Business Today

Highway to the growth zone

Pawan Goenka returned to India to rewrite the rules of auto engineering.

Kushan Mitra        Print Edition: Jan 9, 2011

In 1975, after finishing his undergraduate engineering degree at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, Pawan Goenka sat for a job interview with a 'large Indian conglomerate' and was shocked when he did not get a job offer. When he inquired why, he was told: "People with your marks always go abroad and we have to call the highest ranking students to the interview as well." And that is exactly what came to pass, later that year. Goenka and a few of his classmates from IIT found themselves at Cornell University in New York.

It was the beginning of an 18-year stint in the United States where Goenka did everything that most émigrés did those days: settle down, get married and start a family. But after some time, Goenka and his wife started to discuss whether they wanted to raise their young family in the US. It was a six-year-long process, beginning in 1987. "We had to move when we did because my daughter, who was eight when we moved, would have been too old and too integrated into American life had we moved any later."

Pawan Goenka
President of Automotive & Farm Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra

Previous employer General Motors

Why I came back It was a long process. My wife and I started the process in 1987 before finally returning in 1993

If I was not in India Why wouldn't I be here?

High point in India Seeing Mahindra Scorpio on the road every single day

Low point in India None

But Goenka did make one promise to his daughter - that if in 18 months she did not like life in Mumbai, the Goenka family would pack up and move back to the US. Thankfully for everybody who drives a Mahindra Scorpio, she loved life in India. "I joined the Mahindras not knowing that one day I would develop a car. A car that told the world that India could develop and make a good, reliable vehicle. I joined because I bought into Anand (Mahindra)'s vision which he personally sold me."

Today, Goenka does no engineering work, but he enjoys the managerial role that he has. "I think the three stages of my career have all been different and all thoroughly enjoyable." His daughter and son did go back to the US to study, but he proudly says that his daughter is coming back soon and his son will return when he finishes his studies.

"Many of my friends from IIT stayed on, and they had their reasons, but I think coming back to India was one of the best decisions I have ever taken," says Goenka.

He not only became the father of the Scorpio but played a role in reinventing automotive engineering here. Today, he states that more and more young Indian engineers are choosing auto engineering as a career path and seeing tangible results of their work on the roads "is one of the best kicks you can get".

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