Vipul Prakash’s EO Story!

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It goes back to the July of 2005. I was attending a wedding in Mumbai where I met a group of guys who spoke of some organization called YEO and of a concept called forum where you were to build a group of “friends for life” who would be there for you when you needed them and where you needed them! They also spoke about, some amazing learning events, wild parties and a concept called “once in a life time experiences”. They had the enthusiasm of people who had recently fallen in love and their relentless raving and ranting aroused my curiosity. It sounded unreal and I almost wrote-off what they said as a temporary fad they had been enamored by. After mulling over it for a few days I thought “What the heck! Let me give it a shot! So I applied, only with the intent to understand what was so special. I was clear that I would be able to form an objective opinion and let these “YEO’ers” know that nothing could be as good as they claimed it to be. I applied in September that year and joined a few months later.

Come 2011, a friend walks into my office and I am sitting with a forum buddy and I am telling him about how having this “Forum” of people has influenced my life and how I have been able to share business issues (In 2008, I suffered in financial crisis and there were 6 other members who had been through the same and were able to share their experiences and valuable inputs), opportunities (I made a presentation on my entry strategy into the African market) and experiences. I spoke about some amazing learning events which covered a wide spectrum of topics which were as varied as understanding the relations between India and Pakistan, to learning processes from the Mumbai dabbawalla’s, to learning how a billionaire from the US manages his family and aligns his whole family to the same vision, to listening to a sex specialist (size doesn’t matter!). Of course, as a matter of routine we have the who’s who of corporate India sharing their stories with us too. Between the local, regional and global events there are in excess of 30 opportunities to learn in a year. I spoke about these amazing holidays we’ve had to places like St. Petersburg and the EO University at Cuba. I spoke about some hardcore  partying in the most exotic of locations and above all this I spoke about how being a 1st generation entrepreneur I now have the ability to see deep inside, through the network, issues and problems faced by businesses which are being run by 2nd,3rd and sometimes even 5th Generations. It has helped shaped my perspectives and given me clarity on how to plan for the future. On a separate note EO has presented opportunities for the spouses to connect and share experiences and learn the same way as we do.

My friend had that same look of disbelief on his face and I ended with a smile saying “dude you have to be a part of the network to know how it grows on you”.

Cheers,

Vipul Prakash (Founder, Elixir Consulting)

Quick Fire Interview with Hameet Sawhney

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Hameet Sawhney is Director of Eagle Group, giants in the import-export trade world. He has been a member of EO since 2004.

Q. Your entrepreneurial mantra?

A. Keeps Changing, Currently “What Gets Measured Gets Done – Peter Drucker”

Q. Your thoughts on Kapil Sibal’s stand on censorship on the web?

A. We need a government regulator – to censor Mr.Sibals thoughts before they get into public domain. Such thoughts can cause inter-communal conflict and may lead to riots. 😉

Q. As an entrepreneur, which industry would you next put your money on?

A. Something that excites me – Recycling / Green Energy

Q. Your most memorable EO experience and why?

A. Too many to list so I’ll go by the latest one – Yesterday I had the opportunity to met with His Excellency Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Former President of India at his home, in connection to EO. Truly once in a lifetime!

Q. Name one EO member you would like to be sitting next to on a trans-Atlantic flight.

A. Verne Harnish, Founder of EO OR Aditya ‘Bar’man, both would make the journey extra special 😉 (Did that flatter you, Adi???)

Quick Fire Interview with Aditya Burman

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Aditya C Burman is the Managing Director of Onquest Laboratories Ltd, pioneers in the Scientific Services industry. He has been a member of EO since 2005.

Q. Your entrepreneurial mantra?

A. The essence of any business is its people: take care of them and they will take care of you!

Q. Your thoughts on Kapil Sibal’s stand on censorship on the web?

A. Would they have censored Kolavari Di?? Hmmm…. Might not be so bad! 🙂

Q. As an entrepreneur, which industry would you next put your money on?

A. Education in Healthcare… The double whammy!

Q. Your most memorable EO experience and why?

A. They are one more crazy (or was that HAZY?) than the next, but definitely the chapter retreat to Russia took things to the next level… *ahem* 🙂

Q. Name one EO member you would like to be sitting next to on a trans-Atlantic flight.

A. Any member of my Forum or the EO New Delhi Board, as I have inflicted on them the dastardly responsibility of making sure I don’t miss my flight (sliding down the gangway and into the airplane as they’re closing the door is not uncommon for me)!!

And yes Hameet, a stand here truly flattered!! 🙂 Eventually YOU would have me chugging beers with/against the Pilot (IF he’s not been on the binge already)!! 😉

A Quick Fire Interview with Charu Jain

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Q. Your entrepreneurial mantra?
A. If you think you can you will; if you think you can’t you won’t either ways you’re right

Q. Your thoughts on Kapil Sibal’s stand on censorship on the web?
A. If he thinks he can let him try!!

Q. As an entrepreneur, which industry would you next put your money on?
A. Lifestyle – Its always in style

Q. Your most memorable EO experience and why?
A. The EO Moscow retreat 2011. It was my first retreat experience and fantafabulous in each and every way.

Q. Name one EO member you would like to be sitting next to on a trans-Atlantic flight.
A. One is a tough choice 😉 EO definately has more than one interesting conversationalists let
me name a few from my chapter I’ve really enjoyed interacting with 🙂
Yogesh Arya; Shamit Khemka; Vinamra Shastri ; Abhishek Singhania………. Stoppp

EO’s International Impact

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Two years ago my company made a decision to foray aggressively into International markets. This entailed either me or another senior team member spending the better part of the year living in 4 different countries. When I decided to handle the task myself I had images of flying first, sipping a cool beverage, of intense negotiations in wood-panelled board rooms, and downtime spent in the swimming pool or in the gym.

The reality of my situation hit me about two weeks into this ‘amazing adventure’. In most places, social life was limited to my business partners, and even in locations like London where I had a network, I would have to call the same handful of people to go watch a movie or get dinner. Soon, I found myself becoming an expert on BBC Comedies.

During a coffee with a visiting forum member, we thought of reaching out to the local chapter to see what it was about. That single decision changed my entire experience in the 12 months I spent as a travelling salesman. My forum buddy and I attended one of the London chapt meetings, and then another, and then one more – and soon I had more personal and professional contacts than I could have hoped for. Anything I needed, from a restaurant recommendation to advice about hiring my accountant to real estate advice was just a call away. EO gave me an instant support system that would have taken months to develop.

I met, and am in touch with, members from the EO NY chapter, the Fransisco chapter amongst others. I now know that any destination with an EO chapter can feel like home if one makes the simple effort of writing a quick introductory email prior to ones visit. I also make it a point to reach out to extend support to every single person who writes to the New Delhi chapter, and this has resulted in my meeting various wonderful friends over the years.

Next time you travel – I implore you to use the network you’re a part of; you’ll be surprised at the support structure we have in place.

-Sharik Currimbhoy

Sharik Currimbhoy, CEO, Shahnaz Ayurveda International Ltd.

‘EO CUBA COLLEGE’ DIARY

I went to Cuba without any expectations – the only image in my mind was that of an exotic place with timeless elegance. It was during the short, 40 minute flight from Miami that I began to conjecture more. As the plane flew over green and red Cuban fields of what looked like tobacco, I couldn’t help but dream of a Cuban original, hand rolled Cigar and when we arrived at the Jose Marti airport, Havana, we were greeted by notably friendly immigration officers – happy to see you in their country, curious to know where you’re from. As soon as we left the airport, breathing in that cool Caribbean air, I couldn’t wait for a taste of my favourite rum – Havana Club – from a local, barely stocked shack. I was however turned away since I didn’t have the local currency for tourists called the CUCs (Cuban Convertible Pesos). It turned out well though since at I was welcomed at the hotel lobby with another native drink, the Mojito! The drive through the city was exciting as its walls exhibited a rare revolutionary fervour. Slogans like Viva Revolution and the handsome face of a bearded guy I remembered on Zara T-Shirts (whom we later learnt was Che Guevara; an Argentinean revolutionary who aided Cuba in its revolution) adorned the walls beautifully. The build up to Cuba had had its share of twists. Vipul Prakash and Jasjit Ahulwalia had backed out due to personal reasons and the Indian delegation was therefore limited to me, Anu and Saumya Meattle. If that wasn’t enough, due to a last minute call from the U.S. Treasury, the focus of the trip had changed from Tourism to Education. This meant that visits to the Cigar and Rum factories were replaced by special interest sections like interactions with the philosophical head of Afro-Cuban religion, art galleries, artists, architects and restaurateurs; and the description of every activity ended with the statement ‘to improve US and Cuba relations’! We were all given the option to withdraw with full refund but if we decided to go ahead, we had to sign an agreement with the travel firm who had arranged for our group visa to participate mandatorily in all activities or else, face legal action. As you can imagine, it felt like we were going to school instead. Our hotel, the Saratoga, was sandwiched between Old Havana and Havana Central. This old-world hotel almost reminded us of the Oberoi Grand in Kolkata and has one of the best rooftop pool views that I have seen! It overlooked the massive Capitolio, Havana’s own Capital Hill which stands at point zero, the centre if this charming city. Havana has an assortment of dilapidated buildings with random bursts of artistic graffiti in vibrant Caribbean colours, and Spanish architecture. The cars on the streets were a mix of American models dating back to the 50s and 60s, using spare parts from across the world to keep them in working condition. However, what really struck my attention were the people; all of whom seemed to be on the street at the same time, in all shapes and sizes and clearly, a combination of African and Spanish bloodlines. We plunged into our itinerary by walking through an Old Havana by lane, into an Afro-Cuban religious center called Quisicuba. We were greeted here by a beautiful dance by costumed children dancing to bongo beats and what sounded like African religious chants. The place was quaint, with end to end graffiti on walls inside a narrow house, reminiscent of Old Delhi. This was followed by a tour and we were shown assorted idols from all possible faiths. The Religious Head shared the 16 simple but practical principles of life of this faith; like never leave a friend in the lurch.   A walk around the community was a visual treat and we saw firsthand how the people of Havana live, eat and play. Some of us who had wandered away to take photos were attracted by the sound of music and therefore stumbled upon Flamenco dance classes. While we stood there on the street, my new friend Steven made a remarkable observation: “Do you notice no one has a cell phone here. People are so busy living their lives rather than being on the phones!” We would discover over next few days that this place was unique from the modern world in many ways – and continued to retain that classical ‘old world’ charm. That evening we ate at a state owned restaurant by the fort as a representative of the general assembly (said to be the third most powerful man in the country) addressed to us. Over the next three days we visited art galleries, met artists, dined at the quaintest restaurants in the city, attended a trade expo (like our very own India International Trade Fair); and met local economists to understand Cuban economics. A striking realization was that the main reason for the present condition of Cuba, which makes it seem slightly stuck in the past, is the souring of relationships between the country and the OAS.   At the end of it, one doesn’t know whether to smile or frown at the sight of a Hyundai steering wheel on a 1950s Cadillac that makes the sounds of a vehicle straight out of yard. But the attitude of the man behind the wheel, grooving to blaring Latino music, you are bound feel happy for these people who live harmoniously despite their limited means. They take pride in Ed (Papa) Hemingway, an American author who made Cuba his second home and wrote some of his best world including Nobel Prize winning book ‘Old Man by the Sea’ here. Today Cubans and international visitors have made heritage sites out of Bars and Cafes which Papa Hemingway used to visit. We returned from Cuba having met some outstanding people from EO all over the world – Greg and Laura Stemm, Steven and Lisa Smith deserve a special mention. We had “forum like” experiences with them and plan to connect with them again over other EO International events. Anu and I are finding it hard to accept how fast time flew by. We can’t remember another trip which consumed us more. Viva Cuba! Cheers, Anu and Rajiv Bajaj