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Our Director – Prakash Natarajan features in the Economic Times! The Fantastic 40s…

In a country swarming with 20-somethings, another generation is having the time of its life — courting risks and forging a new identity. ET on Sundaydiscovers why 40-somethings never had it so good:: Kamya Jaiswal

For some time now, it seemed only 20-somethings have a right to audacious dreams. Perhaps it is the din that surrounds everything they do that drowns out every other sound. This generation even dreams loudly. Understandably so, for some of its members have managed to value their dreams at over a billion dollars. But amidst their sound and fury, another lot is making some inconceivable aspirations come true. The generation now in its 40s is quieter about it. Battle-hardened after roughly two decades on the grind and wizened from a strategic perspective on India’s economic history, they don’t Instagram every switch or blog about every move. They just do things.

Success to Super Stardom in 40s
Francisco D’Souza 43, CEO, COGNIZANT
In His 40s… Spurred 40% and over 33% growth in revenue in 2010 and 2011 respectively Pushed performance to outclass Wipro and become 3rd largest IT company in India Expanded company’s clientele base to West Asia, Europe, Latin America, etc

On Evolving Idea of Success

Success is a different proposition now. Size and scale have been trumped by speed and agility. The landscape is changing rapidly, driven by macroeconomic uncertainty, dramatic secular change in major industries and a new wave of social, mobile, analytic and cloud technologies. How quickly businesses anticipate and adapt to change will define future success

On Motivations at this Stage of Career

The excitement comes from new challenges. As difficult as it is to navigate change, solving a bevy of new problems is incredibly motivating. Every day brings something new and different.

On Personal Goals for Future

I have a passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and support Cognizant programmes like “Making the Future” which inspires young learners to pursue STEM disciplines and “Program Outreach”, our worldwide associates’ grassroot volunteer effort in the field of education. My goal is to keep nurturing and growing this passion

Both Barot and Mathur are go-getters. But feeding their hunger is a first-of-its-kind socio-economic condition that encourages, even nurtures risk, irrespective of age. A long list of celebrities found their mojo in their 40s: think first-generation entrepreneur, Gautam Adani or chairman of Bharti enterprises, Sunil Mittal. And now, smack in the middle of this same decade of his life, Francisco D’Souza is busy creating history by pushing Cognizant ahead of legendary IT peers like Wipro and soon, Infosys.

What drives this zeal and high-risk appetite? Personal attributes aside, it is a profusion of opportunity. Straitjackets are out and careers are no longer linear. Barot didn’t even know she wanted a job. Yet she chanced on one custom-fit for her. Mathur was experienced in drilling oil, not brewing beer. Yet he convinced conventional banks to fund 35% of his start up cost.

Such professional daredevilry is the leitmotif of our times, in part because this is a society dominated by the young. Is it their optimism that has infected the system, worked its way upwards to the 40 somethings?

Vantage Point

“These are people with roughly 20 years experience who have travelled the world and worked in various profiles. Many have already reached the vice-president level but still have 15 years of work left in them. Not everyone can become the CEO. How will they grow? That’s what propels the risk takers,” says E Balaji, managing director and CEO, Randstad India, a recruitment agency.

You can argue there’s nothing special about this situation. Anyone who has lived out 20 years of his life is likely to be at such a crossroad. Some people cruelly brand it as a mid-life crisis. What’s unique about the current crop of 40-somethings?

It’s the detail of their journey: the stark contrasts of landscape and the distance they have travelled. This generation was in its 20s when liberalisation opened up the economy and the first boom cycles occurred. Their personal growth mirrored the fast-paced expansion. In the same time frame, they saw more than the current 50 somethings did or the 30-somethings will — nascent industries, new job profiles, higher salaries, bigger assets and new measures of respectability.

As a result, many of them have built large financial cushions, larger from their perspective as they don’t necessarily contextualise wealth with today’s benchmarks. Admits Prakash, 48, an ex-senior manager at HDFC: “I was at a career dead end and staring at 6-7 years in the same designation. So I decided to move on, but it would have been impossible without the backing of my investment portfolio.”

Prakash invested in property before the boom period of 2003-08. The real estate now generates enough rental income to take care of his family expenses. “Anyone who put in money at that time pocketed huge returns. My friends often discuss how lucky we were that the boom happened when it did — we had saved enough money to invest and build something substantial, ” he says.

Now a real estate adviser, Prakash can afford to think beyond money: “It is only a small part of my motivation. I enjoy other aspects of life more — spending time with the kids and working with 20- and 30- something, energetic clients.

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In 2009, thanks to the excitement generated by infrastructure announcements in Navi Mumbai, big Real Estate brands from Mumbai announced the launch of mega township projects. Prominent among the projects which were launched were the following - Kalpataru Riverside, India Bulls Greens & Park and Marathon Nexzone.

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