Entrepreneurship needs the right fertile ground to germinate and grow and the entrepreneur should freely choose that ground without giving a damn to the manmade borders

Human migration will certainly create skills, knowledge and entrepreneurship, as amply demonstrated by several Nobel laureates, inventors, academicians, great physicians and chief executives of multinational businesses, says celebrated Entrepreneur, philanthropist and author John Mathew Chandi John in an interview with Dr. Sadananda Sahoo

You have created a very successful enterprise, involved in philanthropy and authored book. As an accomplished man what is the most memorable part of your life?

The most memorable part of my life was the decision to become an entrepreneur leaving a very lucrative employment with Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and the ensued challenges to succeed. After working in Petrochemical industries as a Chemical Engineer I quit my job while I was on the Management floor. I had three children of school going level and did not own a substantial wealth to support my family without a regular income. As a startup company it was tough to succeed particularly as I was not willing to compromise on ethics.

Please tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur, especially the challenges and opportunity you faced outside India.

As a person with 20 years’ experience in Oil, Gas and Petrochemical Industries my company decided to try supplying materials and equipment manufactured by approved companies from USA, Japan and Europe but it was difficult to get the representation of those companies in Kuwait as most of the reputed manufacturers were already represented and my nationality was a negative factor. Endurance and perseverance paid off; after the lapse of a few years my company was capable to supply almost everything the oil industry needed.

The company expanded in to Engineering, Procurement and Construction contracts and became a major employer and a successful company after 10 years of strenuous effort. I started tasting the results of success but it did not last. Saddam Husain of Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait. I and the company lost everything we created. Company became bankrupt and I became a pauper.

Kuwait got liberated and the rebuilding of the war ravaged Kuwait presented a great opportunity but dearth of capital was a major challenge. With the help of Kuwaiti banks and the Government of KuwaitI could recapture all we lost in two or three years by executing construction projects and supplying materials. The company marched forward without ever looking back. Today the company employs over 5000 people including 200 Engineers with a record of 99% employment of Indians.

Human civilization has never been static! However, in recent years there have been more barriers to the human movements. There are wars, refugee crisis and several other problems related to the human movement or migration. How do you perceive the human movement vis a vis human progress? More specifically in the context of economic progress and entrepreneurship.

The barriers created by brutal and selfish rulers of yester years are hampering the long march of human beings towards superhumanhood. I am an idealist and I dream the coming of Utopia. Despite the negativity of the selfish brutes in the world, Science and technology will make today’s human in to tomorrows superhuman. Chancellor Merkel is one leader who understood the value of human input- no matter what nationality they belong to-in human progress while Brexit is the embodiment of the opposite. Entrepreneurship needs the right fertile ground to germinate and grow and the entrepreneur should freely choose that ground without giving a damn to the manmade borders. In today’s world the power is in the hands of fanatics and morons and they are slowing down the progress which otherwise would have achieved a stupendous pace. Economic progress if not coupled with fair distribution of wealth will lead to catastrophe and the cprogress does not come from bullets but from brain only.

How do you perceive the impact of human migration on skill generation, human knowledge and entrepreneurship?, Of course these are all related.

Unless forced by wars, terrorists’ attacks or natural calamities migration is a process of a person selecting a suitable place to live and work to attain desired achievements in his or her life. By virtue of that human migration will certainly create skills, knowledge and entrepreneurship, as amply demonstrated by several Nobel laureates, inventors, academicians, great physicians and chief executives of multinational businesses. The USA, Canada and Australia are three of the great nations created entirely by migrants. The contribution of migrants to the wellbeing humanity at large is immense.

In recent years many Indian expatriates, traditionally from non-entrepreneurial background, are successful entrepreneurs abroad. i.e Silicon Valley (USA) , United Kingdom and in Gulf. Despite living in a foreign country, against several odds, many of the first generation entrepreneurs thrived in their endeavor. What reason do you assign to their success?

After my college education I started my career in a Public Sector Chemical Fertilizer company. Potential for growth and promotion was limited to vacancies created by retirement or death of the seniors. It made me leave the comfort zone provided by the Government of India and I ventured in to an unknown future in an unknown country. I came from a remote village where electricity or tarred roads or public transport were not available. I used to walk about 10 kilometers through forests and paddy fields to reach my school carrying a bundle of books and my mid-day meal. By becoming a migrant I could achieve a degree of success however limited it may be. Most of the great achievers of Indian migrants’ society may have similar stories to tell.

When there is no or limited potential to grow human ingenuity slumbers and in the right environment it wakes up and thrives. In the case of successful migrants foreign countries provided the rightsoil, manure and water for growth. This fact loudly declares that manmade boundaries and restrictions on migration hamper human development.

Can you suggest some ideas that can help in building entrepreneurial culture in India? How does Indian diaspora can help it?

  • The banks in India should make available venture capital as needed by the entrepreneurs without much red tape and the Government should guarantee the repayment to banks if the entrepreneurs fail to payback.
  • A comprehensive and regularly updated databank with sufficient information about potential projects should be made freely available to all.
  • Regular campaigns at school level, university level and campaigns through media for public should be undertaken by the Governments at state and central level.
  • Entrepreneurs should be treated as celebrities by the media and the governments when they achieve outstanding results.
  • Affluent Indian diaspora can partner with entrepreneurs in startup ventures.

Today, large number of Indian youths migrating abroad for job and education due to lack of such opportunities within India. What suggestions would you like to give to the policy makers in state as well as at centre for providing such opportunity within India?

Macaulay’s ghost is still haunting Indian educational system and India needs a revolution in our educational system. Change to be brought in should not be by monkeying Western System, but it should be highly innovative; with an objective of creating an Atheist India where Science and Technology are the driving forces. To bring about that change in India, we will have to fight a war against religious fundamentalists and political opportunists.

In your book “The Saga of an Expatriate” you have brought out many issues that the Indian communities faced in GCC countries during the Kuwait war. Personally your effort to help them during crisis is very laudable.  Can you please highlight some of your own effort that you find most memorable even today?

When Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait there was a migrant population of 170,000 Indians in Kuwait. Government of India had an absolute apathy towards those Indians as it constituted an insignificant number of Indian who was not a vote bank. Indians in Kuwait formed a committee to help the stranded Indians to get back to their home land. I worked in that committee in charge of organizing the transport of those hapless people by buses to Basra and Baghdad for their onward journey to India. We the committee members were the last Indians to leave Kuwait. Further in 2003 Iraq war which killed Saddam Husain, I was appointed as a warden to by the Government of Kuwait and the Embassy of India to communicate with a section of the Indian population regarding the protective measures to be taken in case of a Nuclear or Chemical bomb attack by Iraq. It was a difficult task as my audience was domestic servants and most of them were illiterate. I can never forget the scare in their eyes when I explained in the mildest form the consequences of such attacks on them, and the most scared ones were the maids. Some of them opted to leave the country for good and I still wonder whether I did disservice to them.

Based on your experience during Kuwait war crisis, what lesson you would like to give to the Indian community and government in handling such situation?

Today the whole world is in a state animated agitation and the people are behaving like charged particles in random motion. Indian diaspora is spread all over the world and the Government of India should be in a state of constant alertness to extend help to the Indian expatriates in trouble wherever they are no matter it is Iraq, Libya, Syria or Sudan as homicides, genocides, rapes, attacks, floods or catastrophes in any form can erupt anywhere at any time. A separate department should be there in the central Government to coordinate efforts of the concerned agencies.

You have been involved in several philanthropic activities in India and abroad. Can you tell us few of your initiatives? What inspired you to engage in those activities?

I would rather hesitate stating about my philanthropic activities, but I would like to state about one activity as it needs publicity. I have developed a large website with audio and video facilities as a tutorial to teach Malayalam by the name Pravasi Malayalam.com. This tutorial covers a large spectrum from alphabets to the level of appreciation of literature and it is available free on line since few years. More than philanthropy it is a necessity in today’s world where languages are dying with the culture they carry. The world needs all the cultures to thrive, ‘let hundreds of flowers blossom’

Interview Date:   Tuesday, Aug 02, 2016
Person Name:   John Mathew Chandi John

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