From Battle Jacket to Business Formals
On Navy Day, Commander Nanda Kumar Das, PGPpro Class of 2019, shares the story of his transformation through Indian Navy and ISB.
Born in a simple middle-class family, my parents always taught me to be content with whatever I had. My curiosity to experiment with a myriad of disciplines transformed me into a jack of many traits and a master of some-leadership, music and sports being a few.
I admit that the decision to join the armed forces was not deliberate. I do not have a military lineage. The closest that someone in my family has come to donning a uniform was my grandfather who worked for the paramilitary under the British rule. In hindsight, joining the National Defence Academy (NDA) proved to be one of the most astute decisions that I have, by far, made in my life. I joined NDA that is also known as the ‘cradle of leadership’ in military parlance. The camaraderie, trust, teamwork, physical toughness that the academy instilled on me was matchless. It provided numerous instances wherein I was taken very close to my perceived breaking point, and thereafter, it boosted my confidence by making me realise that, I could endure more. During various combat operations, including the Kargil war, I lost about 25 of my course mates; this transformed my life forever. These fallen heroes have donned the role of moral auditors in my life-they prompt me to choose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong.
‘Of all the branches of men in the Armed forces, there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the submariner – Sir Winston Churchill.
Life in the Navy has been fascinating and satisfying. The urge for adventure attracted me to the submarine arm. Here, again, I learnt to be happy with what I have. Optimising my constrained resources, feeling comfortable in not so conducive environs and anticipating danger are all attributes that the submarine life instilled in me as my second nature. As I grew in service, I went on to specialise in navigation and aircraft direction. Navigating the submarine safely through the depths of ocean teaches you to be alert and have safety margins chalked out all times.
I am forever grateful to the Indian Navy for giving me an opportunity to command a warship, the most coveted appointment for a sea-farer. Being the Captain of a submarine has been the most enriching experience of my naval career. Being responsible for the life of a hundred men that you dive with into the most unforgiving waters taught me the importance of meticulous planning, preparation, execution, monitoring and auditing. Submarining also taught me to be more patient and the importance of seizing the right opportunity while taking calculated risks. As the Captain of a submarine, I had endeavoured to maintain a nurturing environment and promote a free flow of ideas across all echelons. I found my boys the most productive when given free rein; this enabled generation and implementation of conventional ideas into submarine operations. The emergence of one such innovative approach led to the undertaking of an unprecedented repair at sea for which my team won the ‘Navy Innovation Trophy’; I received this trophy from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2015. The submarine was also awarded the coveted Unit Citation by the Chief of the Naval Staff, which meant that it was adjudged as the best amongst 200+ warships of the navy.
Serving on advanced technology vessel such as the ubiquitous nuclear-propelled submarine would be any sailor’s dream. Here too, I am much indebted to the Indian Navy for having handpicked me to be trained in Russia as part of the pioneering crew. As the Second in Command of India’s only nuclear attack submarine, the highest leadership of the Indian Navy acknowledged my devotion to duty and awarded me the Chief of the Naval Staff Commendation. My most precious possession, a set of scintillating life experiences at the Navy, is what I have collated in my mind to tell my grandchildren once I grow old.
My self-appraisal, through my satisfying career in the Indian Navy, has been that I have developed the soft skills-effective leadership, communication and people management-needed to excel in my next endeavour. What, I believe, I further need are the hard skills required for a broader understanding of business. I chose, the Post Graduate Programme in Management for Working Professionals (ISB PGPpro) at Indian School of Business because I wanted the best choice available at my disposal to prepare me for my future. As I introspect, halfway into the program, I have realised that my decision to join the program was most apt.
ISB indeed is at the forefront of management and thought leadership. The proficient resident faculty and visiting professors from top B-schools of the world have provided the best exposure to the various disciplines. The transfer of knowledge from my peers comprising of exceptional achievers from diverse fields has also been intense. One of the alumni who addressed us during a learning and development program mentioned that ISB is a matrix and I have experienced this first-hand. Each ISBian makes it a point to go that extra mile to help and support one another in this matrix.
I look forward to making stronger relationships for life and gain immensely - academically, professionally and personally. I am confident that this program would prepare me for what life beholds for me further.
My motto in life has always been and will always remain - Never Give Up.
Know more about ISB PGPpro, here.
Commander Nanda Kumar Das
PGPpro Class of 2019
Naval Headquarters, New Delhi