Meet the man who went from the brink of suicide to inspiring young adults with his never-give-up attitude
At 16, Sunil Robert Vuppula was on the verge of suicide. The disheartened youngster sat down in the middle of a railway track not far from his house in Hyderabad. He was thinking about his life and its worth when a train began chugging towards him. But then, a bunch of students passing by, pulled the teenager aside and got him off the track. That was the defining moment when Sunil decided to fight back and make a difference to the people around him.
Sunil, now 50, has made it his life’s mission to spread hope and cheer among the dejected and depressed.
American writer Dale Carnegie once said, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
And, Sunil definitely epitomises this. From dealing with abject poverty and depression during childhood to putting a grave accident behind him and finally becoming a prolific writer, motivational speaker, marathoner, and an advocate of social change, his journey exemplifies the power of the human mind.
Now in his 25th year as a global executive, he holds the position of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Digitate, an IT company in California, US. But despite his work commitments, he has never stopped spreading the message of hope and faith through his community engagement services.
“I have learnt a lot through the adversities I faced in life. My goal has been and will always be to make my story relevant and in turn infuse a great deal of positivity in young minds,” Sunil Robert Vuppula tells YourStory.
Fighting the odds
Sunil was only 12 years old when his father lost a high-paying job. Most of his assets had to be sold off to clear debts, and the family was struggling to survive. As the eldest of three siblings, he eventually took over the responsibility of sustaining the household.
While his friends focused on academics and play, Sunil worked as a door-to-door salesperson in Eureka Forbes and simultaneously pursued his education.
“I did not want to stop studying. I was aware of the importance and benefits of learning. So, I appeared for the BR Ambedkar Open University Exam and enrolled myself for a polytechnic diploma. Apart from paying for my course, I was contributing money to fund the education of my siblings. It was a tough time making ends meet,” he recalls.
But Sunil persisted and went on to complete up an MBA course, followed by an MA in journalism from Osmania University. He then had the opportunity to work with a slew of renowned companies such as Acer, Oracle, and TCS across India, Europe, and North America.
All was well until he went with an accident when he was in his late twenties. Sunil, who was riding a bike, gravely injured his right knee. The doctor said he would not be able to walk without support ever again, but Sunil persisted and over the next few years surprised doctors. Not only did he walk without support; he took to running marathons.
“The sedentary environment of my corporate job and lack of physical activity after the accident had resulted in my becoming obese, warning me that I was at risk of developing high blood pressure,” he recalls.
Sunil says that N Chandrasekaran, the then CEO of TCS, inspired him to turn things around.
“During one of his talks, he stressed on how a leader would not be able to take care of his organisation unless he takes care of his own body. That was when I decided to hit the gym and start running marathons,” Sunil says.
Years later, he has completed many marathons, including the Virgin Money London Marathon, Brooklyn marathon, and the NYC half marathon. He stands tall as a role model to innumerable young adults when it comes to fitness.
Impacting the lives of thousands
Keen to help people in despair fight back against adversities, he joined international public speaking club Toastmasters. Soon, he was delivering motivational talks at various schools and colleges in India and US. This way, he inspired youngsters with his story and motivated them to live up to their potential.
As an active teacher and mentor at Teendemy, Sunil is actively involved in shaping the future of thousands of teenagers by imparting life skills.
He also delivered a TEDx talk in Wilmington, Delaware, in 2018 where he highlighted the importance of surmounting adversities instead of surrendering to them.
Sunil also took to writing, and launched his first book, I Will Survive, in 2010. Endorsed by global leaders like Ratan Tata and Joseph Kennedy II, the book details out Sunil’s experiences, anecdotes, and stories. Readers from across the world connected with his thoughts and his book was soon a bestseller.
His second book, Bound to Rise, is written for young individuals keen to enter today’s highly competitive corporate landscape. From real-life scenarios to advice on dealing with challenges at work, Sunil has covered it all.
Since 2016, he has also been organising transformational programmes for three hours every week for over 300 prisoners at the East Jersey Prison in New Jersey as part of a US Justice Department initiative to “enable them to stay on the right path after release”.
He says his most challenging task was addressing prisoners at the East Jersey Prison.
“Delivering speeches, interacting with prisoners, and motivating them with positive thoughts was not easy. It was both mentally taxing and physically unnerving. However, I derived great satisfaction after I realised that I was contributing to making their lives better, in whatever little way I could,” he says.
Sunil, who was recently selected by iCONGO for the Rex Karmaveer Global Fellowship award for his effort to inspire young adults in India and abroad, continues on his mission: inspiring and motivating in a world that is often depressing.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)