Note: We at iMahal had the priviledge of interviewing a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who personifies the American success story. In this candid interview of Rahul Roy, you will learn how difficult it can be to leave behind a family business, how chance meetings can launch a career, and how one successful businessman is making a difference in his adopted country by championing the idea that political involvement is the right and duty of people new to America.
iMahal: In our interviews we like to tell a whole life story, starting with the beginning – childhood, heroes, education — and moving on to career, interests, and family. So, could we start with your childhood? How did your formative years lead to your success?
Roy: I have had a very interesting life. Let’s start from when I was a little boy. Some of the interesting situations that transpired I can share with you. I had 4 brothers and 2 sisters. On my office wall there is a picture of my older brother, who died of cancer 6 years ago. We were very close; he was my mentor during my early years. Now we are all in the United States except for one sister who lives in Calcutta, or Kolkatta as it is called now.
I am the baby of the family. My mother lives with me; she is 83 and still very healthy. My father died 12 years ago. He was a big business man. But most of my time I spent with my older brother. People look at his photograph on my office wall and ask me, “Who is this Hindu guru? I have never seen this guru.” I tell them of course you have never seen this guru, he is my brother. And actually, he was my guru. The reason why he was my guru was because when I was growing up, I didn’t spend much time with my father because he was so busy with his business. He had a lot of challenges in those days.
We come from a family where I think ethics comes first, ahead of everything else. Maybe because of our strong freedom-fighter background. So my father was very dedicated to doing well in his business. So, most of my time, when I was looking for fatherly advice, guidance, energy, and philosophy, my brother would talk to me. And he would talk to me about my father and he would tell me about my uncles. He would tell the story of East Bengal when the revolution started against the British. He would have his opinion. He was more towards Gandhi, not towards violence. My father, because he lost his two brothers and lots of his family in the religious riots during partition, he was more for the side of Neta Ji [Neta Ji Subhash Chandra Bose] that believe in an eye for an eye, a life for a life.
Rahul Roy with his wife Parvati Roy
Rahul Roy seen with his wife Parvati Roy and sons,
Dev (right) and Neel (left).
iMahal: It seems you were being advised by very conflicting points of view.
Roy: That’s true. Whatever time I had with my dad and my brother, I was always confused. But one thing that I enjoyed is the strength I got to fight back. This I got from my dad.
..one thing that I enjoyed is the strength I got to fight back..
That’s true. Whatever time I had with my dad and my brother, I was always confused. But one thing that I enjoyed is the strength I got to fight back. This I got from my dad.
My father was often upset with my older brother because of his failings. My father built a large factory for him, where he was supposed to manufacture fan belts. He brought machinery from Germany; he spent half of his savings. But in 5 years, the factory folded. So what happened was that he failed. I believe he did not have management expertise; he had inspiration but not business skills.
There was a big rift between him and my dad who lost half of his savings. So when I was growing up, I was seeing my father’s empire falling down, especially after he built another factory and then that one also failed. And my two other brothers came here to the US for advanced studies and never went back. They liked the environment, even when they had to sleep out in the park because the job market was bad in those days.
My father said to me, “I will not let my youngest son go: you have to run the business.”