Secret Diary Of A CEO 2017

"Don't compare yourself with anyone. Everyone has a threshold and you are only expected to perform to your potential"

Secret Diary of Pawan Goenka Part-1

Photograph By Soumik Kar

personal information of Pawan goenkaEven today, I am filled with nostalgia when I think of our home in Harpalpur, the house that I was born in and I am told the Maharaja of the region had gifted to my great grandfather, fondly known as Malik saheb. In that small village in Madhya Pradesh, everybody knew each other. Malik saheb was an honourable man. He cared for the villagers , and so was referred to as grandfather (I called him Bapuji). Malik saheb didn’t cheat the buyers nor did he squeeze the sellers, even though he was a trader; it’s not surprising he earned respect that outlived him. I stayed with Bapuji in Harpalpur until I was seven-years-old. My younger brother, Suresh replaced me in Harpalpur when I went to live with my father (Papa) and mother in the big city. My parents  didn’t have the resources  but somehow they managed to get almost everything we wanted. All my growing years, there used to be this disquiet during the last few days of the month, which, I realised only later, was because my parents had run out of money. But we never felt like we missed out on anything and that humble beginning set the foundation of our values and our life.
pawan goenka with grandpa and brother sunilFortunately for my parents, all of us turned out to be studious without anyone prodding us, although Papa and Ma did push us subtly. All of us brothers went to a relatively unknown school, Shree Jain Vidyalay in Calcutta, and stood first in class every single year. It was a year of sadness in our home when in grade seven, I came second in the class. We all got tuition waivers all through. Some of those lessons are still fresh in my memory. Once Ojha sir slapped me and I didn’t speak with him for two weeks — he was a great maths teacher and I knew I was his favourite student but he had been unfair that day, I felt. No one in class could answer his question; he didn’t say a word to the others, but he slapped me. Two weeks later, I asked him why he picked on me and he said, “I didn’t expect them to know, but I expected you to have the answer.” That day I learnt there is no point comparing yourself with anyone because everyone has a certain threshold and you are only expected to perform to your potential.
My life was shaped by a series of uncanny coincidences. I landed in IIT not by design but because I goofed up on the entrance exam dates for Bengal Engineering College, which we preferred over IIT since it was closer to home. My rank was exactly 900, which was the last rank qualifying for mechanical engineering in IIT Kanpur and I still remember the coordinator did not want to give me that seat wanting to wait for a “smarter” candidate. Things seemed to be conspiring against me — I didn’t clear the medical test. I weighed 33 kg against a minimum requirement of 41 kg and my chest was 22 inches wide as against the required 24 inches. I was also terribly nervous during the interview, which gave the medical examiner one more reason to reject me — my heartbeat was too fast. I was told to get a medical certificate from a doctor at a government hospital, stating that I had no heart problem. We managed to get the certificate with our family doctor’s help and finally, I was through.
mechanical engineering, IIT Kanpur, 75 batchDay one in IIT was an unforgettable one. A senior asked me, “When did you get here?” and my reply, “I came tomorrow” made them roar with laughter, setting my stomach churning. I knew no better — in Hindi, kal means yesterday as well as tomorrow. Having studied in Hindi medium institutes all my life, the IIT entrance was the first exam I ever wrote in English. Even in that, I could not have cracked the paper had I not accidently sneaked a peek at the diagram made by the guy sitting diagonally opposite me during the Physics paper — I struggled just to understand the questions through most of the paper.