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BW Businessworld

An Unfinished Life

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If IIM Ahmedbad's Class of 1993 had been asked to predict who would be its youngest CEO, on Convocation Day no one would have pinpointed Ved Prakash Arya.

Ved was neither an I-Schol (top rankers who got the prestigious Industry Scholarships), nor was he from IIT. In fact dorm-mate Gautam Gode remembers him fretting over mounting Cs and Ds in PGP 1 (the first and tougher year of the course).

 "We used to tell him to take it easy as we thought he had monumental people skills. And boy, were we right !"

Ved's career took an unusual turn from the very beginning. He didn't even take a placement, but went to ESSEC in France on a scholarship for a year. On returning, he joined the little known Hathway Investments owned by Rajan Raheja, which at that time was in the cable TV business.

 When Raheja decided to enter the business of retail in 1998 with Globus, he picked Ved as his CEO. While shopping at the store - on more than one occasion - I bumped into Ved. Just moving around, talking to the sales assistants, inspecting display.

 I remember asking him, "You were never interested in fashion, so how do you manage a store like this!" He replied with a twinkle in his eye, "Dheere dheere seekh raha hoon (I'm learning the ropes slowly).  Aur batao, how is everything… Family kaisi hai (And tell me, what else? How is the family?"

Ordinary words, but when Ved had a way of asking, which made you feel like he cared. It was this kind of personal rapport which became the winds in the sails of Ved's career.   Working with promoters, I suspect, came naturally and easily to him. Unlike the more 'intellectual' IIM types.

After 6 years at Globus, Ved moved to the Future Group, where he became COO of Pantaloon Retail And a close associate of Kishore Biyani.  In 2006, Ved was featured as one of India's 'hottest young executives'. Around the same time I remember reading a report about him getting into the one crore salary bracket.

 It was quite a surprise then, when in early 2007 Ved announced he was quitting Future Group to set up a realty fund - Milestone Capital. In a major coup Ved got both Kishore Biyani and Noel Tata to join the young company's board of directors. He also quickly managed two joint ventures - one with IL & FS, the other with Religare.

 Milestone's vision was true to Ved's small town roots. The fund invested in real estate projects in growth-hungry cities like Nashik, Nagpur, Coimbatore and Jaipur. In four short years, the assets under management grew to $1 billion. But that wasn't what I marvelled at when we met Ved in 2009, for the 15th year reunion of our batch on campus.

 "How did you become so fit, yaar!" was what everyone wanted to know.

Never 'fat' but always on the plump side, Ved's nickname on campus was Golu. Well, Golu was now a dashing, camera-friendly CEO; appearing for interviews on business news channels and pink papers. The smile on his face, however, was typical - genuine and unchanged.

 On 25th August, 2011, all of a sudden, everything changed. In what can only be explained as the Cruel Hand of Fate, a coconut tree fell on Ved while he was on a morning walk in the neigbourhood park. He suffered severe trauma and internal injuries and died shortly after reaching the hospital.

 It's hard to believe that Ved is gone forever.
Why he was snatched away by God at such a young age, we cannot comprehend.
 It was a short life, but a life well-lived.
Filled with energy, vitality and love.

Althoug incredibly busy, Ved always had a spare moment to chat up neighbours and kids in the colony. Give his mother morning insulin injections.

Be a 'mahaan Papa' and caring husband to Rubi, Tanu and Dhruv.

 Bschool graduates - past and present - can take away this lesson from Ved Prakash Arya and all that he achieved: "Vyavhaar over vyaapaar" (Relationships come first, even in business).

Goodbye, Ved. You will be missed very much by this world.

Your untimely death is a reminder to all of us, to live a more meaningful life, to care more about each other. Because in the end that's all that truly matters.

Ved had a pioneering spirit and was always full of energy. He was among the youngest leaders who shaped the domestic retail industry.
Kishore Biyani
Ved was able to take really quick decisions that enabled him to get ahead of bigger, better endowed players. He attracted really competent people right from the board down to the trenches.
 —Prof Rishikesh Krishnan, IIM Bangalore, member of Milestone-Religare board
 There were also so many things in which I was not the slightest bit interested, but Ved being Ved, dragged me along to. Volunteering at the blind school, learning couldn't say no to that energy level!
Gautam Gode, friend and dormmate, recalling Ved in his IIMA days
Ved remained essentially the same person throughout his life even though he saw spectacular professional success.  I have no doubt though that no person fortunate to have crossed his path would ever be able to forget him.
Prof Raveendra Chittoor, ISB Hyderabad, IIMA batchmate and colleague from Hathway