Ashish Jalan - I Firmly Believe That Education Is Not Only About Success in One’s Career, but It Is Extremely Instrumental in Motivating Us to Become Better Human Beings (Managing Director, Concept Public Relations )

I firmly believe that life is a journey that one must not only live but enjoy every moment of. Also to me, success is not a destination, but a quest that motivates me today with the same passion that I had, when I started my career.

Tell us about your background, journey, and upbringing.

I was born and brought up in a typical Indian Hindu family. Right from the beginning, we were taught the difference between right and wrong. Growing up, not only were we taught the importance of morals, ethics, values, belief in God, and Karma, but also saw our parents practicing it daily. 

My parents believed that education was paramount, not just for success in building a career but also in broadening one’s horizons and becoming a better human being.

Growing up, my days were very evenly divided between academics and sports. Our school gave due importance to academics, sports, and socially useful productive work. 

Time for family bonding was paramount, weekend visits to cousins a must, summer vacation with my maternal grandparents non-negotiable. It was mandatory, almost a diktat from my father, for the entire family to have breakfast and dinner, together.

When and how did you get clarity on what you wanted to do?

I firmly believe that life is a journey that one must not only live but enjoy every moment of. Also to me, success is not a destination, but a quest that motivates me today with the same passion that I had, when I started my career. 

I am a Chartered Accountant by qualification having completed the same at the age of 23. My journey to the clarity of what I am currently doing today, and which is my forte, came only a decade later. Believe me, those ten years were a rollicking roller coaster of a ride! 

I explored diverse industries - manufacturing fabrics, stock-broking, garment exports, running an auto- ancillary unit, heading a computer graphic and animation studio, producing television series, and finally producing films. 

It was only after all this, that I ventured into the communication business. Three months into the field and it dawned on me that this was my true calling, what I enjoyed the most, and where I could really excel.

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What does your typical workday look like?

I believe, my typical day has evolved a lot from what it used to be to what it is today. This evolution of a typical workday is imperative for growth, your own and also that of the organization. 

So, 20 years ago, my typical day would start at around 6.30 am, when I would walk to my club to play badminton. Even today I play badminton, it is the one constant from my early days. 

It took me about 20 minutes to walk from my house to my club and this would be the time I would mentally plan my day. The madness would start from 8.30 am with calls; calls from clients, calls from media, calls from colleagues, and this would not end till 8 pm! 

There were days when I would have answered more than 200 calls! It was all execution, execution, and execution. While the day would be planned in the 20-minute morning walk window, all strategy, new business pitching, streamlining of processes, identifying & filling in the lacunae would be done post 8 pm, if on a deadline. 

Else, the same would be pushed to weekends. Calls on weekends were mercifully limited unless a client crisis would break out, which typically happened at least
one weekend in a month. But today, with a brilliant team in leadership positions, robust systems in place supported by the best in class technology, my day starts at 9.30 am.

It’s mostly planning for the future, thinking about bettering our service standard, ideating with the team, motivating, and keeping the entire Concept brethren positively inspired. 

New business pitches and relationship management with existing clients also take up my time but there is a system in place for everything we do today and thus the entire day or at least 90% of the day is planned, unlike the earlier days.

Several global companies have come out and thrown their support behind not needing a formal education. What is your opinion about this?

I am old school here. Please also understand that I am an Indian living in India. According to me, the biggest issue that we, as a nation face is not overpopulation but the uneducated populace.

Look, I am not undermining the talent or the abilities of the uneducated Indian populace or trying to be conceited of my being educated.

I feel sympathetic towards them for their lack of opportunity to be educated, as also the reluctance amongst their parents to send them to schools and colleges given the economic hardship they might have faced. 

I firmly believe that education is not only about success in one’s career, but it is extremely instrumental in motivating us to become better human beings. 

In awareness and understanding of the civic sense, higher morals, respect for women, equality of human beings, whether by caste greed, color, or even sexual preferences, an educated person is better equipped than an uneducated one. 

A thing as basic as road sense the difference between the educated and the uneducated is very apparent. So, education, to me, is vital. The question of formal or self-learning, with the vastness of information that is available today,
yes, it is highly possible to educate oneself. 

However, one needs to be highly passionate, disciplined, and self-motivated to be able to achieve this. I believe that this is very difficult and only a few can achieve the same. So, my opinion is that education is important, the path to the same is not so important, as long as you can achieve it.

Again, from my Hindu roots, the importance is given to a “Guru”, which means a teacher or a mentor, can never be undermined since the “Guru” will be able to guide you better and quicker in achieving your goal.

How do you handle someone who has lied on their resume?

On this, we have a crystal clear policy. We will not hire anybody who has lied in their resume. However, on a personal front, I make it a point to meet the person, have a one-on-one chat, explain the importance of honesty, and help them look at their career and growth from a long term vis a vis a short term perspective. 

I advise the person on how dishonesty has a way of coming back and biting us at the wrong end and at the wrong time. Of course, the onus is not on me to see if they would then change the resume. 

However, I believe, it is important for somebody with my experience to show them the right path.


What are some of your typical challenges and how have they evolved over time?

I believe that one faces challenges on a daily basis, be it professional or personal. It is imperative to remember that the world has a lot of grey hues and is not starkly black and white. 

I think an important aspect of facing a challenge successfully is managing the stress that accompanies it.

Every challenge brings along with it a unique level of stress. The better one can handle it, the better would be the outcome and this not only accentuates better decision-making ability but also aids better health in the long term. 

In my experience, I attribute the successful handling of these challenges to getting the right people on board. As the team grew bigger, the path to success became simpler and less stressful for me. 

However, a new challenge emerged - keeping the team aligned with my goals, and my vision. The point I am trying to make is that while one can keep solving or overcoming a challenge, a new one crops up almost instantly. The idea is to accept this as part of life and take it in one’s stride.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs looking for funding or those eyeing the top job?

At the risk of sounding clichéd, I firmly believe in the line from “3 Idiots” an extremely popular Hindi movie – ‘Pursue Excellence, Success Will Follow’. However, in order to achieve excellence, there are some basic traits that need to be inculcated - discipline, hard work, team spirit, humility, and lastly, long-term orientation. 

Long-term orientation is something, that I want to emphasize. Most of the people in the world desire immediate success. It’s not wrong to have this desire, but there are two parameters, which one must always keep in mind, in order to
achieve success:

  • Not crossing the line, but being principled and honest is the right way, actually, the only way to achieving success and happiness.
  • Fear of disappointment and therefore the willingness to let go. The need to succeed in the short term is so high that if the initial effort is not fruitful, one is willing to give it up.
In fact, one of the qualities of success is to try till we succeed and not give up at the first sign of disappointment.

Bio - 

Ashish, a qualified Chartered Accountant was born in a family that had a thriving textile business and he had his first tryst with management when he started weaving fabrics, stitching garments both for the domestic and the international markets.

About 15 years ago, Ashish was asked to take over the PR division of Concept Group, the largest Indian agency network, as the Managing Director. Under his stewardship, Concept PR grew from a handful of clients to a well-recognized brand with over 500 professionals and 150 clients. 

An unassuming leader, who prefers to work behind the scenes, he is a strategist with a realistic mind and has led the agency to win the Agency of Year, twice among other laurels.

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