A man who’s lived his life serving people, follows simple ideologies in life. Modest, down to earth and humble, Mr Hassan Chougule recounts his life’s journey with Arshia Khan
“I come from a very poor background. A family who lived from hand to mouth. But my parents were very generous inspite of our condition,” smilingly says Mr Hassan Chougule, Educationist, Socialist and Businessman. Completing his education by borrowing books from someone, uniform from another person and shoes by another, Mr Chougule started with humble beginnings. Presently, he is recognized as the most influential Indian in Arab by the Arabian Business for three consecutive years (2011, 2012 & 2013). Born in Ratnagiri (Maharashtra) in 1951, Mr Chougule was a meritorious student and hence people helped him. As he reiterates, “I earned scholarships for my distinctive academic qualifications. I lived my teens observing these things. Somewhere, in my heart I knew there will be many people needy and deserving like me. I had a very strong desire to reach out to these people.”
After his studies he was selected by Larsen & Toubro to join the young team as an engineer – back then engineers were in demand, and the market was very competitive. He informs, “This was in the year 1973 I was working and grew up watching my parents who went out of their way to help people. They helped in whatever way they could – as basic as sponsoring funeral rituals to orphan girls’ marriages.” I learnt from them,” he remarks. For Mr Chougule times had changed. He was independent and had a flourishing career.
His principle in life remained the same- ‘giving back to the society’. To help a larger number of students he started a Students Aid Centre during his first year at L&T and reached out to 70 students at High School Level by donating books, fees, uniforms etc. He further expanded his social responsibility and conducted Mass Muslim marriages. Charity was in his mind always. As he quips,” It all depends how much money you can save and donate.”
The Indian messiah in Qatar
In the year 1977 he came to Qatar with an intention to help people back home. His ideology is simple, “Helping is endowed by the Almighty, intention is what one must have. He says, “When you help someone needy, there is happiness on the persons face with a sigh of relief, which drives me to do more.” He believes life comes back in full circle and good work comes back to him in the form of duas – prayers.” A humble and down to earth personality, Mr Chougule greets everyone with a smile. His work place is adorned with honours and recognition by the former Indian President, Shrimati Pratibha Patil (2007 – 2012) and Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. Located in the heart of Doha – the Golden Ocean Hotel overlooking the arching sea is mostly buzzing with poems and mushairas viz one of his interests too. He is a recognized Urdu poet and has authored many poems. He flips through papers as he speaks – there is a stack of requests – and some documents which he needs to sign to expand his business empire – Emad Electricals. While he is talking to us – the camera flashes but he remains undisturbed. For a person who has been with the creme-de-la-crème of Doha is used to the paparazzi now. He subtly points at a recognition well placed on the walls received from the Indian President, Vice President and Prime Minister, the President of Mauritius and Prime Minister of Qatar.
Trailblazing the desert
Mr Chougule is a known name in Doha having spent more than 40 years. Besides, he is the only Indian to have presided and co -founded all four apex Indian bodies in Doha. In the year 1984, the Indian Community Benevolent Forum (ICBF); Indian Cultural Centre (ICC) in 1993; followed by Indian Business and Professionals Council, to promote bilateral trade between Qatar and India in the year 2000; and Indian Sports Center (ISC) in 2016 to promote sports locally. “With the burgeoning importance being given to sports in Qatar, the government needs our support and more people to participate,” he says, highlighting the aim of the ISC viz recognized by every sports body in Qatar. He emphasizes, “This is because of our growing numbers here and our managing capabilities in promoting the vision of the Qatari government.”
Even while he is not presiding over the bodies people look upto him for his guidance and assistance. That is how deeply engrained he is in social and philanthropic work.
“Success doesn’t come overnight, it needs perseverance,” he says. He started working for Manweir Engineering when he came to Doha in 1977. But due to conflict with the company he filed a case against them in Labour Court and won it too. After the tussle he approached the General Manager of the company and made him realize the value of an Indian. After serving the notice period for a month and collecting his dues Mr Chougule returned to India with his head held high and no regrets. He chose not to work for the company as it had developed cracks in the relation. As he quips, “It has been my policy to work whole heartedly devoting my time, effort and energy to build anything – be it professional or personal relation. I don’t believe in imposing things. If you do on your own, you will do it better.”
In 1978 he returned to Doha again and along with a friend – Mohiuddin Khateeb started Emad Electricals. “I was naïve for the business sector. So, we split the work – I was incharge of handling trading and Khateeb for managing contracting. We toiled on field and learnt how to manage and conduct business on our own, he highlights. During that time Doha was less competitive and businesses were emerging. Emad was growing and was profitable too. However, in the year 1995 his friend Khateeb moved on from Emad Electricals and Mr Chougule took charge taking the company to new heights. It grew manifold. Today his business empire in various fields is spread across Doha with 10 branches and sister concerns.
Hitting the Bull’s eye – Foundation stone for Schools
While he was working for Emad, Mr Chougule as one of the Founder Member with many others set up The Indian Ideal School in Doha in 1984. He never took a back seat and kept expanding both horizontally and vertically in serving the people. He believes education can change lives and lives by it. As he quips, “Knowledge is power.”
Fulfilling his vision for an educational institute par excellence and quality, Mr Chougule treaded a new path and co-founded another school with the help of his close associates and friends. During this journey his emphasis was on quality education. They contacted a few schools – one of it being Doon School – but did not get a positive response from them as Doon was not interested in moving out of the country. Later they approached India Today which did not prove to be attractive enough. Finally, Mr Chougule and his brigade zeroed on to Delhi Public School (DPS), which initially did not give a positive reply. But he kept the spirits high and was sure to bring DPS to Doha. Luck favoured him and stars aligned themselves. He recounts, “I was following up with DPS, and fortunately I met Mr Salman Khurshid who was the then Foreign Affairs Minister on his visit to Doha. I organized a lunch meet for Mr Khurshid. During that lunch conversation I came to know that Mr Khurshid was the permanent president of DPS, and from there on things moved very fast. The Indian team of DPS came to Doha for inspection and in the year 2000 DPS was started in Doha and is called as Modern Indian School.”
He further narrates, “We wanted to ensure that we maintain a high standard of quality and that would come only if we had reputed teachers with skill horning abilities and selected our students after rigorous filtration and exams during the admission process.” Living upto this the Principal of DPS has received ‘Doha Topper Award’ for five consecutive years including one award for being the Gulf Topper. He states with pride and élan, “In the year 2018, we have topped in terms of ranking for 10th and 12th standard in the entire Gulf region, which accounts for more than 156 schools.”
His vision is to stand out in terms of quality education in the State. Mr Chougule and his team plans to launch DPS II by September 2019 with all modern amenities and updated curriculum by the board. It will be called as Modern International School.
Mr Chougule has spent last 25 years working on education both in Doha and India. His keen interest on education comes from the fact that globally the political and war scenario has had a scathing effect on the minds of children – the new generation- they are lost and confused. The only way to bring them back to a modern society with healthy living is by imparting education – enlighten their minds and they will take care of themselves.” Hence his focus on education with respect to India too. He has started four educational institutes in the coastal belt of Maharashtra at Chiplun and Dabhol.
His next focus would be starting colleges in India for paramedic courses which will be job oriented for candidates who have passed their 12th standard.
With his business spread across Doha and social work both in India and Doha, Mr Chougule’s efforts speaks volumes for people who have been benefitted by his organisations. While he answers an important phone call and he extends another reference to help someone in need. Do you also have any other businesses in India,” he smiles and replies, “I earn here and dispense for the good in India through charities.” He has founded an NGO in India namely Ideal Foundation that works towards youth empowerment through education.
Stretching along the coastal belt of the Konkan region in India – Maharashtra (between Mumbai to Goa) Mr Chougule is guiding and assisting around 140 Urdu medium schools along with 40 English and Marathi medium schools. This is through his organization Ideal Foundation set up in the year 2000, which focusses on helping students in extracurricular activities, imparting training to teachers, etc. “To ensure that we are not working only for the community, we have recently converted 70 % Urdu medium school to semi English,” he informs.
Initially the organization was a partner in help to bigger organisations until Mr Chougule realized that social work is the bread and butter of many people in India. Ideal Foundation has strict rules and policies in place in terms of funds. It is managed by Mr Chougule’s brother. Besides education, Ideal Foundation is also working in areas of medical assistance to terminally ill patients and monthly ration to Below the Poverty Line (BPL) people. The Foundation has tie ups with pharmacies in the region wherein medicines are dispensed upon prescription without charging the patients. Likewise, the Foundation pays the school fees directly to the school without handing over money to the parents or students – this makes their system more fool proof. It is also involved in providing Moral Science (deeniyat) training by providing teachers in more than 56 schools in the Konkan region.
Highlighting his next course in education, Mr Chougule says, “After the completion of DPS II, I want to work towards Indian higher education in Qatar.
Juggling between social, education and businesses his work-life balance is simple to maintain he says. “I have decided to work 12 hours a day in 2019. With the technological advancements and smartphones, many things are simplified now. “We need to have fool proof systems in place,” he adds. His mantra in business is different as he remarks, “if someone cheats you, do not throw him out of the company – as only intelligent people can create fraud. It is the system that was not fool proof allowing people to cheat. If a bluff is thrown out of a company – you will end up with only dumb people who do not know how to navigate through such ideas.”
An Urdu poetry enthusiast and die-hard fan of Marathi language, which is also his native language and mother tongue Mr Chougule is also promoting Marathi in Doha in his schools. He believes, “One should know his native language wherever he goes, or he will forget the culture.” His efforts have been successful as Marathi is practiced as a third language in 4-5 schools in Doha and Urdu in 7-8 schools, he informs.
He is passionate about helping people be it in any kind. He believes the necessity – Food, Education, Shelter are a right of any person and hence “I am hell-bent on education and empowerment.” Raising funds have never been an issue for him as he believes in transparency and selfless work. If your intentions are good and you want to serve the people, there are enough and more people willing to help. He has been able to collect funds for the Konkan Sarvangi Utkarsh Mandal which has set up technical schools in the Konkan region in India. The funds have been donated by Hamad Bin Jassim Charity, which costs approximately Rs 3.5 crore. His next big project is the Paramedical College in Chiplun which needs a land of 10 acres, and he is quite positive on turning this into a reality too.
His theory in life has been simple – “At the age of 0-25 years life should be spent studying. During the age of 25-50 years one needs to work hard and establish oneself. The last phase which is post 50 years, if you are still working physically that means you have failed in your focus towards life,” he concludes.