Zoeb Adenwala, Chief of IT at Pidilite, talks to Rishiraj
Verma about his life and the things he has learned.
He is at his animated best while describing life at
a hostel during his college days.
office where an IT plan has been freshly written on the soft-board, files and
books related to the upcoming work are neatly kept, a tiny laptops keypad
is constantly being typed on, and a music system is kept ready for some free
time is where Zoeb Adenwala works.
He is an ordinary man who has his beliefs and ambitions set right. He is a man
youll be pleased to meet because of his simplicityand its
not just that!
1970 was when he finished his secondary schooling from Father Agnels Technical
School, Bandra, Mumbai. After this he took up the two-year science course (junior
college) at Parla College and passed out in 1972. From there, Adenwala went
on to study electronics and telecom engineering in Pune, and finished the course
Studying was not yet over for him. He was so interested in studying engineering
further that he pursued his MTech in computer science and ngineering from the
acclaimed IIT-Kharagpur and graduated in 1978.
Adenwala began his career with software major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
His first job was that of a trainee, which happened through a campus placement.
The salary was Rs 1,000. Sounds funny now, but back then it was my first
job, says Adenwala as he takes the proverbial walk down memory lane.
People say that dedication, like mastery, comes only after years of working.
With Adenwala, the dedication part seems to be an exception. At his first company
he worked for almost a decade. In my nine and half years at TCS I moved
at least seven grades up the ladder, says the man as he explains that
the trainee who joined in 1978 left the company when he had become the Resident
He explains that after the stint with the software world he wanted to move to
industry. When youre with a software firm its a different
you write and design software, but come to industry and you get the
satisfaction of seeing your work in action. SKF Bearings, an engineering
firm, was his next stop. The first project there was implementing an internal
ERP system, and it was successful, says a satisfied Adenwala.
After 13 years at SKF he decided that he wanted to look again at the software
world and the state of the BPO industry, so he joined Electronic Data Systems
(EDS) in 2001 and was happy with the rate at which the outsourcing market was
Two and half years later he came back to industry and has been working with
Pidilite since then. I have learned a lot from EDS and am happy about
the fact that I have been able to use the outsourcing knowledge gained there
|Place of birth
||His parents have passed away. His
wife works with the Reserve Bank of India, and their son is in the
final year of Engineering IT at Drexel University, USA. Adenwala's
daughter is studying in the first year of Engineering at Thadomal
Shahani Engineering College, Mumbai.
||He is interested in all kinds of
sports, even if his participation is limited to just watching them.
With the kind of experience that he has, a man ought to have his list of achievements
jotted down. On the contrary, Adenwala presents a humble self and takes time
A convergence job that I completed at TCS would probably be my biggest
professional achievement. He says that this implementation gave the company
more business in the US, and, according to him, more business abroad was a big
thing back then.
Talk about his personal achievements and he connects them to work as well. He
says that all the awards he has received in his profession are personal achievements
for him. He remembers the first complete outsourcing project at Pidilite and
says, It was a win-win situation for the company and its employees. Such
a thing doesnt happen too often.
The man next door
Moving out of the work place, Adenwala doesnt seem the kind of person
who boasts about his awards at home. Im a regular, discipline-loving
person when Im not at work. That doesnt mean he is boring.
It just means that he follows golden rules like early to bed and early
to rise. Of course, once in a while, there are late nights,
he adds quickly.
One thing that he believes in strongly is the need to exercise daily. He says
that he likes to practice a bit of yoga every morning. In the evenings,
I make sure its either a walk or a swim. He says that he does these
things to make sure that his body doesnt go stiff because of constantly
sitting in his office chair.
He remembers his school days fondly and says that he loved sports. I was
on the school team for cricket and football. He adds that he also played
for the TCS cricket team. He doesnt seem to find the time to play nowadays,
but watches all sorts of sports. My children are also into sports. My
daughter plays football, he smiles.
Retirement plans: Im not looking to retire at least for
five to seven years. And even after that Id like to start something
small that I can work from home on.
- Favourite music: Im a sucker for
ghazals and old Hindi songs. Pankaj Udhas and Jagjit Singh are my favourite
- Favourite film: My all-time-favourite
is Sholay. It used to play near the hostel, so I dont know how
many times Ive watched it. Currently Ive become a major
fan of both the Munnabhai films. I like the concept of Gandhigiri.
- Favourite book and author: In college
I used to read a lot of Arthur Hailey. Recently Ive read The World
is Flat and The Monk who sold his Ferrari.
- Favourite colour: Blue
- Wish the most in life: I wish for some
- Miss the most in life: Nothing. I think
Im content with what God has given me. And I think everyone should
- Love about self: My discipline and my
constant hunger for perfection.
- Hate about self: I can get very rigid
sometimes because of the perfection that I crave for. I expect others
to be as ambitious as me.
- Idea of a vacation: I think the pre-requisites
for a good vacation are the cellphone, PDA and laptop being switched
off. Then Id like to go to a nice hill-station with a few good
books and read them while Im surrounded by greenery. Id
also like to carry some good music.
- Favourite spot in
India: Ooty and other hill-stations. I like
Shimla, Belgaum and Mahabaleshwar.
- Self-rating as CIO: I think I would rate
myself at eight. This is because I think Ive learned a good deal
about my work, but not enough to rate myself above that.
- Message to fellow IT heads: The biggest
mistake many IT heads make is to think of themselves as technologists
alone. Theyve got to understand that they play an equally important
part in the businessthey should not forget that.
There are always those moments in life that make us change the way we think
about life as a whole or some parts of it. Adenwala remembers such moments in
It has to be my years in the hostel. They gave me a lot of confidence
and independence. He says that his entire hostel life was a lesson in
taking care of himself and not depending on others. According to him, before
his hostel years, he would simply expect his parents to do things for him, but
then he had to learn to do them himself at the hostel.
There are a few friends from my hostel years with whom I am still in touch,
he says as he talks about how he misses those years of miserly living.
He smiles as he says that the little things that he achieved there were of utmost
importance. I won the Mess Secretary election twice. It may sound trivial,
but it was a post of great power.
According to him, his most fun-times were the beginning of new academic years
when new students were introduced to seniors. Says he, There
was a point when Id go home for a vacation and feel hostel-sick.
And then he drops this gem: Throughout my hostel life I survived with
two pairs of jeans.
Adenwala thinks that many things have changed since his student days. In those
days, his major way of communicating with his family was through letters because
the only telephone he had access to was quite far away. Now my son is
studying in the US and just cant do without a cellphone. Its amazing
how technology has changed things.
He cant imagine what will happen to him if he has no cellphone today.
Lifestyles have changed, and I think we owe a lot to technology.
An emotional Adenwala recalls, I lost my father at a very young age, and
after that there werent many people whom I have looked up to. He
adds however that his brother-in-law was a great supporting pillar throughout
his student life by helping him out, not just financially but also emotionally.
He said to me that if I wanted to do the M Tech I could, and that he would
take care of the necessities.
School of thought
I believe in being good to everyone, he says as he explains that
you never know when you will need help from another person. He also believes
in spending time on social work as it is a satisfying thing to do. Nothing
is impossible if you have the money and the resources, is his parting