2 Indians Who Gave Up Corporate Jobs to Chase Sporting Dreams
It was the life that Ramit Tandon had always wanted after graduating from the Colombia University. A job with a billion dollar financial firm located in Manhattan, the adrenaline rush of tracing the fortunes of various companies at the Wall Street, a decent salary and a bright future ahead of steadily climbing the corporate ladder.
The evenings after work and the weekends were spent at the New York Athletic Club, where squash would help Tandon take his mind off from falling oil prices, rising pharma scripts and the mounting US-China trade deficit.
Tandon had been a regular in the junior squash circuit in India before he moved to USA to pursue his education. But now in New York, his passion for the sport was reignited. There were some big names, like former world number one Ramy Ashour, who used to come to the club and Tandon savoured every moment of playing against him and then picking his brain about the sport. It may have been just weekend matches but he was winning duels against some reputed players.
In September 2017, Tandon took a huge leap of faith, dumping his career as a hedge fund analyst and turning a professional squash player.
“I realised it was a now or a never moment. I did not want to live my entire life regretting that I did not follow my passion. I could always make a comeback in the corporate world but I would never manage to play squash at the highest level if I did not take the plunge now. I was 23 and time was running out,’’ says Tandon in an exclusive interview with The Quint.
Trading his finance career with the squash racquet was a brave call but Tandon was soon creating waves in the professional circuit beating several higher-ranked opponents.
His last championship victory came at the Abu Dhabi Open in May, where he edged out yet another higher ranked opponent – Omar Abdel Meguid of Egypt. His phenomenal rise has seen him break into the Indian team for this year’s Asian Games.
“India will be a strong medal prospect, but we will have a tough fight at hand against Hong Kong, Malaysia and Pakistan,’’ says Tandon, who is currently taking a breather from the professional circuit to focus on the Asian Games.
“The last year was good if you look at my improvement in the rankings but I think I lacked consistency. It was a new world for me and I wanted to play as many tournaments as possible. I often landed up in tournaments jet-lagged and without proper preparations. This year, I will plan my calendar better and come up with better results. A year ago, I played squash to take a break from the financial market and today, I trade in shares to de-stress before a tough match in international tournaments. Maybe when I hang up boots from professional circuit I will get back to finance and work on sports start-ups,’’ says Tandon.
While Tandon was making rapid progress in international squash arena, another 23-year-old working as an analyst with a private equity firm in Gurgaon was making a tough career call.
It was the beginning of 2018 and the preparations for the Indian rowing team for the Asian Games would start. The federation had hired the services of one of the most respected rowing coaches in the world, Nicolae Gioga, who was also looking at training rowers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
It was exciting time for Indian rowing and Rohith Maradapa did not want to miss out. He quit his lucrative job and plunged headlong into the choppy waters of Indian rowing.
Rowing is not a popular sport in the country and India’s performance in recent global tournaments has been nothing to write home about. At this time, Maradapa was not even a certainty in the Asian Games team but he had made up his mind.
“It was a very crucial year for me as a rower. I was not assured of a place in the team but it was a gamble that was worth taking. Even my sports loving parents were shocked by my decision. But I knew I was making the right choice,’’ says Maradapa in an interview from his training base in Pune.
The Chennai-based rower went on to be selected in the coxed eight event for the Asian Games as a coxswain, a position he relishes.
A coxswain is normally the small-built individual sitting on the back of the boat passing on instructions to the rowers. Though he does not physically take part in the race using the oars, he is the chief strategist on the boat – a coach who helps the rowers with his advice on how to move faster.
“The role of a coxswain is similar to my job in the finance sector. I study the profile of the companies analysing their strengths and weaknesses and then offer advice on how to correctly invest. Similarly, I closely study the rowers of my team and devise a method on how to propel the boat ahead of the rivals,’’ explains Maradapa.
Since a coxswain is not steering the boat, he has to be light. At five feet seven inches and weighing 64 kilograms, Maradapa fits the bill and is an effective communicator which helps him to motivate the team when the chips are down. He was part of the Indian team who bagged a silver in the Asian Championship in 2015 and now leads a young side to the Asian Games.
Rohit is bullish about the prospects of the Indian rowers in the Asian Games and the former investment analyst predicts the stocks of the Indian rowers are set to rise in the next couple of years.
(The author is a television producer working with different sports networks in India and abroad. He has extensively covered previous editions of Asian Games and Commonwealth Games for both print and television.)