Sunil Robert Vuppula is a global executive with a career spanning 25 years across India, Europe and North America having worked in reputed companies like Eureka Forbes, Acer, iflex/Oracle and TCS. He started his career in the late ‘80s in Engineering Sales, and moved to Advertising and finally settled in Corporate Communications and has won global accolades for his ability to build brands.
His mission is to change the world through his communications skills. In addition to being a writer, he is also a motivational speaker and leadership coach. His debut work – a rags to riches, semi autibiographical story ‘I Will Survive’ launched in 2010 was a bestseller endorsed by global leaders like Ratan Tata and Joseph Kennedy II. His second book ‘Bound To Rise’ has just been launched in India in 2014 and has recommendations from leaders like Anand Mahindra, N Chandrasekaran and Dr. Bala Balachandran. He was recently selected by iCONGO for the Rex Karmaveer Global Fellowship award for his effort to inspire India’s youth.
Sunil currently lives with his wife Prafulla and sons Aman and Sahil in Edison, New Jersey.
Several people have influenced me in the course of my life. Let me speak about them.
In reverse chronological order (as this will give me time to refresh my memory too):
- US President Barack Obama – I consider him as an exceptional orator. I have been a student of public speaking for some years now and I have seldom found someone who can so brilliantly blend content and style for maximum impact. Right from his debut speech at the Democrat party convention, where he dazzled with his lucidity of approach and awareness of issues, he was destined for the top job.
- I am also keenly following the exploits of his speechwriter Jon Favreau. At 27 years, Favreau is one of the youngest Directors of Speechwriting the White House has ever had.
- Vikram Seth continues to be my favourite Indian writer. To me, he is the pioneer who opened the doors for Indian literature in English abroad. Since his first book, A Suitable Boy, many have followed him and carved a niché for Indian writers.
- I like the way Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize winning New York columnist and author, captures trends and harnesses the mass media to convey his ideas.
- Among older giants, PG Wodehouse tops my list of all time great writers followed closely by Graham Greene.
- My daily reading ranges from Jug Suraiya to Shobhaa De and I continue to marvel at the progress and impact made by Indian writers.
I have been working for the past two decades mostly in the field of technology and public relations.
I have been working in the technology marketing sector for the last 10 years. Prior to that, I was in the sales and advertising sector another ten years. I have had the privilege of serving lesser known companies like SPM Instruments, Scientific Instruments (SICO) and A&M Advertising as well as working with bigger names like Eureka Forbes, MAA Bozell, Acer and i-flex/Oracle. Currently, I am Head of Analyst and Public Relations in the marketing department of the Financial Solutions division at TCS (Tata Consultancy Services).
I flirted with Radio, television (Doordarshan) and also wrote for some newspapers. Briefly, I took a shot at entrepreneurship in Hyderabad but soon discovered that it called for a different level of commitment.
- I received the International Stevie Award for Best Corporate Communicator in 2006.
- I was runner-up for PR Manager of the Year in 2006. This award is given annually by PR News.
- I also participated in the International Panel of Global PR leaders in 2005, London.
However, if I had to relive my life all over again, I will probably ask God to make me a journalist. Primarily, because I am a media junkie and I crave for information. If you take me away from my laptop, you are pulling away my oxygen mask and my life support system.
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education,” said humourist Mark Twain. I totally believe that.
For the record, I have a Masters in Business Administration and a Masters degree in Communications and Journalism. I studied History, Political Science and Public Administration for my graduate degree (Bachelor of Arts). I must confess here that even though my undergraduate course at a polytechnic was Electronics and Communication Engineering, it is my wife who changes the light bulbs in our house and repairs household stuff. I am only good with cluttering our house with books.
But some of the lasting lessons that I have learnt have come from daily experiences. In our daily lives, we meet a lot of people and are faced with new circumstances – working with others and dealing with issues and problems is the best way to learn. Not to mention, that these are the lessons that often stay with us.
My Family: I live with my family in Edison, New Jersey. The rest of my family is in Hyderabad, India. I belong to a fairly large clan called the Vuppula clan and they number close to 500 people.
My Havens: I have lived in six cities including Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, London and New York and I have great memories of each city. My son was born during our time in Bangalore and it was Mumbai that really transformed me.
I have a strong love for Hyderabad. Hyderabad has a unique charm, probably because of its mix of Islamic, Anglo-Indian and Telugu cultures that make the city so modern and yet so quaint. Oh the Hyderabad Biryani: You must taste it at least once.
I am incredibly passionate about India. I thought that was quite normal for an immigrant but my non-Indian friends tell me that I come alive when I start expounding, no pun intended.
Movies: I love movies. Mostly because I am fond of stories, and each movie tells a visual story. My first movie was “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” My parents exhorted me about how I should love my sisters just like the hero did. I didn’t quite follow that advice and we always had catfights but I was so enamoured by the song “Phoolon ka taaron ka” that I picked up playing the guitar.
I am quite vulnerable to sentimental stuff. ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ and ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ made me cry although I don’t know if I cried because the latter was weighty or long. These days I relish the sports drama genre.
Music: I have been exposed to music and musicians all my life, both Indian and Western. My current leaning is more towards Eric Clapton. You will find me humming songs by Westlife, U2, Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. There are also some Telugu songs that I have grown up with and still replay in my mind.
I consider Dr Zakir Hussain is a polymath on the Indian classical music scene. I had the joy of watching and interviewing Dr L Subramaniam and was held breathless by this virtuoso violinist.
Sports: I am a pukka Indian cricket fan. I have grown up admiring the ‘Fab Four’ of Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. I have had the honour of watching Sachin play his second Ranji Trophy match in Hyderabad and the opportunity of interviewing Dravid.
Azharuddin was a cricketer I idolised. I was devastated when the match fixing scandal broke and Azhar and Hansie Cronje were implicated.
Right now, I admire the spunky attitude of the current team of giving back as good as it gets. With the formation of IPL, I believe that we will continue to perform strongly in all shorter versions of the game.
My first act of rebellion
As a young boy, one day I was walking to my house when I noticed a mason working outside a house a little away from mine. I stopped a couple of feet away from him and watched him at work. He was bending some iron rods into small rectangles. The mason looked up, saw me and said rather kindly, “Babu, would you mind moving away a bit more?” I was a curious fellow but rather stubborn as well. I asked him, “I am so far, why should I move away?” He said “OK” and with one swift bend, he turned the iron rod in my direction. The rod came and scraped my leg. I paid the price for not listening but yelling out my first gaali was not as much fun as taking to heels when he got up to hit me.
Proverbs are old school
Some may find them cliché’d but there is a deep insight in any idiom or saying. I know many Telugu Saamethalu and I occasionally shock people by quoting one.
Keep bigger goals in mind
While travelling in a Mumbai local between Victoria Terminal and Virar with a briefcase between my legs and an instrument bag on my shoulder, I would use the long journey to study for my MBA entrance examination.
Nothing could distract me from my preparation because for me, cracking the entrance examination was paramount. The frustration of not being able to take a month off as the examination date drew near left me with no other choice. I studied on the crowded train, while waiting to deliver my sales pitch, while eating … I used whatever time I could find or ‘make’ to read. No excuses, only creative solutions to meet a larger goal.
When I was growing up, there was a boy in my neighbourhood who was much loved and pampered and given the best that his family could afford. The parents were extremely nice and everyone in the community liked them. The father was a government employee, and the family had all sorts of dreams for the boy. I used to think how lucky he was and was sure he would go far. The family, however, moved away and I lost touch with them. Many years later, I met the father, who now looked distraught and heartbroken. Apparently, the boy had fallen into bad company when he was in his teens. He had grown uncontrollable and rebellious, and dropped out of school. In a tragic twist to the story, a few years later the boy was arrested as the prime accused in the kidnapping and murder of a rich friend.
All that potential and all those opportunities misused; a life utterly wasted!
Remember, many start life’s journey well, but the key is to finish well. One wrong choice can set us on a path of destruction. And then, it is not easy to turn around.
Dream your dream
Once I was moaning to my mentor about how inadequate I felt. There I was in a sales job, without a college degree, whereas my classmates were well on their way to earning engineering and medical degrees, or studying whatever it was that they wanted to. He said, ‘Look at it this way. By the time they get into the workplace you’ll be ahead of them. And later, when you do succeed in getting a degree, with the practical experience that you already have, you’ll easily catch up with them and probably even race ahead of them at work. Don’t let the lack of a degree right now hold you back. Just go and be the best you can be.’
What an admirable piece of advice it turned out to be!
At Mumbai airport, I once bumped into someone who was sitting quietly in a corner, lost in thought. I introduced myself and told him how much I respected all that he had been doing for the country. Two years later, he became the President of India and I thought of that fortuitous meeting for he is the only President of a country that I had ever met—Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
Live as if your dreams are coming true and they almost always will
As a child, I was obsessed with sports’ commentary. Later, thanks to a friendly radio announcer I got initiated to the wonderful world of broadcasting. In addition to the magic of making my voice heard on the radio and reaching many people, I realized that my dream of becoming a commentator was closer than I thought possible. At the time, Mr Ravi Varma was the Sports’ Officer in All India Radio, Hyderabad. I was acquainted with him and he had occasionally regaled some of us with his own on-air gaffes and mentioned how he had covered them up with some ingenious verbal callisthenics. As I had made no secret of my keen interest in going on air, he asked me to audition for them. I was to record a few minutes of a game—any game—and submit it to the radio station. I borrowed a tape recorder and taped my live commentary of a volleyball game. It did the trick and I was in!
“Sunil’s life story is heartwarming. His style is conversational and he shares his personal struggles and triumphs with candour. It is hard not to get inspired by such real life values not to get inspired by such real life valour. I gladly commend his effort to reach the youth of India.”
“I am delighted that he overcame so many odds since his childhood to succeed at a global level.”
“Grippingly written, here is a book that will inspire our young people to aim higher, while also providing practical tips based on Sunil’s own life regarding how actually to do so.”
“His book is not just about the road ‘from penury to prosperity,’ but about the greater journey to a life of purpose.”
“I have known Sunil for many years. He practices the principles he espouses and addresses these questions by encouraging his readers to consider the paradigms from which they view the world and work. He is a passionate and articulate man who understands the challenges facing many today, and I believe his book will encourage, motivate, and inspire you.”
“Vision without implementation is simply a hallucination. Likewise, a book without an experience that can transform you is just an illusion. Rarely do you find someone like Sunil, so enjoy this exciting book for your own success with integrity.”
“Sunil Robert’s Bound to Rise is a short but wise book, filled with thoughtful guidance for young people trying to steer their careers through a turbulent corporate world. I encourage young professionals everywhere to read it. It has the potential to change the way you think, and even more importantly, the way you act. That is its value.”
“I believe that if each individual in an organization focuses on performing to their potential, the positive effect on the organization can be exponential. In this context, Bound to Rise is a practical book that draws from real-life scenarios and offers engaging insights to help professionals realize their potential. Sunil draws from his experiences and offers realistic and honest alternatives that urge the reader to look inward in order to propel ahead in their lives.”
“Sunil is an outstanding example of how an individual can, through passion and diligence, realise his dream, overcoming the inevitable obstacles.”
“This book (I Will Survive) will serve as an inspiration to young people everywhere seeking to achieve something in their lives”