrochemicals, educational and banking institutes and multinational companies.
Printania is well-known for printing the Bible, having printed millions of copies in English, Hindi and regional languages.
Albert has been instrumental in obtaining permission for the establishment of 4 engineering and 3 management colleges in Mumbai and about 10 in various parts of India. He has supported the process of starting of St Joseph Engineering College in Mangaluru. Today, he is on the executive committees and boards of many banking and educational institutions.
Many awards and recognitions have come calling him. Among them the Rachana Entrepreneur of the year(2003), Papal Award for Printing Entrepreneur (Rome 2004), Catholic Entrepreneur of Karnataka' by FKCA, Bangalore (2007), Global Entrepreneur Award by Entrepreneur, Mumbai (Jan 2012) are just a few to mention.
Albert is happily married to Elvina, and the couple has a daughter – Elaine (married to Rueben Buthelo) and a son – Aldridge.
In a freewheeling interview, Albert talks about his early days, journey as a businessman and his foray into different fields such as the printing business, education and banking.
DWW: What prompted you to take up printing business? Who supported you to set up a printing press?
AWD: The trigger was my joining a printing press in Bombay as a management trainee, which was my first job after entering the city of dreams. I must recall the MD of my company who being impressed with my dedication and sincerity sponsored my part-time diploma in printing from J. J. School of Arts.
This helped me hone my skills in printing and motivated me into starting a small printing press with just three employees in a single industrial unit. It was the beginning of my printing career, which blossomed to great heights. The single unit of Printania began in the year 1982 under my proprietorship that grew into Printania Offset Pvt. Ltd., a renowned Print House not only in Mumbai, but also in several other parts of India.
DWW: Did the Internet and paperless world affect your his printing business?
AWD: Though the Internet and digital facilities increase, printing is needed in one or the other forms. The printing industry caters to the steadily growing numbers of literate population. India being multilingual, most literature is printed in about 13 languages to reach out to the grass-roots level and thus will remain a major means of communication for many more years. Though there is a cry that the printing industry will decline, I have not experienced such a situation as a printer for about 35 years.
There are threats and challenges in every field, including printing, but the constant upgradation in technology, skills and machinery have enhanced our efficiency.
DWW: What are the factors that attracted you to banking?
AWD: Business and banking are inter-related. Every businessman is predominantly a banker himself. Without banking knowledge one cannot sustain in business. I saw a big scope for co-operative banking in Maharashtra state. I also observed that many of our Mangalurean businessmen in Mumbai were deprived of loans. In such a predicament, the community leaders met and decided to start a co-operative bank under the guidance of John D'Silva, a reputed banker who had experience of forming three co-operative banks.
Under the chairmanship of John D'Silva (I being the vice-chairman) the bank saw tremendous growth; we opened almost twelve branches all over Mumbai. I took over as the chairman of the bank in 2003 and I continue in the position till date. At present this bank has deposits over Rs. 900 crore with 21 branches. We are proud to receive awards year after year, and also to be eligible to get Scheduled Bank status, which will enable us open branches beyond Maharashtra. The most important mission of the bank is to support and uplift the fellow community members.
DWW: How different is a cooperative bank to a commercial bank?
AWD: Generally, co-op banks are people's banks and their basis of operation is service to their members and society. Every member is treated as the owner of such banks and the management can be easily approached even by common people. Commercial banks function slightly differently and almost always operate to earn a profit.
DWW: Why is the growth of Model Bank not as impressive as other banks in the cooperative sector? Is it limited to Christians as customers or do they bank with others?
AWD: Today, as per records, Model Bank is 100 years old. But for about 85 years it was in the form of a Credit Society with a share capital of about Rs 85,000, which means the banking history of Model Bank is only 18 years old. Within this period, the growth had been marvelous.
One aspect or limitation is that Model Bank is owned and managed by Mangalurean community. Although we have potential to achieve tremendous growth by crossing community barriers, our focus and concern is towards our tiny community. But our banking products are open for all. Anyone can do banking business with us.
DWW: What made you shift your focus towards education? Did you view it as an opportunity in the service or business sector?
AWD: Throughout my 43 years in Mumbai, I was wondering why our religious institutions have restricted themselves to running schools and general education, and not engaged themselves in running technical and professional schools or institutions. Hence I deliberately helped some religious institutions to start engineering, management, hospitality, nursing and other colleges and these are educating our Christian youngsters in large numbers.
DWW: How does Palghar, a city in the outskirts of Maharashtra attract you?
AWD: As you know, I was born into an agriculturist's family and I had in-born passion for cultivation. Hence I bought about 20 acres of agricultural land at Palghar in Vasai district, where I started cultivating paddy, coconut, sapota (chickoo) and other crops. During my regular visits to my farm I observed that Palghar was a tribal area with not many educational institutions in this region and hardly any higher professional educational institutions.
At this stage some Catholic leaders from this region impressed upon me to start higher professional educational institutions in this region. This saw me starting my own campus at Palghar in 2008, under the name of Aldel Education Trust, with a vision of ‘Excellence in Serving to Educate and Educating to Serve'. The campus has institutions offering engineering, pharmacy, management and humanities programs. With increasing demand diploma programs in engineering and pharmacy were added followed by a CBSE school and a junior college. I strongly believe that education cannot be a business option, and if anyone takes it as a business option, it would be a disaster.
DWW: Can we know more about your love, devotion and fascination for the people of Palghar?
AWD: Initially it pained me to observe that many youth in this region had no higher educational options, they had to travel to Mumbai city, which is about 80-100 kms away.
In this context I reflected on Manipal, which was a barren land which I had witnessed during my growing up years. It was the dream of Late Dr T M A Pai who took it as a challenge to convert the place as a fully developed city today. I am equally fascinated by the transformation of a barren land into a city and God willing, I will see a city with world-class facilities emerging in Palghat and I wish to replicate a ‘Mini-Manipal', and I will strive steadfastly in realizing this dream.
For the people of Palghar, higher educational facilities are new for they are poor and belong to the tribal category. We are going from village to village and we visit at least 40 junior colleges and high schools every year and create awareness among at least 10,000 students.
DWW: Do you they receive support from the local bodies, philanthropists in particular from the Maharashtra government?
AWD: As we are serving the under-privileged people we are supported by local bodies and the government authorities. Since Palghar is a new district in Maharashtra, a lot of infrastructural development is taking place. Even the local district administration seeks the help of our NSS student volunteers to reach out to the inner tribal areas of the region. Further, the government agencies like the MHRD, Higher and Technical Education department, University and other nodal agencies support us in our endeavor.
DWW: To whom do you attribute your success and who motivates you to do more for humanity?
AWD: There are many people who drive me into my mission. My grandfather, a teacher by profession in Pernal was my role model in the field of education. My parents are my role models in hard-work and honesty.
I fully endorse the maxim, that ‘Behind the success of every man there is a woman.' It's true in my case too. Elvina, my wife has been my great support at all times. My children have also motivated me in my work.
On the technical front, R K Amin was my main mentor and guided me to develop my career through printing business. My uncle, Fr Joseph Castelino, connected me to the Church and inspired me to contribute to religious causes. John D'Silva molded me from a businessman to a banker and R H Mendonca got me introduced to the bureaucratic world and brought me closer to the government circle. My acquaintances in the higher and technical education departments supported me while developing my educational campus.
DWW: What are the future plans?
AWD: My main focus is on to work towards improvement in the standards of all my tasks, by incorporating technology-based innovations and at the same time keeping a watch on the formation of the younger generation.
Within our educational campus, my vision is to create a ‘Center of Excellence' by introducing additional programs in higher education. In the near future St John Educational Campus should be able to provide holistic education in a wide array of programs for any student desiring to pursue higher education.
I wish to state here that should I get support from philanthropists from anywhere in the world, I would take up leadership in setting up of a Medical College, a College of Architecture and Law, which are the needs of the present day world. Students from any community came come, live in this peaceful and serene environment and attain knowledge in their chosen discipline.
DWW: Any plans to set up business in the city of your birth, now that the coastal region is growing phenomenally?
AWD: I love my tiny village Pangala, the place of my birth. Beyond that I like Udupi and Mangaluru. Since Mumbai needs my attention for now, I am yet to think about my involvement with the city of my birth. But in principle, I am always fascinated by the region where I was born and grew up.
DWW: Christians are known for migration to the West. How damaging this could be, taken into account the culture and heritage of our country/community?
AWD: I personally wish to see our young and dynamic youth staying back and becoming stakeholders of this developing India. Even if they desire to pursue higher and specialized education in developed countries, they should return to contribute to the growth and development of our own country. India is rich in its culture and heritage, a fact that is appreciated worldwide. My response to this ‘Brain-Drain' is that it is always better to be a first-class citizen in your own country than to be a second class citizen in any other country.
DWW: Being a banker, what is your take on demonetisation drive?
AWD: One has to understand that the entire cash economy is not ‘black' even though there are certain loop-holes. It is true that demonetization has created many hurdles and problems to the people. But in the long run and in the interest of the nation this is a bold step. I believe, though there are hardships at present, there will be gain in the long run.
DWW: You will be 60 today (January 1, 2017), a milestone in life. Which will remain as your priority sector - Printing industry, banking or education?
AWD: My focus will be on all the three areas in which I have gained knowledge and worked for during many years of my life. Having said this, my focus on social outreach will continue and I suppose it will be my top priority.
(We greatly and sincerely acknowledge the support and coordination of Rons Bantwal and H R Alva, for the coordination, who pertinent information and pictures to added value to this interview.)
• The icing on the cake is the ALDEL Education Trust founded by Albert D'Souza in 2007 which runs four 4 professional colleges– St John College of Engineering and Technology; St John Institute of Pharmacy and Research, St John Institute of Management & Research, St John Institute of Hospitality & Catering Technology, at Palghar, in Mumbai. Apart from these, he has also started and is running St John College of Humanities and Sciences, St John polytechnic, Aldel Tutorial Academy and St John International School, at Palghar, in Mumbai. The total strength of these institutions are providing education from KG to PG crosses 4000.
• Albert is the first individual (laity), among the Mangalurean Konkani-speaking Catholics the world over with a rough estimate of about a million, to start an engineering college and he is the first Catholic in India to start a pharmacy college. He manages them successfully with 100% student strength from the very first batch.
• He is also the managing director of Brisk Instrumentations Company which produces the Power Supply Signaling Systems for Indian Railways and Defence.
• Albert is the chairman of Model Co-operative Bank, since October 2004 which has 12 Branches in Mumbai. The bank started 3 branches in November 2015 and added 6 more by the end of March 2016 taking the branch strength to 21. The deposits of the bank are about Rs. 700 crores and the working capital (including deposits and advances) crosses Rs. 1000 crore and thus Model Bank stands tall among the Mangalurean Konkani-speaking Catholics in India and abroad.
Model Bank has achieved awards like the ‘Financially Sound and Well Managed Bank' for two consecutive years and the ‘Best Bank Award' in the category of Banks with 1500 Crore business in Mumbai region.
• Albert is the vice-president of the Christian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Mumbai. He was the only delegate from India to the Entrepreneurs Conference on Globalization and Social Responsibility held in Rome on 4-5 March 2004. On 6th March 2004, the then Pope John Paul II honored him for his contributions to the society.
• He has been nominated to the ICYM National Committee which will bring out a huge project called ‘Yuvagram' in Nagpur.
• In the Lions International too Albert is active. He was the award-winning President of Lions Club, Bhimanagar, Borivli.
• Being a huge supporter of Konkani activities, he is the Vice-President of Konkani Bhasha Mandal, Maharashtra, Mumbai.