“Allow your passion to become your purpose and it will one day become your profession.”
A conventional path from the beginning
Anil Nair, CEO of St. Jude India Childcare Centres was our guest for the Lumiere Learning Monday session on 4 July. At first glance, he comes across as quiet and unassuming but underneath it all lies a wealth of knowledge, leadership, and a passion for helping others. His journey was pretty much a conventional one – he went to the “ right schools and colleges, worked hard, drew on inspiration from my parents, got a job in an IT firm, and later joined IIM, Calcutta.” He started his career in Sales but kept thinking about what he eventually wanted to do 5 years later or even in a decade’s time. The one thing he was very sure of was that he did not want to “do what my boss was doing or even what his boss was”.
The Trigger that led to the Change
In 2006, the Bill Gates Foundation started work in India to combat the spread of the AIDS virus. It was during this time that Anil was contacted by a headhunter to work for this organization. At this time, however, he was not looking for a change but was called upon to use his skills and learnings over the years to reach out to truck drivers in a Pan India program to spread awareness and educate them about the virus. The job did not involve a major cut in remuneration and this was one of the reasons why he decided to join it. “That’s how my journey began. There were many factors that led to this decision but the call from the headhunter was the trigger. I was not ready to make a major lifestyle shift and I did realize that my career would take a hit but it worked because of the compensation being offered and because I could support the lifestyle I had.” As his family and his responsibilities grew, Anil was tempted to return but “Once you come into Non-Profits, it gives your life so much meaning that it’s very difficult to go back and do something else”.
The Impact – professionally
He admits that he was not “married to the cause and it wasn’t because of a certain trigger that I made this choice”- the path he is on is due to circumstances. He always looked at it as a problem to be solved efficiently. In his career since then, whether it’s been for the truck drivers, the stint at Comat Technologies, or in PRL Legislative Research, the idea behind it all was how to do it efficiently. “The thought behind it was to use my skills – learned in school, college, at work and address the problem at hand.”
Difficult roads can lead to beautiful destinations
Close to 60,000 children in India are diagnosed with cancer every year. The majority of them are in villages and most of them don’t have access to treatment in the big cities. Many remain undiagnosed and for those who do, it is still a big step for them to come out of their homes for treatment. While some are brave enough to do this, and treatment is given free of cost at hospitals like AIIMS or Tata Memorial, their stay both during and after this is the problem. Several resort to sleeping on the footpath which is the most economical option open to them, albeit not a healthy one. It was this gap in cancer treatment and a chance meeting between Mr. Kaviratne(the founder) & the Director of Tata Memorial that led to St. Jude India ChildCare Centers being founded. Several of the children they have looked after have beaten cancer and gone on to lead normal lives. St. Jude’s new initiative is the St. Judes For Life program which supports these cancer survivors to ensure they lead fulfilling lives like the rest of us. Anil has been at the helm of this organization since 2019.
Every day you wake up is another opportunity to be a blessing to someone else.
Anil’s story is a heartwarming and inspiring one. Many of us join the rat race but yearn to do something else- give something back. Perhaps one’s true calling is not a 24*7 job, perhaps it’s letting go and finding fulfillment in other ways. Following one’s passion and dreams often gets lost on this hectic ride of Life we are on. It’s never too late to start, there’s always something or someone who could benefit from our knowledge or skills or even, just our time. All it takes is to reach inside of ourselves and then reach out. It doesn’t matter whether you are a CEO or someone in a position of leadership. Anyone can do it and the rewards are not something words can express sufficiently. Like Anil, we too can make a change.