Q: Going back to your college days, you graduated from the Karnataka Regional Engineering College—with a degree in mechanical engineering and in 1969 joined IIM Ahmedabad, what sort of a student were you?
A: I was student in the top 25% or so. I wasn’t in the bottom of the class but I was clearly not in the top of the class. What I have learnt in college is that it is not necessary to be at the top in the class. I think leadership comes from all across the class. That is the message that I learnt and that is the message that I would share with the youngsters. Being in the top 5, 10 is not really material to what you can do for your own good and for societal good later on.
Q: So what drove you while you were at IIM Ahmedabad because that was the key turning point in your life, you could have gone back joined your family's styling business but you decided not to, so what was it that drove you to actually get professional training and not move towards the family business?
A: I think I got fascinated by finance as a subject and when I graduated I looked for jobs in the financial services sector and ICICI just happened to be there and that is how I walked into this business.
Q: You said in an earlier interview that, I am probably too technical a person, I wonder sometimes if I would have been a better person, a better leader and achieved more had I been exposed more to the liberal arts. Do you regret not having been exposed to liberal arts since we are debating on what needs to change in the manner in which business curriculum is currently being run, what do you think is the need of the hour at this point in time?
A: Unfortunately that wisdom dawned on me very late. It probably took 20 years of believing that engineer is the be all and the end all, that you need to be an engineer to be anything. To debunk that idea took me a long time. I think that debunking took place over a period of time. It was shaped over a period of time. You saw reality because I would think as an engineer you lived in an unreal world, by unreal I am not talking about a world of Maya but a world where it was very narrow and everything was numbers, everything was data and everything was driven by analytics.
You then don’t tend to use your other skills which you ought to use to try to come to decision making and I think if you were better rounded in terms of your skill sense, in terms of other areas of knowledge which you ought to have been exposed to, I think your decision making would have gotten that much better. And that is the context in which I said if I had to reinvent myself it will probably not be as an engineer, it would probably be somebody with a much wider experience enabling me to take better and more correct decisions.