You can’t decide what your passion is: Atul Takle on experimenting his way to his dream life.
After graduating with a B. Com degree from Sydenham college in Mumbai, Atul Takle knew that the MBA or CA route that most of his peers were going for wasn’t for him. With little idea about what he wanted to do with his life, he made the most mind-boggling choice ever – study German. From landing up to work in East Germany, to road-tripping across Europe in a tiny second-hand car, from being clueless about what to do with his life to landing up in his dream job by accident, Atul tells Bow & Square how he experimented his way to the life of his dreams.
Having spent over three decades working in some of India’s most iconic companies and helping build them into what they are today, at 62 Atul is finally the master of his own time. He’s more excited than ever at what the future holds and the ways he’s going to make a difference. All the while enjoying the good life and indulging in his hobbies of writing, cooking and being a Formula 1 super fan.
I’ve always been a bit of a rolling stone. I passed out of Scindia School in Gwalior and did my B. Com from Sydenham college Mumbai. Most of my other friends were doing MBA or CA. I opted for studying German. I got a job working as an interpreter in then East Germany. After working there for a year and a half, I bought a second-hand car and road tripped large parts of Eastern Europe and Scandinavia before coming back to India.
After returning to India, I started job-hunting, with little idea about what I was looking for. At an interview for Philips, the general manager of sales asked me, “What do you want to do with your life?” I told him, “To be honest, I have no idea. But I know it’s not this job.” Instead of throwing me out of his office, he introduced me to his elder brother who was the director of an advertising agency called Lintas. And thus began my lifelong love affair with the world of advertising, marketing and communications – the perfect industry for someone who loves to people watch as much as I do. A valuable lesson I’ve learnt in life is one’s passion is constantly evolving. You don’t decide what your passion is and then go follow it. You find out what it is by experimenting in work and in life. And it will change as you grow older and value different things.
Atul with his colleague and a client from Godrej
I would have stayed in advertising forever except for the fact that I’m a person who likes to enjoy the good life and have a good time in the evenings. I will not work 24/7 and advertising makes you do that often. So, I pivoted to corporate communications and worked with Indian Express, RPG Enterprises, Tata Consultancy Services, Accenture, Future Group and Ad Factors. Working with visionary leaders that transformed these then-nascent companies into the big names that they are today has been a high point of my life.
I turned 60 in 2020. 31st March 2020 was officially my last working day. After turning in my papers, I realised now was the time to do more of what I wanted, not less. I’d been helping my alma mater, the Scindia School, out in my free time with marketing expertise. Now I decided to scale up my activities with them. I also work with clients in areas I am passionate about – clean energy, regional media, corporate communications and more. I live 15 days a month in Mumbai and 15 days in Gwalior where the Scindia school is. I am a visiting faculty at an international school located in London. I write a column about my professional journey titled Postscript in the Reputation Today magazine. I am a Formula 1 racing fan and have passed on that love to my son as well, who’s an F1 racing journalist and travels to 17 countries to cover the sport.
Atul with his wife in Santorini, Greece
I feel life has just begun. Every day is a new day and I am excited to face it because I’ve never been my own master before. I am able to follow my passion, do whatever I want from wherever I want. No one’s going to ask me any questions. These are the gifts of age and experience. It’s not about what the future holds. It’s about making sure that you live your life to the best of your ability every single day.