The Hunt – Part 4

The 3rd Musketeer…

Blogger’s Log:  It has been six long weeks since the drive began.  Mission?  To cross over the finishing line, which only a few racers have traversed before!    The never-ending road has been treacherous and the ‘patience’ tanks are running low.  In fact, we lost a few of our racers in the last two blinding curves.  But there is good news.  Finally, the prized destination is just around the third approaching turn!  We need to focus just a bit more on the curve ahead, maybe follow the wheel-steps of the racer who sped away?  For there has been a winner who has navigated both the blind turns with an amazing precision and is now awaiting our arrival at the gourmet podium !

It’s a little tricky to introduce the central character of my final tale.  Perhaps the simplest announcement would be: This fellow, my wife, and my brother-in-law are maternal cousins.  But no grand finale can have a ‘simple’ household introduction! The showbiz decorum dictates that climaxes deserve glittery openings.  So let’s try again.  How about, this dude is an indirect link in the chain of events that led to the birth of Cybage?  You see, his wife turned down a job offer from an Internet startup (Ruksun) and referred an industry outsider—me—for the opening. The accident inducted me into the Technology world, where I learnt the ropes of the trade, and subsequently Cybage was born!  Sadly, now we have an irrelevant ‘melodramatic’ stretching!  Maybe it’s best then, to just leave the introduction un-introduced…  For every now and then, we meet ‘someone’ in life whose identity is confusing to present.  How do you introduce someone when you yourself are unsure of his role—is he family first or friend first?

His name is Ashwani Keswani and everyone calls him Ashwani Keswani.  But for this blog, we will call him AK.  It’s cooler, plus it saves me some typing.  I first met AK about three decades ago.!  It was Oct 31, 1984, I distinctly recollect the date.  For the day has two historical significances: a) Indira Gandhi breathed her last; b) my sister got married to AK’s cousin.  Relatively, the encounter with AK was insignificant.  No wonder, I have a near-zero recollection of that first rendezvous. I had to wait another decade before I chanced upon AK for the second time.  Ironically, this day again holds a distinct importance.  July 10, 1994.  He had come to attend his cousin’s (?) wedding!  Delightfully, I don’t recall this second tryst either.

It was only a year later, when I became Ruksunite (courtesy Nita’s reference) that I concluded that it was worth investing in a healthy rapport with AK’s clan.  Thereafter, AK stopped blending with the surroundings.  How could he stay invisible?  He was already up there by then.  “AVP of Production” with India’s forging bellwether—Bharat Forge—was no mean achievement.  Definitely not for an undergrad who skimmed through embarrassing colors from a “C+” engineering institute in Bangalore!  Fortunately for AK, Bharat Forge was gracious enough to sponsor his postgrad in the US.  And it was this US stint that achieved the intended turnaround.  By the end of his double-graduation in America, AK had received a few flowery accolades and lucrative job offers.  The turnaround land held promising opportunities.  But AK came back in ’92.  Why?   He owed it to Bharat Forge.

It took AK eight years of hard slog on the manufacturing floor to repay his ‘owing’ obligations and resurface in the real world.   It was 1998; around the same time Cybage had settled down, and I too had started breathing fresh air.  The timing was opportune to forge a mutual socializing channel.  But before our frequencies could mingle, a ‘whirlpool’ swept him away!  You see, the world’s leading white-goods manufacturer—Whirlpool—wanted to set up a production facility near Pune.  They convinced AK that he was the perfect slogger for the job.  So in the ensuing year, AK went submerging as “GM – Process Technology” at Whirlpool, followed by a six-month stint in Italy, and then a promotional relocation to Delhi.

Over the next three years, I heard folk tales of AK’s accomplishments from the wandering ‘cousinly’ travelers from the northern frontiers.  Then in 2002, Godrej Appliances offered AK an interesting dual-edged role: “VP of Manufacturing and Customer Service” for all of their plants in India.  The offer also came with the attractive rider of relocating back to his hometown, Mumbai.  This move resulted in us bumping into each other more frequently, often under unconventional circumstances.  A few weddings in the extended circle, a couple of funerals in the extinguishing circle, and amusingly, once it was the paanwala stall in front of a business hotel in Pune!

Of course, by “attitude” I don’t mean that Lester was turning out to be a snob. By the time he turned two, he had grown up to be the most handsome and eligible hero in the neighborhood. He refused to regard his walks as an exercise routine, rather a royal, leisurely stroll that involved lots of socializing with many unsightly and uncouth friends. The racial and economic disparities didn’t mean much to him. His annual birthday bashes were a neighborhood rage with a dozen invited breeds and a few stray gatecrashers diving into his birthday cake!

AK - the friend
AK – the friend
AK The Brother-in-Law
AK The Brother-in-Law

Three years later, AK joined Mahindra & Mahindra as “VP – Business Development” with the ambitious charter of growing the group’s auto component business to over a billion dollars!   The role entailed extensive travel, often in the direction of our dwelling (Pune being India’s Auto capital).   And that’s how our association received a late-blossoming booster.  The thriving venue was the bar at my home.  Somehow (& by sheer coincidence), the “bar” seems to be the common bonding theme between all the three musketeers !  Of course, my sessions with this knowledgeable new-old friend were not much about the clicking of glasses; rather, they provided for a profound source of useful tips.  For instance, did you know when it comes to single-malt scotch, there is only a marginal difference between the smoothness of 12 vs. 18 year old?  So the next time you acquire an 18 year old single-malt for triple the price, just remember—you have been swindled!

Then in 2008, AK ascended the summit.  Oetiker, Swiss-based leading manufacturer of premium clamps, hired him as Country CEO to set up and run its business in India.  There was no phone call, only an early morning SMS.  “Today, I will walk into my new office as CEO.  I need the good wishes of the CEO I look up to.  I hope I have earned the position as well as he did.”  I was amused by the intended compliment.  Sure, AK had managed to mount all the way to the top, but his concepts were still not as clear as mine…

AK doesn’t realize that AN’s CEO position is ‘courtesy Cybage’.   Cybage just gave it to him the day it was founded! Even if the early Cybage had turned out to be a disaster and crumbled, that title still belonged to AN!  On the other hand, the modestly-blessed AK had to commit eighteen years of sweat on production assembly lines to “earn” his CEO’s tag! 

Today, AK has been promoted to CEO of the entire ASEAN region for Oetiker.  Every three months, he flies to Zurich to attend the corporate board meeting!  There is money, there is power, and there is pride.  And somewhere in this triangle resides that ‘intersecting’ recipe of professional success!  So let’s give it our last best shot before the hunt goes for a kill!  And those in a mood for less ferocious games, please cast your vote in favor of the musketeer whose achievement you rate the highest…

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Original, Skills, Strength, Style


  1. I case of AK also success mantra was the profound continuity, interest and hunger to move forward.

  2. No wonder a prized dinner has been kept as a reward for this call of judgement.

    Still lets take an honest shot at it. I would vote for Mr. Navendu Mathur.

    1. Reason simply being a person with a very basic education but extremely rich domain knowledge can tie up all the loose ends when we define success. (Knowledge was earned on the job)

    2. Whenever he got a chance to try and learn something new, different – he did show courage by taking it up with the calculated risk involved in it.

    3. The model of success can be constructed by ourselves and left to the world to follow. 🙂

  3. Slogging! For a professional, the way to the top is rough and windy with serpents pulling you down, just like the snakes and ladder game. He has to work tirelessly, often compromising his comforts and luxury to come into the eyes of the top gods. But the one who is willing to do it, if half-way across. The rest just depends upon his will to succeed. So to sum it up – Believe that you can be as good as the best, maybe even better! Follow your instinct (Navendu Mathur) — Dream of a good life, a luxurious life, a job that pays you well (KRC) — and finally, if you need all that, work hardest! Be ready to slog (Ashwani Keshwani)

  4. No doubt AK’s got his CEO’s tag after sweating for 18 years, but as its said by him there is a marginal difference between the smoothness of 12 vs.18 year old single malt scotch… 😉 similarly there is in the happiness and satisfaction of achieving the success no matter the timeline…AK’s success recipe was unfolded in his sms that morning…the Cybage CEO was his inspiration and prespiration as well… 🙂

  5. Again I say “Decision Making” is the quality that lead AK towards success. He like others took some of the best decisions of life.

  6. BTW, thank you for the Single Malt tip!

  7. I think the formula for success and failure is the same.

    define want (values are success-in-something or failure-in-something)
    define change (value is learn & rectify to produce want)

    experience = log of action & change
    tally = balance of experience & instinct/intuition

    get my want (success/failure)
    do action
    update experience & tally
    if result != want
    then tally (change(learn & rectify to produce want. identify instinct/intuition)) action
    goto do action
    else if result = want
    then search for new want
    if found then goto get my want
    else if want=null
    u are either confused or en-route to becoming buddha

  8. Value System

  9. To succeed even ‘Rama’ needs ‘Lakshmana’ and ‘Krishna’ needs ‘Balaram’
    A true friend/brother/guide can surely help you to scale the heights

  10. I am being lured into writing this response even though I am still a little confused about my observation here. And surprisingly, it is not only the lucrative gourmet offer, but more of my urge to respond as one of your fans.
    AK has climbed the ladder through hard work and perseverance, as it is obviously displayed. However, it is his passion and dedication towards his work that got him the desired attention and helped him scale up the hierarchy. As with the others – Navendu and KRC, even AK capitalized on the opportunities thrown at him and delivered his best with utmost passion. His, is a classic example of continuous and rigorous hard work and visible modesty at his achievements. His focus was only on following his passion and delivering his best while traversing an incremental learning curve all the way.
    His road to success can be best described with these few words from one of the blockbusters, which have made a significant impact on me and I am sure most others also: “Kamyab nahi kaabil hone ke liye padho …. kamyabi jhak maarke pichhe ayegi”

  11. Unlike previously introduced members of the Success club, this one has a little bend in what you call the reason of success. And who clears all the doubts for the success mantra [at least for me]

    Like any other employee , he did his best and got recognized as future investment point for the parent company [Post grad in US]. the Employee pays back to the company , with all heart out work in the field. and hence gets his name in the area [Domain] as expert. soon all started hunting out the talent :).

    The simple motto in all the stories, seems to be a good personality towards work, and yes they all are blessed with the ,“Right time at the right place, and to add to that ,with the right attitude”

    With these stories I understood this:

    1. You can only connect the dots backward. And there is no what so ever logical explanation, for why this happened the way it is.
    Though we all try to figure out why and how….

    2. We have read a lot of Autobiography of famous people and the way they got there, but has anyone re did the same thing the same way.. my guess is NO.

    3. So what is it that all these people have in common for the success they taste… Simply.. “Right time at the right place, and to add to that ,with the right attitude”

    Like the narration hints, You too were at the right place [as the opportunity was offered to you]. At the right time, and the right attitude [Built Cybage (connecting the dots backward)].

  12. It’s always nice to read your blog. 🙂
    May be one of the important success secret is: Grabbing right opportunities at the right time – obviously this involves the combination of open positive and optimistic attitude, rational decision making capability, knowledge, commitment, self-confidence.

  13. A final call of judgment to reach the destination !

    The success mantra to AK’s wonderful career is his ‘commitment’.

    However, the most common quality found in all the three musketeers is also a ‘commitment’ and perfect Emotional Balance towards their work.

    In brief if I have to say for all three,

    Mr Navendu – Ability to take risk to accept challenging
    roles and never said ‘NO’ to opportunities.

    KRC – His skills are impressive. He was easily able to explain to VP why was Aricent a better company to develop for Lucent . Knew his company’s strength.

    AK – one word for him is ‘commitment’ .

    And finally, I’m waiting to come up to the gourmet podium . 🙂

  14. It is AK for his hard work,Dedication and Respect towards Opportunities and finally he converted those into Golden Shoes for a long and Shining marathon of Success.

  15. All 3 of them come across confident in their abilities, had a good instinct and luck by their side. Instinct is not just smart luck, but a dormant skill that is honed by knowledge. The individuals had confidence and thanks to a good instinct (knowledge) were able to succeed professionally. The other thing that stood out in all 3 was the fact that they were not boastful and had a respectful attitude and were learning from all individuals around them and thereby growing.

  16. its AK because of his modesty and his accomplishments that he acheived in his marathon run, his phenomenal growth sets an example just like you sir, and the paths leading to the ceo tag were different, but both are exceptional in their own ways.

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The Hunt – Part 4 - Arun Nathani Blog