Ask what you can do for yourself
Here’s my speech at the Pan African Business Expo on 17 April 2014
I am delighted to join you at this conference.
It was John F Kennedy who said ‘Things don’t happen. They are made to happen.’
Edith Parker and her team have made this conference possible because of their hardwork, dedication and leadership.
Please join me in giving them a huge round of applause.
Today I would like to share with you my journey from India to the UK, and three secrets that have enabled me to start Global Markets Consultants, a management consulting business.
These secrets are acquiring top business skills, substantial savings and a global manager profile.
My story began 7,000 kilometres away from here in India, where I grew up the youngest of 11 children and went to state schools in Delhi.
During my summers as a child, I would stay at my sister’s house. Her place had no bathroom, no running water and one electric light – when it worked! I remember collecting five buckets of buffalo dung everyday, which I’d shape into pancakes, slap them on walls to dry and then use for fuel.
Through hard work at school, I won entry to the Indian Institute of Technology, one of the world’s leading engineering universities.
With the support of my family, I earned my Bachelor’s degree in 1986. Based on my academic performance, I obtained a teaching scholarship for a Masters’ degree in engineering and went to New York to purse higher education.
But my excitement of flying for the first time was very short-lived. The second I stepped off the plane I dropped to the bottom of society. For the first time in my life, I was a fish out of water: a different culture, a different language and a different socio-economic level. I was dirt poor.
I remember telling myself that I had not come to New York to settle at the bottom of society. I would work day and night, rest only after reaching to the top and fulfil my dreams of having a successful global business.
At this time I realised that in order to be a successful entrepreneur in a highly competitive world, I needed to acquire a combination of three ingredients at the same time. And I estimated that it would take hard work, determination and razor-sharp focus for 10-15 years.
First, I would need the best education so I could compete with talented people and win business. Second, I would need savings so I did not have to rely on the bank. Banks don’t give you loans without collaterals, do they? And third, I would need to build a profile of a global manager to conduct business seamlessly with international clients.
To boost my confidence, I decided to save 50% of my monthly scholarship, which was no easy feat, I assure you. I never ate out in New York for the first 12 months, but still I had the most delicious food everyday… because I cooked it myself!
As I got a grip on my life, I suffered a brain haemorrhage. After recovering from this setback with the help of my wonderful roommates, I stayed focused on my education and graduated with a Masters’ degree in engineering.
Afterwards, I got a job as a project engineer in New York and set an ambitious goal of saving $50,000 in three years. I worked overtime all the time. When not working overtime, I would use my time to volunteer as a fire-fighter and work on my funny accent.
By the way, I never had any accent problem in India! I can’t tell you how happy I felt when I had saved 50,000 dollars, enough to pursue my next dream. That is, to get an MBA.
In 1992, I graduated with an MBA from University of California, Los Angeles with the Dean’s Outstanding Student Award, the highest honour given to any student. And I had no outstanding student loans.
After graduation, I joined Sales and Trading at Goldman Sachs. I immediately set a goal of saving one million dollars in ten years. By the way I was interviewed 31 times before I got that job!
Having worked for Goldman Sachs on Wall Street, I decided to build a profile of a global manager – the third ingredient. In the subsequent years, I consulted for Deutsche Bank in London and Tokyo and Citi Bank in Zurich and travelled to about 50 countries.
After working for 80 hours a week for seven years, I achieved my goal of saving one million dollars three years earlier than planned. Armed with my global profile, my business education and my savings, I launched Global Markets Consultants, a management consulting firm, in London and New York in 2002.
I am proud that my company has been a preferred consultant of Deutsche Bank since 2005. And my substantial savings have ensured that my business has remained financially sound despite the biggest economic crises we all faced in 2008. I’m proud to say that we didn’t let go any staff during all these years and have never even thought of looking for a loan.
Furthermore, my savings have enabled me to retire at the age of 45 and pursue my charitable, investment and political interests.
For charities, I’ve raised £150,000 by running London marathon, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, trekking to the Mt. Everest Base camp, cycling 500 Km in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Next, I like investing in projects and people. But when I invest my money I make decisions based on three things: credentials, a comprehensive business plan and a promise of a solid expected rate of return on my investments.
Whether it is the government or a venture capitalist or me, I assure you that all investors are looking for these same three things. So to win, you must perform better than other entrepreneurs.
Lastly, to pursue my political interests, I set up a new political party – All People’s Party – last year in September to help talented people like you to become political leaders in England and fight for equality at the top. With APP, you can become a Councillor in 2014 or a Member of Parliament in the UK in 2015 or the Prime Minister by 2035.
Additionally, APP is willing to support your application for winning a UK honour, such as MBE, OBE or CBE, which some of you so richly deserve.
To recognize my contributions to the UK, I was invited to have a lunch with the Queen on the top table for a Diamond Jubilee celebration event in 2012. Additionally, I was awarded an OBE for services to the economy and promoting charitable giving in 2013.
In conclusion, I’ve told you my three secrets of having a successful business.
To compete and win against top entrepreneurs, acquire the best business skills. If you are not beating your competition, you must sharpen your traits. Believe in your skills, not in luck.
To start and sustain your business and survive economic crises, save substantial money. Remember banks want collaterals and your profit. And Wonga.com wants your peace of mind!
To grow your business globally, acquire skills of a global manager. Don’t you want to make the world your oyster?
I hope that you will follow these secrets to fulfil your dreams and be the master of your own destiny. All I can assure you is that my doors are open to you. Please don’t forget me if you become a billionaire!
And on this note, I would like to close by saying what I tell myself everyday: Ask not what others can do for you; ask what you can do for yourself.
Thank you very much