Nataraj Narayan, SVP and Global Head IMS Business, KPIT, shares life lessons that have held him in good stead.
Nataraj Narayan is of the firm belief that one’s learning never stops. Life is a journey that is constantly influenced by experiences and lessons learnt from those around us. These are what make us into richer human beings. “I have achieved nothing in my life with ease,” says Nataraj, a prominent CIO, who has won international and national recognition. “However the things that matter most have been the best I could have asked for. And often, the journey itself is the reward. Through my interactions, interests, hobbies, etc I’m on a constant path of self-discovery, because that journey never ends.” Here, Nataraj shares some of the important lessons he’s learnt over the years.
1. Pay attention to the school of life
“Formal educational institutions teach you subject knowledge. They provide information on strategy, give you planning tools, provide a conceptual/application-oriented understanding of markets, people, technology, etc. There’s another school of learning, the school of life. What you learn through experience, from people cannot be measured. You can learn from family, friends, professors, colleagues, other achievers. There are so many influencers. And this is one school you never graduate from. So make the most of it.
2. You have to work hard for what you want
“I was born in a lower-middle-class family. I learnt early on that there are no shortcuts in life. You have to earn every bit of what you get and want. My father would ride a bicycle 20 km to get to the office so that he could save on the bus fare. He would do this even in the sweltering summer heat and winter cold. He showed me the value of discipline, hard work, commitment and perseverance.”
3. Learn to adapt your point of view
“My brother and I didn’t have a lot of luxuries growing up. But we were taught to be strong, unique individuals who could stand on their own two feet. Growing up, I was an introvert and was very serious about academic life. I thought anything apart from that was a waste of time. However, my elder brother gave equal importance to studies and extracurricular activities. Through him, I realised that these other activities are important too. They shape character and teach you other life lessons. He once told me, ‘Mc Donald’s sells more because it is packaged well.’ And that range really true! Content alone is not good enough, it needs to be presented well to make a difference.”
4. Games will teach you more than a sport
“While I studied, I worked on the side to earn for my upkeep. I also developed interests that didn’t cost much. My grandfather, who has been a great source of inspiration, taught me the game of chess; and it’s a meaningful legacy. Chess teaches you strategy; the right moves to make, and the wrong ones to avoid, and how both are equally important. Through this game, my grandfather taught me the important of patience as well as passion.
“Golf is another game that’s captured my fancy over the last decade. Until last year, I’d play every weekend. I’m not proficient enough to win a tournament, but I’ve won a few prizes. In golf, the power of your swing doesn’t matter as much as the timing, precision and tact you use in the stroke. The selection of your club makes the difference, as the hole and ball will always remain the same. Chess and golf have both taught me that opportunity isn’t always obvious. Your success depends on what you do next. The same goes for talent, it will only get you so far in a sport or in life. It’s what you do with it that makes the difference.”
5. Never forget your roots
“Your past has got you where you are today. Acknowledge that. Mythology and history have always interested me, though I’m not a religious ritualistic person. Also, I’ve always been fascinated with Lord Krishna, the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita. I believe that a part of my being and mind is guided by a higher power, whether you call it a ‘concept’ or a ‘being’.
“People say the means take you to an end, but for me, the means take you to the means. At the end, there’s very little to be said. But what you’ve done until that point has everything to do with the means. How you think, do, and communicate with those in your circle of influence.
“Chanakya is a powerful guru on management, governance and political science. He’s the perfect example of the role leaders can play as coaches to enable higher performance, and the role professors can play in nation building.
6. Find heroes who inspire you
“From my adolescence, Amitabh Bachchan has influenced my life. I’m talking about the man behind the silver screen legend. I really admire his character. He has many virtues, but I admire his spirit as a pioneer and fighter. This is what has inspired me all these years. His ability to stand in front of a mike and enact a short song with such a range of emotions and with such conviction astounds me. That too without any dance movements or change in scenery or costume.
“There are four influential women in my life. The first is my mother. She’s always has a can-do attitude and I’m grateful that she’s passed on her leadership traits to me. Jayasree, my wife, is my backbone, my inner strength. She provides unconditional support, and during my years with her, I’ve learnt the true meaning of equanimity, selflessness and humility. Then there’s my daughter Kritika, who helps me re-live my childhood and appreciate the joy of sheer innocence. And last but not the least is my younger sister Malavika, who has taught me the power of resilience.”