“It Is Okay To Fail”: Naim Keruwala On His Journey Of Grit And Determination

Posted on June 2, 2014 in Interviews

By Mayank Jain:

This post is part of a series of content focusing on covering inspiring work of Indian youth, brought by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with Potentiaa

“He rose from the ground and reached for the stars,” is the perfect way to describe this journey of grit and determination. From a humble beginning in Gujarat where he wasn’t aware of the world beyond the walls of conventional degrees and lifestyle to making his dreams come true by working on one of the most interesting projects that he could find, he stands for the resilience that can be the bridge between one’s dreams and his reality.

Naim Keruwala, Assistant Director at Janwani (Mahratta Chamber of Commerce) and Course In-charge (Urban Economic Development) at Symbiosis School of Economics is a jack of many trades.

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His story began in the walled city of Ahmedabad and in his own word, the journey began as follows: “I grew up in the walled city of old Ahmedabad and had grown up in a very typical environment. My exposure was, well, very limited — the only options I was really aware of, were B.A, B.Com and B.Sc, and my aspirations like everyone around me was to start my own business soon after graduation. While I was pursuing my B.Com, on a normal day in college, some representatives of AIESCEC visited us. I got selected and getting selected for AIESEC was a big deal and it was the first time something happened for me. Through AIESEC, the 1st project I worked on dealt with environment. I saw foreigners who had nothing to do with Ahmadabad — people from Netherlands, Japan and Germany, going house to house, street to street, informing people about waste segregation and how can they better manage their waste. It was an amazing eye — opener. It was the first time I felt there was something more to a way of life than I had known.”

He didn’t stop there and went on to do a lot more things and projects that gave him the much needed exposure and head start, “I randomly wrote an email to the Director at Planning and Resources on Urban Development Affairs (PRUDA) in Ahmedabad about wanting to work with him. I had known him through my AIESEC days for nearly 2 years, and he very promptly called me the next day, gave me a 400 page report on Nirmal Gujarat project and gave me one day to make a 4 page summary report of it. I did that and met him the next day with what I had done. He liked it much and before I knew it, I started working with them.”

The strength of a man is known by the company he keeps and it shapes his potential to achieve great heights and Naim is no different. He has always tried to seek advice from the right people and always maintained a network. “I was blessed with some amazing mentors who have helped me all along. The summer school in May 2009 by GIZ (German Aid agency) gave a network and some amazing friends who still guide me. The network I developed from my work has been an immense source of strength, guidance, and inspiration.”

Yuva Unstoppable is an organization that works towards promoting youth volunteerism, focusing on education across India and Naim has worked as a Project Consultant for a good year and a half apart from being a member of the coveted Editorial team of UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report, 2012.

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Like every story of success, this one is dotted with failures and hardships all through his career which he proactively rose above. “If I have achieved 50 things, I must have failed in 200 things. I failed at CAT, GMAT, and pretty much every Math exam. I got rejected from a lot of companies when I was applying for a job after my graduation. I started by own social consulting firm, one year after college and had to close it down in 3 months. All my savings had gone into starting this firm I lost all the money. More than the money, I wasted a lot of time on it. It was a horrible mistake and I was super embarrassed.”

The story of his determination goes beyond just the obstacles though, and it is very motivating to see his high spirits and indomitable will that make him ready to break barriers and succeed.

“I do not want to learn from others’ mistakes; I would rather make my own. Failure can really decide what kind of person are you and how do you deal with various situations in life. The important thing is to always move past them and take them in your stride. It is okay to fail.”