Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Surya Yalamanchili, the second generation Indian who turned politician

He is the 29-year-old son of Indian parents who left their native state of Andhra Pradesh to pursue the dream of a better life in America. Not too many years later, their dream was realised. A risk-taker by nature, their young son started his own e-commerce company at the age of 15. This drive eventually led him to the hallowed halls of Procter and Gamble where he became one of their youngest brand managers. He was eventually spotted by Donald Trump’s much watched show, The Apprentice in 2007. At age 28, Surya Yalamanchili tried his hand at American politics, managing a minor win in the Congressional race. Today he is back to being an entrepreneur having recently started his own company. He lives and works in Cincinnati, Ohio

What does India represent for you?Ironically it represents both the past and the future to me. The past in relation to my parents and the way of life and experiences that they grew up with. The history of what my ancestors lives were like is fascinated to me. India also represents the future when you think of the rise of Asia in global economics and where the world is going.

What is it that makes you wake up and keep going?I'm motivated to have as big of an impact as I can in the world. A lot of people have sacrificed and invested so much in me, that not pushing forward on that impact would be wasting their efforts.

When the going gets tough, what is your mantra?If it was easy, everyone would do it. Almost everything really meaningful will require a lot of struggle and it'll be difficult. That's the price of trying to do something big.

What challenges you and how do you react to it? The biggest thing for me has, honestly, been self-doubt. Sometimes if you believe in something, you just have to have faith and be relentless in your pursuit. An obsessive, dogged tenacity is definitely a personality trait that has helped.

What according to you has been your biggest achievement?Just running for Congress might be it. In retrospect, I must have been a bit crazy/delusional to even attempt it. I don't think I realized the full magnitude of what I was trying to do. But once you're in it, you just push forward every day.

You've been on TV, in politics and a corporate honcho, which of these experiences has been the most enjoyable?They were each incredibly enriching experiences. I love and hate different aspects of all them, but I feel like the diversity of my life experiences make me better at everything I do. The business world is definitely the most rational of the three. 

Your favourite quote…There are too many. Here's one that I really appreciate lately from Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford: "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." 

Who has been the one person to inspire you? Watching how hard my mom worked as I grew up is incredibly inspiring. But I truly believe that inspiration is everywhere around us. I see it every day and it fuels me.

If you weren't doing what you do, what would you be doing?Travel. I end up working through most years but start every year with the fantasy of extensive world travel. There's so much beauty and incredible things to learn and experience out there -- I'd love to take it all in.

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