A special moment in life..

>Feels good to be back at doing what I enjoy a lot – writing. Much has happened in the last year and a blog was inevitable to describe it all!!

May 11th, 2009 was my last day at my previous company. I was happy and thrilled to fly back to Mumbai 2 days later, carrying very special memories of my 3 years in Abu Dhabi. Till date, those special memories continue to provide meaning to my life and convince me why it is worth living..

Fast track to June 1st, 2010, I find myself with a final offer – just a little over an year since I left my last job and exactly 8 years since I cracked IIT-JEE. This is a truly incredible feeling – perhaps a little less relieving that when I got my first job in IITB but nevertheless truly amazing!! Having been the last of 10 people to get through TAS in the summer placement season at IIMC (after having 9 shortlists on day 0 and being rejected in the 4 I could attend), the pre-placement offer is truly a cherry on top of the cake. I was 2nd last to be interviewed by TAS during summers (after a 2 hr wait) with 9 offers already made before me. I was the last guy to be interviewed again during the final round. Quite a coincidence but surely not a favourable one. When you need to wait for a whole day and then display all your self-confidence and passion with a smile at 11:30 in the night, it can get a little taxing. Over time, however, I have become more patient, resilient and self-confident. Taking a cue from sports, I always knew that the longer you stay in any game, the better will be your chances. Now, I can look forward to an year of festivals, photography, travel, sports and ofcourse, free-riding.

The reason I was less relieved than I was at IITB probably reflects the change in my mindset. The last few years have taught me to become more balanced in life without unduly craving for anything. I remember telling a few of my friends before my summers that I did not think too much about the PPO. I just wanted to give my best in the project and perform well at every stage of the process. This approach indeed helped me to be focussed on getting results and delivering my best. Gokul (IIMA) worked alongwith me on our project at TATA Capital. His ability to quickly analyze data and get results was incredible. I also shared my knowledge and experience with him. I helped him work in an organized manner to achieve results. Not even once I ever thought, “Why should I help him when he is my potential competitor?”. And I say this irrespective of which side of the line I would have found myself. For a change, I threw away the crass IIT-IIM attitude of RG in favour of a more human, natural approach. Somewhere, I discovered my true self, which at times got lost after looking at how people around you behave, esp to win rewards. Together, we had a really good two months, delivering one quality project and discussing a wide variety of stuff under the sun (Gokul’s favourite being my crush on IIMA girls). I am sure this guy will go ahead and crack bigger things in life.

Even as the final results were announced, I surprisingly found myself extremely relaxed in the room. I remember telling Romil (IIMC) in the morning that I felt confident and he can expect a call from me later in the night. I must also thank Kathikeyan (IIMA), who was my room-mate at TMTC. His ultra-cool attitude really did rub on me and made C-9 the lucky room at TMTC as both of us got the final offers. My heart really goes out to two of the final 11 who didn’t make the cut. I have found myself in their position many times before, when I failed 15 interviews in IITB before cracking one!! Perhaps, it’s the failure in the past which teaches one to become more balanced emotionally in life. Today, there are fewer things which elate me or deflate me than probably 4 years before. I am less affected by negative comments directed at me. At IIT, I was more desperate for a job. Today, I am quietly confident without undue worries.

My project taught me more than just aspects related to private equity. It reinforced the broad vision which I have always had for India. Today, I really feel proud that India built the Nano through it’s own engineering excellence and at a cost lower than the cost of China’s cheapest car. India is among the fastest growing economies in the world and might even end up ahead of China in a few years with improvement in our macreconomic conditions. At the same time, the Naxalite attacks, over-burdened infrastructure, a rat race called education, rampant corruption in the administration all seem to be pulling India down – the Medical Council of India (with its corrupt head), the BCCI (headed by a person with one leg in the coffin and still heading for ICC presidency), a judiciary (which allows Ajmal Kasab to appeal to a higher court or even the president for mercy), a democracy (which allows the Ambani brothers to broker another peace pact after nullifying the previous one), a tax authority (which collects taxes to finance the losses of Air India and the oil marketing companies), a telecom authority (which auctioned off 2G for a pittance) and many more.

As a TAS manager, I share the philosophy which the TATAs had for India. When Mr. J N Tata decided to set up a steel plant in India, he could visualize manufacturing driving India’s growth. It’s indeed seen to be true today. Having gone through numerous reports and news articles on India’s growth for my project, I would like to end by enlisting the three most important things for India –

1) Develop infrastructure. With India adding nearly 20 million to its population every year, the need for good quality housing, water supply, power supply, transport, good schools & universities will ensure that an Indian will have living standards comparable to those in the developed nations. Infrastructure development needs to go alongwith increased focus on manufacturing sector which will cater to consumption needs of India’s teeming millions besides creating jobs for people.

2) Create jobs. In India, job creation has failed to keep pace with the number of entrants to the labour pool. India is all set to add the highest number of people to the workforce over the next decade, greater than China, US and the whole of G7. If this workforce is not employed productively and used effectively to drive not only the nation’s growth but also individual growth, it will only create more social and economic unrest. To this end, it’s important to make education relevant and useful rather than just an academic exercise. The number of applicants to medical colleges has dropped to a tenth of the number in 2002 despite healthcare being a critical sector for India’s growth. It is important to encourage diversity in professions and make careers easier for people to pursue rather than monopolizing professions, a classic example being the Gandhi family domination (I watched Rajneeti a couple of days back, one helluva movie). It’s important to ensure that jobs at different levels are dignified and people get their due rather than money finding its way into a small portion of the population. I really feel for our teachers who do not get their salaries in time while performing the most important function of educating India.

3) Control our population. This is important especially from the socio-economic perspective as I feel extremely distressed to see poverty breeding poverty. In the absence of quality education among the poor classes of the society, they tend to believe that greater number of children will help provide a better future for them. However, this ends up being a vicious cycle. I believe that healthy competition in any field can sustain itself only if there is a check on the number of individuals serious about participating in it. The more dissatisfying part is politicians attempt to cash in on their votes without any serious attempt to tackle poverty at ground level. Be it in politics or media or Class X board exams, the concept of “small is beautiful” has its relevance as it is easier to focus on a smaller populace, resulting in efficient governance or administration and lesser strain on our resources.