He was in Shanghai Monday last, Singapore on Wednesday; has a business meeting in Frankfurt Tuesday next. And he is at Chamrarajanagar for the weekend. If asked which one of these places sticks out like a sore thumb, I guess there would be near unanimity on Chamarajanagar, a town that strikes me as dry, dusty, and in a perpectual state of neglect.
I said near-unanimity, because Chamarajanagar is a ‘charm-nagar’ for our man on the move - Dr. Krishna Venkataswamy, Director of Research and Development of GLS Corporation, McHenry, Illinois. He heads, among much else, the company’s R&D facility in China: and he is on the Global Leadership Team for the company’s business operations in Europe and Asia. His responsibilities entail much traveling. And wherever his travels take him – Mumbai, Tokyo, Hong Kong – and, whenever feasible, Dr. Venkataswamy (Venkatesh, to friends) heads home, to Illinois, via his Charm-Nagar.
“I still feel like a boy from a small town who happened to be fortunate in life,” said Venkateh when we met in Mysore during his current whistle-stop chakkar half-way round the world. Venkatesh doesn’t fit in with the swanky pigeon-holed image of a frequent-flyer company executive. With a red bindi on his forehead, and a vintage hairdo that seems to make a fashion statement against the current trend in sporting long, tapering, sideburns, Venkatesh would pass for a Sanskrit scholar or music vidhwan from Agrahara.
It is not just the look, Venkatesh is refreshingly different in his outlook in life as well. He says his passion for science, notably, physics, got him high grades right through to his Ph.D (completed within a record two years and two months). He is a Director of the Distinguished Alumni Board at the University of Florida, and on the Executive Advisory Board for Howe School of Technology Management at Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey.
And it is the same passion for science, not the money, that drives him in his work. Venkatesh is a reputed expert in his specialty - thermoplastic elastomers. He has nearly fifty patents to his credit; has chaired many American and international conferences on Thermoplastic Elastomers. But then this small-town boy still finds time to stay in touch with his school – JSS High School – and his friends from the Chamarajanagar days. He referred to Mallesh, now a professor at Gangotri (Mysore), and Prakash (I believe), a company VP in Bangalore.
By way of a pay-back to his native town, and, as an endearing pretext, if I might add, to keep himself in touch with his humble beginnings, Venkatesh funds a local orphanage and pays for the upkeep of a few needy matriculation students of his school. In life, says Venkatesh, he would have never made it to where he had, if it was not for his late mother, periyappa Ramaswamy Iyer, who stepped in to save his family house from being auctioned when Venkatesh was a schoolboy; his grandpa N S Sundaresa Iyer who funded his education through National College, Bangalore, and IIT Madras (1979 batch); and Dr Krishnamurthy who guided him to take up higher studies in Florida and “showed me the ropes in my early years in the US”. ( Isn’t he the Nanjangud municipal school boy who went to IIT Bombay, and made it big in the US with 100 research papers to his credit ?)