Let's Win Together - Sanjay Agarwal

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1. Tell us more about yourself and your life.

My name is Sanjay Agarwal, hailing from city of joy Kolkata. It was an absolute fun growing up in Kolkata, a city high on energy with avid sports lover, extremely diverse culture celebrating almost every religious festival with same love and passion, and the art and culture being part of their DNA.

My forefathers came from Rajasthan/Haryana in 1940 and we have blended very well with locals, so much so that my family can speak Bengali better than Hindi. 

Fact is I am Bengal and Bengal is me as I grew up with them, have a large circle of friends from all walks of life deeply rooted with Bengal, I can communicate and read Bengali fluently, played competitive football with them, watched best of the movies of Satyajit Ray/ Uttam Kumar and lastly my favorite food is Bengali (fish and rice).

Professionally speaking, I am a Chartered Accountant, Cost Accountant, Company Secretary and alumni of Wharton Business School after completing my Executive Program in Finance and Strategy.

I started my career with Ernst and Young, followed by GE Capital, GE Healthcare and Capgemini. I am currently working as CFO of Extensis group,  a technology driven Human Resource outsourcing  company based out at New Jersey, USA. 

I enjoy mentoring students right from high school, to help them get proper education and see them through their first few years of employment challenges

I enjoy travelling and been to many countries within Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America. I live in New Jersey, USA with my wife Vaishali Agarwal who also hails from Kolkata and has a very similar personal and professional profile. We have a 14 years old son, Aarya Agarwal who equally loves India, may be more than us.

2. What led you into the field of Finance, Accounting and then also in the entrepreneurship space?

Sports played a major role in shaping my thought process. I actively played competitive sports in school and hence, apart from giving the competitive spirit, it allowed me to think strategically to leverage best of my skills and do what I am really good at. 

Being good with numbers, I was naturally drawn towards business and finance. My family is into business of Iron and Steel for last four generations and thus the source of my entrepreneurial bug. 

I am very excited about “The Masala Roll Factory”, my new venture in Krakow, Poland. We sell organic authentic Kolkata Kathi Rolls and our plan is to expand across Europe. 

We have received great positive responses so far, and we are on track to take this forward at a larger scale.

3. What is that one cause you care deeply about and why?

Employment for 6 Billion + people on this earth -- 100% skilled and/or educated people ready to get employed or employed.

Imagine a hungry person, an empty stomach, more so an empty mind, frustrated and very ripe to get drawn towards negative thoughts leading to crime and hatred.

Ability to earn builds a solid of foundation of a strong mind, builds the confidence, provides self-respect and makes you more human. It keeps people busy, feeds them, brings positive thoughts and makes this world a better place to live … end of the day, that’s all matter.

I have mentored students to get employed and not just getting educated.

4. If one wants to contribute and make a difference in the Finance and Chartered Accountancy field, how can they do it?

Becoming a Chartered Accountant is extremely competitive, the Institute has done a tremendous job and its contribution to Indian economy cannot be put into words, at least not by me. 

Speaking from my experience, as part of continuous improvement, we need to revisit our thinking and there should be a mindset change.

We need to relook at our course material, examination structure and most importantly add more “mandatory practical experiences” in the field of finance going beyond just auditing, example - Private Equity, Venture Capital, Capital Markets, Investment Banking, Derivatives and others. 

It will allow more career opportunities for the students and end of the day that’s what matters. We need to move away from being looked upon as Accountant to complete Finance professional ready to take any challenges.

5. Who is your role model and why?

I have always believed that every person is unique and you cannot be that person and hence I was inspired by people around me including my parents, friends, people who have been very successful and also those who thinks they have been a failure. 

There is nothing called as failure, as everyone tries, do their best and is successful in one way or other.

I heard a speech from a celebrity and realized that though I never had one person as role model but my true role model was person, I kept defining what that person will look like after 5 to 10 years. 

I want to be that person. After 5 to 10 years, I had a a new role model. It makes you to become a better social being by making yourself a better student, a better professional, better son, better brother, better husband, better father, better grandfather and so on.

6. What are some of challenges and roadblocks you have faced along your journey?

Challenges of being a common person, not being the best student of the class, not being the best sportsperson of the country, not the best Accountant or a genius Finance professional. 

I do believe some are born blessed with something extra. I was not that person and faced all the problems being an ordinary who is chasing and fighting to make mark for himself. 

I am a fighter and very happy and satisfied the way life has turned out for me and would love to contribute to make this world even better place to live.

7. Your opinion about the current situation with respect to your industry?

I have spent most of my career with Healthcare and Technology industry. While there has been giant progress in the field of technology, we are yet to find a solution to various healthcare diseases and rising cost of Healthcare industry. 

My suggestion would be that apart from a cost-effective healthcare program accessible to common people, the true onus lies on the people and one the things they need to do is to keep things simple, get back to basic and start controlling what goes inside our body, by being selective of our eating habits. 

There is no confusion its “we” who allow ourselves to suffer and “we” can absolutely control it.

Interviewed by - Dhairya

Edited by - Vayun Sahni

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