About VNP Raj
Founder and Managing Director of Athena Education, V.N.P. Raj is a banker turned educationalist. A 2nd rank holder in M.A. (Economics), from the University of Kerala, India, Mr. Raj believes that, “Learning is to liberate oneself from the fear of the self. Knowledge without confidence is like a filled balloon with a hole. What mankind needs is the confidence to observe, think and execute what he or she has learned and experienced.”
Inspired by his guru and mentor, Sri. Balakrishna Pillai, Mr. Raj studied the philosophies of world communities that made him initially to preach on how to achieve social grace and finally to leave his banking career in pursuit of achieving social grace through his own engagement.
In his words, everyone has to work towards achieving social grace because “your very birth is to enable you to give to others through your efforts. You can never live as a taker in the world, adding to your personal wealth and fame. That is selfishness, working for fame of oneself. As we are born to be a part of giving and taking in the process of our lifetime we need to enrich our world.” “So goes the message of the INDIAN epic Ramayana by Valmiki, all respect to its legendary author, I think hardly few people have understood its message, as it is a fight between a taker for own fame called Ravana and a giver in service of the people called Ram. At the end of the fight, the giver wins over the taker setting an example of true human values.”
According to him, Athena takes its root from these concepts. The educational group has a deep-rooted mission of giving back to the world by virtue of the cycle of give and take. He believes that as you sow so shall you reap. As such, Athena Education “focuses to give and you shall be permitted to give more.”
According to Mr. Raj, “Social grace believes in the cycle of give and take, to be well disciplined in one’s body requirements, to learn to share one’s food with the one who does not have food, to learn to fast and to win over the greed to eat more, to pray to God Almighty regularly, and to lead the mind to be simple, humble, truthful, caring, and sharing while being in service to others. Learn to be transparent in money matters and practice giving a portion of your profit to the neediest before you share profit to your partners. These are the core values to achieve social grace.”
Accordingly, Athena Education has been created since 2015, with one school, The Grammar School in Dubai. In a short duration of 4 years the educational group has grown today to become a group of 9 schools and 2 nurseries, offering British and American curricula in the United Arab Emirates. He says, “Looking back, the model was to acquire schools that are profit-making but quality wise acceptable and converting them into good schools. Also, the focus was not on high fee schools, but was on medium and low fees schools. The concept of Athena Education was more focused towards providing good learning facilities for the children of the United Arab Emirates citizens.”
Originating from the UAE city of Dubai, Athena Education is a young, progressive education brand with teachers numbering above 1100 and in excess of 12,000 students comprising of 135 nationalities. Mr. Raj’s mission to bring social grace to the world through quality learning has cemented the foundation of Athena Education. He realizes that education is the platform to create good and independent young people, who are confident to explore and create their own role model for a vibrant society. For him education is necessary to liberate thoughts, to be innovative, and to decide from a context without losing values of concepts and culture. In his words, “Let education light the hearts of young children with confidence.”
Mr. Raj’s philosophy of education is deeply grounded in the belief that every child must be given the freedom to ignite curiosity of his or her mind, to explore and engage in his or her passion, to develop confidence, and to find a role model to shape his or her career. He believes that every child can become an unpredictable contributor to the world, provided he or she is allowed to explore his or her mind to the fullest. It will be sad if an individual is born and lives one’s life without knowing the powers of one’s wonderful mind.
Athena Education promotes social grace through education, with 3 core values of learning such as to provide the child with learning independence, to allow the child to build his or her own inner sense of discipline which is to decide what is right in a given context, and to explore the joys of excitement through connecting his or her critical thinking to the real nature around. In Athena, learning shall be stress free to the learner as well as the learning facilitator. It shall not discriminate any learner so that children can develop values of good friendship, caring, sharing, and collaborating. Education in Athena shall not foster competition or rivalry among children. Athena teachers are the best friends of the children. Athena schools are, thus, home away from home for children to build happiness where they freely explore their mind to know more about their talents, skills and where they build a literacy to connect their heart to others through languages. Athena education promotes seven student values, seven academic values and seven teacher values.
Mr. Raj is also the Chairman of L’école Chempaka Society for Educare which runs and manages three schools: L’école Chempaka “Silver Rocks”, L’ècole Chempaka “Serene Valley,” ICSE curriculum Schools and L’ècole Chempaka International, a Cambridge Pathway School. The schools are in Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala and are known for The Chempaka Way, a stress-free learning pedagogy. He is the Managing Director of Chempaka Kindergarten Pvt. Ltd., as well, that runs 10 kindergartens in Trivandrum. It is the largest early childhood education providers of the capital city and has trained more than 10000 pre-schoolers over the years.
The Chempaka Way allows Chempakites and their facilitators to enjoy a positive and supportive relationship. Great care is also taken to encourage students overcome academic hurdles which include but are not limited to their inability to understand a subject, academic stress, and lack of motivation. He aims to provide the learning community with an environment where the students are equipped to think and act critically, to be creative, to develop confidence, to be compassionate, to respect nature, to be aware of India’s rich cultural heritage and traditional values, and to be appreciative of diversity and internationalism.
Mr. Raj is the Chairman of PMC Holiday Resort in Alappuzha which is in close harmony with nature; and also the Chairman of PMC chain of hospitals in Kerala which follows the health care value- “love and care when it pains.” PMC is committed for health care at affordable price.
The expression, “Behind every successful man there is a woman,” holds true for Mr. Raj. In all his endeavours, Mr. Raj is supported by his wife Mrs. Sasikala who has totally facilitated to the cause of his dream of serving the society. Mrs. Sasikala, a postgraduate in Commerce, is a thorough bred banking professional, with 25 years of banking experience in India (SBI) and the UAE (Emirates NBD). She plays a critical role in the financial and non-financial administration system of Athena and Chempaka schools, kindergartens, and nurseries in UAE and India. She is at the forefront of the HR, Finance, and Academic Departments of the Athena and Chempaka educational group of schools ensuring the smooth management of the day to day financial administration, payroll activities, statutory accounting and reporting functions, and well-being of the staff and students.
According to Mr. Raj, “Business creates value by quality embedded services, but always with a commercial sense, that provides happiness to every stake holder of a business.” He believes in “building good relationships for achieving a set of predetermined goals by a set of people who are well directed and disciplined to work together.”
Landmarks in Life
Born at Alathukavu village, Killimanoor, Thiruvananthapuram.
Completes matriculation from Raja Ravi Varma High School, Killimanoor.
Graduated BA (Economics) from Mahathma Gandhi College, Thiruvananthapuram.
Worked in a tutorial college (Netaji College, Killimanoor, Thiruvananthapuram) to fund own education.
Graduated MA (Economics, 2nd Rank) from Sree Narayana College, Kollam.
Worked as a clerk for Dhanalakshmi Bank, East Fort, Thiruvananthapuram.
Worked as Probationary Officer for Karnataka Bank Ltd., Kochi.
Worked as Officer for Karnataka Bank, Calicut.
Worked as Branch Manager for Karnataka Bank, Allepy.
Married Ms. Sasikala (working with State Bank of Travancore).
Ms. Parvathy Raj (only child) was born to Mr. Raj and Mrs. Sasikala.
Met Mr. Balakrishnan Pillai (life-time mentor and guru).
Worked as Senior Manager for Karnataka Bank, Thiruvananthapuram.
Worked as Kerala State Development Manager for Karnataka Bank, Thiruvananthapuram.
Worked as Assistant Manager for National Bank of Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai.
Formed PRS Business Management Consultancy
Motivational speaker in private forums based on world philosophies.
Left banking services to pursue the dream of achieving social grace.
Starting of Pazhaveed Medical Care ( PMC ) at Alleppy, Kerala.
Created Athena Education with the acquisition of the 1st school in UAE- Grammar School, Dubai.
Acquisition of 2nd school in UAE – Al Sadiq Islamic English School, Dubai.
Acquisition of 3rd school in UAE – Oaktree Primary School, Dubai.
Acquisition of 4th school in UAE – American International School, Dubai.
Acquisition of 5th school in UAE – Al Wahda Private School, Sharjah.
Acquisition of 6th school in UAE – Al Resalah American International School, Sharjah.
Acquisition of 7th school in UAE – Al Resalah International School of Science, Sharjah.
Acquisition of 8th school in UAE – International Academic School, Dubai.
Start of 2nd hospital in India- PMC, Nendakara, Kerala as a leased property.
Acquisition of 3rd hospital in India- PMC, Kottarakara, Kerala.
Acquisition of 1st resort in India- PMC lake shore Resort. Alleppy.
Leasing of 4th hospital in India- AM hospital, Karunagapalli, Kerala.
Acquisition of 9th school in UAE – Al Zuhour Private School, Sharjah.
Acquisition of 1st school with 3 campuses in India- L’ecole Chempaka, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Acquisition of 12 kindergartens in India- Chempaka Kindergarten, Thiruvananthapuram.
Opening of 2nd school in India- L’ecole Chempaka, Kochi, Kerala.