In an exclusive discussion with SightsIn Plus during the SHRM Conference, we have with us Vikas Singh, Chief Executive Officer & Chief of Staff at AP Globale, his life’s journey from a small farming village with no electricity and barely any infrastructure to bagging a full scholarship to pursue MBA from Booth School of Business, Chicago and working with top global companies like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and now with AP Globale. The real life story is truly Individual Milestone & inspiration of others.
Q- Would appreciate if you could let us know a bit about you and your family?
I grew up in a small village in Pratapgarh district in a family of more than a dozen people. We lived with marginal foods means where our daily lives was dependent on how much cow dung we collected or how much other grains could we barter from potato that we produced in our fields. We would huddle together under the same dry strip during heavy rains together with our animals.
“We could not afford two meals daily but parents always wished for us to study and do something that will help us to make a better living. At the age of 13, I moved out from the village to the nearest city with my younger brother who was just 10, to attend secondary schooling. We stayed in a lodge where we cooked and took care of ourselves. This was our only hope to eventually get into a university”
Q-Considering your background, how you could manage to go out for your schooling?
It says, when you are a part of club zero,the only way is to go UP. We were away from almost all material distractions during our childhood because we could not afford anything. It worked in our favor because in absence of access to necessary amenities, we worked hard to be better at whatever we were doing – studying at that time. We wanted to
get out of the village so that we didn’t have to work on the fields all day and take animals for grazing. The fee in the school was 10 rupees and we made tuitions to cover it and other
expenses. Mom and dad paid for whatever they could include bringing ration to the city
Q-How was experience going out from your village to the City for schooling and
how did you manage to complete your education?
I have covered this question partly in the previous question but I would want to highlight an incident that my brother and I faced. We did not know Hindi when we moved to the city initially as we only spoke our regional Hindi until then. The landlord of the room we lived in, used to get angry that we could not speak hindi and that we must speak hindi (it was called khadi boli). This actually nudged us to migrate from regional dialect to hindi and then to further learning. What I am trying to highlight is that people in the city looked at us as outsiders and we took every comment as a challenge and tried to learn from the same.
Q-What has been your inspiration to move ahead in your life and do something different?
To me, Mom was my biggest motivator. She used to carry her slippers in her bag and wear them as soon as she crossed the boundary of the village and only wear it when closer to her school that she was running at that point of time. This was to avoid any wear and tear of the slippers. I remember I wanted to get her many of those slippers so that she didn’t have to keep them in the bag but rather wear them.
My brother used to cook for me and I used to study in the university and then play various
sports, professionally. He was of only 14 yrs then. I wanted to work so that he can study as
much as he wanted.
Q-As you finally got into a job in Mumbai and working fine then what ignited the spark in you to do something else to make this move in your life?
My first job as Security Officer gave us the money to run our family at that time. However, I saw that the only difference between the people who were inside the office in main stream jobs, and me, standing outside at the company gate which was lack of an opportunity to prove competence if I had right skills. And hence, I was enforced to learn basics of computer and some sort of knowledge of English language. The excitement to make it better for me, kept me going. Finally, I got the opportunity to be interviewed by Goldman Sachs and then could go for further studies and came back for a continued meaningful contribution to the firm.
Q-Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a Mentor/ leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
I have more than a dozen mentors as of now – each one unique in their own ways. I think, your focus should be narrow but the knowledge as diverse as possible. And all of this knowledge can’t be attained, reading,studying or learning on your own. This is where mentors play a role, they become your guiding force in everything you do and enable you to success into almost any territory. The experiences of mentors bring so much value in everything and almost always provide a different perspective and directions. My first
mentor in the professional life was Col U S Verma who is still my guide for almost every
key decision that I take. He used to force me to write a daily security report in my first job
and then used to review it for grammatical mistakes the next day. He used to allow me to
fail and make decisions. He used to say – fail fast so that you learn fast.
Q-How old were you when you had your first paying job?
I started working full time around the age of 20 but I gave tuition from the time I was
15-16 yrs old.
Q-What was one of your most defining moments in life?
I remember receiving a call from my global divisional head at Goldman Sachs when I
received full scholarship to pursue my MBA. He said, go make a difference. I think the
thought of going to a business school was beyond my dreams if I had to pay for it on my
own. It reaffirmed my belief that if one wanted it badly, there is enough support to enable you to get there. Every day in the business school at Chicago Booth was like a dream coming true and everyone from my previous firm was most supportive of my absence from
workplace to pursue further studies.
Q-How do you push through your worst times? What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained?
I failed in class 11th, primarily because of it being our first year in a city where I could not
even understand Hindi as a language (regional dialect was the only thing we spoke up until
moving to the city) and we were overwhelmed with the city. This is when I received a letter
from Mom. She said the good thing is that this failure was temporary and will last only a year if I wanted to go ahead. This got me to get on the journey back again and resulted in securing first place in the college in Mathematics the very next year. Disappointments have been common occurrences in the last 33 years but each time it happened, I got the support from my family. I also grew with a very trustworthy set of friends and met with various mentors. Each time, I faced a situation, I tapped into my support system.
I think, leaning on to your support system is the single most important activity to cope
up with the failures. Tell your confidantes, get their opinion and agree to learn from failures
and correct as suggested. There is nothing more important than embracing a failure, lean
in to your support system and come back NOT to repeat the same failure.
Q-What is your success Mantra and what do you think are the secrets behind what
you are today.
To me, hard work and perseverance are two most important aspects in life to be better at anything. There is no alternative to the skills that hard work brings and also being consistently focused to achieve anything brings laurels.
Q-What is today’s Single Most Important Goal you want to accomplish?
In addition to studies, I have had a keen interest for sports in my life and played various sports at different levels up until now. I continued to do long distance races and plan
to continue to doing it in the future term. I would, one day, set up a sports academy for
kids of my village, who are naturally talented for long distance runners.
Q-What are your future plans if you have thought of?
I never thought I would leave my previous workplace until I met Mr Abhijit Pawar, my current manager and Chairman of AP Globale. He said, if you want to do something good for yourself, to the family or to your village, do something that brings a positive social impact to the society, to the state, and in turn, your village, family or you will benefit
eventually. I want to be able to do something meaningful to a number of others who are
talented and want to make a difference, but economic adversities restrain them. I will be
very happy even if I was a reason to bring a meaning better life to even a small set of
Q-What message you would like to give the people to get success in Life?
I did not have any specific milestones in mind when we all started in my family. However, we had a deep and narrow focus – focus to be able to earn breads for two meals daily and to be able to get a shelter on our heads. Having a narrow focus is the key as it catalyzes the force to achieve anything you want badly.
As family managed to send me outside the village to study, our focus remained that I
become an enabler in due course to get them the same food and shelter. As I got my first job, our basic needs were met. And now, the focus moved to self development – there comes the journey of learning English. Eventually I learnt English and now it was the turn to study further.
MBA at Booth was not only an education but also a journey that changed my life. One thing remained common at all times, and I truly believe in it that, do one thing over and again, and consistently and you will get there – whatever the target may be.
Thank you Vikas!