Success stories of School Dropouts – Part I

Ever wonder where the chief executives of some of the world’s most successful companies went to college? Well, don’t tell your kids, but some CEOs never graduated college-and some never even bothered to apply.

From computers to cruise lines, these 10 CEOs made it to the top without a college degree and defied the idea that to be successful you have to have a diploma.

Alfred Taubman
Position: Founder, Taubman Centers
Market Cap: $3.3 billion

Alfred Taubman, the founder and former chief executive of Taubman Centers , began his career in retail at age 11 at a Sims department store, where he continued to work through high school. After Taubman graduated, he attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for less than a year, when he was called to military service during World War II. After his service was complete, Taubman returned to the University of Michigan to study art and architecture. Soon after, he proposed to his college sweetheart and transferred to night school.

Instead of finishing college and receiving a degree, Taubman saw opportunity in the real estate business. According to his book, ‘Threshold Resistance,’ Taubman recognized the immense expansion of the middle class after the war and decided to cash in by starting Taubman Centers, a realty company. Over a period of about 50 years, Taubman continued to expand his company and took the company public in 1992. Today, the company’s CEO is Robert Taubman, Alfred oldest son and, yes, he did graduate college.

Richard Schultz
Position: Founder/Former CEO, Best Buy
Market Cap: $10.1 billion

Richard Schultz, the former CEO and founder of Best Buy , started working as a paperboy at age 11 and had a series of jobs throughout high school. He had planned to go to the University of St. Thomas, but military service in the Minnesota Air National Guard stopped him from fulfilling his college-bound dream.
After his service in the military, Schultz worked for his father selling electronic components. A few years later, he founded his own company, The Sound of Music , which sold audio components, sheet music, records, tapes, and instruments.
In the 1980s, Schultz realized that a small business was not going to survive in a widely evolving industry, so he changed the name of his company to Best Buy and expanded his product line. Schultz felt that consumers would be drawn to his stores if they could see the products they were buying on shelves, instead of keeping them in the back room. This technique helped create a new experience for shoppers.

Although Schultz relinquished his duties as CEO, he still serves as chairman of the board for Best Buy. Shultz may not have attended the College of St. Thomas, but he was awarded with an honorary doctorate of law degree.

Ralph Lauren
Position: CEO, Polo Ralph Lauren
Market Cap: $11.9 billion

Ralph Lauren, the chief executive of Polo Ralph Lauren , established his company in 1967 as a line of men’s ties and developed the company into a global fashion empire. Lauren’s successful clothing line came from his unique, classic style that went against conventional fashion of the time.

According to the Ralph Lauren website, Lauren said, ‘I never went to fashion school-I was a young guy who had some style. I never imagined Polo would become what it is. I just followed my instincts.’

With only a high school diploma in hand, Lauren followed his instincts. His decision to ditch college and focus on running his business lead to a series of breakthroughs in the fashion world, including the first shop-within-a-shop designer boutique for men in Bloomingdale’s department store in 1969. Lauren continued to build his empire, expanding it to include women and children’s fashion, fragrances, and home furnishings. Today, Polo Ralph Lauren is one of the most successful fashion companies in the world.

Richard Branson
Position: CEO, Virgin Group
Company Worth: $18 billion
Virgin Media Market Cap: $8.1 billion

Forget graduating from college, this chief executive didn’t even finish high school. Richard Branson, the current CEO of Virgin Group , dropped out of high school at age 16 to start Student Magazine . Four years later, Branson founded Virgin Group as a mail-order retailer. He opened his first record shop in London and two years later built Virgin’s first recording studio. In 1977, Branson signed his first big name group, the Sex Pistols, and continued to sign popular artists such as the Rolling Stones and Culture Club.

In 1984, Branson developed Virgin Atlantic and the brand began to grow. Today, Virgin Group provides mobile, broadband, TV, radio, finance, health, tourism, leisure, and travel services.

Micky Arison
Position: CEO, Carnival
Market Cap: $19.6 billion
Instead of spending four years in college, this chief executive spent time working his way up the chain of command at Carnival .

Micky Arison, the CEO of Carnival, started in the sales department and was promoted to reservations manager in 1974. He was later promoted to vice president of passenger traffic and just three years later he was named president of the company.

Arison helped acquire Holland America Line, Windstar Cruises and Westours, allowing Carnival to become one of the leading cruise lines in the industry.

In 1987, he was appointed chairman of the board and in 2003 he reached the highest position in the company as CEO. Arison showed that it’s possible to work your way from an entry-level position to CEO without a college degree.

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Lesssons to Learn from Steve Jobs

One company and one man had transcended all possible economic, geographic and demographic boundaries and become relevant to the entire world! The entire world, but almost! That’s huge, by any standards. And what a journey it has been… Travelling this disruptive road, Steve has also taught us many valuable lessons . While I’m sure experts will have a long list of those, I personally find three learnings most relevant to all business leaders.

The first of which being the courage to take the “leap” – Sometime back I read this interview of John Sculley, ex-CEO of Apple, who provided some great insights on Jobs.

Steve, he says, did not believe in consumer research. The reason is simple; he was going to create a product so new and innovative that the consumers would have no reference to react in foresight. “How can I possibly ask somebody what a graphics-based computer ought to be when they have no idea what a graphic based computer is? No one has ever seen one before.” He once said.

Jobs believed that showing someone a calculator, for example, would not give them any indication as to where the computer was going to go because it was just too big a leap. The rules of the game were made very simple with that one maverick thought, the winners of tomorrow would be the products who take us on a big leap, the one never seen, never heard before! I am also tempted to ponder here briefly on the biggest question that is on everyone’s lips today – would this obsession with breakthrough innovation continue to be Apple’s calling? I seriously hope so. After all, we need many more of the ‘never befores’.

Coming back to the learnings, the second lesson has been the need to focus on powerful ideas. As he once famously said, “You have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best idea must win, not the ‘best person’ with the most power or seniority”. No wonder Apple was able to churn out one powerful product after another. Structures aligned to collaboration, innovation and human intellect is also a concept very close to my heart and I’m sure somewhere Mr Jobs has been an indirect influence on this thought process.

The third lesson, however is the one most people tend to miss. We must never forget that Jobs introduced us to the merit of ‘experience’. One almost forgets that Jobs built a phenomenally successful chain of retail stores, which became a benchmark for consumer experience. All of us who have bought Apple products will remember forever the experience of amazement we felt the first time we walked into an Apple store or simply the experience of the very user-friendly Apple devices.

Vineet Nayar – The author is Vice chairman & CEO, HCL Technologies and wrote this piece for ET while on a flight from London to Munich).

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Leadership lessons from Infosys Narayana Murthy

NR Narayana Murthy, who steps down as Infosys chairman on August 20, is a role model for not just what he achieved but also how he did it. Here are 30 lessons from Murthy, one for each year he spent at company.

1-Seize Your Gandhi Moment

Murthy, a self proclaimed socialist in the mid ’70s was jailed for 72 hours in Bulgaria. The experience taught him that entrepreneurship and job creation is the way to alleviate poverty.

2-You might fail, but get started. Learn from mistakes and move on.

In 1976, Murthy founded Softronics, a company that lasted a year and a half. When he realised that his first venture wasn’t taking off, he moved on.

3-Think Big. Don’t Hesitate to Start Small

In 1981, a determined Murthy started Infosys with Rs 10,000 he borrowed from his wife. In few years, Infosys went on to become one of the largest wealth creators in the country.

4-Cut Yourself a Slice, Not a Large One Always

When Infosys was set up, Murthy took a pay cut while salaries of other co-founder’s were increased by 10 percent. According to Murthy, a leader needs to show his or her sacrifice and commitment

.5-Lend a Hand and Throw in a Foot Too.

After Murthy convinced seven of his colleagues, there was a problem. Nandan’s future inlaws were not sure about him. Murthy met Nandan’s uncle and convinced him.

6-Own Up, and Then Clean Up

In the ’80s Infosys developed an application for a German client. Murthy noticed a single character error and informed the client immediately.

7-Trust in God, But Verify with Data

In God we trust, the rest must come with data, is perhaps Murthy’s favourite statement. When confronted with difficult decisions, he tends to rely on data.

8-Keep the Faith

Infosys almost wound up in 1990. Murthy did not want to sell the company. He asked co-founders if they wanted out and offered to buy their shares. All of them stuck together.

9-Get Involved

Infosys won a contract from Reebok in the early ’90s. Seeing the founders involvement, the software, was nick named ‘Dinesh, Murthy and Prahlad.’ Infy veterans still recall those days.

10-Sharing is Caring

After the IPO, Infosys decided to share a portion of its equity with employees. This helped them retain talent and gave employees a sense of ownership. Murthy is proud of having given away stocks worth over Rs 50,000 crore to employees.

11-Treat your People Good, but Your Best Better

Murthy always had a thing for good performers. And he rewarded them well. When Infosys decided to give its employees stock options, Murthy insisted that some shares be given to good performers through the ‘Chairman’s quota.’

12-Hire a Good Accountant, Even if he is Argumentative

A young, argumentative Indian, was asking too many questions at an annual general body meeting of Infosys. More impressed than irritated, he hired Mohandas Pai, who went on to help Infosys list on Nasdaq.

13-When in Doubt, Disclose

Keep your books clean and leave the cooking to the chef. Murthy’s philosophy about being open and transparent has given the company a lot of credibility. He often says, “When in doubt, please disclose.”

14-Leave the Family Out

Murthy told his wife that only one of them could be with the company. Murthy, along with other founders, said that none of their children would work for Infosys. This left no room for nepotism at Infosys.

15-Don’t be a Push over

In 1994, when General Electric wanted to re-negotiate rates, Murthy said no to selling services any cheaper. This helped Infosys not to be overly dependent on any one client.

16-Make hay While the Sun Shines

In late 90′s, India’s tech companies made use of the Y2K opportunity to make themselves known in the global market. For Infosys, it was a great opportunity to enter into long-term relationships with their customers.

17-Brand-aid First, Get Clinical

When the sexual harassment case against Infosys’ top sales guy Phaneesh Murthy threatened to tarnish the company’s brand, Murthy decided to quickly react. He let go of Phaneesh, and settled the case out of court despite Phaneesh wanting to fight it out.

18-Mind your Business, you’ll See Things Coming

Murthy carries and updates a mental model of Infosys’ business all the time. According to him, every leader must have a model, consisting of six to seven parameters that might affect business.

19-Keep it Simple, Not Silly

Keep your life simple and straight. That way, you get to work more and worry less. Murthy is known to be frugal with money. Despite being one of the richest Indians, he leads a simple life. However, he does not cut corners on buying books or brushing up on literature.

20-Founders Keepers, but Not Forever

Murthy’s decision to not allow founders to continue with the company after the age of 65 set another standard for the company. This way, younger leaders at Infosys had a greater chance at the top positions.

21-Talent Spotting and Division of Labour

Murthy is known to have an eye for talent and a talent for dividing labour. Nandan was given sales responsibilities while Kris and Shibu did the tech stuff. N S Raghavan was asked to handle people and Dinesh was assigned quality.

22-Hold on to Your People but don’t Cling

Letting go is never easy but its not good to cling on to your colleagues either. Amongst the founders, Ashok Arora, Nandan Nilekani and K Dinesh have quit Infosys. Infy veteran Mohandas Pai has also left Infosys.

23-Give, it only gets you more

In 2010, the Murthy’s donated $ 5.2 million USD to Harvard University Press for a project that aims to make India’s classical heritage available for generations to come. He is also supporter of the Akshaya Patra Foundation.

24-Do it First and Do it Right

Infosys did many things first. And most things right. For example, it was the first Indian company to list on Nasdaq. It was the first Indian company to make it to the Nasdaq 100 list and it was the first Indian company to attain the highest level of quality certification.

25-Perils of Being a Poster Child

Being the poster child of Indian IT industry, Infosys and Murthy have been at the receiving end of many criticisms. The company has been accused of taking away American jobs and been called a “chop shop.”

26-Get Rich. Honestly

Rich businesses were considered to be dirty in the days when the country had a socialist bent. Infy was a company which got rid of this sentiment. Murthy, with his ‘no compromise’ policy on greasing palms and doing ethical business, set the standards.

27-Do Not be Afraid to Court Controversy

Ever since Infosys became a success, Murthy was under constant public glare. This did not deter the straight talking Murthy from courting controversy or voicing his opinions openly.

28-Invest in Learning

With big investments in training, development and building facilities, India’s IT bell-weather has always been keen on grooming the younger generation. Murthy drove the culture of learning in the company in its early days.

29-Never Lose the Common Touch

The big man of Indian IT kept his personal life simple. He lives in a simple, middle class house and flies economy till date. Murthy has always been accessible to people around him.

30-Do Good, Look Good

Murthy knew the importance of creating an image for Infosys. He invested in creating a sprawling, world class campuses early on, bigger than any other company’s headquarters in the country, that would make his global customers feel like they were in a global office.

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Suresh Reddy becomes First Visually impaired student to join IIM

A 26-year-old 100 per cent visually impaired student from Kolkata has battled all odds to make it to the prestigious management school – IIM.

The IIM dream, chased by many but realised by few. 26-year-old Suresh Reddy from IIM Calcutta belongs to the select club. He was 13 years old when he lost his vision. His parents asked him to quit studies, but Reddy fought on. Armed with new technology and helped by friends, he cracked the IIM entrance – the first person with 100 per cent visual impairment to get admission into the elite management school.

“My credibility of carrying an IIM tag should compensate. If I say I am from x school people just walk off. If I am from IIM, people will pay at least one second attention. It is that one second that I am looking for,” said Suresh Reddy.

In an intensely competitive world, Suresh spends his every waking hour on studies just to be at par. For many at IIM, he is an inspiration.

“Lots of people have told me that they find Suresh’s story very inspiring and I agree, we thought we were the smart ones getting through IIM but look at this guy, he has achieved something,” said Sri Vatsavan.

But it’s not just the students of IIM Calcutta who see Suresh both as an inspiration, the institute too thinks he is both a challenge as well as an opportunity.

From scanners to e-books to giving extra attention, the institute too is finding ways to help Reddy.

“He has been also exemplary in his efforts to study and learn things,” said Professor Prashant Mishra, Chairman, Post Gradutate Programme.

But above all,it’s hope and self-belief that drives Reddy.

“I have no other choice but to be optimistic and at least to follow if not to lead,” he said.

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Chandrasekar, 17, is youngest to ace MTech from IIT

Two years ago, at 15, S Chandrasekar was the youngest engineering graduate in the country. On July 25, he will be the youngest postgraduate from IIT Madras when he receives his degree at the convocation. The teenager has also topped his class.

Born on September 25, 1990, Chandrasekar was a precocious child, according to his parents. “His teachers used to complain that he would finish his work quickly and disturb other children, so we asked them to give him some books to read after he finishes work so he doesn’t trouble the other children,” says Chandrasekar’s father R Subramanian, an auditor.

A family friend, who noticed that the boy was inquisitive and picking up things very quickly, thought it would be interesting to put him in an international certificate programme.That is how Chandrasekar became the youngest Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and Cisco Certified Network Associate at 11 years.

Chandrasekar was appointed an honorary director of the Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council – Center of Relevance and Excellence in network engineering in August 2002.

In 2002, an Anna University committee, headed by the then vice-chancellor Dr Balaguruswamy, assessed the boy’s capabilities and decided to admit him into the BE programme, which he cleared when he was 15.

He then took the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering and scored 99.32 percentile, which left no room for academics at IIT-M to have second thoughts about admitting him into the MTech course.

“The best thing about him is his consistent performance. When he is interested in something, he pursues it with great commitment and purpose,” says Subramanian.

“BE was academically not very hard. In the first semester the environment was new, so I had a little difficulty both academically and psychologically. But Dr Thangaraj, now vice-chancellor of Kalasalingam University, gave me a nice home-like atmosphere, and after the first four or five months there was never a problem,” says Sekar, as his close acquaintances call him.

Prof Pandurangan of IIT, under whose guidance Sekar works, says, “It’s a pleasure to teach and do research with him. He has showed mastery and mathematical maturity ahead of his age.”

Sekar attributes his success to Bell’s Matriculation School in Tirunelveli, which never put any academic pressure on him and allowed him to grow in his own time, Covansys, Dr Thangaraj of Kalasalingam University, Anna University, which bent rules to accommodate his genius, and TCS for extending its resources for his development.

“I want to continue as a researcher in TCS RMD in Chennai for some more time. I would also like to get a management degree at some point in my career so I won’t just have theoretical knowledge. Best of both worlds, you know,” Chandrasekar says.

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From Rs 50 to a Forbes billionaire!

P N C Menon, chairman of the Rs 1,500-crore Sobha Developers Ltd, is one of the few dollar-billionaires in India. For the last two years, he has been listed in the Forbes list of billionaires (he is listed at number 754 in the last Forbes list of world’s billionaires).

Menon set up his empire in the Sultanate of Oman with just Rs 50 in hand. Through sheer hard work and some wise decisions, he has become one of the most successful businessmen from India. Today, his company has a presence in India, Dubai, and Oman.

Sobha Developers went public in November 2006. Today, more than 4,000 people are directly employed by Menon, in addition to the thousands more involved in the construction of his buildings.

As he diversifies his activities as a businessman, he is also in the process of developing the village he belongs to by adopting the 3,000-odd families which are below the poverty line.

At Vadakkancherry in Kerala, he has built a hermitage for old people and young widows, a school for children, and also a hospital for the villagers. He also runs the Sobha Tradesman Academy in Bangalore that trains people from economically backward villages in trades related to the construction industry.

In this interview taken at the Sobha Hermitage at Vadakkancherry, Menon speaks of how important it is for him to take care of his fellow beings.

Childhood in Kerala

I am from an agricultural family in Palghat in Kerala. As my father was into small business in Thrissur, I grew up there. I lost my father when I was 10 years old, and my grandparents were not educated enough to take care of his business. My mother also was ill. So, everything disappeared in a short period of time.

You can say I became an adult at the age of 10 or 12, and started taking decisions on my own from that age. It was a very unfortunate childhood; not a happy one at all.

I did not complete my graduation; I dropped out. If you ask me why, I don’t know. Probably I was in a hurry to be on my own. Like many children who come from a business background, working for somebody else was not there in my mind.

I started my own interior decoration business; small scale contract work of the interiors of houses and offices. It was nothing to write home about.

Chance meeting with an Arab

In 1976, I met this gentleman — Brig Gen Suleiman Al Adawy — in a hotel lobby in Kochi, quite accidentally. He had come to Kochi to buy a fishing boat. I had gone to the hotel for some other work. We happened to talk to each other, and after that, he said, “Ours is a new country. There are a lot of opportunities. Why don’t you come over to my place? We will do something together. Till then, I had not even heard of a place called Sultanate of Oman. (I went back home, took an atlas and located the place!)

In Oman, with Rs 50 in hand

I decided to accept his invitation. I took my passport and within two months, I was ready to fly to the Sultanate of Oman. I had only Rs 50 in my hand as, at that time, you were permitted to take only that much money with you.

But I was excited. There was no fear of uncertainty in my mind. I had always been sure of myself. I knew I would be able to do something there. I don’t know whether it is the right attitude, but I had that confidence in me. I may sound arrogant but I was confident because I had no role model.

Starting a business in Oman

We had many pre-conceived notions about the Arabs, like they are swimming in money, etc. But this man was only an officer in the army. He had no money to put in as capital to start a business. So, both of us went and borrowed 3,000 riyals from a bank as the initial capital and started our business.

We decided to do the interiors of buildings, a continuation of what I was doing in Kerala. It was an international market but I was only a street-side contractor. Street-side contractor means you had only a briefcase with you; not even a great office. I was like a fisherman, going to the sea to fish, going to the market to sell the catch and make a living. The beginning was very, very small.

Working hard and with confidence

It was tough initially, but I worked hard, really hard. Five things were against me: I was not professionally qualified. I did not have sufficient capital. I was in a new geographical location. I didn’t have sufficient contacts. And my communication skills were poor as I had studied in a Malayalam medium school.

So amidst all the negatives, it was like chasing dreams! Yet, even though I, my feet were firmly on the ground.

And although I had all the negatives stacked against me, my confidence level was very high. The ability to understand too was very high. I never settled for anything less than perfect.

Now I feel I had divine blessings.

Leader in the industry in Oman

I entered Oman in 1976, and in 1984, I was in the top 4. By 1986-87, my company, The Services and Trade Group of Companies, became a leader in the industry. Even now, I am the market leader there.

Remember, I was competing with European companies. Initially they looked at me as if I were a joker. But as I began to succeed, they started looking at me seriously.

Why, or how, I became the market leader was because I never transferred the money I made back to India. I invested all that in the expansion of the business.

I slowly built my enterprise in Oman. It was not easy building an enterprise; it was very, very difficult. It was like building it brick by brick, step by step. I was learning on the job with each passing day. Each step, you perfect it and go on to the next level.

‘Competing with myself’

I always compete with myself and in that competition I am a failure. There are two personalities here; the man with the requirement and the man who delivers. The man with the requirement demands a lot which the other man cannot deliver. That is why he is a failure.

I will be sixty this year-end (2008-end). Probably I may die without achieving what one part of me yearns for. There is always a gap in what you have achieved and what you plan to achieve.

From interiors to full structure

In 1986, I decided to be a full time builder. What I did was backward integration: from architecture to structural engineering to designs. We are probably the only backward integrated company of this size and type in the whole world.

From factory-building, we went to construct houses, and then to large commercial buildings. We also did private palaces in the Middle East.

I became a citizen of Oman a decade ago. From Oman, I moved to the United Arab Emirates.

Doing business in India

When I came to India to do business 14 years ago, it was to diversify the geographical spread. I chose Bangalore as our destination in India. I started Sobha Developers in my wife’s name. Because I had done even the palaces in the Middle East, I came with top-end knowledge. That was why we succeeded here too.

We have completed more than ten commercial projects on turnkey bases, covering 1.85 million sq ft. Forty residential projects have been completed and about 32 are in the process of completion.

Under contractual projects, we have built office buildings for Infosys, Timken, Taj, Mico, HP and Dell.

We went public in 2006. Now we are a Rs 1,500-crore company.

went to Oman to start a business with Rs 50 in my hand. Today, I am in the Forbes list of billionaires. In 2007, I was listed in the Forbes list. In the 2008 list also, I am there.

If you ask me how I felt, I would say, it was a very satisfying experience. Internationally, the tag has its advantages. If you do not have acceptance in the market place, you will not be able to continue as a businessman.

One has to admit that there are only 1,200 people in the world who are listed. So, it was a nice feeling.

The life of a billionaire

I live a good life and I don’t feel guilty about it. I have beautiful houses, beautiful cars and I have also ordered a private jet now.

However, after a point, money cannot be the motivating factor. Money is only a byproduct of success. Success for me is. . . well, if I am at step 10, then I see success at step 20. So, success is infinity for me; it never ends.

I come from a middle class family and I still have those middle class values.

Dreams of a billionaire

My first ambition is I want to prove that in India, we have a global Indian company in the real estate and construction industry. I want people from anywhere in the world to look at my buildings and say, what a building! What construction!

My target for this global Indian company is 2011. My dream volume: 10million sq ft of buildings, and 10 million sq ft of infrastructure. I am confident we will achieve that dream..

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Mercy Killing petitioner beats death, hugs life

Two years back Seema Sood longed for death and had even petitioned the President of India for euthanasia. But hope triumphed over despair and today, walking with difficulty, but walking nonetheless, after a total knee replacement surgery, the Bits Pilani gold medalist is ready to take on life once again.

The turnaround has been both spectacular and miraculous for the 37-year-old who lost all movement of her limbs for 15 harrowing years after a crippling attack of rheumatoid arthritis. The disillusionment was so intense that she wanted permission for mercy killing. But that was then.

“I regret the letter to the President,” she said, still frail and moving in tiny steps with the help of a walker. “Everything was so dark for me earlier, but I am excited about my mobility now and I am confident I will improve.”

Walking for the first time after 1993 on Thursday, Seema, a resident of Palampur in Himachal Pradesh, has another regret: that she spent the most productive years of her life in bed struggling with deep dejection when her twin masters degree from Pilani in engineering sciences and information technology could have taken her places.

Amazingly, when she won the gold medal from her institute, she had already been attacked by the dreadful disease and was on heavy steroids.

Fortunately for her both the Himachal government and her alumni association have come forward to help her out. She has been granted funds from her native state for replacement of all her joints. “This includes the knees, the hips, the shoulders and the elbows. The delayed treatment had made her case complicated and tough,” said Manoj Wadhwa, orthopaedic surgeon in the private Mohali hospital that is treating her.

The doctor said there will be a 15-day gap between the other surgeries of hips, shoulders and elbows and Seema would take another six months to recover. But back from the brink, Seema, who teaches math and chemistry to children of her village back home, is ready for the big leap ahead. “Don’t give up on life. That’s what I say,” she says feebly, but determined as doctors usher her to the hospital room which will be her house for the next six months.

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Software Engineer-to-be at 16!

Imagine this: a sixteen-year-old schoolboy, with a plum job offer at hand? Hard to believe? It was for us too – till we met Arvind Thiagarajan, an unassuming standard XII lad from DAV Chennai with an impressive title – Bell Labs Scholar 2000. This Chennai lad is one of the 655 Indian students who took the exams conducted by The Lucent Technologies India. Of these only 8 students were selected and all of them were from the South.

Three of these students are from Bangalore, three from Hyderabad and two, from Chennai! (The other lucky chap is Sundeep Venkataraman from PSBB). Arvind has been provisionally offered a post at the Indian offices of Lucent Technologies, where he’ll don the garb of a Software Engineer. He has also been awarded a scholarship of Rs.25,000.

Arvind’s biggest ambition in his life at present is to get inside the IIT. Easy to understand, especially as both his father and uncle have IIT-IIM background. He is the only child and his mother is a homemaker. What attracted Arvind to computers and software at this young age is, in his words, his love for solving problems. And surprisingly, he is no avid web surfer! Anyway, here’s wishing you the very best of luck for a fantastic future, Arvind.

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Inspiring speeches of the 20th century

Dear Friends,

Click the link below to listen to inspiring speeches by great world leaders.


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Life after near-death

Times Review profiles extraordinary people who refused to let life-altering mishaps get them down


Earlier this month, a 20-yearold girl showed Mumbai an act of incredible courage. Sneha Kale, on her way home after giving an exam, fell off an overcrowded local train; her right leg, which was crushed under the wheels, had to be amputated immediately. The very next day, the spunky girl went to write her next paper. “And why not?’’ she asks, “I had prepared, and I was confident of doing well.’’

Sneha is casual about her decision to not wallow in self-pity. “My parents are the emotional kind,’’ she says. “If I am not brave, they’ll break down. In any case, I need to live and to work. And in order to work, I need to get on with life. It as simple as that.’’
—Ketan Tanna

Joginder Singh Saluja, aka Bittoo, has won the Mr India national title in body-building and power-lifting pageants for three consecutive years. The fact that his powerful biceps completely obscure his lifeless lower limbs comes as a reassurance to many that nothing is impossible.

When he was barely ten months old, Bittoo contracted polio which left both his legs damaged. “I underwent 10 operations till the age of 14, after which I hit the gym,’’ he says. “People made fun of me when I held the dumbbells for the first time. The more they laughed, the more motivated I felt. I can now lift about 150 kg bench-press. Assi ta cheetein haan, kise toh nahi darde (I am as tough as a cheetah. I fear nothing). Just try really hard, and you can get what you want in life,’’ says Bittoo who now wants to set up a gym for the physically handicapped.
—Neha Pushkarna


Rathi’s spinal cord was ruptured when the wheels of the train ran over her right arm, severing it from her shoulder. And as she lay there unable to move, she saw another train approaching on the same track. “Unable to move, I couldn’t do a thing even as I saw it running over my leg,’’ she says. After the train passed, another train driver shunting an engine spotted her and shifted her to hospital.

“I had just finished writing my income-tax exams then. The doctors had given up hope, and said I would remain bedridden all my life. I don’t know if you can call it a miracle, but a few months after the surgery I actually recovered and began to live like everybody else.’’

Menon acquired an artificial leg, and switched to using her left hand. Initially it was difficult, but she overcame every difficulty with her sheer grit—she wrote three exams after the accident, topped in all and went on to become inspector of income-tax.
—Prashant G N


The day is still etched vividly in the 22-year-old’s memory. “It happened on August 12, 2002,’’ she says. “Rajesh was my neighbour and I had rejected his advances. I was on my way to school when he threw acid on me. It burnt my face, head and chest. I lost my eye and ear in the attack.’’ The expense of Shruti’s surgeries almost crippled her father, a tailor, but they got by with funds from NGOs. She then worked with a bank as a telemarketer for a while but is now looking for a job.

Shruthi discontinued her studies because of her medical problems but managed to pass her tenth-standard exam with the help of her parents. “Initially I found it tough and used to be very upset but thanks to my family I have managed to deal with whatever came my way. Now I feel I am normal. All I can say is one should live in the present,’’ she says.
—Ketan Tanna

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