Nyrika Crishna is CAP's youngest board member and a qualified solicitor. Her mum Smita Crishna has had long-standing association with CAP. Our CEO Noshir Dadrawala, with CAP since its inception 30 years ago, also has a legal background. Here’s what the two legal eagles found out when they cross-examined each other.
ND: How would you describe yourself?
NC: When I set my mind to do something, I focus all my energy on getting it done, usually to the exclusion of everything else! I tend to be very preoccupied with my weaknesses and am constantly trying to improve myself. Being curious by nature, I love the process of learning. I am in my element when I am surrounded by people who make me laugh.
ND: What are the three things you feel most grateful for?
NC: The good health and happiness of my family, the wonderful legacy my forefathers have built which always reminds me that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’ and the ability to question everything.
ND: What is your idea of happiness?
NC: Happiness for me is being present in the moment. Whether it is achieving
something I truly believe in or spending a quiet evening cooking with my husband and playing games with my nephews.
ND: Who, or what, motivates you the most?
NC: My mother is my chief motivator because of her grounded nature, her humility, her passion for learning and her unconditional love. She makes me want to be a better person.
ND: Do you believe in destiny?
NC: I do not believe in a preordained, fatalistic view of the world. I believe in the strength of the human will and the ability of the mind to transform any situation.
ND: Your favourite travel destination, or idea of a dream holiday?
NC: I love active, outdoor holidays ; whether it is trekking in the mountains or up a volcano, scuba-diving in the ocean, or going on a wildlife safari. I am happiest being in nature.
ND: Does your work excite you? And why?
NC: I am very interested in sustainability. A majority of Indians are not sensitised to the need for the preservation of the environment, proper waste management or access to clean energy. Working in the power distribution and solar space excites me because of the vast potential for clean energy in India. At Godrej, one of our core values is sustainability - whether it is in the production of greener and more energy-efficient products, protection of the mangrove forest adjoining our factory in Vikhroli, the education of children, the generation of clean energy or a reduction in the amount of waste we generate. It excites me to be a part of the effort to make India more sustainable.
ND: How would you compare your generation with your parents’ or grandparents' generation in terms of thinking, values or work ethics?
NC: My grandfather Naval Godrej is a role model for me, and I am very heartened to hear that you feel the same way about him, Noshir. He worked hard and never took a single vacation. He cut across age and class hierarchies because he connected with everyone on a human level, whether it was on the shop floor or in the boardroom. Although he did not go to university, he had an intuitive understanding of machines and an innate business acumen. He envisioned Pirojshanagar as a community with a school, hospital, employee housing and a welfare clinic; it was much more than just a manufacturing facility.
Our generation is deeply committed to ensuring that we create strong and healthy businesses that are value-accretive. We want to multiply the impact of our philanthropy and to make Pirojshanagar an iconic township for future generations of Indians to value and enjoy. We have big shoes to fill, but we are very committed to ensuring that we emulate my grandfather's wonderful example.
ND: Your favourite social cause?
NC: I strongly believe in the need to further animal welfare. Animals cannot speak when they are in pain or being tortured and more often than not, their well-being is placed after that of humans. I feel we need to go the extra mile to ensure their safety and security.
NC: What were your reasons for joining CAP at such a young age?
ND: Quite frankly, it was not planned. I had a cushy job as a hospital administrator. However, the late Russi Lala, then Director of the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust was keen that I give wings to a dream that stalwarts like himself and H T Parekh (founder of HDFC), R R Chari (IRS) and Darius Forbes (Forbes Marshall Group) had visualized. The dream was to set up an institution to advance philanthropy. The original idea was create a 'chamber of philanthropy'; a ‘clearing house of information on philanthropy’. However, within months, R R Chari who had just retired as Commissioner of Income tax (Trust Circle) and I realized that what charitable organisations needed the most was legal advice and an understanding of the nuances of various laws that governed them. The rest as they say, is history.
So, to answer your question, I am with CAP thanks to Russi Lala. In fact, initially I was quite reluctant to join CAP leaving behind the security of a job that paid well, provided free lunch, accommodation and free medical treatment for the whole family. But, he said something that made me change my mind: Do you want to be a happy frog in a small well or be happier exploring the oceans? That did it. I have been exploring uncharted waters in the ocean ever since!
NC: In an ideal world, where do you see CAP in the next 10 years?
ND: I visualize it as ‘THE PLACE TO GO TO’ for all compliance-related issues. This visualization I owe largely to my colleague and CAP's COO, Meher. She has been instrumental in articulating this vision for CAP.
I also visualize CAP consolidating and documenting all the intellectual wisdom that has been acquired over the past 30 years. And I would hope that what the founding fathers of CAP visualized and which I tried to give wings to with my limited capabilities, others will take to greater heights. The ocean is huge and there is much more for CAP to explore.
NC: How would you define personal success? And how would you define success for CAP?
ND: To me success means happiness, for myself and for others in my universe.
It's the same for CAP. If those involved with it and those we serve are happy, that's success to me.
NC: How motivated do you think our generation is to work for social change?
ND: I would dare say, far more motivated than in my time! When I joined CAP in my mid-twenties, family and friends though that it was suicidal. They all felt that one joins the social sector only post-retirement. Today, it's very different; successful men and women are giving up corporate careers midway to serve the social sector. And the sector is far more organised and professional than it was 30 years ago.
NC: If you had to advise a young person starting out in his/her career on the three most important things to keep in mind, what would they be?
ND: Do not be in a hurry to prove yourself or reach the top. First deserve, then desire. Also, be patient. Rome was not built in a day, nor can any life be built in a day. Enjoy the journey and make friends along the way, for it may get lonely when you reach your destination. And finally, be content. This does not mean you should not aspire for betterment, or become complacent. It simply means being happy with what you are and feeling grateful for what you have right now.
NC: What are the five values that guide your life?
ND: Integrity...success without integrity seldom takes anyone far.
Respect...for your own self, your work and all those that you engage with. Commitment...in my time they called it loyalty and fidelity.
Faith...in my own abilities and a ‘divine force’ that guides and spins this entire universe.
Persistence...never give up on what you hold dear in life, be it an individual or an institution.
NC: What is the most interesting book you have ever read and why?
ND: There are many! But, perhaps, Russi Lala's 'Encounters with the Eminent' stands out because in this book, the author talks to great leaders and the lessons that emerge are amazing. What made Mother Teresa a leader was her ability to be non-judgmental; what makes the Dalai Lama a leader is his compassionate nature; what made Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw a leader was his ability to speak his mind to everybody, from his soldiers to the country's prime minister.
NC: Who do you consider to be your mentor? How has he/she helped you?
ND: Once again, there are many and I would enumerate, not necessarily in priority order. My dad, who instilled in me strong values of honesty and sensitivity to the needs of others. Russi Lala & Darius Forbes, for introducing me to the world of philanthropy and keeping me motivated through their support. Everything that I know about tax laws is thanks to R R Chari.
My friend and colleague Meher who, five years ago, shook me out of my comfort zone at CAP and is reinventing CAP to meet the changing needs of the sector.
Last but not least, my son Darius, for teaching me look beyond dogmas and out-dated beliefs.
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