It was in the year 1984 when I was 19 years old. I had suicidal thoughts for the first time.
I felt quite useless and felt there is no purpose in my life that I could pursue wholeheartedly. I did not know what the problem with my mind was. There was no knowledge or awareness of availability of psychiatrists or psychotherapists then. I struggled with these troubling thoughts, but I was self-motivated and positive minded right from the start. So, I could manage somehow. But I used to get into fights with my siblings at home and others I came across. I did not know that I was temperamental or suffering from mania. I would pick up a fight for no reason and would get angry often.
The years 1986 to 1989 were explosive and I was confused about what I want to do with my life. I had a MBA degree in my hand, but I was confused. I took up a job as product executive with a pharma company, but I picked up an argument with the director and quit the job. (Then, I did not know that this would be a regular feature of picking up fights with my seniors at various jobs I held.) I went to United States to pursue a doctorate in marketing but I over-reacted at the academic imbroglio over there due to my application file not forwarded to doctoral department. I got angry at the situation but convinced them to enrol me into MBA electives and doctoral course. I did not get scholarship in the next semester necessitating me to return to India. This situation was traumatic and led to minor depression and disillusionment.
I took up my first job in sales with a franchising company after a break of 2 years since my MBA degree. I succeeded very well, travelling 20 days in a month, visiting 29 districts in Maharashtra and all the districts in Goa state over a period of three years. I became part of the inner circle of the company management. This motivated me to set up from the scratch, a franchised outlet in Nanded to sell fax, telex and computer word processing services way back in the year 1991 when technology was neither known nor accepted in rural areas. It was very tough selling these services during these times. This was one of the milestone achievements for a person who had decided to conquer his troubled mind.
Between the years 1991 to 1995, I sold photocopiers in international market of middle east countries (Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia and Muscat in Sultanate of Oman). I had never sold photocopiers earlier. I learned from the scratch about the photocopiers and competed with 12 international brands to sell my brand of photocopier. I recall, I cried in the office, when I could not sell in the first two months. Eventually, I sold 44 photocopiers in a span of 5 years. There were times when I felt like quitting the situation and I would splash water over my face to tide over mood swings. I was not aware of mood stabilisers back then.
When you work abroad, companies in India were not so welcoming in offering jobs fearing I may go abroad again. When I returned to India from the Middle East to set up my family after my marriage, I had a tough time getting a job in Mumbai. I was married and we were going to be parents soon and I was jobless. Again, I got angry at myself and others around me. When you have a troubled mind, you do not know how to manage your own self and situations around you.
I set up the National Panasonic Key telephone systems divisional sales from the scratch for the leading distributor in Mumbai. Did exceedingly well, leading a team of six executives and selling 18 key telephone systems per month, over three years, that was acknowledged by the parent company. This motivated me to join a principal company and not a distributor any more. I set up from the scratch, the Hewlett Packard Printer consumables business in the year 1998 for distributor Kores India Limited. Within a span of 18 months, I garnered a market share of 24% while competing with established distributors such as Tech Pacific and Redington. This was another milestone achievement while battling bipolar disorder. I was picked up by Epson India Limited to develop their channel in Mumbai and start up their channel sales in the four states, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Goa in the western region. Again, my team topped sales all over India contributing 40% of annual sales turnover each month.
In the year 2006, I ventured into business in Johannesburg in South Africa, to sell plasticware products for home use. I set up the channel in the Northern parts of South Africa from the scratch.
In the year 2008, I joined the Dubai based Centena group company, to sell Zebra smart card printers and Suprema biometric products in Chennai as a start up company. Coined the channel strategy, signed distributorship with Suprema and recruited the marketing force after hunting for office premises.
Currently, I am doing my own consultancy business since June 2008, offering start up consultancy services to SME segment and new divisions/ profit centers of established corporations. In addition, as a free-lance recruiter and trainer, I have a satisfied list of clienteles for the past 13 years or more.
Basically, I want to advice and counsel all those who are suffering from mental illness such as bipolar disorder to not to give up their efforts. Life is a continuous struggle, and one should engage his other strengths much more, if he is lacking in one attribute. Today, there are better and more facilitators to aid you in your recovery from mental illness when compared to past. There are free counselling groups, more awareness, mental health professionals and the right medication. Make the maximum use of these facilities and equip yourself to be capable mentally as well as emotionally to achieve your life goals.
And my request to all prospective employers is to encourage those who are trying to overcome their mental illnesses to reach their individual potential.