From College drop out to MBA earning 12 lakh p.a.

Here I am – this is me — there’s nowhere else on earth I’d rather be.”

I can identify with Bryan Adam’s lyrics now, but I wasn’t exactly singing the same tune a few years ago.

I’m 30 years old and come from an upper middle-class family. The only child of my doting parents, sports and music were my passions when I was growing up – as for academics, I loathed the very sight of my school and college books. Still, I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of Mumbai, went on to do my MBA and today hold a cushy position in a media company. Regular story, right? With one minor difference – I dropped out of college at the age of 17 and picked up the pen once more only at the age of 24, seven years later. Here is my story.

I passed out of school in 1993, a mere one percent extra responsible for my Class I grade. My parents were reasonably well-off and only wished for me to graduate from college before starting out upon a career — any career – of my choice. Only, at the age of 15, I wasn’t ready to take my future seriously. I attended college for two years and had enough of it. So I did what most youngsters with a foolish head on their shoulders do — I dropped out of college after my HSC examinations, in 1995.

I began to look around for a job, but I didn’t give anything much of a chance before voicing my distaste and moving onto something else. I soon gave up looking altogether and began to spend my days as I chose, hanging out with friends and doing what teenagers do. Looking back, maybe I was a little disillusioned as well, because the two things I loved — sports and music — didn’t seem to be working out for me. A knee injury in my teens had put to rest my dreams of a career in cricket and as for music, if you’re under the Western influence, you can forget about a successful career here in India.

The years wore on and I did nothing with my life — 17, 18, 19 years of age. The teenage years were gone and with their departure arrived a hint of good sense. I slowly began to realise that my parents were supporting me at an age when I should have been supporting them. Going to my mother everyday for a mere 50 rupees for motorcycle fuel translated from a routine into a nightmare. She never ever said anything, but her look was enough. I became desperate to do something, anything, that would allow me the tiniest bit of financial independence.

Being a guitar player, I had always wanted to do something in music. Now, with the illusions of grandeur finally vaporised, I began to visit a music studio for advertisement, jingle and radio recordings, earning 500 bucks a day for a gruelling 8-hour shift. It was enough to sustain me then, but it’s not a very pleasant memory now. I was 20 and a cool youngster musician. Nothing could go wrong. I joined a rock band — all of us were focused on making it big, but none of us had a clue as to how we would go about establishing a reputation. We played at college fests, restaurants and corporate parties. We used to make Rs 1000 each per gig and we played two or three gigs a week.

At the age of 20, I was making between Rs 8000-10,000 a month through music. I was glad not to rely on my parents anymore, but a serious career was nowhere on the horizon. I could afford a couple of meals at a nice restaurant and buy a set of imported guitar strings once in a while, but not much byond that.

A few months down the line I was introduced through a friend to someone who owned a recording studio. He was looking for someone to handle assignments at the studio — a recording engineer. I had no sound engineering background, so I was taken aback when I was offered the job – I took it up anyway. I was hired at a salary of Rs 3500 per month, but I could continue my gigs with the band alongside. Still, I was dissatisfied. I couldn’t figure it out — I had a job, was making a little money in music and still had this yearning within me to do something worthwhile.

Then it happened, in the year 2001. I attended a school friend’s wedding and was looking forward to meeting long-lost pals from my boyhood days. That wedding changed my life and my haphazard career — if I can call it that – forever. The friends I met weren’t the ones I knew in school. They had changed a lot. Some had joined their fathers’ businesses and many were studying abroad at world-famous business schools. The internship money that they were making per month was more than my annual salary. I suddenly felt like I was a misfit. Not that they made me feel that way, but they were all educated, grown-up individuaIs — and I wasn’t.

I didn’t know what to do. I got home that night with my mind in a tizzy — was it too late for me? Was I going to be a wasted dropout, making a buck here and a buck there, all my life? When the next day dawned, I was still awake and I had arrived at a conclusion — I was going to try and salvage my academic career. Maybe I would succeed, maybe I wouldn’t. Realistically speaking, it had been seven years since I had opened a book and the thought of studying again curled my toes.

But I did it anyway. I went to Mumbai University and filled out the distance education admission forms — luckily, it was the month of May and I could enroll for the coming academic year. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to pursue as a serious career, but I wanted to become a graduate for sure. “Graduation is a must,” as Mom always says. The two years in college before I dropped out, I was a commerce student. However, subjects like economics and accounts had never been my cup of tea and my favourite subject in school had been history. So I would pursue history.

I kept earning Rs 3500 per month at the recording studio, kept studying and kept pacifying myself — ‘It’s never too late’ became my mantra. I struggled with my books as I had not read one in seven years and now I had a job to balance alongside. But for the first time in my life, I decided I would follow through with something I had taken up. Looking back, I don’t think anyone at home expected me to go through with it all the way, but my parents were supportive nontheless.

The day of the FYBA results was the day of reckoning. When my marksheet was thrust in my hand and I saw that I had passed, albeit with a Second Class, I couldn’t believe it. “One down, two to go,” I thought to myself. With a lot of difficulty, I got through the second year and then, finally, took my final exams for BA. I became a graduate in 2004, a History Major from the University of Mumbai.

When I received my certificate, I was on cloud nine. My parents were overjoyed — it was all they had ever hoped I would accomplish academically. I started applying for jobs in the media industry, lower executive positions. After all, I was now a graduate and no longer a misfit. Or was I?

I soon realised that most company peons were graduates — and an arts background was scoffed at. But I had come so far — I wasn’t going to stop here. If there was anything I had learned from the three years I spent graduating, it was never give up. I began to explore further academic options. I had heard of executive MBA courses offered by leading b-schools for working candidates, but how was I going to get into one of these institutions? I was a graduate, but you needed to be a brilliant student to even be considered and nerve-wracking entrance tests had to be given before any school worthy of mention would accept you.

All I could think of was the 6000 rupees I was earning per month. My girlfriend made more than me and it scared me to think that after three brain-busting years of studying I was only an average candidate among millions, looking for a dream job that would never come at this rate. Finally — and I think that this was a gift straight from heaven, in appreciation of my committment to graduating – I heard of a management course offered by a prestigious institute that was tailor-made for me. You didn’t need to give an entrance exam, all you needed was to be a graduate and to have four years of work experience at a junior position.

Moreover, this was only the second year that the course was being offered — it hadn’t existed up until I was in my last year of college. A two-year post-graduation diploma in management, recognised by the country’s leading companies. The fees were hefty, but I took a loan from a bank — I wasn’t about to burden my parents with paying for something I didn’t know I could accomplish. Graduation was one thing — a management diploma from a leading b-school quite another. Accounts and economics were compulsory subjects in the first year! How was I going to do this? But I knew I had to try.

With my arts background, I had to sign up for tutorials in accounts. Through the week I would attend early morning lectures at the institute before heading off to my job, then weekends I had my tuition. I’ll never forget the first day of the course. I walked into class in jeans and a tee-shirt, only to find 50 students in formalwear, complete with jackets and ties, awaiting the professor! There was no one there without a laptop — the syllabus stipulated that you had to have one. If you didn’t own one, the institute would loan you a laptop for a fee, for the duration of your course. This certainly wasn’t Mumbai University!

“All this just for a post-graduate diploma?” I wondered. It wasn’t even a degree course. My friends later explained that many private b-schools didn’t offer degrees for the simple reason that they are not recognised by Mumbai University. But the diplomas are recognised by companies and that’s all that matters. A diploma from a reputed private b-school is equivalent to a degree from a university-recognised institute .

To say that I worked hard for my exams would be an understatement. This time around, I was determined that I wouldn’t just scrape through — I would do my best. And I did — each semester saw me pass with a Class I grade and last year I obtained my PGDBA, specialising in marketing.

Today I have a job I love with a well-established media company. My days in the studio and my music also paid off — I help prepare jingles, promos and advertisements for corporate giants. My package is Rs 12,00,000 per year. I often wonder where I would have been on the corporate ladder if I hadn’t dropped out of college, but I regret nothing. I’m earning well, my parents are happy and I’ve done what I set out to do — study hard and pursue my dream career.


Leave a comment

The inspiring rags-to-riches tale of Sarathbabu

When 27-year old Sarathbabu graduated from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, he created quite a stir by refusing a job that offered him a huge salary. He preferred to start his own enterprise — Foodking Catering Service — in Ahmedabad.

He was inspired by his mother who once sold idlis on the pavements of Chennai, to educate him and his siblings. It was a dream come true, when Infosys [Get Quote] co-founder N R Narayana Murthy lit the traditional lamp and inaugurated Sarathbabu’s enterprise.

Sarathbabu was in Chennai, his hometown, a few days ago, to explore the possibility of starting a Foodking unit in the city and also to distribute the Ullas Trust Scholarships instituted by the IT firm Polaris [Get Quote] to 2,000 poor students in corporation schools.

In this interview with, Sarathbabu describes his rise from a Chennai slum to his journey to the nation’s premier management institute to becoming a successful entrepreneur. This is his story, in his own words.

Childhood in a slum

I was born and brought up in a slum in Madipakkam in Chennai. I have two elder sisters and two younger brothers and my mother was the sole breadwinner of the family. It was really tough for her to bring up five kids on her meagre salary.

As she had studied till the tenth standard, she got a job under the mid-day meal scheme of the Tamil Nadu government in a school at a salary of Rs 30 a month. She made just one rupee a day for six people.

So, she sold idlis in the mornings. She would then work for the mid-day meal at the school during daytime. In the evenings, she taught at the adult education programme of the Indian government.

She, thus, did three different jobs to bring us up and educate us. Although she didn’t say explicitly that we should study well, we knew she was struggling hard to send us to school. I was determined that her hard work should not go in vain.

I was a topper throughout my school days. In the mornings, we went out to sell idlis because people in slums did not come out of their homes to buy idlis. For kids living in a slum, idlis for breakfast is something very special.

My mother was not aware of institutions like the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, or the Indian Institutes of Technology. She only wanted to educate us so that we got a good job. I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that time because in my friend-circle, nobody talked about higher education or preparing for the IIT-JEE.

When you constantly worry about the next square meal, you do not dream of becoming a doctor or an engineer. The only thing that was on my mind was to get a good job because my mother was struggling a lot.

I got very good marks in the 10th standard exam. It was the most critical moment of my life. Till the 10th, there was no special fee but for the 11th and the 12th, the fees were Rs 2,000-3,000.

I did book-binding work during the summer vacation and accumulated money for my school fees. When I got plenty of work, I employed 20 other children and all of us did the work together. That was my first real job as an entrepreneur. Once I saw the opportunity, I continued with the work.

Life at BITS, Pilani

Sreeram SelvarajA classmate of mine told me about BITS, Pilani. He was confident that I would get admission, as I was the topper. He also told me that on completion (of studies at Pilani), I will definitely get a job.

When I got the admission, I had mixed feelings. On one hand I was excited that for the first time I was going out of Chennai, but there was also a sense of uncertainty.

The fees alone were around Rs 28,000, and I had to get around Rs 42,000. It was huge, huge money for us. And there was no one to help us. Just my mother and sisters. One of my sisters — they were all married by then — pawned her jewellery and that’s how I paid for the first semester.

My mother then found out about an Indian government scholarship scheme. She sent me the application forms, I applied for the scholarship, and I was successful. So, after the first semester, it was the scholarship that helped me through.

It also helped me to pay my debt (to the sister who had pawned her jewellery). I then borrowed money from my other sister and repaid her when the next scholarship came.

The scholarship, however, covered only the tuition fees. What about the hostel fees and food? Even small things like a washing soap or a toothbrush or a tube of toothpaste was a burden. So, I borrowed more at high rates of interest. The debt grew to a substantial amount by the time I reached the fourth year.

First year at BITS, Pilani

To put it mildly, I was absolutely shocked. Till then, I had moved only with students from poor families. At Pilani, all the students were from the upper class or upper middle class families. Their lifestyle was totally different from mine. The topics they discussed were alien to me. They would talk about the good times they had in school.

On the other hand, my school years were a big struggle. There was this communication problem also as I was not conversant in English then.

I just kept quiet and observed them. I concentrated only on my studies because back home so many people had sacrificed for me. And, it took a really long time — till the end of the first year — to make friends.

The second year

I became a little more confident and started opening up. I had worked really hard for the engineering exhibition during the first year. I did a lot of labour-intensive work like welding and cutting, though my subject was chemical engineering. My seniors appreciated me.

In my second year also, I worked really hard for the engineering exhibition. This time, my juniors appreciated me, and they became my close friends, so close that they would be at my beck and call.

In the third year, when there was an election for the post of the co-ordinator for the exhibition, my juniors wanted me to contest. Thanks to their efforts I was unanimously elected. That was my first experience of being in the limelight. It was also quite an experience to handle around 100 students.

Seeing my work, slowly my batch mates also came to the fold. All of them said I lead the team very well.

They also told me that I could be a good manager and asked me to do MBA. That was the first time I heard about something called MBA. I asked them about the best institution in India. They said, the Indian Institutes of Management. Then, I decided if I was going to study MBA, it should be at one of the IIMs, and nowhere else.

Inspiration to be an entrepreneur

It was while preparing for the Common Admission Test that I read in the papers that 30 per cent of India’s population does not get two meals a day. I know how it feels to be hungry. What should be done to help them, I wondered.

I also read about Infosys and Narayana Murthy, Reliance [Get Quote] and Ambani. Reliance employed 20,000-25,000 people at that time, and Infosys, around 15,000. When a single entrepreneur like Ambani employed 25,000 people, he was supporting the family, of four or five, of each employee. So he was taking care of 100,000 people indirectly. I felt I, too, should become an entrepreneur.

But, my mother was waiting for her engineer son to get a job, pay all the debts, build a pucca house and take care of her. And here I was dreaming about starting my own enterprise. I decided to go for a campus interview, and got a job with Polaris. I also sat for CAT but I failed to clear it in my first attempt.

I worked for 30 months at Polaris. By then, I could pay off all the debts but I hadn’t built a proper house for my mother. But I decided to pursue my dream. When I took CAT for the third time, I cleared it and got calls from all the six IIMs. I got admission at IIM, Ahmedabad.

Life at IIM, Ahmedabad

My college helped me get a scholarship for the two years that I was at IIM. Unlike in BITS, I was more confident and life at IIM was fantastic. I took up a lot of responsibilities in the college. I was in the mess committee in the first year and in the second year; I was elected the mess secretary.

Becoming an entrepreneur

By the end of the second year, there were many lucrative job offers coming our way, but in my mind I was determined to start something on my own. But back home, I didn’t have a house. It was a difficult decision to say ‘no’ to offers that gave you Rs 800,000 a year. But I was clear in my mind even while I knew the hard realities back home.

Yes, my mother had been an entrepreneur, and subconsciously, she must have inspired me. My inspirations were also (Dhirubhai) Ambani and Narayana Murthy. I knew I was not aiming at something unachievable. I got the courage from them to start my own enterprise.

Nobody at my institute discouraged me. In fact, at least 30-40 students at the IIM wanted to be entrepreneurs. And we used to discuss about ideas all the time. My last option was to take up a job.

Foodking Catering Services Pvt Ltd

My mother is my first inspiration to start a food business. Remember I started my life selling idlis in my slum. Then of course, my experience as the mess secretary at IIM-A was the second inspiration. I must have handled at least a thousand complaints and a thousand suggestions at that time. Every time I solved a problem, they thanked me.

I also felt there is a good opportunity in the food business. If you notice, a lot of people who work in the food business come from the weaker sections of the society.

My friends helped me with registering the company with a capital of Rs 100,000. Because of the IIM brand and also because of the media attention, I could take a loan from the bank without any problem.

I set up an office and employed three persons. The first order was from a software company in Ahmedabad. They wanted us to supply tea, coffee and snacks. We transported the items in an auto.

When I got the order from IIM, Ahmedabad, I took a loan of Rs 11 lakhs (Rs 1.1 million) and started a kitchen. So, my initial capital was Rs 11.75 lakhs (Rs 1.17 million).

Three months have passed, and now we have forty employees and four clients — IIM Ahmedabad, Darpana Academy, Gujarat Energy Research Management Institute and System Plus.

In the first month of our operation, we earned around Rs 35,000. Now, the turnover is around Rs 250,000. The Chennai operations will start in another three months’ time.


I want to employ as many people as I can, and improve their quality of life. In the first year, I want to employ around 200-500 people. In the next five years, I hope to increase it by 15,000. I am sure it is possible.

I want to cover all the major cities in India, and later, I want to go around the world too.

I have seen people from all walks of life — from the slums to the elite in the country. That is why luxuries like a car or a bungalow do not matter to me. Even money doesn’t matter to me. I feel bad if I have to have food in a five star hotel. I feel guilty.

Personally, I have no ambition but I want to give a house and a car to my mother.


I did not expect this kind of exposure by the media for my venture or appreciation from people like my director at the IIM or Narayana Murthy. I was just doing what I wanted to do. But the exposure really helped me get orders, finance, everything.

The best compliments I received were from Narayana Murthy and my director at IIM, Ahmedabad. When I told him (IIM-A director) about my decision to start a company, he hugged me and wished me luck. They have seen life, they have seen thousands and thousands of students and if they say it is a good decision, I am sure it is a good decision.

Leave a comment

Noel Sequeira – Unsung Hero

Call them geeks, techies or whatever you feel like. The truth is that for most IT professionals their world revolves around the computer. But then there’s more to the story. Many of these professionals use their skills to make a difference to o ther’s life. And recognition of this effort is Heroes Happen Here, a programme for the IT community in India launched by Microsoft, which showcases their achievements beyond work.

With nearly 900 entries already registered on the website, the competition to find the top 10 stories is getting tougher. While three winners will be eligible for a fully-paid trip to Microsoft Headquarters at Redmond, Seattle, all the 10 winners will receive a Dell Laptop each.

So what does it take to become a hero? Well, you should have shown the willingness to go beyond the call of duty and used any version of Microsoft’s products to fulfil it. Take the example of Noel Sequeira, a third year engineering student at Vivekananda Educational Society’s Institute of Engineering, Mumbai. Along with his doctor friends, Noel decided to create the website,, with the aim of creating a directory of volunteer blood donors who can be contacted in time of need. He says, “The idea stemmed from an incident when a friend required blood for a platelet transfusion but couldn’t get blood from the bank because he couldn’t find a replacement donor. Later we came to know that 500 to 800 people need blood everyday, we wanted to find a solution. I was the only one with web skills.”

On the other hand, Yamini Arora, manager with a telecom firm in Pune, wanted to make everyone’s life in office easy by creating an intranet system to fill forms, an idea that came after she was fed up of filling the same HR feedback form repeatedly. How many of us can boast having created a graduation project that can actually help someone? Pursuing his M. Tech at IIIT Gwalior, Mayur Gupta developed a regional language voice enquiry system for Indian farmers. “It will provide farmers with pricing details, medical, educational and local news over the internet through speech recognition. Successful experiments have already been done in Hindi and Telugu. We are in talks with villagers to implement it at the ground level,” he explains.

Says Pallavi Kathuria, Director, server business group, Microsoft India, “Over the last few years, we have seen that technology experts have evolved from being mere facilitators to frontline business contributors. Heroes Happen Here is our way of acknowledging their work.”

Leave a comment

Bhavna becomes World’s first graduate using ‘eye – pointing’ system

The first thing that strikes you when you meet Bhavna Botta is how full of smiles she is. Not surprisingly, she was voted Miss Smiley — and Miss Final Year — at her B.A. Corporate Secretaryship department farewell party in Ethiraj College this year.

It has been a remarkable journey. Bhavna was born with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, which means she is unable to walk, write by hand, or communicate verbally. Yet, she has defied all odds to complete her Class XII exams from a mainstream institution, Lady Andal Venkatasubba Rao Matriculation Higher Secondary School, and now her Bachelor’s degree from Ethiraj, all using a unique system of communication by ‘eye-pointing’.

“She is definitely the first person in India — and possibly in the world — to have finished a college degree using the eye-pointing system,” says Kalpana, her mother. With this system, Bhavana communicates — and writes her exams — using a chart of alphabets in numbered columns, spelling out what she wants to say by pointing at the columns with her eyes. The chart was developed specially for her at Vidyasagar (a voluntary organisation that works with children and young adults with cerebral palsy and other neurological disabilities), where she studied until Class X. That’s what she uses during this interview as well, spelling out her answers so rapidly at times that Kalpana can’t keep up.

Foremost on her mind is her emotional parting with M. Thavamani, her principal at Ethiraj College who retired recently, and whom she went to college to say goodbye to. “It was a very unique feeling,” says Bhavna, “something I’ve never experienced before.”

Thavamani describes the meeting in touchingly similar terms: “It was a very emotional moment for both of us; I can’t begin to express the kind of affection Bhavna’s shown me, the department and her classmates.”

She adds: “When I first met the child, I did wonder if she would be able to manage. But today I can say that having been Bhavna’s teacher — I taught her accountancy in her first year — is something I’m truly proud of in my career of 35 years.”

Like any youngster, Bhavna’s fondest memories of her three years in college are of the friendships she formed and of all the fun she’s had. The word she spells out most often is ‘fun’, amidst plenty of laughter, as her mother talks about her adventures in learning to wear a sari and her insistence on going to the beach even though the salt water plays havoc with her wheelchair.

Is she signing up for a postgraduate degree? Her family is trying to convince her to do so. But her mind’s made up and it has been since she was in Class VIII — Bhavna plans to start her own business. “She’s geared all her decisions towards this, whether it was taking accountancy in Class XI or choosing Entrepreneurial Development as her elective in college,” says Meenakshi Subramanian, member of Vidyasagar’s Disability Legislation Unit (DLU), and Bhavna’s close friend and scribe.

She’s already decided on the sort of business she’s like to do — a socially responsible venture selling organic cotton and ahimsa silk saris and dress materials — and she has friends and family collecting information for her on different aspects.

But when Kalpana talks about family funding the venture, Bhavna protests vehemently — she’s determined to start her business with a loan from the National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC) instead. Her answer to my question “Why business?” was simply to spell out “independence”.

“What’s the next step?” earns a similarly simple response: “Launching the business.” With this plucky young woman’s track record, you’ve got to believe it will happen, sooner rather than later.

( 1 ) Comment

Inspiring story of Ashish Goyal, World’s First Ever Blind Trader

As a trader at JP Morgan Chase in London, Ashish Goyal helps manage billions of dollars of the bank’s exposure to risks like foreign exchange fluctuations. In his spare time, he takes tango lessons, plays cricket and goes clubbing with friends. Goyal is also blind.

Watching him in the middle of the trading floor as he switches back and forth between computer screens, that is not apparent at all. But to check his e-mail, read research reports and look at presentations, Goyal uses a screen-reading software whose speed is so high that it sounds like gibberish to the untrained ear. When he needs to read graphs, which the software cannot do, Goyal goes through the data and tries to imagine the graph in his head.

On his desk, two computer screens show the usual flashing Bloomberg messages and spreadsheets of constantly changing numbers. Two keyboards are linked to headsets through which the information and figures are read out to him at rapid speeds. The same technology reads out text messages he receives on his cell phone.

Tolga Uzuner, executive director of JP Morgan’s chief investment office and Goyal’s boss, said he hired the 30-year old Wharton graduate because he was one of only a few candidates he interviewed who knew about Asian interest rates, had excellent risk management skills and knowledge of foreign exchange.

Vladimir Aleksic, who now works with Goyal, said: “We walked out of the interview room and just said wow.” Many people on the team analyze historical data and use comparisons to make decisions about risks, Aleksic said, but “Ashish looks at where things are now and just follows the news flow. He’s not blinded by the graphs.”

But as someone who can make out only light and shadows, Goyal also knows his limits. “I told people, ‘You can put me on the spot trading desk, but I’d be too slow,’ “ he said. “The challenges are to realize where I can add value and where I don’t. You need to find your niche.”

Soon, in pursuit of a career in global financial markets, Ashish came to Wharton in 2006.Not only did he excel in academics by graduating with honours, Ashish became an inspiration in the campus. He was known for leadership and extra-curricular activities.

Ashish became a staff writer of the Wharton Journal, member of a Brazilian drumming group, and chair of the ‘Wharton Leadership Lectures Committee’, among other things. At graduation, Ashish was voted by his peers for the Joseph P Wharton Award for Leadership and Innovation.

Goyal says he always wanted to work in financial markets. But despite a résumé that includes a top business degree from a university in India, another from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a three-year stint at an Indian subsidiary of ING bank, finding people who would hire him was not easy.

After gaining his first business degree, Goyal said he had made the short list of candidates for jobs at several firms, but once they realized he was blind he was turned away. When it was ING’s turn, Goyal recalled, he was so frustrated that he just blurted: “I’m blind. Do you still want to talk to me or not?”. “They asked whether I could do the job. I said I think I can, and I was hired,” Goyal said.

Years later, when he applied to Wharton with the goal of getting a job in New York or London, Goyal said, the university’s director of admission signed off on his application with the words: “I have never seen a blind trader on Wall Street. I can’t guarantee you’ll get a job but you’ll definitely be better off with a Wharton degree.”

Still, even after Wharton, many Wall Street firms rejected his applications because they could not find anybody else on Wall Street using the same screen-reading software. JP Morgan was the only bank to offer him a summer internship, which led to an offer of a permanent position.

Goyal was not born blind. Growing up in Mumbai, Goyal said he had a normal, happy childhood. But when he was about 9 years old, he noticed that he could not immediately recognize some people and could not see the lines in his notebooks at school. One night he walked into a ditch, later he crashed his bicycle, and then he started to miss the ball during his tennis lessons.

Goyal was told he had retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic condition that damages the retina, and would gradually become blind. By the time Goyal was 22, he had completely lost his eyesight.

The loss of his eyesight left Goyal “scared and confused” and with fewer friends, he said. “I was ready to just give up and not take my final exam and just go and work for my dad,” a real estate developer, Goyal said. But his mother forced him to sit for the exam, and to his surprise he not only passed but received good grades.

Despite his achievements, which this year also included a national award from India for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Goyal speaks modestly of himself.

Ashish is the first blind trader to work for a bank and is also the first-ever blind MBA student at The Wharton School in the United States.

Leave a comment

Get Inspired from people who overcame physical handicaps to achieve Success

Life is tough for those born with a disability, traumatic for those whom disability strikes like a bolt from the blue, and a catastrophe for those who cannot cope with such an eventuality. Featured here are a cross-section of amazing Indians who managed to achieve the impossible in the face of great physical handicaps.

The never-say-die attitude of these brave men and women will always serve as an inspiration for generations to come.

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi

The Indian cricket captain from 1962 to 1970, popularly called Tiger Pataudi met with a nasty car accident in the early 1960s resulting in complete loss of vision of his right eye. This was just when he was at the threshold of a great future. He continued playing undeterred by this big blow and went on to not only continue playing the game but also captained the side.

Amitabh Bachchan

The reigning superstar of Bollywood in the 1970s, Big B’s magnificent run came to a stop when he met with a near fatal accident on the sets of the film Coolie. Though he miraculously recovered after long hospitilisation, he was not fit enough to carry on acting like in his salad days. After short stints of acting and retirement which also saw him start his own company ABCL that eventually proved a failure and led him to incur massive financial losses. Amitabh recovered lost ground after the stupendous success of the tele-show Kaun Banega Crorepati which he successfully anchored. He also resumed acting thanks to his great will power, resilience and solid support from family and friends.

Hrithik Roshan

Not many know that the mega star has been suffering from a major stuttering problem ever since age 6 and has gone through several painful speech therapy sessions to improve his speech. He continues with speech therapy even now fearing that he may get back to stuttering and incoherent speech.

Sudha Chandran

A highly talented dancer who started giving public performances at a very young age, life dealt a very cruel blow to Sudha Chandran when she was seriously injured in a bus mishap in Tamil Nadu. The ensuing hospitilisation and medical negligence led to her leg developing gangrene and an amputation. Only 17 then, the young dancer was in a state of shock for months together. The realisation that she could try to get back to dancing dawned to her when she heard of the famous Jaipur Foot. Many visits to Jaipur and several dancing trials later, the brave woman mastered dancing with the Foot.

Ravindra Jain

The renowned music director who scored the music for such hit films like Chitchor, Saudagar and Ram Teri Ganga Maili was born blind. Noticing his flair for songs and music, Ravindra Jain 's parents sent him to music classes at a very early age. From then on, there was no looking back. Besides being a composer, Ravindra Jain is also a good singer.

Hemant Trivedi

He belongs to the crème de la crème of the Indian fashion scene and was the only male to graduate from the prestigious Western Australian Institute of Design, Perth. Almost a decade back, Hemant Trivedi was all but dead in a terrible car accident in Mumbai. Timely medical intervention thanks to his mobile phone helped the designer recover and recuperate.

Leander Paes

With a string of international championship wins, Leander Paes has put the traumatic period in 2003 when he was hospitalised for suspected cancer, behind him. Luckily for the tennis star, the diagnosis turned out to be negative and he was found to be affected by neurocysticercosis, another name for a parasitic brain infection.

Dr Jaipal Reddy

The 68-year-old Minister for Urban Development who is wheelchair bound or uses crutches is one of the livewires of the present cabinet. In 1998, he was awarded the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award for his prowess in tackling political debates.

Sandeep Singh

The former Indian hockey team captain and penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh was grievously injured after being accidentally struck on the abdomen by a stray bullet. The incident that happened aboard the Shatabdi Express resulted in the player missing out on the 2006 Hockey World Cup. He survived the ordeal and went on to resume playing for the country.

Sharad Pawar

The Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, has had multiple operations around his mouth for removing tumours and lesions. The resulting contortions on his face have definitely hampered his speech but not his spirit.

Abhishek Bachchan

Abhishek Bachchan was dyslexic when he was a child and attended a special school. The critically acclaimed film Taare Zameen Par which evolves around childhood dyslexia cites Abhishek's case of a child with dyslexia who went on to not only conquer the disorder but also became a big achiever.

Salil Ankola

The dashing all-rounder made his international cricket debut in the same match as maestro Sachin Tendulkar. Later, in spite of being in the national teams several times over, he never got to play a match which resulted in an additional term in cricket jargon called 'Ankolad'. His cricket career came to an abrupt halt when a tumour was detected on his shin around the year 1997.The affliction resulted in him having around 34 stress fractures. After his cricket career ended Ankola took to acting on the small screen and has acted in several shows like Balaji Telefilms' Karam Apna Apna and also Season 1 of Big Boss. He also acted in a couple of Bollywood films like Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne.

Lisa Ray

A familiar face on the Indian advertisement scene ever since she appeared in a Bombay Dyeing ad with Karan Kapoor, the Canadian-born model, whose father is a Bengali and mother Polish, Lisa Ray has also acted in quite a few films notably Deepa Mehta’s Oscar-nominated film Water.

In June 2009, Ray was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and had been undergoing treatment. A stem cell transplant in April this year has completely cured her of the cancer and the actress who put up a brave face all through her battle with the dreaded disease is now back in the thick of action.

Sonali Rathod

The singer who is married to tabla player-turned singer Roop Kumar Rathod had a serious throat problem in the middle of her career and almost lost her voice. She resumed her career later and was instrumental in her husband's transformation from a tabla player to a singer

These are but a few of the numerous brave Indians who have battled disability and gone on to shine in their respective careers or taken up an alternative career. Hats of to these brave men and women featured here and those not featured here who live by example.

Source: India Syndicate

( 1 ) Comment

Eighty year old ailing doctor does 150 surgeries a day free of cost.

He is 80, is battling throat cancer and can barely talk, is confined to a wheelchair because of an accident, has undergone a triple bypass surgery and has a heart that functions only up to 18% of its capacity. Where would you expect such a man to be? Confined to a hospital bed, of course.

Dr Dicksheet met with an accident in 1978, which rendered his right side paralysed. He subsequently underwent a triple bypass surgery after suffering a severe heart attack.

Dr Sharad Kumar Dicksheet is confined to hospital beds indeed, but only to fix people’s defective faces and bodies, something the plastic surgeon has been doing free of cost for poor patients for the past 42 years. Advancing age and ailments have not been able to slow him down. With precise moves and extremely neat sutures, it takes him less than 30 minutes to perform a cleft lip surgery on a one-month old child. Speed and efficiency are his mantras and he performs 100-150 surgeries a day. Such operations usually cost 25,000 but he does them for free, clocking 2,66,000 surgeries in India in the past 42 years

“He prefers small children and young men and women of marriageable age for surgeries as he does not want them to live with the ignominy of a disfigured face,” said Sashi Munoth, Dr Dicksheet’s coordinator and member of Bharatiya Jain Sangathan, which funds the surgeries

A Padma Shri awardee, Dr Dicksheet lives in New York for six months and spends the rest of the time in India, from September to March, travelling across 10 states solely to perform surgeries for cleft lips, squint eyes, facial scars, ptosis and birthmark removal. Each year, he travels through Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan to perform the surgeries.

“My troubles are nothing when compared to the problems of children who come in for surgeries and the stigma they face in life because of their disfigurement. My sole aim in life is to give them a better life,” said Dr Dicksheet.

( 14 ) Comments

14-year-old girl is World’s youngest CEO

Meet 14-year-old Sindhuja Rajaraman, the CEO of Seppan, a Chennai-based animation company launched only in October last. And we’re not kidding. A ninth-standard student, she was adjudged the fastest 2D and 3D animator by software lobby Nasscom at the Gaming and Animation Conclave 2010 at Hyderabad. Interestingly, she is also a brand envoy of design software major Corel Software .

As head of this nascent firm, today she may give tough competition to some of the top CEOs when it comes to taking business decisions, that too quickly. But where did she start?

It all started five years back when I wanted to take my mind off studies and do something new. My father, who is a cartoonist, instilled in me the passion to do animation and taught me the entire process, she says. I have tried my luck with animation even before I started learning it professionally. I did my first mini animation project when I was in sixth standard. It was on “do not disturb animals?,? she recalls.

Early Months

After a few amateur moves last year, Sindhuja made a Guinness Book record attempt for the fastest animation film. The project was for Exnora, a Chennai-based non-profit organisation, to mark the occasion of 10-10-2010. I created a three-minute animation film in 10 hours. It has gone to the Guinness team and I am still waiting for them to announce the final results, she says proudly.

Things started rolling right after that when Sindhuja was offered by First Planet to work as Seppan’s chief executive. With an investment of Rs 10 lakh, First Planet seeded the firm and the entire thing happened within a day. I did not even know what a CEO meant that time, she says.

At Seppan, we are a team of 10 people and we will be adding more people as and when the need arises. Though my team mates are older they always take my assistance and, in turn, they also guide me. They have taught me what corporate world is and what team management is.

Her mentor Kumaran Mani, who helped her with the setting up of Seppan, says, Initially she was a little uncomfortable being a CEO. But now she has learnt the tricks of the trade. When she meets a client she immediately shakes hands, collects their cards and neatly puts it in her folder. Software lobby Nasscom’s regional director for Chennai, K Purushothaman, tells us that Sindhuja is very passionate and committed in what she is doing. She has mastered the domestic animation skills. Now she has to sharpen her knowledge and skills on what’s happening in the international market he said.

To Stay An Entrepreneur

Though some firms have approached her to join them, she is not too keen. I don’t want to join any big corporates now. I want to be free like a 14-year-old girl should be. I don’t want to be overloaded with work. After 18, I will take up bigger projects. she says.

Before signing off like every other professional, she says,I want to make a mark in this industry. When I’m twenty-year-old, I want Seppan to have a turnover of at least Rs 1 crore.Her aim now is to study at the Vancouver Film School in Canada and specialise in animation.

But doesn’t she want to go to school and play out like other kids? My school has given me an exemption. I go for tuitions after work and go to school to write my exams alone.One needs to sacrifice certain things to chase dreams. I also like to play like other kids and that’s why I chose to play with animation, she answers.

( 3 ) Comments

Lessons from Dhoni’s Leadership

Dhoni gives the following Leadership tips for every aspiring Leader :

1. We should be a performer and we should demonstrate the same to our team. Performance is itself the most effective communication down the line.

2. Leader has to be humble in way to consider part and parcel of the team and not above the team.

3. Give genuine respect and trust to the team members.

4. Allow them to experiment and take risk.

5. In case of failure, encourage him / her to introspect and do it next time with more vigour and better planning.

6. Make every one in the team feel that , even though we are leaders, we are just one among them.

7. We should also believe in the ones who failed in the Team. At crucial times a team member who was not able to deliver might do miracles.

8. As a leader, be calm in extreme situations and lead the team from front.

9. Share the credit of success with your team members and praise them in public.

10. Above all believe in every member in the team.

When Ganguly was playing his last match, as a gesture of respect, Dhoni asked Ganguly to take charge of the team when the ninth Aussie wicket fell. Whenever he has an opportunity, he showers his players with praises

Managing under change is a vital attribute to be learned from the leadership under Dhoni. A good leader doesn’t mind going out and exploring. Dhoni’s risk taking ability, inclusiveness and time-pressure qualities are good examples of leaders on the business side.

If you notice, instead of pressing teammates to win, Dhoni told them to just enjoy the game. Also, he has mentioned at several forums that he believes to live in the present and not worry about future or past.. Dhoni’s leadership style represents teamwork, empowerment and confidence.

Dhoni utilizes every team member at his disposal and brings out the best performance whether he is a senior or junior player. He provides opportunity for every team member to prove themselves and contribute to the best of their abilities.

Remember, he gave the last over to Joginder Sharma who doesn’t have much a track record., By putting such a person in front of a challenging task, it tells the person that the leader has confidence in his abilities and will be fired up to put in 120 per cent. This happened with Joginder Sharma in two critical matches, where he was hit all around the ground and still given the last over. He delivered on both instances!

Leaders need to be assertive yet humble and must rarely allow their personal egos to be an obstacle for the success of their organization and that’s what M.S. Dhoni showing us through his current leadership style.

Another learning from Dhoni is about, Optimal utilization of resources, which is vital for any business. Instead of giving excuses for lack of best resources, especially with the current scenario economic crisis, it is better to perform in whatever resources a leader has to his disposal

His ‘people management’ skills tell us, he is truly a great leader. When team members see their leader calm in extreme situations, they will not be rattled. It will enable them to focus on their work and do what is expected of them. Dhoni was always calm – whether the bowler started off the last over in the finals with a wide ball or the batsman played a series of dot balls in a slog over.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a forthright, straightforward cricketer unburdened by the baggage that generally accompanies a man onto the field, thereby restricting his outlook. At once he is intelligent and simple, aggressive and canny, tough and respectful.

Dhoni’s Inspiring Quotes

When asked why he was not happy at the moment of victory at the post match conference, Dhoni replied, “I didn’t like way we played. With such a strong batting display, we should have won comfortably”. Would you ever expect the captain of a team not celebrate the moment of victory in a match that almost went down to the wire?

“I never predict what will happen in cricket. We believe in each other and we believe in the process. We will take each game in the right frame of mind,” he said

“We are not thinking about what may happen if we achieve or what may happen if we don’t succeed because those two things are beyond our control. So rather than thinking about something that’s too much ahead of us it is very important to take every game in the right frame of mind and that is what will be our process throughout the tournament,” he clarified

“If you have not achieved something, there’s pressure on you to achieve it. Once you have achieved it, there is pressure to sustain it. Nothing comes easy.”

“We didn’t rely on one specific individual, everybody contributed. Each and every batsman scored at some point in the series and the same applies to the bowlers also.”

In a nutshell Dhoni’s story is all about an ordinary man doing extraordinary things and a role model for every aspiring leader. Each one of us could use this model, pattern and design to create our leadership journey.

(Courtesy: Media reports)

( 10 ) Comments

Rags to Riches Success story of JK Rowling

Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born in Chipping Sodbury, England in 1965. She began writing at the age of 6 with a story called ‘Rabbit’, which she never finished.

In high school her favorite subject was English. From High School, Rowling went to Exeter University where she earned a degree in French.

After graduating, she spent a year studying in Paris and then went back to London where she worked in a number of jobs, including a year with Amnesty International and a short time as secretary for a publishing company, where she was responsible for sending out rejection slips.

In the summer of 1990, on a delayed train from Manchester to London, she came up with the idea of a boy who discovers he is a wizard. But it would be 7 years before the idea became a book.

In that same year her mother died of Multiple Sclerosis and she left for Portugal to teach English, hoping to find a way to deal with her grief.

In October 1992 she married a Portuguese television journalist, Jorge Arantes. But the marriage lasted just eleven months.

In 1993 she left her husband and returned to England, with the one legacy of her failed marriage – an infant daughter named Jessica.

Her life suddenly took a nose-dive. Fighting poverty and depression, she lived in a mice-infested flat in Edinburgh and struggled to raise her baby daughter on a welfare check of 70 pounds ($100) a week.

Unable to heat her flat, she sat in cafés nursing an espresso for 2 hours at a time and worked feverishly on the manuscript of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ while her baby daughter slept in a pram.

The manuscript is said to have been rejected by three British publishers – Penguin, Transworld and HarperCollins.

But Bloomsbury Children’s Books did sign her up, reportedly paying £10,000 ($14,300) for the rights to ‘Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone’.

The Philosopher’s Stone was published on 30 June, 1997 and was an instant success.

The book was published under her initials because her publisher feared that boys would be less likely to read the book if they knew it was written by a woman.

At a book fair in Italy later that year, Scholastic Books bought the American rights for $105,000, an unheard of figure for a children’s writer with only one book to her name.

It was published in the States in 1998 with the title ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’.

The sequel – ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ – was published in June of 1999 and later that same year, the third book in the series was released, ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’.

By the time her fourth book appeared in 2000 – ‘Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire’ – the series had become an international phenomenon: the initial print run for her 4th book was 1.5 million copies in the UK and 3.8 million in the US.

By 2000, JK Rowland had become the highest-earning woman in Britain, with an income of more than £20.5 million ($29.3m) in the previous year.

In 2001 her annual earnings were estimated at over £24m, ($34.3m) placing her between Madonna and Paul McCartney in the ranks of high-earning celebrities.

In October 1998 Warner Brothers bought the rights to ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ and its sequel (‘Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secrets’), for the tidy sum of $700,000.

With the release of the first Harry Potter film, J.K. Rowling’s total earnings are estimated to have exceeded $100 million.

In March 2001 she was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) by the Queen, for services to children’s literature.

(c) 2002 by Michael Southon

( 6 ) Comments