Championing Treloar’s in the City

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Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here. I’d like to thank Treloar’s event leadership team, especially Sarah Adwick and Laura Toop, for inviting me to share my story with you all this evening.  Haven’t they done a splendid job in making this wonderful event possible?  Let us give them a huge round of applause.

‘The best way to predict your future is to create it.’ These are the famous words of Abraham Lincoln, which I remember and follow everyday in my own life. So I would like to reflect on how I created my own future by sharing my journey from Delhi to London.  You’ll hear how I fulfilled my dream of owning a successful global business – while also making a positive difference to the lives of Londoners.

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. My mother couldn’t help me with my homework since she couldn’t read or write. But, she was the best alarm clock I’ve ever had!

It was my mum who instilled in me the value of giving back. She followed her desire to help others by cooking ten evening meals for homeless people daily. She would ask me to walk one kilometre each day to distribute meals to them. And in spite of my initial grumbling, I always felt great seeing their sunny smiles.

During my summers, I would stay at my sister’s house. Her place had no bathroom, no running water and one electric light. 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. Believe it or not, I was the local dung collector champion!

Through hard work at school, I won entry to the Indian Institute of Technology, a top university in the world, and earned my Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in 1986.

Afterwards, I was lucky to get a teaching scholarship to study for a Masters’ degree in engineering in New York.

However, my excitement of flying for the first time at the age of 22 was 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. Even worse, I only had 20 dollars to get me through my first seven days!

But I reminded myself that I had come to New York to fulfil my dream of owning a global business. I desperately needed some guidance and encouragement. This was when I began to take help from others and started attending a local church. Its leaders advised me to root myself in the community and keep learning.

At this time, I also realised that in order to be a successful entrepreneur, I needed to acquire a combination of three ingredients:

  • top business skills
  • substantial savings
  • and a global profile.

I estimated it would require long hours, a razor-sharp focus and making personal sacrifices for 10 to 15 years.

Visualising my goal every day, I implemented my plan. I focused on my studies and decided to save 50% of my monthly scholarship, which was no easy feat. I never ate out in New York for the first 12 months, including at McDonalds, but I still had the most delicious food everyday… because I cooked it myself!

As I was getting a grip on my life, I suffered a brain haemorrhage. Standing here today, it is difficult for me to describe how much support I received from my wonderful roommates and family members during that ordeal. I always remember what they did for me. With their assistance, I was able to graduate with my Masters’ degree and get a job as a Transport Engineer.

I then set a goal of saving $50,000 in three years.  I worked overtime all the time.

When not working 60 hours per week, 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 problems in India!

I can’t tell you how happy I felt when I had saved 50,000 dollars, enough to pursue my next dream of studying at a top business school. In 1992, I completed my MBA from UCLA with the Dean’s Outstanding Student Award, the highest honour given to any student. And I had no outstanding debts.  As you can imagine, Wonga.com did not like me at all!

After graduation, I joined Sales and Trading at Goldman Sachs on Wall Street and set a goal of saving one million dollars in ten years.  By the way, I was interviewed 31 times before I got that job! From day one, I started working at least 80 hours a week, but I enjoyed the nonstop, intense competition.

Having worked on Wall Street, I gained a global profile by living in London, Tokyo and Zurich while consulting with senior bankers. By working diligently, just like how my mum did to raise 11 kids, I achieved my goal of saving one million dollars three years earlier than planned.

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Now, armed with my education, savings and global profile, I launched my company, Global Markets Consultants, in the City of London in 2002. I’m proud that my company has created hundreds of management jobs and contributed millions in corporate and individual taxes to HMRC.  In fact, you probably know who recently applied for a Business Analyst role at my company – George Osborne!

I’m also pleased to share that my company won the Preferred Supplier Status of Deutsche Bank every year from 2005 to 2013. And most importantly, I’m proud that my company promotes diversity at all levels and encourage staff to give back to their communities.

My significant savings enabled me to retire at the age of 45, and pursue my charitable, travelling and community endeavours.  I’ve served as a magistrate for seven years. I share my business expertise with 15 charities as a patron or board member.

And I’ve raised £300,000 for charities by completing challenges which have pushed me to my physical limits. These challenges include running the London Marathon, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and cycling 500 km across Vietnam and Cambodia. My next goal is to do something worthwhile for Treloar’s.

I also love travelling.  I’ve been to over 120 countries and to far flung places such as the North Pole and the South Pole. Do you love polar bears? Then I suggest you go to the North Pole. And if you love penguins, make the South Pole your next destination!

I’m passionate about my community. To date, I’ve delivered inspiring talks to thousands of young people in the House of Commons, the House of Lords and community events.  I’ve also created opportunities for 30 community champions to contest UK elections as Councillor, MP or London Assembly candidates.  This has not only brought their unrecognised leadership skills into the limelight but also promoted diversity, equality and inclusiveness at the top in London.

To recognise my contributions, I was invited to have lunch on the top table with Her Majesty The Queen at a Diamond Jubilee celebration.  There is no doubt that she is truly an inspiration for all of us.  In 2013 I was awarded an OBE for services to the economy and promoting charitable giving. A year later, I was presented the Individual Community Spirit Award by Boris Johnson at the London Leadership and Peace Awards.  And I’m thrilled to share that last week I was elected as a Common Councilman in the City.

On reflection, I would not be standing before you without the opportunities and support given to me by the leaders and communities in which I have lived. I’m grateful for the positive difference they have made in my life.

I’m here because of my family.

I’m here because of my wonderful friends.

I’m here because of opportunities provided to me by the UK.

And that is what makes our country so special. After coming here on a business trip in 1999, I fell in love with London overnight because of its diversity, cricket and …. of course, curry! I am extremely grateful to London for embracing me and giving me the chance to start my global business. The City has been my home for 16 years, and for the last 10 years, right next to Tower Bridge. Would you believe that this is the same bridge that was plastered on my bedroom wall back in India!?

In closing, following what my mum instilled in me, I want to continue giving back to London what it has given me over the years. My goal now is to ensure my “giving back account” is bigger than my bank account. I’ve already committed 100% of my talent and time and three million pounds of my savings to promote entrepreneurship, employability and education for all Londoners. My hope is that London will continue to be a great City for everyone to work, live and do business.

Together we can make this happen.  Ladies and Gentlemen, that is my dream.

Thank you.