While his love for Kashmir has never dwindled, his passion to notch new levels in his career graph refused to slow down. His is a carrier graph that is heading North. Forty-four-year-old Sandeep Zutshi, Chief Executive Officer at Ascentaz Consulting Private Ltd. is keeping busy consulting Companies on how to enhance their reach and increase their profits. Always connected with his childhood friends, he remembers and likes everything about his birthplace, minus the politics of Kashmir.
Excerpts from an interaction with Indraneel Mukherjee.
You seem to be a person on the move. Was this something you wanted or did it just happen?
S. Zutshi: I always loved to travel. Whether it was going on treks in the summer or exploring new towns in the plains in the winter, I was always on the move. Luckily, my profession gave me ample opportunity to travel.
What are your memories from school days in Srinagar and any anecdotes that you would like to share with us?
S. Zutshi: I was in Woodlands House School till my 2nd grade and in Burn Hall from the third grade till the 10th grade. There are a lot of memories. One unforgettable one was in Woodlands. Three of us from Class 2, i.e., Younis Muneer, Riyaz Mir and I decided to skip the bus and walk home. Younis and I lived close to each other in Gogji Bagh and Jawahar Nagar respectively, Riyaz Mir lived in Ram Munshi Bagh. We walked Riyaz home and then, all the way from the bund through Lal Chowk, walked home. When we got home by around 6 pm, all hell had broken loose…. not only did we get a good thrashing at home but the next day at school too.
Another incident is from my final year at Burn Hall. I was the captain of the Pluto House. On the sports day, Mrs. Molly Abdullah was the chief guest and had to give away the prizes. Our house was one of the contenders for the Best House trophy. We were holding our breath when the best house was to be announced. When finally Pluto House was announced, I could not control my happiness. I jumped onto the podium and literally snatched the trophy from Mrs. Abdullah. It was considered very rude as I had been told to bow politely and be gracious. My mother who was in the audience could not hide her embarrassment.
From what we have come to understand that you have had an interesting journey once you finished your academics? Do share your professional journey.
S. Zutshi: Before I touch the tracks of my professional journey, I would like to share with you that after passing engineering in Electronics and Communications from the Regional Engineering College (NIT), Surathkal, Mangalore University, I worked for a while in Delhi. This period kind of matured me much in terms of career aspirations and I decided to add more qualifications. I went for Masters in Management (MMS) course from Sydenham Institute of Management & Research & Entrepreneurship Education, University of Bombay. After completing my MMS, I entered the FMCG sector. I worked in various companies like Coke, Perfetti, Henkel, and Britannia for over 18 years. My last assignment was as Chief Operating Officer with Lava International Ltd. The areas or the functions I was involved in were sales, distribution, supply chain, and finally General Management. The combination and the experience which I had here helped to take the next step in my career.
Before coming to the next step, What made you take up engineering?
S. Zutshi: I come from a society where family plays a very important role in shaping your career choices. So I can say probably family pressure and the fact that I loved Physics were two major reasons for me to enroll in engineering.
Incidentally, I was shortlisted by St Stephens College in Delhi for Bsc Phy Hons but I never went for the interview.
Now coming to the next step, what is it?
S. Zutshi: It was but obvious that after so many years of experience behind you and the network which was created at various levels, the next step was to start an entity of your own. Also during the part over two decades, the training I went through had to be put to good use. Last year, I along with a few of my colleagues, founded a Business Consulting Company ‘Ascentaz Consulting Private Ltd.’ The pool of experience between all of us is varied and covers a broad spectrum. Ascentaz today is involved in supporting Companies in scaling up their operations, building their brands, and driving efficiencies across their business.
You mentioned having gone through some training. Kindly elaborate.
S. Zutshi: I underwent various training programs such as ‘I-discover-I’ – a Leadership Development Programme by Britannia, Henkel Asia Pacific ‘Managerial Competency Assessment Programme’, Coats Viyella ‘Global Leadership program for Young Mangers’ at Singapore to name a few. These sessions were good and gave me a different perspective and outlook.
You have been out of Kashmir for quite some time. During the past decade or so how many times did you visit your homeland and do you still have ties with that place?
S. Zutshi: I have visited Kashmir twice in the last ten years. As far as my ties are concerned, Kashmir is my birthplace and I still have many of my childhood friends living there we have maintained our relationships over the last 23 years through thick and thin.
What do you miss most about Kashmir?
S. Zutshi: This is an interesting question, about Kashmir I like everything, except the politics. The climate, the warmth of ordinary people, the landscapes, springs, fruits, seasons, lakes, language, and my home.
What advice would you give to students, especially from Kashmir, aspiring for a career in the private sector?
S. Zutshi: Be confident in your abilities and take risks. Go to places where the industry is booming. Many of your friends who have done this have achieved great things.