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‘You must become emotionally mature as you move up the corporate ladder’

An alumnus of Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park talks about his days at the school’s dissection lab with fond memories



Almost all of us have compared our school days with those spent at college. While some say that the best days were in school, others opine that college was better since one is more mature and makes friends from different places with varied interests. There is more freedom to explore things also. Gaurav Dhawan, Commercial Director at Udaan, definitely belongs to the latter even though he had loads of fun in school.

In a candid interview, this alumnus of Apeejay School in Panchsheel Park talks about his school days fondly. Excerpts:

“Concentrate on developing skills and capabilities which will help them over a long career. Don’t be worried about somebody being jealous of you”

Gaurav Dhawan, Commercial Director at Udaan

Can you share some fond memories from your school days?

I joined Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park in Class X and passed Class XII in 1994. There are so many memories of those days. I am in touch with a few of my school friends. When we get time to meet, we reminisce about the fun times we had especially in some of our classes, and also discuss our first experiences of dissection of cockroaches in biology labs. I remember that the teachers were good as well. Overall I had a great time at Apeejay.

Most people say that college was more fun than school. Was it the same for you?

I would say that my college days were more fun-filled. What happens is that when you go to college the person is a bit older -17 -18 years and more mature as compared to what he/she was in school. You have a better understanding of dealing with friends when at college. While both school and college days are fun, it is a different kind of fun in school and a different kind of fun in college. I just feel that in college, you make long-lasting friendships. Like I joined an engineering college, by the time we complete the programme we are around 22 – 23 years. Definitely more mature and ready to take on the world.

Where are you working at present? What is your work profile?

I am, at present, working with a firm called Udaan. It is a Bengaluru-based e-commerce company. I’ve been working there for the last three years; I’m the commercial director for their food FMCG business. I look at the entire commercial operations and have a large team.

Were there roadblocks when you began your professional journey? How did you deal with them?

I was very fortunate that I faced no such issues. I was picked by ITC Limited right after I finished my MBA. It was a great learning platform. I was lucky to find very good and supportive bosses and great mentors. It was quite an interesting journey. I got a lot of exposure and spent 18 years in my first company.

There is a mantra: The boss is always right. How should an employee deal with a situation where he is well aware that his immediate boss is wrong?

In a career spanning 30-35 years, you are bound to have worked with a lot of bosses. Each boss is different and one has to adjust accordingly. To be agile and flexible in dealing with people is exactly what the situation calls for. The boss and the subordinate have to develop a good healthy relationship. While dealing with people (boss) you have to understand things from his/her perspective also. If you think that the boss is in the wrong, it is better to do it on a one-on-one basis rather than confront him in an open forum.

The professional journey is fraught with jealousy from peers and work-related obstructions. Advice to youngsters who are starting their careers?

If your work is very good, it will outshine everybody. People including your peers will respect you for your performance and knowledge. My suggestion to the young students would be to concentrate on developing skills and capabilities which will help them over a long career. Don’t be worried about somebody being jealous of you. If your work is great, you will outperform others.

Do you have to upgrade your skills like it is in the IT sector?

While, it may not be the same as it is in the IT sector, not as much as software and IT, you need to develop emotional maturity as you rise the corporate ladder. When you join, you work for people, as you move up, people start working for you. Emotional maturity is very important. Take an example. E-commerce is disrupting FMCG distribution in our country. I also made a move to move from ITC to this field (e-commerce) to develop new skill sets.

You have been in the FMCG industry for a long time. Have the changes been for the better?

There have been changes. But I won’t say that all have been for the better. One has to adapt to the changes. People have to be flexible and the older you get, the more you learn and the more flexible you have to be in your approach to working in an organisation.

What are the job prospects in this industry today?

The prospects and opportunities are high. It is a fast-moving consumer industry; you should be very interested in people, and what is happening in our environment. One can join the industry straight from engineering college, and or join after MBA. A lot of good companies even hire Commerce and arts graduates. The only ask is that you have a very deep understanding of how consumers buy, how they shop, and how business is managed. If you have this know-how, FMCG is a great space to work in.

Shalini is an Executive Editor with Apeejay Newsroom. With a PG Diploma in Business Management and Industrial Administration and an MA in Mass Communication, she was a former Associate Editor with News9live. She has worked on varied topics - from news-based to feature articles.