In a recent announcement, Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha (Youth wing of BJP, Andhra Pradesh) has appointed a 30 yr old, Ex-City Banker as their State Secretary. And given the fact that Rakesh Anugula joined the party just few months ago, it was a big responsibility bestowed upon him. But what were those qualities, which made this young graduate from BITS Pilani and a social entrepreneur climb such heights at this young age? In between his busy schedule of meetings and planning for the upcoming elections in 2014, Rakesh could take out some time to share his journey from being a corporate to a social entrepreneur to a politician now.
The journey – How did it all happen?
Born in a remote village near Warangal (Andhra Pradesh), Rakesh spent most of his childhood struggling with basic amenities of life. “I always believed that we can have a good society with good politics. I wanted to become a politician right from my childhood to serve the people.” he mentioned. All went right and Rakesh got into BITS Pilani in year 2002. He added “BITS gave me an opportunity to test and develop my skills. I learnt the art of public speaking and how to with teams.” He was given Karthikeyan Memorial award for being the best outgoing student of the institution.
It was year 2005 when Rakesh took a plunge in social entrepreneurship and started NIRMAAN with the vision to provide education & employment to the underprivileged. Further he shared, “We traveled extensively to understand the expectations of the people in different regions across India. I got the hold of grassroots by these interactions. I understood that people are same everywhere, it’s only kind of problems which are different and all of them were arising from the same cause, inefficient political leader(s)/system. Since then I’ve been working in Warangal and nearly rural areas where I have started a youth organization. During the past 3-4 yrs I have worked with political leaders of the region and finally after 7 years of corporate life, I have decided to pursue my passion”.
Three life changing experiences
Rakesh shared some of the incidents with us which redefined a lot of things for him in his life:
1. Childhood – “I used to leave my house at 10 AM for my school situated 12 kms away to be back by 7PM. There was no electricity in my village. People didn’t have faith in local leaders. I’d thought that I’ll become a politician and will restore the faith of people back in the system by serving to the people of my region.”
2. Being the General Secretary of BITS Pilani – “For my work, I got the recognition I’d never imagined of and I was motivated to do more for the larger crowd. Our Vice Chancellor even gave a farewell in his house when I was leaving BITS which I can never forget. We had a long discussion and I’ve been referring to those conversations with him to move ahead in life.”
3. Founder, NIRMAAN – “When an article was published about us in India Today, one 76 yr old person from Rohtak read that and traveled to meet us in the campus. He had to wait for 2 hours but he came and congratulated, he said ‘these are the kind of people I’ve been waiting for. I’ll offer you my property for free of cost to do a similar project in our area’. That has kept me going since then.”
Many youngsters think of becoming a politician but shun away. What made you take that leap?
Rakesh explained. “It was childhood dream for me which never really faded during my college life, corporate job & in entrepreneurial journey. I saw myself growing as a politician through all these phases. Specially my time with NIRMAAN, spent around meeting more people sealed the deal for me. Also, I believe that people should join politics with good intentions and in 21st century it is really important that people with good education & corporate background join. In the beginning my family opposed as they didn’t want me to come out of the well paid cushioned job at Zynga. But I knew that I have to take risk for returns and more risk means better chances of returns.”
What is the best way to enter politics?
Sincerity and passion are all you require to get into politics. Rakesh mentioned, “Don’t be at surface level, work at the ground level for many years to understand the nuances here. Have a vision about the area you want to focus on so that you can make relations accordingly. Before entering into politics, one should work at the ground level, create awareness and bring youth together to build his team (of 10 odd people), last part being extremely crucial. Then, you’re all set to take a call.”
Lessons from BITS Pilani
Rakesh was the General Secretary of the BITS Student Union for 2004-05 and regarded as one of the most successful student leader of all times. Besides his first leadership lesson learnt here, some important learnings were:
1.Follow your passion – It is imbibed in each BITSian right from the very first year to do what he/she is passionate about irrespective of the circumstances and not give up.
2. Stay Focussed – Once you’ve found your passion, focus all your efforts to that one thing else you’ll never be able to do justice to your capabilities.
3. Out of the box thinking– Every student is encouraged to come up with entrepreneurial & unique solutions to a problem. He/She is expected to bring something different to the table.
4. Values – A lot of emphasis is laid on the core values defining and driving a person. Humility, risk taking appetite, integrity and mutual respect top the list.
Qualities/characteristics of an able leader
a) Grassroots level understanding of problems.
b) Ability to articulate your ideas and proficient public speaking.
c) Ready to do anything for the people and not expect anything in return.
d) Be bold and take initiatives.
e) Think differently and be prepared with alternative solutions.
To what extent is it necessary to be a bit manipulative in politics?
Rakesh has a firm belief that you can face all opposition if your intentions are good. It just takes some time for people to accept that. In addition to it, you need to live with the fact that not everyone is black and white in this field.
What are your focus areas?
Rakesh want to take one step at a time and focus on the following issues:
1. Corruption: It is the root cause of trust deficit in politics. Politics is one of the most effective way to serve people and once practiced religiously the trust will start get building on its own. Also, the citizens should vote based on what a politician can do.
2. Good governance by using technology – Being from BITS Pilani, it is very important for me to put the experience in use to practice good governance & maintain transparency by the use of latest technology.
3. Youth issues – “As I’m a youth leader, I understand their potential. Hence, I want to put my efforts towards good education opportunities, increased industrial exposure, better employment avenues and career guidance.” mentioned Rakesh
Who is your Role Model ?
Rakesh has been an ardent follower of Swami Vivekananda and his ideology of being modern, universal & practical. He has read a lot of literature on Swami and even today in case of confusion he refers the same.
Two of the principles close to his heart are service & renunciation. He finds it inspiring that Vivekananda died at age of 39 and yet had achieved and taught so much.
Message for young leaders
“Gain expertise first and then only take a plunge. Do not take a back step afterwards, always remember that fortune favors the brave.” was all that Rakesh had to say to the young guns of the nation.
We wish him all the best for his political career.