Anil Manibhai Naik, the 76 year old Chairman of Larsen and Toubro who has spent more than 55 years in the company, rising from the ranks of an entry level engineering graduate to head the company for more than 18 years, says that he had made seven spelling mistakes in his L&T job application form. In an interview to CNBC TV18, AM Naik said that he couldn’t speak coherently in the interview. “Even in the interview, I could not speak well. The manager told me, don’t you think your English could be better? I said ‘yes’, because I had seven spelling mistakes in the application form,” AM Naik said in conversation with the channel.
The Chairman who is set to hang his boots in October, said that he wasn’t called for the L&T interview, as he’s not an IITian. Sharing the details he said, “At that time, L&T took people only from IIT. They did not call me for the interview. I went to Nester Boiler, and after 18 months,my experience was so appropriate to what L&T wanted to do, so I got the job.” AM Naik studied in a village and says that he was intimidated after coming to Bombay, as he wasn’t fluent in English. In the candid conversation, the veteran said, “I came from a village, studied in vernacular language. My father told me to go to Vallabh Vidyanagar college. In my college even though, 25% of the people were not from Gujarat, people spoke Gujarati. So, when came to Bombay, I had a very tough time to meet and talk to people. In such kind of environment, how will I survive?”
The interview had a deep impact on Mr Naik, as his personnel manager had told him to improve his fluency in the language. “So, I took it to heart. I bought dictionary, and I bought cassettes. That time there were no DVDs or CDs,” he said. It was a difficult task for AM Naik, as he took nearly 4 years to come to terms with the language.
Sharing his struggles, AM Naik recalled, “I started playing the cassettes and started hearing the pronunciation and so on. Then correlated that with (my) thought process. I would stand in front of the mirror and start talking. Then I would read well written sentences from the dictionary, because the spelling has to be correct. I took me 3-4 years to come to terms with how I could deal.” Pointing out how he managed the first 3-4 years, AM Naik quipped, “I got away with it, as I was in the shop floor managing workers and unions.”