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Lokvani Talks To Shankar Hegde

Ranjani Saigal

(This article is sponsored by Immigration Solutions)

Shankar Hegde received his Ph.D. from Purdue University and Executive Management Training from MIT Sloan School of Management. A chemist turned technology executive, he has demonstrated thought leadership in the software industry by published papers, a patent, and presentations at international conferences and panel discussions. He built technology teams from ground up at two startup companies and at Arthur Andersen, LLP. He has been mentoring entrepreneurs on "how to" aspects of entrepreneurship - idea generation, opportunity recognition, competitive and market analysis, customer acquisition, finance, writing and presenting business plans, and finding investors.

What motivated you to write the book American Ajja? 

 Ajja means "grandpa" in Kannada, the official language of the state of Karnataka in India, where I grew up. And now I am also an Ajja, with stories to tell my grandkids born and brought up in the United States.  Often, information is lost that is passed down only orally from one generation to the next.  So it is from my standing as Ajja that I first took an interest in writing this book, to preserve my experiences and those of my family for my children, grandchildren and future generations.

What do your children and grandchildren think about the book?

 Our children enjoyed learning more about my childhood experiences, some they knew and others were new. They think the book is a good way to pass down family information to their children. Our grandchildren are too young to read and understand the whole book. Four year old Karina recognizes and understands many words in the book, two year old Sonia looks at my picture on the back cover and keeps saying Ajja, and the three month old Nina looks at the book with curious eyes.

Your life story is amazing. What do you think was the secret to your success? 

 A combination of hard work, perseverance, and resilience. I have learned that, no matter what life throws at you, get up and go!

You are a successful entrepreneur. What in your background do you think prepared you for that? 

Working at a startup prepared me to go on my own. Startup offers a chance to do a variety of things and you can’t worry about job tenure and stability. You don’t know when the company will run out of money. Those attributes suited me well.

What do you think would be the one thing you would do to enable other people with your background to succeed? 

 Encourage and support education.

70% of India lives in its villages. What would be the right approach to bring development to the villages?

 Ekal Vidyalaya’s programs in rural development (Gramothan) and health (Aroygya) are right on the mark to bring development to the villages.

Could you tell us why you support Ekal Vidyalaya as an organization? 

Education matters. That is the only thing I had when I came to the United States as a student from a rural village in India. That is the mission of Ekal Vidyalaya and that is the reason for my support.

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