You may know me as S Anand. You may also know me as Prof or Stud at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, as Anand Subramanian at IBM India, Bhalla at Alakananda hostel, IIT Madras, and Bal at Vidya Mandir
1974-1978 at home
I was born on the 23rd November, 1974 (a Saturday) at Tirupati. I flew back to Madras (now Chennai) in a few days along with my parents. I stayed at home for 4 years, thoroughly enjoying myself. My mother would feed me while telling me stories while I was perched on her hip looking at the cows behind our house (it was no mean feat — I think I weighed 20 kilos). Since I was the youngest grandchild in our family, no one was permitted to get angry with me — especially if I sat on them and hit them with whatever they wouldn’t give me.
1978-1992 at Vidya Mandir
In June 1978, I was admitted into Vidya Mandir where I had an enjoyable 14 year stay. In the meantime, I learnt music for a few years. I took up scouting in 1986 as well as Yoga in 1987. I was forced into NCC (National Cadet Corps) for a couple of years. I started fiddling with computers, particularly graphics. Sometime then I developed an active interest in Tamil films, especially the songs. I took to basketball in my ninth standard. Despite these, I managed to do somewhat well at academics. I even found myself in the middle of a National Maths Olympiad.
1992-1996 at IIT Madras
I left VM in May 1992 and joined the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras. I spent four years there – enjoying the last one in particular. I learnt Mrdangam for three years in the meantime, and started my career in computers. The only hitch was that I was in Chemical Engineering! I believe most of my professors had given up hope with regard to me. I managed to see quite a few places in the guise of presenting seminars, played the keyboard on a few occasions, and played a few pranks on some people as well.
1996-1999 at IBM Bangalore
In August 1996, I joined IBM India, (which was called Tata Information Systems Ltd. in those days) as a software engineer. I focused mainly on Lotus Notes and Java, and became a project leader in a year-and-half. Like most software engineers, life was filled with deadlines, the occasional trip abroad, treats, movies, late-night browsing, missed meals, and complete lack of social life (to the point where I saw the sun once a month). I loved it! Looks like IBM loved me too. Apart from the fact that I have several wonderful friends there, they also awarded me the “IBM Way” award.
1999-2001 at IIM Bangalore
By this time, I was pretty impressed by my managers at IBM, and wanted to be like them. Besides, I was a little peeved at the IIMs for not letting me through on my first attempt. So in July 1999, I finally joined IIM Bangalore (Bangalore is closer to home than Ahmedabad.) Through it all, I never figured what I wanted to specialise in. I worked during the summer at Lehman Brothers (Tokyo), an investment bank. But during my fifth term (at London Business School), I figured finance wasn’t for me. I like technology too much.
IIMPressions is the IIMB yearbook. Here’s the writeup about me.
God of All Things
Paritraanaaya Saadhoonaam,Vinaashaaya Cha Dushkritaam
Dharma Samsthaapanaarthaaya, Sambhavaami Yuge Yuge
The sole motto of this God of Kaliyug joining IIM Bangalore was to provide JOY to lesser mortals. So He ditched IIMA. He took tutes for His batch mates and His junior batch. He made sure that the Junior batch was well placed to crack the Aditya Birla Scholarship. He did amazingly good project reports, presentations and assignments for the nis-swaartha purpose of sharing it with junta. Submission of the same and topping the courses were incidental. Of course, He had to do RG sometimes, to justify His human form. For that, He would sit in the library reading fiction or watch movies in the Rec room right before the exams just to psyche people out.
Of course, He would do His bit to dip the professors also in the Gyan Saagar. Many profs would constantly look to Him for approval in the class and would take His private tutes to improve their knowledge. One of the profs was also found doing ACP with Him after His CCS presentation.
No wonder He had a huge fan following. People who had a crush on Him ranged from PGP Is to professors resembling characters from Sholay. But He was a true IBMer fascinated by AS/400. However, after a trip to LBS, He is quite excited about long black hair and belly button piercing.
His fan following was not restricted just to IIMB. His website would get hits from all over the world. Webmaster of Cybersteering.com, a dotcom in Mumbai, was so impressed by His website that he actually asked His advice for revamping their site and also their operations.
Even after having travelled round the globe, He remains a true TamB at heart. Give Him Thaiyuru sadam and pickle and He wouldn’t ask for more. He wants to be within a 3-hour flying radius from Madras. So He spurned Lehman. But surprisingly He was enthralled by Goldman who however decided to have an alliance with Lehman.
His priorities in life are very clear. Maths, books, music, which includes playing keyboard and breaking a leg over dancing to Tamil film songs, movies and doing outstanding work. Sleeping at 10 at night would come much higher in His list. He would refuse to attend the block parties for the same reason. Buying clothes and cutting hair are His last priority in life.
Being God, He is always very non-threatening, reassuring and very accessible to His bhaktaas whether it be for pursuit of knowledge or psychological support. Thus while He follows pure “Gyaan Maarga”, the rest of us are quite happy following the “Bhakti Maarga” towards Him. However, JOY would have known no bounds if the Bhakti of His true Meera from the West (or East?) had led to Mukti.
As per Jewish believers, one doesn’t spell the name of the God. Though He deserted a premier Jewish I-Bank, some of us are still aspiring for it. So honouring the Jewish culture, we bow to this God without ever writing His name. “Barukh atah Ha-shem, Elokaynu, melekh ha-olam” (Hebrew for Blessed art thou Lord, our God, King of the Universe).
2001-2005 at BCG Mumbai
I graduated in March 2001 with a couple of gold medals, and joined the Boston Consulting Group in Mumbai. On June 2, 2002, I married Shobana. After a wonderful honeymoon in Europe, we settled into a house-on-the-verge-of-collapse in Bandra (it was torn down in Nov 2004). At work, I had a great time with the big shots in the corporates (the high point being when the Arun Naik, the Chairman of L&T, served me soup). At home, we would wander down Linking Road arguing about buying clothes (vs not buying them).
2005-2011 at Infosys Consulting London
I was missing technology too much, and we decided to live abroad for a while as well. Since I loved London so much, it was the first choice. I’m now with Infosys Consulting at London, enjoying 40-hour weeks. On Feb 27, 2005, my daughter Dhyeya was born at St Isabel’s Hospital, Chennai. Dhyeya means “one you worship”. She weighed 3.7 kgs at birth.
2012-now at Gramener
The startup bug bit me. So along with a few good friends, we started Gramener, a data visualisation company. This combines three interests of mine: statistics, programming and design. We now live in Bangalore.
I have a lot of hair
My hair grows very fast. (I take after my father and his father). I had a moustache (thin, I grant) at the age of 13, and a fairly dense beard when I was 16. I was of course asked to shave periodically by almost everybody. My argument against it is simply that it’s too much of trouble, and besides, beards look nice. At least in my opinion.
At school and college, I was known by my beard – being the possessor of the largest (if not the only) specimen. It made me quite popular. So I see no reason for me to shave.
In August 1996, I started shaving twice a week. People would actually comment if I haven’t shaved! I was driven to this for two reasons. One was that everyone told me that if I wanted to go to office, I had better shave. The second …., well, let me summarize it this way: a girl who’s senior to me called me “Sir”. I shaved.
After that, I’ve been compared to the film hero Ajit innumerable times, to another hero Arvindh Swamy at least twice and once to Sharath Kumar. I don’t mind it.
But that still leaves my hair and moustache. I’m fiercely proud of my moustache, and won’t shave it off, ever! I may chew on it every now and then, but I’ve recently entered into a contract obliging me to pay Rs.25 per hair on my moustache that I chew, so I’ve curtailed that a bit. In fact, my dedication to my moustache won me a nomination in the IIM Bangalore yearbook.
Things got a bit worse at BCG, though. I normally like shaving every other day at best. Except that there’s this character, Alpesh, at BCG, who has no better work than to walk down to my cubicle, peer over my shoulder, and comment, “How did they let you into office with that stubble?” Thanks to him, I shave every working day.
My wife suggested I grow a french beard. It tends to be a bit sparse, though. I pluck my beard when I’m thinking, or watching an interesting movie, or reading an interesting book, etc.
My name is a source of confusion
I was christened Anand Srinivasan. Anand means happiness: Anandhayathi iti Anandhaha – he makes others happy – hence he is Anand. The Srinivasan’s because I was born at Tirupati whose temple deity is known by the same name. And I was born on a saturday, which makes it all the more special.
My official name at school was Anand Subramanian, the latter being my father’s name. I was known to most of the teachers and friends as S.Anand, and that’s the way I’d rather stay. In my third standard, we had to write a Hindi essay on the Moghul poet Birbal, whose name I misspelt as Birbaal (the long ‘A’ instead of the short ‘a’). Kiran Miss declared that I would thereafter be referred to as Bal, and the name stuck. It went to a point where most people did not know that it was my nickname – including at least one teacher.
At IIT Madras, I was named Bhalla Nonsense (to be spelt and pronounced “Bhbhallla Naaansense”) by extremely bored seniors during my first ragging session. (One was Prasanna, who played the famous guitar interlude of July mAdham in the movie Pudhiya mugam). I was spared the surname, but Bhalla stuck.
Since the official records list me as Anand Subramanian, people have a habit of calling me Mr.Subramanian. That’s my father! I’m just Anand. I had a lot of trouble with my passport too, since they insisted on my filling out my first, middle and last name. I told them my name was S.Anand and they could decide which was which. (Of course it didn’t work. They made me stand in a queue for a couple of hours and told me my passport application was invalid.) So my passport actually refers to me as Subramanian Anand.
While working at IBM, this was almost rectified, until we moved our mail system to Lotus Notes, which does not permit the first name to be the single character ‘S’. Hence, thanks to the IT revolution, I was known as “Anand Subramanian” again.
It was only at IIM Bangalore that this fault was fully rectified. So successfully, in fact, that people wondered what the ‘S’ stood for, and settled at “Stud”.
But if I thought that was the end of things, I was mistaken. At BCG, trouble began again, with the head of IT calling me up to confirm if I really was called “S Anand”. I know all about mailing systems by now, and how to get around software. So I tell him, yes. My name is “S” Anand. No, I won’t expand “S”. No, I don’t mind causing too much confusion. Then comes the problem — is “S” my first name or last name? I figured people may as well call me Anand and Mr. S rather than Mr. Anand and S. So my e-mail ID became firstname.lastname@example.org.
That was just the start. Once I joined, everyone got visiting cards. Except me. My visiting cards were delayed because the printer refused to believe my last name was “S”. So I had to confirm that yes, my last name is “S”, and I really wanted my cards.
When I joined Infosys, I managed to convince them to call me just “S Anand”. But email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and all other such variants were taken. I positively HATED IDs with numbers in them (like sanand1974), so I ended up with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yet another source of confusion is my e-mail ID, which is “root dot node at gmail.com”. But that’s a long story.