Across the Time Barriers: An Interview with Commander V.K Jaitley
Posted on March 8, 2016
Mr. Veerendra Kumar Jaitly is one of the well-renowned alumni of IIT Kharagpur. He did his M.Tech in Satellite Communication and B.Tech in Electronics and Electrical Communication Engineering both from IIT Kharagpur. He was an active member of the student community during his stay at kgp and he held the position of VP, Technology Students’ Gymkhana way back in 1978-79 as well as the position of GSec, Soc-Cult in 1977-78. Presently, He is the founder Chairman of C_Cube Consultants and works in the field of what he calls as “Human Engineering”- which includes programs and training to develop individuals and professional. He is also the author of a renowned motivational book, "We Can! We Can!". We got a Chance to talk to him during his recent visit to IIT Kharagpur. Here, is the glimpse of small talk we had with him-
How are you feeling coming back to Kgp?
This goes without saying that Kgp is a second home for me and coming back to kgp feels like coming back to my home. I did both my B.tech and M.tech from IIT Kharagpur with a gap of 5 years. I was in KGP in the last month as well during the alumni meet. In the last five years, I have visited kgp 7 times and I have attended each of the alumni meet. The year 2004 was the silver jubilee for our batch and so some of my batchmates and I decided to gather at Kgp for the reunion, we requested the Director for the same and then called some other alumni as well, that’s how the Annual Alumni Meet started from 2004 onwards with my batch.
What Changes do you feel, from the time when you graduated from this place? And what do you think should continue which is not now?
There are a lot of changes that our campus has undergone during the last 25 years. At that time, the institute’s main gate was a common passageway. All the buses going to Keshiary had to pass through the main gate. It was an ordinary sight to see people even sitting on the top of the bus, which, I guess most of you can’t imagine. Cows can be easily and frequently spotted on our campus and therefore there were cow traps installed in front of all the prominent buildings and halls. There are still some of the remains of cow traps in front of Technology guest house.
There were not a lot of food joints as there are now. Cheddis and Harris( which is now popularly known as Tikka) were active at that time. Besides that, there were places named Nayrz and Ramlal Kulfi wala which are not functional today. These were the only food joints at our times.
I think there are no Victory Processions for each and every event right now, which used to there at our time. I believe that Victory processions can be started again and the celebration should not be only for emerging victorious in GC but for the victory achieved in each and every event.
In your time at Kgp, you had held the position of VP and GSec, which is quite rare in the history of kgp. What type of qualities did you inherit through such experiences and how did they prove to be important in your future endeavours?
Before me, there were some Gsecs who contested for the post of VP but all of them lost the elections. You can say that there was a record of the GSec candidates losing the election when they stood for the post of VP. Seeing this trend, I was not very keen to become VP and I was satisfied with my work and position as a GSec. But RK hall tempo and my friend circle ( which included UG and PG students alike) backed me up and motivated me to gain my confidence back. I also consulted some of my professors and they also motivated me that I had done an excellent work as a GSec and can also do great work as a VP. So, I decided to contest for the post of VP and by God’s grace, I won with handsome margin. The qualities that I acquired during those years helped me a lot. Whatever I am today is because of what I learned from IIT. Apart from academics that we can easily learn in the classes, all the managerial qualities that I have, I learnt all of that from the gymkhana during my tenure as a GSec and VP. About eight years back, I shifted my career from Electronics and Communication to “Human Engineering” and its foundation was laid here only while I developed the qualities of what you can call “ Man Management” during my B.Tech years. So, the foundation for this was laid during my tenure as VP and Gsec. As a Student leader, I came across a lot of problems of students and this has helped me in tackling many problems in one way or another wherever I have been.
At IITs, students are involved in various administrative positions inside the campus. Do you think it is justified for an IITian instead of focusing on the things which are related to academics?
I believe that though we have too much load of academics but we have got 24 hours in a day and a lot of time is there even after attending each and every lecture that you can invest that in a lot of activities. All these activities help you in gaining a lot of knowledge which can’t be learnt from books. Obviously, there will be a little damage to academics if you are not able to maintain a balanced lifestyle. I always tried not to miss any classes. But sometimes I had to leave the lectures in between because of some urgent meetings called by the dean or director. I think this damage gets balanced by what you learn from these activities and it is all worth the little damage.
What were the Clubs/Societies at that time?
As far as I remember there was Technology Music Society and Technology Dramatics Society. There was also a Hindi newsletter called ‘Vatayan’ in which I was also involved for some time because of my love for Hindi. In fact, we started a Boating club as well during my tenure as a GSec. The boating club was managed by the modelling secretary. We had some boats with the limited capacity of 2 people and students used to enjoy boating in the gymkhana lake. The island was an awesome place for Diwali celebration. The complete campus would gather around the Gymkhana lake and beautiful fireworks were lit. Imagine how beautiful it would have been while watching the reflection of those fireworks in the calm lake water. Results of Illumination were declared at that time after the celebration. The interesting thing is that VP used to declare holidays for the next day. Actually, VP had the power of declaring 5 working days as holidays which he could declare any time after consulting with the officials. This was done to avoid the students protesting for holidays after big events like spring fest, elections. In soapbox, holidays were also included in the main agenda.
You did your M.Tech in Sat Comm and B.Tech (Hons) in E&ECE both from IIT Kharagpur, and then you opted for web marketing MBA project. So, what was the driving force which guided you through such transformations?
Initially, I didn’t think about it. I was feeling relaxed from studies after doing B.Tech. Then I joined Indian Navy but there I was a beginner having no knowledge of Navy technicalities like sonar, radar, missiles etc. I was trained for full 2 years and after that, they sent me to pursue M.Tech in satellite communication with Navy taking care of all the expenses. So I came back to kgp to pursue the course in Satellite Communication. At one stage of my life, I decided to switch to the corporate world and I started doing MBA in Web marketing which was very popular at that time. So all of that wasn't pre-decided and I followed what I liked at every stage of my life.
From being an entrepreneur to write a book; you have done varieties of work in your career till now. What do you think is the threshold after which the hesitation to pursue anything becomes easier?
I would not say that there is some threshold to be successful. You keep learning every day and we keep our mind open always to learn new things. For example, I published my debut the book 2 years back but I started working on it about 5 years back. I said goodbye to Electronics and communication and shifted to what I call as human engineering. I thought to leave the technological things upon the young upcoming generation. I followed my passion of “connecting to the people around me” and I used my experience in moulding youngsters. So this way, I thought of contributing to the society. I started giving corporate training and I made 12 modules on topics like leadership, ethics, time management, etiquette, stress management etc. under the title called ‘Business Excellence through People’. To keep connected with people, I started writing articles every month and sending them to my trainees and friend circle. From the last five years, I am continuously writing an article each month and I just finished the 57th article this month. My book is actually the compilation of all these articles after some necessary edits. When you will see the back cover page of the book you will find a quote that states 'Barack Obama said," Yes, we can!" .Narendra Modi said, "We can!". This book tells you “how we can!”.' Front cover page has an aircraft in the background of the Sun which I have taken after so many shots from my balcony in Dwarka, Delhi. All the articles in this book revolve around human life, how they can do well in personal and professional life that will lead to business excellence and higher productivity. I am planning to release the Hindi version of “We can! We Can!” as well which will be completed in around three months.
When we think of you, an image of a successful and intelligent business leader, Entrepreneur, Motivational Speaker and Technology Professional comes into our minds. What do you think is the 'success key' for your success?
The first thing, I believe is that whether you are a doctor, engineer, manager or whatever you are, you should be firstly a good human being. While dealing with other peoples, we should think of the other person as a fellow human being with self-respect and desires of his own. Don't forget the principle of humanity. Don't think of yourself as superior just because you are at a better position than others and don’t ever try to hurt other people’s feelings. Whenever you are in some conflict, put yourself in the position of other people to resolve the issue. When good relationships are formed with people, then “your work” becomes “teamwork”.
As election seasons are coming so we would like to know the various election campaign strategies during your time?
As you know elections for GSec and VP are two main positions of gymkhana, so the names of final candidates were announced some days before the election. So when I decided to contest for VP , my team was looking for the correct time to launch the campaign and finally, we decided to declare “Jaitly for VP” on the Holi day. At that time we used computer punching cards that became useless after the coding was done on them. We collected a lot of cards from the computer science department and all the RK hall boarders worked day and night to decorate those cards with colors and wrote ‘Happy Holi’ and “Jaitly for VP” on them. These cards were pushed under the door of each and every student of the campus during the night before Holi and the next day people were seen congratulating me for contesting in the elections. Any kind of printing material was not allowed for campaigning at that time so all the posters were handmade. A technology called cyclostyle was used to print designs on the A4 size pamphlets using stencils. As social media was non existent at that time, we had physical interaction with people rather than virtually interacting through facebook etc.
Were hall days as effective in terms of election as they are now?
(Shocked) Are hall days really used for campaigning nowadays? Unlike today's culture of campaigning during hall days, Hall Days at our time were only meant for socialising and celebrating with friends. We used to invite our friends from different halls and all the Professors from each and every department. The professors will be our guests during the hall days. We used to organize some light entertainment programs followed by dinner and all the people wanted make that evening memorable. The hall days were not used for campaigning at all and the only motive behind them was social interaction. SN hall day was quite popular as it was the only hall day when boys could enter SN hall but for that, we also need an invitation from our female friends. There were only 60 girls at our time and they couldn’t invite everybody so whoever got the invite used to boast about it. Anyways, I got invited to SN hall every year during my stay. For election campaigning in other halls, the Soap-box were organized in each and every hall and a final soap-box was also organized in front of the library( which is now the cycle parking area ) and it was considered most important because this was only for VP candidates. When it comes to collaboration with other halls, we never used the word pact as such but yet there was some mutual understanding between the halls. As it was sure that you will not get any votes from opponent’s hall so we never campaigned in that hall.
What do you think of the Hall Culture in our Campus? What role does it play in the lifestyle of Kgpians?
Being located far from Kolkata, people can't run away on every weekend so it was like we had to live here all the time. Also, kgp is a small town so people can't find better options for hanging out. Because of all that, bonding among the students is stronger as compared to the students of other IIT's where students can run away on weekends. Even after many years when I get to meet someone from kgp, they will definitely ask about our halls and a special bond is build if you are from the same hall even though you have not been in kgp during the same period of time. This is really fascinating and it is all because of the hall culture of IIT Kharagpur.