Consider problems as opportunities, E.Sarath Babu, one of the youngest Chief Executive Officers India has ever seen, advises the youngsters.
Born in a slum in Chennai, brought up by a mother earning a pittance selling idlis, propped up by scholarships, the life of this 28-year-old is literally and metaphorically one of sweat , blood and tears.
His never-say-die spirit and a loud and clear understanding that there can be no free lunch helped him pass through the hallowed portals of the BITS Pilani.
Sweet are the uses of adversity. There can be no better example than Sarath Babu.
Instead of seeking just a comfortable career as one would normally have done after a life nothing but of trials and tribulations, he had the moral courage to choose a path beneficial to the society at large.
“My objective at present is to provide food at affordable rates and also extend employment to as many as possible”, Mr. Babu tells G.Satyamurty.
When he was hardly 12, he was engaged in some sundry work or other to make both ends meet. He worked even as a book binder and also as a menial in a leather shop.
“When I was doing 10th Standard in 1995, there was no electricity at home and all I could manage was only one and half hours of study at night using a kerosene lamp. But that made me focus so well that I could mange 1170 out of 1200 marks in Plus Two".
Thanks to the guidance of a friend, he applied for admission to BITS, Pilani. “Pawning my sister’s jewel and with the help of a scholarship, I managed to pursue the studies there”. There too he did emerge with flying colours. But studying in such a famous institution was initially a “rude shock” because of the high quality not only in terms of education but also surroundings and the affluence among the students.
“Till my final year there, my ambition was to get a job.”
He did work for a software company for three years. He was immensely thankful to the company which retained him despite the Y2K issue. He was not lured by IIMs or money .His inner urge to do something for the society goaded him on to start the company called Food King in June 2006.
“Though I was aware that huge volumes of cooked food would be required for corporates and campuses, initially we started with providing 200 cups of tea and coffee .This has now grown into 20,000 meals a day.”
As of now he employs 230 people and is operating in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Goa apart from Chennai. He has been permitted to operate even in an IIM.
All that he wants the younger ones to do is “focus” on their dreams and not to entertain a “ herd mentality”. Success or failure depends on that. “Don’t waste your time.”
If any one wants to achieve something, he\she should have a correct focus.
He admits that the current syllabus in the country is taken from rest of the world. Still there are enough ideas available and a lot of innovations available.
Rural students are certainly a disadvantaged lot because they are not on a par with the urban youth due to lack of infrastructure. For instance, many of them do not even have any idea of higher level education institutions like IITS, IIMS, etc.
What next is the goal for Mr.Babu.
“I want to go in for a franchisee mode. Already we have formed an association with tier-2 (no branches but a good quality restaurant) and tier-3 (medium quality and no branches) restaurants. There will be a very big kitchen that can prepare one lakh to 1.5 lakh meals a day that would cater to all these outlets. While ensuring quality, the volume will help bring down the cost as well. The first would be in Chennai and I would like to expand to other places also.”