My Journey with Mr. Ratan Tata
This is my first blog.
Thanks to my association with various professional and not-for-profit organizations, I get opportunities to interact with many luminaries. I normally do not write or publish about those opportunities.
However, today when I received several birthday wishes, I got overwhelmed. Struck by their love & affection, I thought of sharing my most important wealth – treasure of learning from those opportunities.
The most recent opportunity was to be with Mr. Ratan Tata for 8 full hours on 1st December 2015 when he visited Vadodara to receive Sayaji Ratna Award. While his answers and speeches are available in public domain, I had all those personal conversations with him in the car while moving from one event to another. Since, it is very fresh – just 2 days old, I thought of this maiden attempt of sharing my learning with all of you.
I am not sure – how much it would help you all. But, it has started helping me…
It was 1.32 in the afternoon. I was with my 13 years old son Naman and still 7 minutes away from airport. I got call from Mr. Tata’s assistant Mr. Srini. Wondering how his call at this time, because by last message they would have still been airborne. Srini called and said: “Mr. Parikh, we have landed”. I got tense and to some extent worried of giving wrong first impression to Mr. Tata. Hurriedly, we entered in VIP lounge at Vadodara airport with very apologetic look. I introduced and before I could say anything – Mr. Tata said: “Mr. Parikh, we are sorry. We landed quite early.” I had heard a lot about his humility. I started experiencing that from the very first interaction.
When we were in last lag of car journey from Lukshmi Vilas Palace (LVP) to airport, he told me – “Mr. Parikh, I hope I did not let you down.” Oh gosh… I wanted a moment to cry… I wanted a moment to share with others… I wanted a moment for myself….Had it not been a car, I would have fallen on the floor…. After spending full 8 hours with close to 2000+ people, acceding all our requests of meeting young and old people from all walks of life – here is a legend who still asks me about my satisfaction. He made me BIG in just one statement…. I realized the power of humility.
When you are in company of great people, your behavior also changes. I realized that. My impatience and restlessness was visible and at its peak – while walking, taking bouquet from BMA CEO outside airport, getting formal photographs, moving in the hotel, etc… As the day passed by and I saw him and experienced his talks on the way, I started calming down. When I saw him allowing everyone for picture even while he was leaving outside the airport, I realized would he ever be getting irritated or angry?
In fact, when I apologized to him for photo-op grabbers, he said: “No, Mr. Parikh. All of them have cameras nowadays. So, everyone wants to capture memories.”
Attention to Details:
“So, you like Aston Martin?” Mr. Tata asked my son at the airport. He took both of us by surprise. We were wondering as to how he knows. We did not have to wait for 2 seconds. He clarified showing emblem of Aston Martin Racing on my son’s T-shirt. Now that is called observation…
Outside auditorium after award ceremony, one person could break the cordon trying to handover an envelope containing some representation. I took that envelope, thinking it was of no use. On the way to LVP from Taj Gateway, he said: “there was someone who handed over representation, I will reply to it”. In fact, every individual who met him (and there were close to 300+ people who met him individually) shared something – probably in India, everyone is able to connect with TATA group so easily – and he paid full attention to each one of them. Everyone was satisfied. CEO of one company said – “I became emotional after meeting him. I was with TATA Motors for 12 years and probably he could recall me.”
I always thought it is difficult for one to show genuineness with everyone. I always thought that, pretention is often used in place of genuineness. I always thought you do not need to show genuineness in all situations. I always thought, people will take you in wrong direction due to your genuineness. No, I am wrong. Genuineness could be virtue and not just play stick. Look at all these interactions:
Although he is no longer holding any official position for TATA business, he attributed award to all employees of TATA group. There was a thunderous applause in the hall.
While spending exclusive 10 minutes time with my family – my wife and my son, he took keen interest in Shilpa’s not-for-profit work on LEAAD and asked some very interesting questions about assessment tools. When, Naman was asking that he gets lot of ideas and he wants to create something, he gave his business card immediately and told him to mail his ideas. Naman was speechless. He always had a different impression of highly successful leaders.
During his interactions spared over 4 programs packed in one day, several quotes were used by many…. On the way he said: “None of those quotes shared by people today belong to me. But, I do not blame them. They must have seen on multiple internet sites and hence they must have quoted. What is important is I get opportunity to derive some useful messages from those quotes”.
“You do not get entrepreneurship education in the classroom. If you are running business, enterprise management or relationship management or ethics management are the key elements. You get them only by experience or by meeting right kind of people.” I realized how important it is for me to reflect after each such experience of meeting right people and derive learning.
While having conversation about business, he said: “Mr. Parikh, you need to do business which could positively impact community around you and not just create wealth.”
Hesitantly, I asked his permission for allowing young boy who has just started his start-up to be in our car. He said: Of course, yes. For Rahil, it was the momentous occasion, as next 10 minutes Mr. Tata asked him several questions, which were enough for him to get directions. I could see his love to nurture entrepreneurship in our country.
Hundreds of people congratulated BMA and all of us. In fact, while I am writing this blog today on my birthday, congratulatory messages are still pouring in. I realized the love and affection people have about this great legend of our times – this great young man – this great matured statesman and above all this great human being.
– Samir Parikh (firstname.lastname@example.org)