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Open-Republic TV Achievers Awards: Stars and Strides

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THE AUTHOR JOE MORAN in First You Write a Sentence notes, ‘The word curious derives from the Latin cura, which also gives us cure and care. Curiosity is a cure for self-absorption, the cure being to take care about the world and lay down roots in it again.’ To engage in any work with focus and dedication is to dig personal roots into the soil of our earth; it is a way to achieve ‘absorbedness’. Moran adds, ‘And to be truly absorbed in anything is to be truly blessed.’

The Open-Republic TV Achievers Awards ceremony, held on January 28th ‘to celebrate achievers from every walk of life’ at the Taj PalaceHotel, Delhi, was a testament to the power of absorbedness and the importance of laying down roots. The jury chairmen of the awards were RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group Chairman Sanjiv Goenka and Republic TV Editor-in-Chief and Managing Director Arnab Goswami, and jury members included Principal Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Finance Sanjeev Sanyal, McKinsey India Managing Director Gautam Kumra, cricketer Gautam Gambhir and bestselling author Amish Tripathi.

The men and women who were honoured at these awards are those who care for the world by being fully committed to their work, whether it is in music, sports, cinema or business. They are absorbed in their respective fields because it is not the drudgery of a job, but the calling of a vocation that occupies them. It is only complete immersion in one’s work that can ensure personal fulfilment and public benefit. The award recipients are those who have achieved success, and by contributing to a larger cause, have made the country proud. They have forged new paths for themselves, told us new stories, and created possible futures for India.

“When you hear the word ‘disruptor’, people think that you come in and break stuff. But to be honest, at Jio, we focus on what can bring societal value. And that is our mission” - Akash Ambani Director Reliance Jio

Delivering the keynote address, Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Union minister who holds the Law and Justice and Electronics and Information Technology portfolios, championed this drive for change and betterment. “There are two ways of looking at India,” he said, “One, you can say the same thing that has been said over the last so many years, ‘Iss mulk mein kuchh nahin ho sakta (Nothing can happen in this country)’, and bore yourself and bore others. I think—with the greatest respect to all—they abound in Lutyens’ Delhi. The second is: there are problems, there are challenges, but you must have the commitment to overcome them because we are committed to the larger destiny of India... India must become a great power of the world. Not only economically, not only militarily, but most importantly, intellectually, spiritually and culturally.”

In a country like India, change comes in various shapes and sizes. It could be the improvement that can be wrought in a dozen schools in Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh; it can be a product that reconfigures how millions of Indians communicate on a daily basis; or it can be a fresh definition of popular cinema. The Open-Republic TV Achievers Awards celebrate those who have created change in big, small, and above all, meaningful ways.

“I only want to remind you that whatever I’ve achieved, either the completion of the Konkan Railway or the Delhi Metro, this is not the achievement of one particular individual. This is teamwork” - E Sreedharan Former Managing Director, Delhi Metro Rail Corp

Both large and significant has been the success of Reliance Jio, which won the Disruptor of the Year award, collected by the 28-year-old Akash Ambani, a director of the telecom company who has played a key role in its rapid expansion across the country. Goenka described Reliance Jio as a company “that has created history, and has reformatted, reinvented and rescaled telecommunication in India”.

Speaking of the importance of teamwork in his acceptance speech, Ambani said, “When you hear the word ‘disruptor’, people think that you come in and break stuff, at least in my mind they do that. But to be honest, at Jio, we focus on what can bring societal value. And that is our mission. Everything we do will always have the consumer in the front of it. As we go forward—we will be three in September this year—we hope that we can bring you more and more services and more and more opportunities… This award is actually dedicated to my father [Mukesh Ambani] because without his vision and motivation to our group, we would be nowhere today.” He also expressed his gratitude for “the hundred thousand employees of Jio who passionately work day in and day out to make our mission possible.” Akash Ambani revealed that the last time he checked, Jio had reached 285 million customers and was still growing.

“From a Hindustan Unilever perspective, I’ve always said that the root of our capital might be Anglo-Dutch, but our ethos is Indian, our heart beats for India ” - Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Unilever

Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), a large corporation which has been offering high- quality household, personal-care and food products at affordable prices for decades, won the Seasoned Business award for its sustained record of excellence. Upon receiving the award, HUL Chairman and Managing Director Sanjiv Mehta said, “As a country, we are a bit shy of applauding success and I think what [Open and Republic TV] have done today could act as a catalyst for people to raise their aspirations, kindle their ambitions. From a Hindustan Unilever perspective, I’ve always said that the root of our capital might be Anglo-Dutch, but our ethos is Indian, our heart beats for India, and it comes from a very simple philosophy: what is good for our country is good for HUL. So I would like to dedicate this to millions of our countrymen who have reposed trust, faith and confidence in our brands.”

“Whether it is media or organisations such as what we are building, companies are no longer being built just for the sake of profits. Or income. They’re being built for a mission” - Ritesh Agarwal, Founder Oyo Rooms

On the trust quotient, few can match the achievement of Oyo Rooms, which won in the New Age Business category, beating other online startups such as Swiggy, Zomato, Ola, BookMyShow, Byju’s, Paytm and PolicyBazaar. Its 25-year- old founder Ritesh Agarwal, who came to Delhi from Odisha on a train as a bright- eyed 19-year-old, has often spoken about how dreaming big is the most vital step to achieving big. He started Oyo in 2013. Today, it is said to be the world’s fastest- growing hotel chain, with accommodation available in over 230 cities of India. He said, “I do believe we will be one of the first Indian companies that will operate the world’s largest hotel company, significantly larger than Marriott, by 2023.” Hailed as a ‘young Turk’ for his entrepreneurial vigour and business acumen, Agarwal also spoke about a change he notices afoot in India. “Mission oriented- ness is an absolutely new thing I am seeing across India,” he said, “Whether it is media, or organisations such as what we are building, companies are no longer being built just for the sake of profits. Or income. They are being built for a mission.” The idea that led to Oyo was simply, “Why can’t low cost be good quality in hospitality?” as he put it.

“Without my family, there would be no Sunil Chhetri, there would be no goals, no trophies whatever” - Sunil Chhetri, footballer

Few people better embody such missionary zeal than Delhi’s ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan, who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award to a standing ovation. The other contenders for this award spanned Amitabh Bachchan to MS Swaminathan, but few would dispute Sreedharan’s victory. The 86-year-old civil engineer is best known for revitalising public transport in India and introducing urban commuters to the Metro. A picture of humility, Sreedharan said in his acceptance speech, “I only want to remind you that whatever I’ve achieved—either the completion of the Konkan Railway or the Delhi Metro, or for starting a metro revolution in the country as such—this is not the achievement of one particular individual, this is teamwork, and I very humbly receive this award on behalf of the team,” adding, “No doubt what I’ve been able to do is not merely teamwork, it is also divine grace.”

Greatness and glory cannot be achieved by individuals working in silos. The importance of teamwork and partnerships, the need for people to believe in a larger common good was reiterated by various winners.

“This award has given me a responsibility to do something again in upcoming competitions” - Mary Kom, boxer

Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri, who shared the Sports award with boxer Mary Kom, dedicated the trophy to his team and spoke with passion and eloquence about how his success is not that of an individual; rather, it should be attributed to an entire squad, both on and off the field; he’s the player he is because of those who rally around him, his coaches, his physicians, teammates and, of course, his family. He drew laughter and applause from the audience for his candid and heartfelt confessions. He revealed that his entire household works for the benefit of the player Sunil Chhetri. His parents, sister and wife all adapt their life to his needs: whether it is eating boiled broccoli every day, or not going out to party at night, or not listening to music when he practises. “Each and every day, they do exactly what is conducive to help me and my career,” Chhetri said, “I feel ashamed right now because here is a mother-of-three, Marydi , who does a wonderful job, and I am thinking, ‘What does this guy do, sleep, eat, play, and come back?’ That is all my life is. Each and everything is taken care of by these guys. My father still pays my electricity bills. I am ashamed to say this, but that is a fact. Everything in my life is taken care of by these wonderful people. Without them, there would be no Sunil Chhetri, there would be no goals, no trophies whatsoever.” Acknowledging their contribution, he asked the audience to applaud them as well.

“What we’ve been trying to do is synergise relations between the community and government schools” - Mala Srivastava, District Magistrate Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh

A SPECIAL MOMENT IN the ceremony was when sprinter Hima Das’ father came to collect the Young Achiever award on her behalf while she was away training in Turkey. Today, the ‘Dhing Express’ from Assam who holds the current national 400-metres record is a celebrity in her own right, but her father’s acceptance speech reminded everyone just how far she has travelled. Speaking with quiet emotion, he said, “I am a farmer from a small village. Hima from her childhood has played, she used to wander; |I never stopped her. I always encouraged her to go forward. I told her, ‘I’d be behind you.’ What Hima has done makes us all proud. She has got a gold medal for India [at the IAAF World U20 Championships]. Please give us your blessings so that she goes to the Olympics.” Ronjit Das’ evocative words and Hima’s own story are proof of how great distances can be covered with a steely will. A biopic awaits Hima because of her unusual trajectory and the strength of her conviction.

The awards also looked beyond business and sports to celebrate those in the fields of Arts. Hindustani classical musician Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan won in this category. His disciples include Shaan, Hariharan and Sonu Nigam. The frail Padma Vibhushan recipient and singer of ghazals from the Rampur Sahaswan Gharana had to be escorted onto the stage by his son. While handing over the prize to him, Ravi Shankar Prasad recounted his long association with the 87-year-old’s music. “Let me be nostalgic,” said the minister, “In my city of Patna, there used to be a lot of Durga Puja programmes. When I heard him for the first time, I was a student in school. From then on, I became his fan.”

Filmmakers often underestimate how discerning audiences are, and it’s a rare film that does not. One of 2018’s most widely acclaimed Hindi movies, Andhadhun was awarded in the Cinema category. Ajit Andhare, chief operating officer at Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, the studio that produced the winning film, reminded the gathering of how big risks can beget sweet rewards. “We are looking to actually find new ways to tell new stories to make this new-age cinema that doesn’t look backwards, but looks at new directions, new places, new stories, new inspirations,” he said, “And to find so much love for a quirky dark off-centre film, and for it to become the talk of the country when mainstream films are actually finding it a bit tough to find relevance, I think is a clear sign of changing India. It gives us confidence as makers and producers that new stories are here to stay.”

The Open-Republic TV Achievers Awards offer a glimpse of the potential of that new India.

(The Open-Republic TV Achievers Awards will be telecast on Republic TV on February 16th and 23rd at 8 pm, and on February 17th and 24th at 6 pm)