How millennials Apoorva, Sujai and Dhananjai moved from the known, conventional path to embrace the risks and challenges of the unknown and the offbeat.
By Charu Sabnavis
Apoorva Bhatia, a qualified engineer and a management graduate, quit a thriving corporate job to teach children at Palampur in Himachal Pradesh. She took up the challenge to get children interested in maths and science by developing tools that made learning experiential and fun. Apoorva fell in love with the life in this idyllic village, nestled in the mountains, enveloped by green forests and crystal streams, away from the buzz of the city. She began appreciating the invisible forces of nature that drive biodiversity. This led her to start her green initiative, Life Meets Lens, along with her husband, Vikram, with a mission to help people reconnect with nature and explore the magically woven web of interdependence that binds hundreds of species of flora and fauna. Apoorva and Vikram organise retreats for people comprising group activities like jungle hikes, specimen collection, guided observation, field trips and discussion.
Sujai Mahadevan, a management graduate, was surging through a successful corporate career in the market research sector, only to give it up one fine day to start a tennis coaching academy. A one-time top tennis junior at the national level, Sujai was unable to pursue his dream of a tennis career because of financial constraints, but all through his corporate stint he remained connected with the game, guiding a few national ranked juniors during his free time. His passion drove him to stay connected with tennis. Today, he runs a full-fledged tennis academy at Nerul Gymkhana, coaching more than 100 kids and adults with the aim of popularising the game and grooming them to play at the state and national levels.
Dhananjai Sinha’s journey from IT to music is equally compelling. Armed with a degree in engineering and management, Dhananjai worked as a business analyst at a global IT company. He quit his corporate career to start Instrupad, a platform that provides players in the music ecosystem like musicians, instrument manufacturers, teachers, learning facilitators and audio and video music producers, a virtual space to perform, present, collaborate, interact and market their wares. Instrupad boasts of a content bank of more than 400 music videos showcasing and promoting a range of instruments, genres and styles through a variety of channels.
Apoorva, Sujai and Dhananjai moved from the known, conventional path to embrace the risks and challenges of the unknown and the offbeat.
What were their drivers?
“As a marketing profession, I felt that I was advocating materialism, selling people stuff they did not need. Our product range changed every three months or so, resulting in hordes of unsold products finding their way back to warehouses and eventually to landfills at some point. What a drain on natural resources! What a waste!” says Apoorva. Uncomfortable with cut-throat competition and the stiff, unmindful targets, Apoorva felt that she did not fit into the corporate world. Her work was misaligned with her values. She was always interested in the development sector, but did not know how to get there. She had no guidance, no idea about what it had to offer or how she could go about it. She started researching and took her first bold step of quitting her a job, opting for volunteering instead.
“I felt stuck! A gruelling 14-15 hour workday left me drained. I had no energy to pursue my passion—tennis,” says Sujai. What kept him going was the corporate success with its concomitant monetary benefits. “I had no time and no balance, which got me thinking whether this is what I really wanted from life. I started looking upon salary as an incentive to kill ones dream … slowly. I had to get out of this to feel fulfilled. And one day I took the plunge,” he adds.
“As a business analyst, I was exposed to a tiny part of a much bigger whole. I found this restrictive. I had ideas that I knew may not see the light of day in the conservative confines of the corporate world. I wanted to bring my ideas to life. Since time was of essence, I quit to run full speed to pursue my dreams,” says Dhananjai.
“My biggest challenge was having to let go of the comfort of a monthly pay check. I had to start from scratch—rethink my lifestyle,” says Sujai. Dhananjai echoes a similar sentiment. “After overcoming the initial scepticism of my family, my biggest challenge was the newness of everything—having to adapt from a life in the city to the serenity of a village and its culture. Besides, I missed engaging with friends and family,” says Apoorva.
“Self-belief, self-conviction, risk-taking ability and the support of our families,” they say in chorus. Apoorva owes strength to quit her job to a friend, her partner in crime, who also quit at the same time and both started off volunteering together.
“Introspect to know yourself and your personal values. Are these aligned with what you are doing? Experiment and ask questions rather than just going with the flow,” says Apoorva. Sujai would encourage people to embrace risk to pursue their passion. “Think. Ideate. Then go all out to instil life in your idea,” advises Dhananjai.
The author is an executive coach, organisational development facilitator, and founder-director of Delta Learning