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India

Graphic Globalization: India Christens Cutting-Edge French Design School

Indian real estate mogul D.S. Kulkarni has built a state-of-the-art digital graphics campus from scratch in Pune, India. The educational impetus is provided by a French computer graphics university - a relationship light years indeed from old English colo

Students converge at new Pune campus.
Students converge at new Pune campus.
Benoît Floc'h

PUNE - One of D.S. Kulkarni's favorite words is "best." It's something the Indian businessman strives for with all his ventures, including the university campus he created from scratch in Pune, India, some 160 kilometers east of Mumbai.

Mr. Kulkarni certainly didn't scrimp when it came to cost. The campus boasts shiny new buildings, and is dotted with sculptures and state-of-the art equipment, and also features… France. That's because while Mr. Kulkarni kicked in all the capital for the new university, the educational component is being provided by France's Supinfocom, a computer graphics university with campuses in the northern city of Valenciennes and Arles, in the south.

Back in India, Mr. Kulkani began his business career at the tender age of eight, selling vegetables in the street. He later made a living cleaning telephones before eventually amassing a fortune in real estate. But it wasn't until last week, at the Dec. 2 inauguration of his own private university, that he finally "arrived." As is his habit, he went all out. Under an enormous hat decorated with flowers and colored fabric, Mr. Kulkarni welcomed the president of India, Pratibha Patil as well as a high-ranking French delegation.

"My dream is not to earn money, but to ensure that our students are the best," Kulkarni says. "In my family, we strongly believe in the merits of education. This country has given me a lot. Now it is my turn to do something good. The Indian government does not give a lot of money for education, so someone has to make the sacrifice."

The mogul's ‘sacrifice" adds up to $60 million – the price of opportunity for the thousands of students who will arrive for the first semester of classes. If this entrepreneur appeals to the French rather than Indians, it is because he wants to provide a practical education that will allow fresh graduates to immediately jump into the business world and create jobs.

Outdated remains of British system

"I want to liberate the students," he says. "The educational system that the English left us with at the time of independence is very academic. It does not teach the curriculum that our students need."

It is a notion supported by Alexis Madinier, the director of Supinfogame, a video game school under the umbrella of the Supinfocom system. "When they first arrive at our school, the Indian students are a bit lost. They have never been asked to understand and learn on their own. The first year is a total brainwashing. That's how it is in our profession," Madinier says.

It's an industry where "a completely new technology emerges every five years," he says. "My goal is not to teach them how I used to play games 10 years ago, but to be able to play at theirs."

Today, 80 students are enrolled in Mr. Madinier's school (15 of whom are European). They work in a studio rather than a classroom and learn a form of multiculturalism. "It's what works," he says. "The video game is a global market."

Globalization is at the very heart of the Franco-Indian project. The Grand Hainaut Chamber of Commerce in Valenciennes, which founded the Supinfocom system, is keen to prepare the economic future of both countries by emphasizing digital creation. In Valenciennes, the business group is planning a "digital greenhouse" that will group together the various Supinfocom schools and businesses. The focus of the cluster – which could employ as many as 2,000 people – will be on "serious games," meaning games for educational purposes.

The objective, explains Francis Aldebert, the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is to have 30% of Supinfocom's overall activity in Valenciennes, the creative hub, and 70% in India, to focus on production.

Read the original article in French

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