Dr. M.R.Madhavan, President and co-founder of PRS Legislative research, graduated from IIT Madras with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering in the year 1990. He went on to do a MBA and a PhD from IIM Calcutta. After a long career of working in leading banks in the world including ICICI securities and Bank of America, he co-founded PRS Legislative Research with his former colleague C.K. Madhukar. PRS is dedicated to help national and state legislators with interpreting the verbose texts that define the law, predicting repercussions of alterations to the law and to be more informed while making major policy decisions that affect the future of this country.

Most of us hesitate to dive into unknown waters due to fear of what lies beneath, Dr. M. R. Madhavan shared with us his stories through a spirited conversation on education, politics and life, which serves inspiration to the driven, to dare to take the plunge and work your way to glory.

Remembering my time, fondly so, in the institute, we had several interesting experiences in our hostel life which I believe shaped the way we looked at life, the relationships that we built and the choices we made. We were alien to the communication technology as it is today; we used inland letters as cell phones, IBM punch cards to send messages and sports as our television. I was never really interested in engineering and coming from the time of wide spread economic reform in the country, I took to studying financial instruments. And, as it is for most of us, I had a few professors who were a major influence in my life and directed me toward the finance and operations management sector and I still feel that some of the decisions I make today are a product of their teaching. Surprisingly at the time, taking the MBA route was a very lucrative choice for most IITians and I, as the 85% of my batch at IIM Calcutta, made use of the opportunity and dwelled into the financial world and by and by led to my setting up PRS . In summary, if there was one thing that I learnt from my time at IITM it was to be a creative independent thinker. The IIT Madras brand gave me my first leg up in life and through my experience here I developed a courage to take risks and take the untrodden path even with PRS.

A lot can be achieved just by being at the right place at the right time. Most of us benefited from riding the rising tide of economic reform post 1991 which led to me working in ICICI and BOA. I believe, a lot of the learning that led up to setting up PRS was from my previous jobs. Working in the financial sector, I learnt all the key aspects of research – exploring new sectors, persistence to find relevant information and communicating crucial information in a concise form. The corporate world teaches you, in a broad sense, how to run a business – handling people, organizational structure and other minor intricacies that are required to make big in any entrepreneurial venture. Running a non-profit organization like PRS draws on several of these ideas including maintaining quality of service, raising funds, running an efficient system, etc. The main motive behind a non-profit organization is to create sizable impact. For example, the total expenditure on education by the Government of India is about 2 lakh crore annually which serves a plethora of opportunities to improve the system which can be reaped by building an efficient system. These are the kind of problems that need our attention today – to make the existing institutions more efficient to best utilize the resources available and creating lasting impact for further generations to benefit from – This was the idea behind PRS Legislative Research. When quizzed about taking the risk of quitting his reputed and well-paying job and He joked, “Stable jobs are boring. I didn’t want to spend my time in making rich people even richer but create real impact. I believe the best time to start up and take up an entrepreneurial venture would be around 30, where you are at the peak of your physical capabilities and you have the right temperament to perform well in your chosen field.”

The one challenging task in the non-profit sector is raising sustained funding for the company. Most non-profits work with the motive of creating demand in a new sector, and if you are successful in your work, on one side you create the large demand while on the other side the funds flowing in do not match the rate of increase of demand making it difficult to sustain. For anybody looking to work in the non-profit sector, this should be a primary concern especially if they’re successful. PRS has been growing by leaps in the past few years currently briefing over 400 MPs and over 700 MLAs from over 12 states. Given the scale that we are functioning, we have been successful in raising funds and running an efficient system. We get over 700 citations a year in popular media channels and are among the highest in online reach in the policy research space internationally. Our ultimate goal is to make the country a better place for our citizens to live in which involves three major parts – One for major policy decisions are made with greater evidence based research and greater informed participation of stakeholders to create a better and stronger democracy. Two, building a stronger parliament by helping the elected representatives make informed choices and help hold the government and its underlying bodies accountable for their actions and Three, to help put the tax payer’s money and resources to better use by making the entire union budget allocation financially sound and more democratic. Dr.M.R.Madhavan signed off with a moving message for the readers saying,

Take risks. Always pursue something that is intellectually stimulating in which ever field interests you most and never limit yourself.

Author: Saravana Kumar (BT-CE ’19)

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