Exclusive Conversation: Chetan Mahajan,CEO- HCL Learning


chetan-mahajanA person dressed in Emporio Armani suit and Rolex watch with a MBA from Kellogg School of Management walks into the Bokaro jail with a hope in his mind that he will be out the next day because he was wrongfully accused of fraud. But the same man fought with all the adversities and regained all that he lost; Meet the Man – Chetan Mahajan, currently CEO of HCL Learning. Mahajan who stayed in US for a long time went through a tough phase when he joined Chennai-based firm Everonn that ran an IIT coaching chain with a branch in Bokaro city. That specific branch had been short of funds and few of its teachers left. Now the students and parents became furious and demanded an instant refund. Mahajan was sent to resolve the issue which has blown up a lot and within just two days of his arrival at Bokaro he was sent to jail on the complaint of parents. Unfortunately, it took more than a month for him to get out of the jail. Today all the wrong accusations has be cleared and Mahajan    heads HCL learning.

While in prison Mahajan wrote daily diaries which now he has converted into a book named “The Bad Boys Of Bokaro Jail ” which has been published by Penguin, India.Here is a small conversation with Mahajan regarding his tough times and about his new book.

1) In what ways would you say your jail experience has made an impact on your personal and professional life?

It has brought to life the lyrics from my favourite song by Dire straits – the Bug – which goes

“Sometimes you’re the windshield

Sometimes you’re the bug.”

The impact of jailtime is strange because it works on two different dimensions, which sound quite opposite. At one level, I don’t want to judge people on just one fact (that they are accused / have sent time in jail). I always want to look at a person’s overall profile and then take a call. Letting just one data point be the definition of a person can be pretty unfair.

But at another level, something inside me has also hardened. Sometimes I have to take decisions which are tough at the human level – maybe I am unable to promote a deserving candidate. Or worse, I have to ask someone to go. I used to have a hard time with that. But now I have a thicker skin. Its tough. I know. But life isn’t fair – it just depends upon who you are that particular day. As Dire Straits has put it very simply –sometimes you are the bug.

2) After the tough phase was over what challenges did you faced on your professional front?

Nobody was willing to touch me as long as I was an under-trial. However, HCL was great and completely without bias when it came to hiring me. And once my case was quashed I immediately quit Everonn, and moved on to HCL.

3) What contribution has been made by those tough days to you as an individual?

I have a lot more value for the little things in life. I value the present a lot more and don’t want to just live in the future. I think I appreciate little things in life a lot more now. It was really big immediately after my release – even just being able to order a meal of my choice in a restaurant felt like luxury. A hug from my kids was just priceless.  But even now I really value a lot of things more than I did before. And the top of that list is spending time with my family. And I know that when push comes to shove it is not your employers or colleagues but friends and family who actually stand by you the most.

4)  What are the major lessons that you got during that whole phase of arrest, jail etc?

  •  Think of worst-case scenarios, and plan for such contingencies
  •  Don’t go by the letter of the law. I was an employee who had joined the company 2 months back. I had no       board position or ownership. Yet I was imprisoned. The police in India cannot be reasoned with.
  • Never underestimate the power of media pressure

5)      How did this book happen?1795419_1459630310924908_962119560_o

Largely by accident. In jail you have a lot of time and nothing to occupy yourself with. No media (except newspapers). No technology. No connectivity. So the list of things one can do is pretty limited. In my case it was reading, and running.

I started writing to add one more thing to my list. To give me something more to do. When I started it was just for a few days. I was expecting to be out in 8-10 days.  And had it been that much only it may not have become a book. But as the release kept getting delayed the notebooks I was writing in kept getting fuller. After my release I worked extensively to give the whole manuscript the narrative and the flow of a book. Did extensive surgery on my diaries to get to the final outcome.

 6)  What is the biggest takeaway from the book?

 I don’t have a grand message or takeaway. Only that people who are born into different circumstances turn out different. Most of us are the outcome of our circumstances. So don’t be in a hurry to judge everyone around you. Just because you were born into an English-speaking upper-middle class family doesn’t make you fundamentally superior to the next guy. It’s the luck of the draw. Take credit only where it is due.

7)    Few words that you would like to share with our readers.

  •  You never know who you can be. I never thought I would be a published author ! Our limitations are in our heads.
  • Please read the “The Bad boys of Bokaro Jail”, and share your honest feedback.

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Amisha Singh

Avid Blogger, Digital Marketing Enthusiast, Entrepreneur, Product & Project Strategist, Nature Lover, Foodie.