A Name is More Than an Identity and Remembering is Much More Than a Memory Test — Sunil Goyal #JeenaIsiKaNaamHain
Human existence has always been about celebrating talent and putting a premium on some kinds. A very rare quality that often goes unnoticed — but goes a very long way in cementing relationships — is about remembering names. Business leaders in their lifetime meet thousands of people and oftentimes, it becomes impossible to remember all the names, especially of those who fade away. It takes a very different kind to remember people, especially of those who haven’t been in the vicinity (digital & physical) for many years. One has to be exceptionally invested in knowing and understanding people to be able to demonstrate this rare quality. Only when one takes a genuine interest in something, does it become second nature.
Sunil Goyal, whom I have known for twenty-odd years, has that rare quality. Back in 2002 when he was the co-founder of Momentum Technologies, there might have been around 100 people in his organization, and he knew their names — every single one. Today when Sopra-Steria may be having 10000 employees, I can wager, he knows the names and some significant details of at least two thousand people. An elephantine memory is of course a pre-requisite, but it is much more than that — it is about loving your people and treating them as your own so that tidbits of information adorn the relationship and are never a burden.
Sunil is ahead of his times by at least two decades and I will tell you why. Back in 2002–3, at a NASSCOM SME Forum, the first time I saw him, he was articulating rather passionately about talent mismatch in the IT industry and how companies were not doing enough to plug these gaps. Cut to 2022, and the scenario is graver. The industry is still struggling to meet the soaring expectations of the employees (the remuneration part/fast-tracked career path, etc.) but at times the latter falls woefully short in delivery due to skills inadequacy. Today, we have an obese middle layer which is constantly struggling to keep up with the frenetic pace of tech development. Lest it is misconstrued — while their tech skills may be brought to question, these executives do have outstanding people & project management skills. But is that sufficient for Indian IT which is poised to touch 200 billion USD? Arguably, the core is weakened while the periphery keeps getting fatter. Sunil, one of the pioneers, had spoken (repeatedly) about this malaise, twenty years back and drawn up an extensive roadmap for talent hiring, retaining, and re-training, et al where the triad — industry, academia and the government — would be instrumental in driving the distance. Much later in 2008–9, he would go on to put some of his thoughts into action (as Co-chair of NASSCOM Noida Council and leading the industry-academia piece) which yielded enviable results and continues to.
During my NASSCOM days, I worked extensively with Sunil and the most important quality that struck me was his character — a fine principled man with very high integrity who was always very clear about ethical standing, even in issues that looked disturbingly grey. He never wavered in his values. Perhaps that is why he is able to draw from his confidence and place huge bets on people and give them opportunities. Especially to the underprivileged class! He has gone out of his way and much beyond to support the careers of such people so they can eke out a corporate identity and do well for themselves. Sunil believed in their talent. This is something quite remarkable about him and I have seen this time and again. I think it boils down to the most important quality — having a genuine love for people. And having the leadership qualities to put it into practice to make a difference to hundreds of people. We all have noble thoughts, but the real differentiator is when we put these thoughts into action that creates win-win situations where the company and the individuals benefit from cemented relationships.
The last two years were tough on all of us. I hadn’t met him during that time though we were in touch, digitally. Recently, I met him in the Bay area, and once again we got reminiscing about old times. He also rued the fact that more things change the more they remain the same. An obvious reference to the present talent landscape in the IT industry.
My friend — here’s wishing you great health and happiness and may you always find a noble reason to call up friends (without any agenda). That is rare in a world where we have all become so transactional. Even calling old friends without any real purpose has become a challenge for many.
Sunil, yours is an exemplary life — the way it is to be lived. Certainly — Jeena Isi Ka Naam!
PS.: I have to still play that promised game of badminton with you!