How to win at life | Santsaran Advani


I only started blogging in late 2017 – you could call me a blogger-come-lately. Though I have been blogging for just a year, I realised very quickly how powerful sharing experiences can be. It is human to chase success and emulate the successful. To understand how success came to those who influence us. Was their journey easy or hard and difficult? Did luck play a part? Who or what influenced them along the way?

We don’t always have access to the wisdom we require when we need it. Among the frequent readers of my posts are young people who often reach out to me for advice. As happy as I am to share my counsel with them, I am often struck by how mine is but one perspective. To me, this is a disadvantage to the young people who look up to me and a disservice to all the wonderful human beings who have mentored me.

I realised this was an excellent opportunity to interview all the people I see as my mentors for my blog. I hope that by collating multiple perspectives, you have the same access to a wealth of shared knowledge and experiences that I have had the privilege to access all through my career.

The first person I interviewed for this series is my first boss. Santsaran Advani is a rare human being, candid and forthright — a successful entrepreneur who has raised a whole troop of entrepreneurs. He started Airtech in 1985 at a time when the HVAC industry in India was but a little fledgeling.

There was no cotton wool in his approach – it was sink or swim and he did not hesitate to push me, in my first week, straight into the deep end of the pool. He sent me to meet Mr Agarwal, a VP at Unichem and I messed up the meeting really badly. I remember calling him up worried that I was about to lose my job. But that’s the thing about Sant Advani, he is cooler than a cucumber. For him it was important that his people learn from every experience, participate equally in success and failure – this is the most important thing I have learnt from him. I hope you benefit as much as I did not just from his unique blend of candid wisdom but also his winning outlook on life.

Who are your influences? Mentors? Why?

SA: My strongest influences are my mother who instilled honesty and a sense of fair play, a school teacher Verna Fernandes who built up my sense of self-worth, my first boss, Arjun Gidwani who said, never compromise financially, technically or morally. Finally my wife Duenka, who is the reason I am a nicer, calmer and kinder person.

What was the best advice someone gave you and did you follow it?

SA: The best advice I ever received was from Lou Scannura, the Vice President of Engineering at the Hyatt International. I have always had quite a temper. Scannura heard me out through one of my angry outbursts during a meeting in Tehran and said to me, “Never shout when you are angry, shout when you are calm and in total control as you will never regret or wish to take back, what you have said in anger.” I have done my very best to follow his advice and it has held me in good stead in both my professional and personal relationships.

What are the lessons from your childhood that have stayed with you?

SA: At the risk of sounding cliched – honesty and integrity, both professional and moral. Respect for one’s elders and peers and those less fortunate. Moderation in both indulgence and self-mortification. An avoidance of envy in any form.

Did you face any struggles in your journey to where you are today? How did these experiences mould you as a person and as a professional?

SA: I’ve had to deal with numerous hurdles – financial, emotional, health issues all along my journey. That said, I truly believe I am a better person for having tackled them head-on and successfully. Every single one of these experiences has taught me something, from humility to gratitude to my maker and all those around me, and a recognition of the frailty of life in particular.

Which companies in your opinion are changing the world? Why?

SA: In the last 20 years, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook have all aided humanity’s progress in exponential terms as compared to the previous 500. They are all responsible for a paradigm shift in the way the world lives and dreams.

What are the most significant changes you have witnessed in your lifetime?

SA: Three stand out – the breaking down of geographic barriers, gargantuan leaps in technology and unfortunately, the revival of fundamentalism.

What does success mean to you?

SA: Success is intellectual and financial independence, being respected in society and having fulfilled one’s obligations to those close to you.

At what point might you feel you have met true success?

SA: I think I achieved true success after selling my company. By focusing on advisory assignments, I can give back to my industry a measure of everything it has given me.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

SA: The Rooster Bar by John Grisham, Natural Causes by Barbara Ehrenreich and Two Minute Bridge Tips by Frank Stewart

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse