Eternal Optimist: Captain Shubhajeet Mazumdar, PGP 2011

He has served in the army as a captain and defended our borders. In his second innings, he aced the CAT exams and had invitations from the most prestigious institutions of the country. An entrepreneur, sportsman, adventure enthusiast, marathoner, fitness junkie – in all a person with limitless gusto for life. Shubhajeet exhibits a persona that’s larger than life itself, his journey is nothing short of being exemplary and his simplicity will touch your heart.

In conversation with Shubhajeet on his journey so far and plans for the future.

Please tell us something about yourself.

I’m an ex-NDA, IMA alumni and served in the Indian Army before hanging up my olives and going back to studies. I passed out from IIMB in 2011(09-11 batch), then instead of taking a placement I decided to become an entrepreneur and founded a green energy product company for which we secured funding and incubated at IISc, as well as ran an education venture. Unfortunately, we could not scale up these businesses and a few years later I joined the corporate life. I am currently working as a Project/Program Manager with Deloitte. I am a para sportsman, I’ve led the Telangana Basketball team as captain and played two Nationals, taken part in more than 10 wheelchair marathons. I cherish long drives in my hand-driven car and a fitness enthusiast. I’m a member of the Spinal Foundation founded by Vaidyanathan an IIMB alumni.

So, If I look back now, my life has gone about exploring, gathering experience and enriching to be a better version of self. Post Corona, will be eagerly waiting for the next adventure in life…

Your journey from serving as a Captain in the Indian Army to getting into IIMB.

When I donned the olive colors, all I had my heart set on serving the nation as a part of the army. However, fate had other plans. In September 2004, I was in a firing exercise at Mahajan firing range, near Bikaner where an accident happened and I rendered a spinal cord injury and was left paralyzed below the chest. I was just 21 & while I continued to serve the army for the next 5 years, I realized as an extremely functional organization there was only so much I could do. Being an ambitious person, I did not want to spend the rest of my life chained to a desk job and after exploring multiple career paths, I decided to pursue MBA. I prepared and appeared for CAT while working and got through all 4 key IIMs as well as TISS and FMS. I chose IIMB as the basis of my interactions with alumni and whatever I read, the campus life and the curriculum seemed to be far more enriched and accommodative for a candidate with a diverse background such as myself. 

How were your days at IIMB? Any particular memory that your would like to share.

My life changed a whole direction when I transitioned from the army to IIMB. In Army, I was used to getting up at 4.30/5 AM and soon after joining here, that was the earliest I would go to bed. I remember when I first arrived on campus, it had limited accessibility for someone like me. The administration went out of the way to ensure all nooks and crannies are wheel-chair friendly so I don’t miss out on any aspect of campus life. That being taken care of, I lead the life of a normal B-school student sleep deprived, running from classes to classes to group/project work, constantly discussing abstract ideas, not to forget late-night debates/conversations on myriad topics (along with late-night canteen). Two years passed in a jiffy.  IIMB helped broaden my horizons and gave me exposure to different areas that helped me see the immense possibilities that life ahead offered. While Army life made me challenge my physical limits, IIM pushed my mental capabilities. The combination of the two has led me to bring to the table the experience and perspective that is unique. 

Can you please tell us about your entrepreneurial venture?

I met my business partner Suhas Setiya who incidentally shares my birthday and the passion to challenge the status quo. We first started working together on a class assignment but soon started hanging out every day and discussing our passion for trying to build something of our own. We decided to forgo placement and teamed up with two graduates from IISC to launch our venture(smart lighting solution). We got incubated and secured initial seed funding for the venture at IISc. Though the passion was high, but being boot-strapped, we decided to support ourselves with an education venture in Coimbatore. I would drive down every week between Bangalore and Coimbatore every week to manage the two ventures. Things just started to pick up when the building we had housed our educational venture was burned down in an unfortunate fire incident and we suffered massive losses. It was difficult recovering from there though we tried for over two years to keep going. So after 4 years, after trying multiple things and not being able to scale up we decided to move on.

Though we lost time and money, there were multiple life lessons we learned from the ventures which will stay with us for a lifetime. For me personally, the biggest lesson was to take oneself as a granted resource in the whole venture stretching yourself physically, financially and emotionally to make up for lack of funds, resources or business growth, is a strategy a founder should avoid if he/she wants to play a longer game. One soon gets into a spiral where fear of failure clads the clarity of thoughts and goals. It impacts long-term thinking and strategy. Also, having exit plans and time-bound progress checks with mentors in place helps get an outsider perspective which one may miss while pursuing everyday operations.

Tell us about your family.

My parents worked in Public Sector Banks and are now enjoying their retirement. I got married in 2008 to my school-time Sweetheart who is leading brand & e-commerce marketing for a major fashion company. We both are parents to a 3.5 year old princess and a 4 year old cocker spaniel brat. 

What do you like to do in your spare time? Any upcoming event/ activity you are excited about?

I like to spend time with my family, connect with individuals from various walks for life. I love exercising, singing, following sporting events and playing board games to fill in my spare time. I have picked up wheelchair tennis and had 3 months of training before Corona set in, I look forward to picking up my racquet once things normalize. It’s been ages since we have got a chance to hit the highways due to Corona, I’m particularly looking forward to driving down from Bangalore to Goa in July this year. 

One thing on your bucket list?

Skydiving or scuba diving. I was all set to travel to Australia last year and do it but COVID interrupted it. I’m planning to do it soon once the lock-down is lifted.

What are you passionate about? Is there a goal you have in life, you are working towards? 

I want to make an impact in the area of disability by working with organizations & individuals who are as committed as me to bring equal opportunity, accessibility and support to PWDs(People with Disabilities). So far, I’ve helped establish the Telangana wheelchair basketball association, I also lead the PWD (People with Disability) council at Deloitte and contributed in an individual capacity, supporting several causes in this aspect. But I feel these are smaller impacts. Equal rights and opportunities for differently-abled is still an area where most of our countrymen are not sensitized. We need higher awareness, public participation, stratified policymaking, along with effective and monitored implementation. 

I live in Bangalore, one of the major metros but still whenever I go out I end up facing a staircase or an inaccessible pathway and the condition is far worse in smaller towns and cities. Our cities, public spaces, mediums of transport, institutions, processes are exactly 180 deg opposite to a barrier free society. Our social set up is marred by physical barriers, informational barriers and most importantly, attitudinal barriers. We need to mainstream disability, where seeing PWDs in the social space doesn’t invoke any awkward or sympathetic response, and we accept their existence as able members of the society with empathy. 

Message for the world.

One thing which I have figured that life is a sinusoidal curve, and that is what defines it, not to forget that a straight line in an ECG machine means No Life. It’s important to view the moments of crisis as the ones with opportunities. The attitude to count the open doors compared to the closed ones makes one focus on the solution, not the problem. When I look back on my life-changing incident, my outlook towards life changed when I stopped asking the question Why Me? to What’s Next?. The power of acceptance helps to channelize the life energy towards engraving the solution in the given circumstance. And lastly never stop exploring, listening to yourself and trying to pick up/acquire new skills, adventures, interactions and experiences.