(May 25, 2023) The last few decades have seen the rise of several Indians to the top of many leading organisations. While the world applauds our nation for producing these brilliant minds, what if we told you that there is one particular school behind many of these global leaders? Nestled amidst the rich cultural tapestry of Hyderabad, one institution has sculpted the destinies of these exceptional minds, propelling them to the pinnacle of global success. Hyderabad Public School (HPS), a sanctuary of knowledge and nurturing, stands proud as the Alma Mater of illustrious personalities who have etched their indelible mark on the world stage.
The tale of this glorious school began in 1923, under the patronage of the Seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan. Originally established as Jagirdars College, it stood as a bastion of education exclusively for the sons of nawabs, jagirdars, and the privileged elite. With the abolishment of the Zamindari system in 1950, this esteemed institution underwent a metamorphosis, emerging as Hyderabad Public School in 1951, embracing a new era of inclusivity and excellence.
Ever since, this institution has produced several visionaries, including Satya Nadella, the trailblazing CEO of Microsoft, Ajay Banga, the next President of the World Bank, Shantanu Narayen, the driving force behind Adobe’s innovation, and TK Kurien, the astute business titan who spearheaded Wipro’s growth. During an earlier interview with a leading daily newspaper, Nadella exclaimed, “Attending the HPS was the best break I had in my life,” adding, “The ability to find your passion and get the confidence. This is what I learnt from this great institution.”
While much is known about these giants, Global Indian takes a look at the other world leaders who once walked the hall of this venerable school.
Prem Watsa, Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive of Fairfax Financial Holdings
Born in Hyderabad, Watsa’s path to success began with his education at the prestigious HPS. “He was quiet but very athletic. He used to play basketball very well,” said Yashwant Ramamurthy, a schoolmate of Watsa. Prem Watsa’s father, M.C. Watsa, also served as vice-principal and then principal of HPS, until they all moved to Canada.
The business tycoon is also an alumnus Indian Institute of Technology and the University of Western Ontario. A Padma Shri winner, Watsa founded Fairfax Financial Holdings in 1985. Under his astute leadership, the Canadian financial services holding company grew steadily into a global powerhouse in the insurance and reinsurance sectors.
Known for his contrarian stance and ability to identify undervalued assets, he has led Fairfax Financial to navigate various market cycles and deliver impressive returns to shareholders. Watsa’s shrewd investments in distressed companies, such as BlackBerry and Bank of Ireland during their challenging times, have earned him a reputation as a savvy investor. Watsa has also demonstrated a deep commitment to philanthropy, actively supporting numerous charitable causes, including education, healthcare, and disaster relief efforts.
Dr. Raghu Ram Pillarisetti, Founder and Director of KIMS-Ushalakshmi Center for Breast Diseases
A classmate of Satya Nadella at HPS and a highly accomplished surgeon in his own right, Dr. Raghu Ram Pillarisetti has dedicated his life to making a significant difference to the delivery of breast healthcare in India. A living bridge between the UK and India, Dr. Pillarisetti holds the distinction of being the youngest Indian-origin surgeon to receive an Honorary FRCS from the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He is also the youngest recipient of the Overseas Gold Medal bestowed by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
“I studied at the Hyderabad Public School,” shares Dr Pillarisetti, “I wasn’t always at the top of the class; however I wasn’t a backbencher either. Mostly, I used to get first class, but never among the students who got distinction,” admits the doctor adding that he would play various sports for the fun and experience.
In 2021, he made history as the first surgeon of Indian origin to be granted the Honorary Fellowship of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland. But that’s not all, Dr. Pillarisetti also became one of the youngest Indian-origin surgeons in over a century to be honored with the esteemed OBE, signifying his appointment as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
He and his wife, Dr. Vyjayanthi moved back to India to serve cancer patients here. Establishing the breast health care facility in Hyderabad in 2007, the scholar oversaw the execution of the largest population-based breast cancer screening program in South Asia, which took place in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Megha Mittal, Former Chairperson and Managing Director of Escada
The daughter of business giant Mahendra Kumar Patodia, Megha Mittal was always one of the brightest in her class. At HPS, she participated in and also won several competitions. An alumna of The Wharton School, the entrepreneur joined Goldman Sachs during the peak of the technology boom. However, she soon realised that her true passion lay in design and fashion. She made the bold decision to further her education in design, a choice that ultimately paved the way for a monumental move: the acquisition of the renowned German fashion brand, Escada, in 2009. Since assuming the role of executive director and Administrative Board chairman, Mittal has been actively involved in the daily operations of the brand’s turnaround journey.
Under her guidance, Escada has experienced a resurgence in popularity, reminiscent of its glory days in the 1980s, while simultaneously reinventing itself to cater to the needs and aspirations of the modern 21st-century woman. Mittal herself embodies the spirit of a sophisticated globetrotter, seamlessly juggling multiple significant roles in her life.
Karan Bilimoria, Member of British House of Lords, and President of Confederation of British Industry
Hailing from Hyderabad, Karan Bilimoria, an esteemed alumnus of Hyderabad Public School, began his educational journey there. At the young age of nineteen, he obtained his Bachelor of Commerce degree from Osmania University in Hyderabad in 1981. After being awarded a scholarship, Bilimoria ventured to London, where he became a chartered accountant status at Ernst & Young. He also earned a diploma in accounting from the London Metropolitan University. Building on his accomplishments, he pursued a law degree at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.
Recognised for his exceptional achievements, Bilimoria was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater London in 2001. In the 2004 Birthday Honours, he was honoured as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his remarkable contributions to business and entrepreneurship. Subsequently, he was appointed as an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the House of Lords, assuming the title of Baron Bilimoria, of Chelsea in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, on 16 June 2006. Notably, he became the first Zoroastrian Parsi to sit in the House of Lords.
Notably, in June 2020, Bilimoria was elected as the President of the Confederation of British Industry, solidifying his influential role in the business community.
Shailesh Jejurikar, Chief Operating Officer, Procter & Gamble Co
Known to be one of the most hardworking students at Hyderabad Public School, Shailesh Jejurikar continued to carry the lessons he learned at the venerable institution throughout his life. Described as a cheerful person and a natural leader by his batchmates (who include Satya Nadella), Shailesh went on to become head boy. His classmate, the champion horse trainer Pratap Kamat told The Hindu, “He used to take everyone along with him and Satya (Nadella) always hung around him. They were very close as both of them played cricket.”
After earning his B.A. in Economics from Mumbai University, the business leader joined IIM-Lucknow for a master’s degree. He joined Procter & Gamble (P&G) in Mumbai, in 1989. With over three decades of experience at Procter & Gamble in various business units in Mumbai, Nairobi, Singapore, Cincinnati, and Geneva, Jejurikar took on the role of CEO for P&G Fabric & Home Care in 2019. As Executive Sponsor for Corporate Sustainability, he spearheaded P&G’s endeavors to make sustainability a driving force for positive impact and growth. It led to the development and implementation of P&G’s Sustainability Strategy and Plan Ambition 2030.
In October 2021, Jejurikar was appointed the CEO of P&G, making him the first Indian to hold such a prestigious position at the company. Recently, the business leader was nominated to join the board of the soon-to-be-independent Otis Elevator Company.