‘If we cannot give money, give time’ says Anu Aga at AIMA 

September 9, 2015

WENDELL RODRICKS  |  When someone calls me to reach out to students, I rarely refuse. I loop in a caveat to my presence. I want to interact with the students. Not just pose for cameras and grace an occasion. I insist on a one hour talk. Normally a power point presentation because fashion is so visual. I want them to take away some knowledge, get inspired and listen to a journey of hard work to success.

So when I got a call from Harshvardhan Bhatkuly to moderate a session for Goan Management students, I immediately confirmed to moderate for Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. The Institute of Hotel Management connect, he from Delhi, me from Bombay and four years my junior, I just had to say Yes.

When the All India Management Association schedule arrived via the Goa Management Association, listing the speakers and sessions, I decided to go for not just my session but for the opening session as well because of the delightful, inspirational Anu Aga of Thermax fame. Anu and her daughter Meher walked for me for a charity fashion show in Bombay. It was an exciting show as everyone who walked was an expert in their field walking for a charity of their choice, raising crores in the process.

When I met Anu after her inspiring talk, she recalled the show and said simply “That show was a lot of fun”, Then she hugged me. Not the fake air kisses for her; a genuine warm hug that my mother gave me.

Yesterday morning I was at NIO like an eager bunny. Possibly more excited than the students. Trust AIMA and GMA to start on the dot. Everything was like a well oiled machine raring to go. Just like I like it (Tardiness over tea and endless waiting to start an event is a waste of my time)

I do not want to say much about Anu’s incredible life nor her flawlessly delivered speech as she is in the process of writing her autobiography. Suffice to say I will preorder her book as soon as it gets to the publishers.

Below are some jewels from her Q&A round.

“Do things with passion, not for position” she told a student who asked about how an HR person can get higher and become the Chairman of a Company. That word ‘passion’ was repeated many times. A word that few live by. To be passionate about one’s job is a trait in most successful people. Anu also remarked about giving time for causes. She is passionate about her Teach for India charity which teaches underprivileged children.

“If we are less selfish, India will rise” said Anu. “If we cannot give money, give time. Start at a young age. Give time after college or over the weekend. There is much happiness and learning derived from charity work to raise the underprivileged in our country. We must all rise. Not just a few rich families. Everyone should share the success, Everyone!”

When asked by a young gent about India overtaking China, Anu smiled and replied “People talk about India taking over China. But did they say when? In one year, five years, ten years, fifty years?” A pertinent point as Anu’s question is the perfect answer to many remarks on India versus China

Another jewel was when a girl questioned her about her role in Parliament. She said that she was embarrassed that there are so many topics of importance that need to be passed and other topics of no import take the spotlight. And then this hilarous remark “Don’t watch Parliament debate on TV. It’s not a debate. It is a waste of time. In fact don’t watch TV at all”. She endorsed reading instead

What was fascinating was Anu Aga’s take on Death and how Vipasana has helped her. To accept one’s fate, death in particular, is a topic that Anu has endorsed in many talks. Her acceptance of this eventuality is inspiring.

Anu also spoke about the difficulty of sacking people. But why it is necessary when faced with a corporate decision. “They were nice people; the entire Board. But they were not good enough for their jobs. So I had to take the decision, that too as a lady Board member in charge, to sack people. It was a difficult painful decision but it had it be done”.

More wisdom from Anu Aga…”When you don’t know, don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know. But I am willing to learn'”. Don’t we all face this dilemma every day? I thought it was sound advice for young management people who are expected to know everything.

Finally, I learnt this tactic which I will employ when faced with a similar question at the tail end of the Anu Aga Q&A. A girl asked a question that was irrelevant as Anu had already spent ten minutes giving the answer in her speech.

In great style, Anu Aga asked the girl “You came in late?”
“No Ma’am.”
“Oh, so you were not listening? I am not going to repeat myself. Sorry!”
Touché …in style and with aplomb is what Anu Aga is about
Total RESPECT for this amazing lady. God bless you Anu Aga and may your tribe increase in India.

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