Vivek KhannaDIRECTOR

Born in Calcutta and (never) grew up in very varied and different schools at Calcutta, Varanasi and Ajmer.

First years of school were at Mongrace Montessori School, Calcutta. Loved doing “work” (montessori speak for play) that involved art, music and loads of fun. The report card consistently read “… loves helping others and is very caring towards them”. Guess they wrote that for everyone because that’s what they taught us all to do… something that comes naturally even today: Helping others succeed.

From the gentle and caring environment of Kindergarten School, went to a super strict, and disciplined by caning (yes a stick) school (won’t name it), that just about killed all interest in classroom learning. Was too terrified to talk about it and was relieved to be out from there and to a boarding school in Varanasi.

Next three years were at the most amazing, Krishnamurti Foundation of India run Rajghat Besant School, Varanasi. An “alternate school‟ that aims to preserve simple, universal human values along with a modern, liberal education with influences of the ancient Gurukul System of education. Open air class rooms, an abundance of nature (farm fields, orchards, snakes, peacocks, scorpions, jackals, porcupines …. you name it) at the banks of the Ganges River, a completely no-competition approach coupled with an emphasis on development of unique personal individuality made the years at this school memorable. It influenced thinking about the need for collaboration in place of competition and of being one with nature.( Amongst many other things also had the privilege to meet and listen to the talks of the renowned spiritual and philosophical writer-speaker, Jiddu Krishnamurti.) The loss of interest in classroom learning continued but this school kindled an interest in learning outside the classroom and from nature.

The next seven years at Mayo College, Ajmer were truly the wonder years. Even today, when the men who graduated over 30 years ago come together, they turn into boys. Mischief and fun, this place was a lesson in stretching the rules and often breaking them, getting in and out of trouble and learning to get along (more like survive amongst) with a very very diverse set of people. Son’s of royalty from around Rajasthan, Indian children from overseas (with their “pseudo” accents at the beginning of the term and none at the end of it), government scholars from extremely humble backgrounds and mere mortals like the rest of us… hindus, muslims, christians, sikhs, parsis, heck we even had hindu from Pakistan.. all living together in peace in harmony and really getting along. Early lessons in unity in diversity and universal brotherhood. Inter-house and interschool competitions were the only times when the fangs and claws came out. Played soccer for the school team and captained the school gymnastics team (unbelievable if you look at the belly now). Loved music and played every possible instrument with the Harmonica, drums, Xylophone and tabla being the favourites. Playing on the school orchestra teaches collaboration like nothing else. Metal works, carpentry, cardboard modelling and wood carving were great lessons in putting our hands to good use. Treks in the wilderness and socially responsible work, for the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme took us around the heartlands of Rajasthan and to the famous Tilonia-Barefoot College run by TED speaker Bunker Roy. A miscommunication resulting in cleaning up cow poop from a biogas pit instead of the original plan of teaching village children, was the hilarious (only in hindsight) bit, in earning the Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Not sure if I cried as a baby on the first day of school at Kindergarten but definitely bawled like one on the last day of high school. Learnings: Adventure, interdependence, collaboration & teamwork, unity in diversity, secularism.

St Xaviers College Calcutta happened next. Early morning classes with all the day to spare resulted in joining a startup selling the concept of Yellow Pages to traders and corporates in Calcutta. Much like startups of today, we soon ran out of money and almost hit bankruptcy. Six months of working without pay, burning the midnight oil and stretching every ounce of our collective energies brought the company back from the brink of disaster and along with that brought serious entrepreneurial lessons, including on how not to run a business. The excitement and learning from this stint coupled with the early loss of interest in the classroom learning ensured that no further formal education followed.

Next was Unilever (Brooke Bond). Joined them as perhaps the youngest Area Manager to manage business (as usual) of a large geographical territory involving Delhi and U.P. Great big-picture learning about complexities of big business around manufacturing, sales, distribution, consumer marketing and global integration. Soon picked to a core team that was assembled to set up an independent distribution system for the foods business and this brought learnings on the need, and the effectiveness, of insurgent change leaders within large corporations to lead future-focussed initiatives. The learnings from life through a series of happy coincidences unleashed the desire to help lead change and one day in September of 1993 quit the cushy job at Brooke Bond to board a train to Bangalore on a journey into the unknown, with meagre savings and no previous of running a recruiting business. The journey continues…….

Early Interests:

Dreamt of being a detective solving complex mysteries – a strong influence from a voracious appetite for reading detective stories by Enid Blyton (Five Find Outers, Famous Five, Secret Seven), Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot), Louis L’Amour (Westerns), Erle Stanley Gardner (Perry Mason). [Recruiting involves collecting clues, analysing them to solve complex unknowns …. quite the reason even over twenty years later, I’m still loving it] At six years of age at a scouting camp earned the moniker of the “sly fox” for cracking multiple treasure hunts each time. Guess the detective was born early.


Dog lover and owned by two. Wildlife and Photography. Love the jungles and hope to do the African Safari someday.