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Wisdom Stories Ep.45: Soumitra Bhattacharya

Image of Soumitra Bhattacharya

Cultural expectations surrounding the elderly are being challenged today, and with good reason!

While it was the norm to slow down and retreat into a quieter life post-retirement, more men and women are finding purpose and joy in doing the opposite.

WisdomCircle honours such men and women by shining light on their journey through an inspiring series called “Wisdom Stories”. These people have successfully smashed stereotypes, and their stories remind us that life should be lived to the fullest, no matter what age or stage.

My journey started while I was doing my B.Com when a chance meeting with someone inspired me to see her as my role model. She was doing her Chartered Accountancy. The Chartered Accountancy curriculum inspired me to join this professional journey. I never regretted that decision and enjoyed it from day one, especially my articleship stint with Price Waterhouse, where I was exposed to audits in varied companies in different parts of India, and met a vast variety of firms and people.

We interviewed Soumitra Bhattacharya, one of the honourees of 58 Over 58, a collaborative endeavour spearheaded by WisdomCircle and INK. The mission is to spotlight the narratives of 58 remarkable individuals annually, individuals who are meaningfully engaged in their post-retirement phase.

Image of Soumitra Bhattacharya

What was a key moment that defined your current path?

I refer to our Not for Profit Company IFQM (Indian Foundation for Quality Management). There was no one key moment, but a meeting with Captains of Industry before I retired from Bosch India, seeded the thought. They wanted to do something for the nation. This led to the genesis of IFQM. I felt that this was an appropriate moment for such a movement in India, where good people rallied around a national cause and not for their personal gains.

 How would you define your purpose? And why did you choose it?

IFQM is for the national cause. It is an essential topic and will propel India to become “Vikshit Bharat” through collaboration with multiple stakeholders. It took Germany and Japan about 30 years, and it will take us 20 years, but we needed to start.

What is your flex today? How is it different from a decade or two ago?

In my view, I have had the same flex. I have always wanted to work on what I liked and the key was to learn and unlearn to stay relevant. I succeeded in this endeavour (of staying relevant) and realised that there were always enough and more organisations wanting to work with me because of that. It continues to be the case today – a great feeling is having the freedom to do what you want and not work for a living.

What advice would you give your younger self?

It’s been a wonderful life with lots of learning and unlearning. The best version of us comes out when we hit our lows and not our highs. I have learnt to accept the lows and come out stronger. I started sharing my vulnerabilities later in life – I would do that much earlier!

Is there anyone you look up to, to help chart your post-retirement journey?

My father has been a role model for me. He gave up on all material company perks well before his retirement and taught me to let go. I view retirement as an opportunity to “re tyre”. With support from my wife and friends, it has been a wonderful and fulfilling transition, and yes, well planned.

What would your advice be to the WisGen (Wisdom Generation)?

Counselling, not taking oneself too seriously, doing what we love and generally letting go. Another important aspect is planning – what gets measured gets done. I started my planning 5 years before my retirement!

Why is leaving a legacy important for you? What would you like yours to be?

For me, it wasn’t about legacy but about doing the right thing without having any expectations from anyone or craving for recognition or validation. I did my job to the best of my abilities and always believed that the individual is dispensable, not the institution and therefore tried to make the institution stronger in every way.

3 words that describe your life right now.

Enjoy what I am doing; Living life to the fullest (including completion of an ever-changing bucket list!) and most importantly, giving back to the less privileged – something I see my wife doing every day through her NGO Ekakanya.

Read more Wisdom Stories on WisdomCircle

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