Fascinating Story of a Navy Commander turned CEO
Born in Lahore, this graduate Mechanical Engineer from MBM Class of 1968 wanted to be a professional cricket commentator. He was fascinated by Urdu language, and enjoyed listening to Mirza Ghalib in his childhood days. He was the captain of the college Table Tennis team and the editor of the college magazine. He also won the best actor award in a play during his college days. He also donned a varied number of hats in his career spanning over five decades- a Navy officer, Chief Engineer of an Air Station, Commander & Deputy Director at Naval Headquarters. Towards the latter part of his career, he joined the corporate world as CEO of a paging company, and then also worked as a corporate soft skill trainer. This is the career synopsis of the versatile and extremely talented Cdr. Vijay Kumar Bhatia.
Early Life, Schooling
Cdr Vijay was born on December 15th, 1945 in Lahore (now in Pakistan). His parents migrated to Bharatpur (Rajasthan) during the partition year, where his father started a business as an electrical contractor and retailer, and soon became very well established and well known.
Vijay, the eldest of three brothers, did his schooling in a Gurukul-kind of school. He was academically very bright from his school days and was passionate about learning new languages. “My grandfather was an Urdu scholar and he used to recite Mirza Ghalib for me, I remember those couplets even today. My father used to organize parties, attended by English speaking guests. Observing them, got me fascinated with the English language too. I wanted to be a cricket commentator or a newsreader,”, reminisces Vijay.
After completing his schooling in Bharatpur, Vijay was advised by his father to pursue Engineering from the prestigious MBM Engineering College. Since he secured excellent grades in Higher Secondary exams, he got admission to the Mechanical branch and completed his graduation in 1968. “The war with China in 1965, had a major impact on my life. I thought of doing something for my country & decided to attend a campus interview towards selection in the Armed Forces. I got commissioned as an Officer in the Engineering Branch of the India Navy, straight after my final year”, says Vijay with a tinge of pride in his eyes.
Vijay further opted for a career in Naval Aviation. When he was Lieutenant commander, he pursued post-graduation in Aeronautical Engineering from Defense Services Staff College, Wellington, Tamilnadu, the most prestigious mid-career institute in the Armed Forces. Defense Service Staff College imparts advanced professional courses to aspiring staff officers of Army, Navy, and Air Force, to prepare them for higher responsibilities.
Journey of a Fauji – From Commander to Corporate Trainer:
The professional life of Cdr Bhatia has been full of diversity. He started his career as Naval Aviation Engineer with squadrons, took part in the 1971 hostilities with Pakistan while serving onboard INS Vikrant, and was awarded Commendation from CNS. After promotion to the rank of Commander, he managed the Naval Aviation inventory as a Deputy Director in Naval Headquarters. He was the Chief Engineer of an Air Station and eventually was appointed Project Manager for a UK helicopter project, prior to opting for premature retirement in 1988.
After the retirement from Army, Cdr Bhatia pursued Postgraduate courses in Operation Research, Public Relations & Advertising. He started his corporate journey being the Regional Manager in an electronics company. He was later appointed CEO of an international paging company, EASYCALL, from 1997-1999. However, as mobile phones got more popular, the pagers got out of business. This led Cdr Bhatia to leave his job, as well as the corporate sector, for good,
After leaving his job as a CEO, Cdr Bhatia re-ignited his passion for languages and communication. After getting trained as a Dale Carnegie trainer, Cdr Bhatia helped impart soft skill training to employees at several large companies, including Ashok Leyland, AXA Tech, Mindtree, UB, Sasken, SAP, and many more. He employed his on-field experience in the corporate and defense sectors, towards conducting training in behavioral, leadership, and decision-making skills.
Acting, Writing, Playing and many more…
Cdr. Bhatia believes in being fit, giving immense importance to physical health. He actively took part in sports activities such as Cricket and Table Tennis. He was fond of reading English novels and his penchant for writing led him to launch MBM’s college news magazine – The Beacon Rays. He was the founder-editor of the prestigious magazine. He has also adjudged the best actor in a play in 1967.
Memories of MBM Engineering College
“Professor Jagdish Chandra of Civil Engineering had a great influence in the development of my personality, he coached me in English writing and got me appointed as Editor of The Beacon Rays. I also recall Shashi Kant Sharma, fondly known as Panditji, who used to draw cartoons for the magazine. Shashi went on to become a top-flight engineer in the USA”, remembers Cdr Bhatia.
The decade of the sixties was a golden period for MBM Engineering College. The dedication and discipline of academic stalwarts, such as Dr. M. L. Mathur, Prof. F. S. Mehta, Prof. B. C. Punmia, Prof. S. K. Kulsheshtra, was legendry. They used to motivate students to excel in their lives. “Our hostels were well managed and it was indeed a great pleasure to stay and study in this fabulous atmosphere. All teachers were experienced and quite expert in their respective domains. They took keen interest in imparting knowledge to students. The labs and workshops were fully equipped and functional (a rare sights these days). Cultural and sports activities were encouraged”, quips Cdr. Bhatia
Jodhpur was not a very developed city at that time. There were only a few places for recreational activities. “Chandu’s tea shop was a popular meeting point for students. We used to have long discussions with friends over a cup of tea. Charbhuja Talkies was another destination where watching the movies of Dara Singh was very popular. We were five friends – myself, Shashi, Sudhir Jain, Abdul Majid, and Shyam Chauhan – and we were almost inseparable”, Cdr. Bhatia recalls.
Message to Youngsters:
There is so much to learn from the life of Cdr Bhatia. Even at the age of seventy six, he is quite active and energetic. “I would ask youngsters to have an objective in life. Without an objective, one is direction-less. You must enjoy whatever you do, because if you enjoy whatever you do, you will do it better, and that will lead to excellence. The joy of achieving what you aimed for, gives a tremendous high; nothing can match it”, Cdr Bhatia says philosophically.
Giving Back to Alma Mater:
Cdr. Vijay Kumar Bhatia signs off with this beautiful offering to the Alma Matar – “I would be delighted to interact with students on soft skills and help them develop skills to do better in their interviews and subsequent assignments.”
Our salute to this amazing personality and we wish Cdr Bhatia a happy, healthy, and blissful life.
About Author :
Avinash Mathur is a Management Consultant. He is from 1994 Mining batch. He also holds an MBA from MDI Gurugram, as well as a Certificate in Contract Law from Harvard Law School. Most recently, as Senior VP of Product & Innovation, he was instrumental in creating Reliance Jio’s launch proposition. He has also been CMO of Vodafone Business, and has worked in senior roles with MNCs across South Asia, Middle East, Europe, & North America.