Many decades ago, Swamy, who worked at the Air India counter in Mumbai, was asked by a friend who worked in Johnson & Johnson (J&J) for a favour. The international managing director (MD) of the company was visiting Bombay and the local MD thought he would make a great impression if he was welcomed on the tarmac, soon after arrival. A VIP welcome!
It was a time when such welcomes were possible, at the airport. Swamy managed to organise this. All went well.
When the group was leaving the airport, the local MD thanked Swamy for the trouble he had taken—and added “If I can help you in any way anytime, do let me know.”
Swamy took the cue. Before Mr John could forget him, Swamy phoned him up the following week and asked to see him for just half an hour.
Yes, he was looking for a sales job. He was tired of being at the airport counter, most nights of the week. John saw that Swamy could make a good salesman and sent him to the sales director, and after a few more interviews, Swamy was hired.
Swamy did so well in his job that he rose to be the India sales manager in a period of just 10 years. A chance encounter had changed the course of his life—and he never looked back. By the time he died, he was considered a highly successful man.
The international CEO (chief executive officer) of a Swiss company was visiting India. He wanted to buy some CDs of Indian classical music to take home. He was recommended Rhythm House—so he found time to get there and make his purchases. He was so impressed with the salesman attending to him – with his knowledge and his convincing ability—that he bought much more than he had intended to.
When leaving the shop, he half-jokingly told the salesman that if he ever needed a job in the future, to let him know. The salesman had been to college but had left it before graduation. But he took this invitation seriously and sent his curriculum vitae (CV) to the customer, who had given him his visiting card. And it worked. Mr Broz had found a slot for him in the sales department of the Indian company.
And salesman Sunil did so well at his job that with many promotions he was finally transferred to the headquarters in Switzerland, where he continued working well and hard, till he came close to the top!
Chance encounters can also result in long lasting friendships. A long time ago, I took an overnight train from Lucknow to Delhi—far more convenient than taking a flight. I was sharing a coupee with an elderly Sikh gentleman. After the goodbyes to our sales team, who had come to see me off, I went to the coupee and began an interesting conversation with my train companion—from 9pm when the train started, to 1am, when we finally said goodnight.
I worked for a pharma company at that time and I happened to find out that my train companion was a member of parliament (MP), and also the chairman of Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd (IDPL), a government company.
We had something in common – the industry!
Mr Singh invited me to dinner the following evening at this home, because it so happened that he was entertaining and one of the guests was the then minister for chemicals. He thought it would help me to meet the minister socially, since he was in charge of the industry I worked in.
Some years later, Mr Singh was appointed governor of Rajasthan—and he kindly invited me and my wife to be his guests for a few days at Raj Bhavan – an invitation I readily accepted—since I had never stayed in a Raj Bhavan (RB) before (and since). I enjoyed the experience of staying at the Marwar suite at the RB.
Yes – not all chance encounters end with the beginning of new careers. They may also create nice and warm connections—which mature into long lasting friendships, sometimes for life!
In 2020, we have come to a stage where we can create chance encounters. Young people (and even old) find life partners on the Internet. They create long-term friendships on the Internet. They find jobs through Linked-In, or even business collaborations or partners or funding for startups through the network. There is Facebook, and LinkedIn; Instagram and Twitter, and a whole lot of platforms that one can use, where the spectrum is so wide, it is unimaginable.
We no longer wait for chances. We now create chances. But we must not lose the ability to also identify 'old world chances'. And to take advantage of an opportunity when it comes to us on a platter!