When he was 11, family members and friends thought he would become a monk. When he was 18, people thought he would run away from IIT-Bombay because he didnt know English. At 25, given his lifestyle and habits, most of his friends thought he would not reach 50.
Today, at 54, Ashish Chauhan is the MD and CEO of the BSE and is credited with reviving India’s premier Stock Exchange and making it arguably the fastest in the world with less than six microseconds response time.
“I broke all these myths just by surrendering myself to my work and duties,” says Chauhan in “Sthitapragya The Process of Maintaining Equilibrium”, an inspiring book that traces a journey that he attributes to a punishing work regime, thinking out of the box and taking a practical approach by not relying on theories.
“I believe that we must remain sensitive to every situation, at every stage of our lives. This helps in remaining responsible and accountable in performing our duties . When you take up responsibilities of a larger scale then your accountability become directly proportionate to your responsibilities.
“And as you manoeuvre through the chartered path you realise that realities differ radically from theories, so you have to take a practical approach and arrive at suitable decisions, and mind you, each situation is different. There is no set formula,” Chauhan says in the first person memoir penned by Mayoor Shah, a writer, painter and management expert who has been running a production house called Reflections which is in its 35th year of operations.
“In public life, the higher you climb, the higher your restrains become, prompting a necessity to increase your level of maturity. When theory, practice and wisdom are equally applied, the output of your work will be clean, clear and above personal gratification. Also, always be large hearted and keep forgiving every day. The more you forgive, the cleaner your conscience becomes,” Chauhan maintains.
As soon as Chauhan secured his first job, it seemed fated that the toughest challenges were just waiting for him. Fearless by nature, each challenge not only gave him an adrenaline rush but also helped him develop many skills in his quest to find solutions. ‘Speed’ became his forte and ‘Foresight’ his fortitude.
Technology was the ‘Strategic’ tool that he used. He encouraged his teams to drive existing or new technologies in different areas to help speed up operations and deliver faster results.
As the book unfolds through 12 chapters, the reader travels with him on an interesting journey of discipline, hard work, a positive attitude, fearlessness, a balanced mind and above all, selfless service.
“Whatever came my way, I gave it more than 100%. Finding any shortcuts or shirking responsibility, either as an employee or leader, a son, a husband, or a relative, is not in my nature. I try to do justice to all my responsibilities. I also chose consciously not to be part of any influential group. Though this decision has hurt me badly in some instances, in the long run it gave me freedom to follow my own principles,” Chauhan points out.
Noting that a major part of his life has been “without any monies and zero abilities”, he says that despite this, he didn’t hesitate to take calculated risks.
“With a 16 hour day at work, with no weekend for leisure for the last 29 years, I know that the balance between leisure and work has been very uneven. But since my work is as comforting as leisure, I have never felt deprived of it,” Chauhan says, adding he has never envied the rich and famous and remained the same ‘happy go lucky’ ambitious boy next door, “wanting nothing from life except to live graciously”.
He also attributes his internal mental strength to multi task, to be able to concentrate on work, despite personal problems, as being “inculcated by observing my mother’s life”.
“For being in a detached state, I would give credit to Vipasana meditation, which taught me to ‘let go’. It was life changing and transformational. It has been the single factor responsible to keep me calm and remove any thoughts of personal benefit or personal comforts and always to take a broad approach in a more rational way,” Chauhan explains.