Scholarships Build Lifelong Bonds—Albert Linton Charles and Manoj Kriplani
Charles, who hails from the Commonwealth of Dominica, a Caribbean island, is not only the first international student to obtain a doctorate at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST), he’s also the first foreign national to serve as a department head at the school. “Unlike many other countries, there’s no implicit sexism or racism in Taiwan. Here, a black person like me can be a university department head.”
Surmounting difficulties, finding success
In 1999, Charles received a scholarship from the International Higher Education Scholarship Programs of Taiwan ICDF (the International Cooperation and Development Fund of the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and enrolled in the graduate program at NPUST’s Department of Tropical Agriculture, where he completed his master’s degree after two years and then began studying for a PhD. But in 2003, Dominica broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and Charles’s scholarship was abruptly terminated in his second year of doctoral studies. Having originally promised his parents he’d return home after completing his master’s, his first thought was to go back to Dominica.
“But Lai Boyong, the department head, and my academic advisor, George Huang, didn’t give up on me.” Thinking back to that crucial moment, Charles’s voice is full of gratitude. “They encouraged me to complete my degree as quickly as possible, and helped me apply for an on-campus scholarship. Professor Huang was like a father to me, taking me on as his research assistant so that I’d have money to live on.”
The diligent Charles got his PhD in only three years, a rarity in Taiwan. He also published ten papers in journals that are included in the Science Citation Index (SCI), a remarkable scholarly achievement, and was hired as a teacher at NPUST.
“I often think that if I hadn’t followed my instructor’s advice, and had left Taiwan because of the break in diplomatic relations, my life would be different today,” says Charles.
Why did I stay?
Initially, after accepting the teaching position at NPUST, Charles had planned to stay in Taiwan for ten years, but 20 years have passed and he’s still here. “I’ve taught many international students. Most return to their countries right after graduation,” says Charles. “Why have I stayed in Taiwan?”
An Eswatini diplomat said something that resonated with Charles: “If you return to Dominica, you’ll only be contributing to Dominica. But if you stay in Taiwan, training students from countries like the Gambia, Belize, Haiti, Saint Vincent, and Indonesia, you can contribute to the whole world.”
“Taiwan is very strong academically, with abundant resources, and often assists low-income developing countries through various programs. Through my research, I can also join in the effort to aid developing nations.”
In many countries, black people face some level of racial discrimination. Says Charles, who became a department head at age 30: “Many people believe America is the land of opportunity. But based on my experience, Taiwan offers opportunities for fair competition, especially to students from developing countries. As long as you work hard, Taiwan is the land of opportunity.”
“The TaiwanICDF scholarship was the key to my destiny! If I’d left Taiwan, I might not have been so successful,” Charles concludes, smiling as if he still can’t believe it.
Taiwan, here I come!
Dressed a fine-lined plaid woolen suit, Manoj Kriplani, director of marketing and sales at Century Development Corporation, is also deputy secretary of the Taiwan India Business Association. With a thorough knowledge of India’s investment environment and economic trends, Kriplani delivers nearly a hundred lectures annually, introducing Taiwanese businesspeople to investment opportunities in India.
In 2001, Kriplani was one in the first group of 21 Indian students to receive a Chinese Enrichment Scholarship from the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
At the time, most Indians who wanted to learn Mandarin went to China. China also awarded a scholarship to Kriplani. “It looked as if I would have to wait a year to go to China, but with the MOFA scholarship I was able to come to Taiwan immediately,” Kriplani says. “I didn’t even have a passport then. India’s bureaucracy moves at a snail’s pace, so I didn’t get my passport until three days before my flight, and it took another two days to get a visa. If I hadn’t gotten a passport then, I wouldn’t be here today!” Kriplani says without hesitation, “This is my destiny! Taiwan is my destiny!”
Kriplani’s karmic connection with Taiwan landed him another MOFA scholarship and a slot in Ming Chuan University’s EMBA program. Thanks to his outstanding academic record, Ming Chuan also awarded Kriplani a scholarship and advanced him to doctoral studies.
Ambition and experience
While Kripali was studying for his PhD, Silicone Power Co. was looking for a Chinese-speaking Indian to open up the market in India. Although Kriplani had no working experience at all, through his efforts, Silicone Power’s position in India’s memory card market was driven from zero market share to number one among Taiwanese vendors.
In 2011, Kriplani’s boss left Silicone Power and took Kriplani with him to ASRock, a Pegatron subsidiary. At that time, ASRock had a market share of less than 2% in India. In talks with distributors, Kriplani found that the brand suffered from underexposure, leading to poor back-end sales, and after-sales service was inadequate. Kriplani solved the problems one by one, motivating distributors with generous incentives, and sales skyrocketed.
At the outset, distributors doing business with big-name companies wouldn’t take Kriplani seriously. He says, “I came to understand a sales representative’s most important mindset: First, don’t fear failure; second, don’t give up. If you don’t succeed today, it doesn’t mean you won’t succeed tomorrow.” It was three years before some of the distributors he called on placed orders with him. Later, Kriplani expanded his sales activities into seven other countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even South Africa.
Three years ago, Kriplani switched to a new career path, moving to Century Development Corporation, an enterprise primarily involved in construction and in developing industrial parks.
Owing to the many business contacts Kriplani had accumulated over the years in India, Century wanted to station him there, offering him an exceptional package, and one of his old employers even tried to poach him back. Kriplani says that a lot of Indians who speak Mandarin are lured to Chinese companies by high salaries when they return to India. “I chose to stay in Taiwan, not just because I wanted to give something back for the scholarships I’d received, but because I love Taiwan.”
Kriplani has been called “Taiwan’s Indian Google and India’s Taiwan Google.” In the eyes of Taiwanese businesspeople, he’s an expert on India, and Indians regard him as an expert on Taiwan. If Indian friends lose their way on a Taiwan mountain road or are involved in traffic accidents, they phone Kriplani for help. He even knows where to find Bollywood dance classes and Indian-style bento boxes in Taiwan.
Taiwan was the first foreign country Manoj Kriplani ever visited. When asked about his initial impressions of Taiwan, it seems as though he’s revisiting unpleasant memories. After a short silence, he says, “Besides being a stranger in an unfamiliar place, the hardest part was the food. For the first half year I cried every day. All I ate was Japanese curry—at least it had a little flavor of home. But now I’m in love with Taiwanese cuisine, including hot-pot, stir-fry, tempura, the lot.”
In Kriplani’s eyes, Taiwan enjoys many blessings. “My younger brother lives in the US. He’s visited over 40 countries and says he’s never seen a country as friendly, safe, and convenient as Taiwan.” With a chuckle, he says, “In the past 20 years, I’ve also traveled to many countries, but I’ve never been to China.”
What if back in the day he’d chosen to go to Beijing rather than Taiwan? “I’d have been like a drop of water falling into the ocean,” he says unhesitatingly, “I’d have disappeared. But in Taiwan, I’m like a dewdrop rolling on a leaf, easy to see, glistening in the sunlight.”