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Chandra Kumar Sekhar
Chandra  Kumar Sekhar

Chandra Kumar Sekhar

Consultant - Former COO of Air India Express

Air India


Chandra Kumar Sekhar is a member of:

Initiative to develop a country
Throughout my professional career, my motto has been ... "There are only two choices in life. To accept things as they are; or take responsibility for changing them".

There was a time in my life, when disheartened by my inability to make it to the IAS, I thought of leaving India for good because of a business opportunity in the US (which was being given to me on a platter).

However, one of the interviewers in the selection panel (a former journalist with the Hindustan Times) told me that I would be able to do something positive for India and Indian Airlines if I stayed back and took up the offer of a PRO's job. He said my passion for aviation will see me sailing through all the trials and tribulations of life.

Looking back upon my career graph, I feel that the struggle to be an Indian was worth it ! The essential quality for success in any field is to believe in the cause and give your best to it.

Let us commit ourselves to the development of India !
Ensuring success
Apart from keeping myself updated about the developments in the aviation industry, I am utilising my spare time to learn more about the Indian economy.

I am doing extensive reading on various sectors, with particular focus on the service sector industries.
Thoughts on Education system of our country
The education system in India has by and large remained fixated on rote learning. This was necessitated because the resouces available in schools and colleges were barely adequate for any other pedagogy, given the vast numbers of students who enrolled.

Thanks to the internet revolution, a greater part of the younger generation in India now have access to information stored electronically in any part of the world.

It is now upto the educators (not just the teachers but every one who believes that the future of India has to be built on a strong foundation of knowledge and its application) to improve the quality by shifting the focus away from rote learning. Our aim should be to teach children the basic skills needed to be a productive member of society; at the same time imbibing the spirit of a democracy.

The CCE introduced recently by the CBSE is a step in the right direction.
Important lesson learned
Yes, the three most important lessons that I have learned in life are :

Lesson 1 - Every day is a new beginning
Lesson 2 - Today is the only day within your control
Lesson 3 - If you waste your today; it is lost for ever

I learned these lessons while recovering from a serious accident in July 1985 which left me bed ridden for six months. These were the words with which the Orthopaedic surgeon and the Physiotherapist encouraged me to get back on my feet. The attempts to walk were painful and success was measured in inches and cms.

Thanks to their untiring efforts, today at 58 years of age, I can easily do a five km walk effortlessly in under an hour.
My role model
I have two Role Models who inspired me. One was a Doctor from Aurangabad (a part-time medical officer for the Indian Airlines employees), who selflessly surrended part of his clinic, so that his landlady could make some much needed money from sale of the property. He once candidly admitted that he had misjudged the seriousness of an allergic infection and lost no time in personally contacting a skin specialist for my emergency treatment.

The second Role Model was my father who never let any situation (howsoever challenging it may have been) overcome him.

His dictum was : As you think, so you become. He would say that "it is the workman who makes the tools; not the other way around". He gave me the freedom to pursue my goals, with the caveat that I should always be man enough to admit my mistakes and learn from experience.
My achievements
I still remember the date viz. 26th October 1976, when I reported for the pre-employment formalities. A well meaning Superintendent in the Personnel department advised me that I should join duties that day itself because seniority in service for promotion is counted from the date of joining. Even though I was informally dressed, he insisted that I join duty that day itself in the afternoon.

The fact that I have been able to reach the senior management levels of an airline by sheer dint of merit and professional commitment, is an achievement that I am proud of.
Qualities needed to become a successful leader
The essential qualities for any person to become a good human being is honesty, integrity and sincerity.

Though these may seem to be synonyms, I will explain in short. By honesty, I mean that one has to be honest to one self (nothing is gained by lying to oneself). I define integrity as the willingness to back my words with actions. People around me will judge me by my actions and not by my words. Sincerity also means long term commitment to one's goals in life.

A successful leader (besides being a good human being) is one who can inspire others to follow his/her goals; in the shared belief that his/her goals are for the benefit of all.
My strongest skill
My stongest professional skills are :

Objectivity, Clarity of vision, Clear articulation of goals, Patience, Steadfastness and Team Building.
Degree that I recommend
A degree in Mass Communication or Journalism is certainly an asset for any one wishing to pursue a career in Corporate Communications.

Additionally, a post-graduate diploma in Management from a reputed institution will equip a person with the necessary knowledge base and skills for General Management roles.
My family background
I belong to a middle class family from Kerala. My father was a Central Government employee and my mother was a home maker. I completed my school and college education from Mumbai. I am the elder of two siblings. My younger sister is a Professor of Economics.

My wife (a Keralite born and brought up in Delhi)is a post-graduate in English. My elder son is pursuing the final year of BA (Economics) while the younger son is in Class X.
More about myself
In 1986, I was in a dilemma since I had to choose between a career in Indian Airlines and the opportunity to make a fresh start in life in the US as an entrepreneur. My sponsors and well wishers in the US were a doctor couple who had no children and, therefore, treated me like a son.

It was an extremely difficult choice. India offered me a chance to prove myself in the country of my birth. The US offered me a life of relative comfort and luxury; as well as new challenges.

I am really glad that I chose the harder of the two paths which opened up to me. The journey in India and Indian Airlines (now Air India) was gruelling and the quality of life was not comparable to the one that US offered. However, the one redeeming factor which made all trials and tribulations bearable was that one felt completetely at home in India - be it the desert sands of Barmer, the terrain of Ladakh or the pineapple orchards and ginger farms of North East !
Brief description about me
An avid aero modeller during my school days, a career in the airline industry was (literally) a dream come true when I joined Indian Airlines in October 1976 straight out of college.

In a career spanning 35 years and 9 months, I handled various assignments starting as an entry level assistant from Aurangabad in Maharashtra, working my way up through the hierarchy. I got my first good break when I was promoted as PRO and landed up in Delhi in October 1986. (This opportunity came my way because of a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism which I acquired in 1982 while still hoping to make it to IAS despite a couple of failed attempts)

Life has been a roller coaster ride for me with never a dull moment (and several anxious moments too!!) because the job profile was demanding in terms of time and personal commitment to organizational goals.

I retired from Air India in July 2012, after serving as the Chief Operating Officer of Air India Express - a subsdiary of Air India.
Influenced by
I was a confirmed agnostic and a non-believer in things spiritual, until I met a Guru in June 1988.

In the span of twenty five years, I have become a spiritually aware person - one who accepts that the universe houses several mysteries which cannot be explained by science.
Important decision
The most important decision I made in my life was to choose a career in the airline industry. I decided to stick to this industry despite the poor career growth opportunities it offered, way back in the seventies and early eighties.

The second most important decision of my life was to forego the dream of making it big in the US.

The third most important decision of my life was to take a sabbatical in 1998 (I was then 45 years old and my second son was barely nine months old) and enrol for the General Management Programme (MEP-23) at IIM, Ahmedabad.
Couple of years from now
In a couple of years from now, I see myself playing a key role in organising a mentors' forum - a collaboration of individuals from different walks of life cutting across sectors and industries - a forum that will dedicate itself to grooming the next generation of Indians to take on leaderships roles. To my mind, the future of India will be largely dependent on our collective ability to develop local talent and nurture the potential leaders who will be responsible for builidng a strong and self reliant India.
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