Given the chance, he would love to teach. But, as of now, Nandlal Bhatkar, chief executive officer of Pyxis Systems, has to be content with providing customised solutions for his clients’ derivatives business needs. That’s high-tech stuff for a man with humble origins.
Bhatkar was born into a family of farmers in Gujarat at a time when farming was barely remunerative. In search of a better life, his family shifted base to Mumbai, where his father worked as a machine operator. “The austerity of our life made me realise that education was the only weapon to fight poverty,” says Bhatkar. “So my siblings and I studied hard throughout our academic career to make a mark. Today, all four of us are well placed.”
Bhatkar did his schooling from S.K. Somaiya Vinay Mandir, in Mumbai. He then went on to do his bachelors in chemical engineering from Bombay University. Armed with a degree, he began working as a trainee engineer in the R&D section of Hindustan Dorr Oliver, Mumbai. “There I worked on the design of some new reactors including bio-reactors for effluent treatment. The unit had a great amount of intellectual energy,” he says.
Close interaction with sales representatives and managers made him learn about the differences between an academician and a businessperson. This brought in a completely different perspective. The definition of problems got modified to real-life situations.
“These interactions pushed me to do further studies in business management from IIM Ahmedabad. My practical approach to life is to a large extent a result of those interactions,” he explains. But he quickly chips in: “However, I must admit that as a student I did not have any specific thing on my mind, except for the fact that I wanted to do something really challenging.”
Once done with management studies, Bhatkar worked for Hindustan Thompson Associates. “I met exciting and eccentric people there. I learnt a lot about handling people with eccentricities,” he says.
A few years later he moved on to ANZ Grindlays Bank in Mumbai and, later, American Express Bank both in Mumbai and Singapore. “Working in Singapore was very different and it definitely brought in a new perspective to professionalism,” says Bhatkar.
For him success has a totally different connotation. “I always tried to deliver more than what was expected and often completed assignments much before the deadline. To me that is success,” he reveals.
He believes that we Indians are good systems people but are not good at conceptualising and marketing software products. “Young engineers come with high levels of enthusiasm. However, most of them lack soft skills. I feel training schools or colleges need to focus on soft skills as well as hard skills,” he says.
So does he have any regrets despite the success he has achieved? Prompt comes the reply. “School and college life was more focussed on attaining goals than having fun. I wish I had developed some more interests and not gone after academics alone, especially during my college days.” But then you never get things for free.
When free, Bhatkar loves to star gaze. He even has an expensive travel telescope to help him study the night sky. “Star gazing is an expensive hobby. But because I love studying celestial bodies, the cost factor doesn’t deter me,” he says. When not star gazing one may catch him reading a novel or listening to music. “I love music. In fact, I am creating some remix music which I might release as an album some day,” he says with a laugh.
On being asked about his future plans, he says: “Apart from making Pyxis a billion dollar company, I guess I want to start an institute where students are taught real derivatives-related skills. I would also like to make a film and (chasing real stars not filmstars) spot a comet.”
So, what would he have been had he not become the CEO of Pyxis?
“I think I would have been teaching or studying physics and astronomy,” he says with a smile. That perhaps explains the name he has given his company; the original Pyxis is a southern constellation.
Based on a conversation with Shabina Akhtar in Calcutta