Awakin Talks » Ravi Venkatesan

Ravi VenkatesanRavi Venkatesan Ravi Venkatesan is UNICEF’s Special Representative for Young People & Innovation and founder of the Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship (GAME), a network of diverse organizations, aiming to create 10 million local entrepreneurs in India and Africa by 2030. His work is rooted in Gandhian values of "being the change you wish to see in the world." Ravi is the founder-chairman of Social Venture Partners India, a pan-India network of philanthropists, a partner at impact investor Unitus Ventures, former Chairman of the Bank of Baroda, Microsoft India, Cummins India, and former co-chairman of Infosys. He is also an author of a book titled Conquering the Chaos, that examines what it takes for MNCs to do well in India. Beyond all these weighty labels though, what gives him joy are "New Ideas. People. Nature. Music. Solving tough problems and a love of learning". At 45, he had a deep realization that true satisfaction lies in understanding one’s own ordinariness and accepting it. In pursuit of that insight, he believes that "if we were kinder to ourselves, to others, to animals (especially street dogs, renowned for their resilience), and to nature, the world would be profoundly nicer."

Five Questions for Ravi Venkatesan
What Makes You Come Alive?

Well I am alive most of the time! But what gives me particular joy are: New Ideas. People. Nature. Music. Solving tough problems. I am a lifelong student so I love learning and I learn and grow most by tackling tough problems. So attempting to turn around a large public sector bank without being a banker or from the public-sector was energizing. Right now the challenge of creating a massive entrepreneurial movement is consuming me. So is my work with Unicef attempting to engage millions of young people as change leaders who will positively transform the world. I love writing and teaching and am hard at work on my next book which is about how to flourish in a post-Covid world. I enjoy connecting with people and derive energy and joy from even a brief but meaningful connection with anyone. I spend a lot of time with dogs particularly streeties…there’s something quite special about fur!

Pivotal turning point in your life?

By my age (57) there have been several defining moments and people in life. But the earliest and possibly the most influential was my 6th grade teacher Mrs Malhotra. I had been an indifferent student until then and an introverted boy with low self-esteem. She boosted my self-confidence and self-image. She made be believe I was really smart and one day would be a good scientist or engineer. Looking back there was absolutely no evidence that any of these statements were true but she had me fooled. I started working really hard to live up to her hope for me and soon excelled academically and blossomed in confidence. That put me on a very different trajectory in life. From this I also learned what Carol Dweck says- that while not everyone can become Einstein, Gandhi, Steve Jobs or Mozart, a person’s true potential is unknown and unknowable. It’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with imagination and years of passion and toil.

An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?

I’d prefer to think about a life of kindness. My father, who I was very close to, was a very kind and generous person. He was unfailingly considerate and sacrificed a lot but did it joyously not resentfully. And no one mistook his kindness for weakness. I’d like to be more like him.

One Thing On Your Bucket List?

A few great hikes in pristine nature. Getting a bit better at controlling my mind!

One-line Message for the World?

I heard a quote 'in a world where you can be anything, be kind'. It’s not my message but it inspires me. If we were kinder to ourselves, to others, to animals, to nature, the world would be profoundly nicer.

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