Never Give Up Hope Because Miracles Happen Everyday! – Jeh Agarwal – Best50 – Class Of 2017
“Every experience whether good or bad is a priceless collector’s item”
This quote strongly resonates with me when I look back and reflect at my life today. I hail from the western Indian state of Rajasthan but was born and brought up in Bengal and did my schooling in Kolkata. Faced with financial difficulties, I was on the verge of dropping out when my school’s belief and trust in my talents gave me hope in the form of a scholarship. I studied hard day and night which lead to six consecutive years of scholarship followed by a Student of the Year award by the Times of India. This period of my life taught me that there is always a way out of difficulties and there is no need of giving up hope. Hard work does pay off well in the end. Having always stayed within the bounds of family & friends, I realized the need for diversity, exploration and exposure, and decided to move out for my graduate studies. The next few years were a roller coaster ride.
I joined the National Institute of Technology-Trichy for a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science during the course of which I secured a Research Fellowship at Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research, a summer internship at Goldman Sachs and a winter internship at Rakshak Foundation. I also served as a Flight Cadet in the Air Wing of the National Cadet Corps for two years and was awarded the Sahara India scholarship for having led the NCC team with professional competence. During this time I also received the Schneider Electric India Foundation scholarship and co-authored an international research paper on mobile ad-hoc networks. My undergraduate years also helped me gain leadership and managerial experiences as head/manager of different techno-management clubs and committees in college. I also followed my passion for travel and adventure and undertook a number of treks across southern India.
Post my graduation, I joined Goldman Sachs where I had a challenging role involving a lot of research, evaluation and development, and tryst with a host of new emerging technologies in the world of Big Data. This period also gave me an opportunity to make my first international trip to the USA where I worked for a few months while simultaneously exploring the East Coast. My propensity to test my limits saw me jump out of a plane at a height of 10000 feet at Long Island, New York. Back in India, my interests in social entrepreneurship led to my selection in the prestigious Jagriti Yatra where I spent 15 consecutive days on a train exploring 12 villages, towns and cities across the Indian quadrilateral, covering more than 8000 km in the process while meeting a number of social entrepreneurs and change leaders. I challenged myself again when I walked a 100 km trail through rural Bengaluru straight in 31 hours as part of the Oxfam India TrailWalker charity event.
After these formative years, I joined the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode for my postgraduate studies in management. I sailed through a hectic but fun-filled first year and ended up again with a merit scholarship for securing an institute rank among the Top 18 students (Top 5%ile) at IIM Kozhikode. This was followed by a successful internship with JP Morgan Chase and another opportunity to travel abroad under the International Student Exchange program of IIM Kozhikode in partnership with the EM Strasbourg Business School, France.
Behind these veil of achievements are also a number of failures but the support of friends and family and my perseverance, fueled by my hope and optimism, kept me going throughout. Even today I keep reminding myself not to be disheartened by failures and think positively, for there is always hope when we have nothing. Throughout this journey I was fortunate to have made amazing friends and met amazing people without whom my treasure trove of experiences would have been incomplete. Experiences, I feel, only add to our strength and help us develop. All these experiences have definitely helped me become a true and competent leader. These are the principles that have guided my life and helped me achieve where I stand today.
More about me !
Give us an instance when you failed miserably and how did you overcome that downfall?
As Head of the Workshops team of Festember, the annual inter-collegiate cultural festival of NIT Trichy, my task was to organize and conduct 5 workshops like every year to fill all the slots during the fest, but due to budget constraints, we were allotted much lesser money than previous years. I couldn’t even charge students more and make up for the reduced budget as that would have decreased the popularity and sales of the workshops. This made my task very difficult and put a lot of pressure on me. I had almost given up hope for successful workshops that year.
Under such circumstances, I adopted an unconventional approach and came up with a plan to bring young budding artists who would conduct the workshops for free in return for some popularity. Through some friends made during our annual camps in NCC, I learnt about a student who was very good at beat-boxing but wasn’t yet professionally doing it. I contacted that person and offered him a chance to do a show for free at our fest in return for the immense exposure he would be given. His agreement boosted my morale and I guided my entire team to hunt for other such people who were looking for some popularity. We found a group of Skate boarders and a Frisbee team and offered them similar opportunities. We had to pay only for a dance group for solo and couple dance workshops. Thus we saved a lot on the workshop fees. We did extensive marketing of these workshops as they were unconventional and adventurous. These workshops proved to be major crowd-pullers during the fest. Not just this, our total expenses were so less that we were able to sell all the tickets at decent price points and still ended up making profits and were able to contribute to the overall fest budget as well. I was highly lauded for this difficult but game-changing task.
How would you explain the “The Credit Crisis of 2008” to a 12-year-old?
Banks in USA started giving housing loans to everyone not caring whether the borrower has the ability to repay or not. This was because the mortgages were sold off by the bankers as financial instruments in the market.
Now since everyone could get a housing loan ranging from homeless to strippers, real estate boomed up. In other words, more and more houses were built and sold. When the borrowers started going bust, real estate market collapsed and the mortgage papers became worthless. As most of these mortgages were insured by the same company AIG, it did not have sufficient capital to back these up. This led to cash crisis leading to the financial meltdown.
India does not have 1 hospital bed per 1000 persons. It is much below WHO’s average of 5. If you were the prime minister of the country, how would you solve this problem?
While it is difficult to scale up the penetration of healthcare system across the country’s vast geographies in a short span, the high cost of services and high infrastructure cost has become a deterrent for expansion of healthcare facilities in the country. In such a scenario, health care at home is a viable solution. Service providers can benefit from the fact that they do not need to invest hugely on setting up an infrastructure. Moreover, hospital chains and conglomerates can be roped in for these services. Various start-ups and young entrepreneurs in the healthcare space are already waking up to the idea of providing healthcare at home and its importance in Indian healthcare setup. With the concept of Healthcare at home coming into the picture, the pressure on hospital infrastructure and beds would automatically go down. The idea is to convert home-beds into hospital beds and providing patient with high-end quality care through trained professionals at home. This is like having quality care at home without heavy infrastructural support. I would love to launch such a program and encourage such startups through various incentives.