For Sanjiv Kaul, a chance meeting with Ratan Tata on a Jet Airways flight changed the trajectory of his career. In a LinkedIn post shared yesterday, Kaul recounted the story of how Ratan Tata decided to invest in his startup back in 2004.
Over two decades ago, Sanjiv Kaul started a pharmaceutical company, Advinus Therapeutics, with two US scientists who returned to India for the opportunity. Advinus Therapeutics was promoted by the Tata Group, but not many know that Kaul’s funding for the startup came after a chance encounter with Ratan Tata on a Jet Airways flight.
“The year was 2004 and I was travelling seated 2F on an evening Jet Airways flight from Mumbai to Delhi,” Kaul wrote in his LinkedIn post. “My meeting for seeking investment for an innovative startup earlier that day with a large industrial house had not gone well and I was a bit down and out.”
Kaul says he was busy examining PowerPoint presentation, trying to figure out what went wrong, when a hushed silence fell over the plane. “I could sense a gentleman settling down on seat 2D next to me. I looked up and immediately recognised Mr Tata,” he wrote.
Conscious of sitting next to a legend, Kaul was nevertheless distracted thoughts of his failed meeting. “I returned my attention to the PowerPoint and felt a deep sense of loss with tears swelling up,” he wrote.
Ratan Tata noticed his tears and asked him what was wrong. Sanjiv Kaul says he couldn’t help opening up to Tata and told him that his failure to secure funding could mean that “India was about to lose two top scientists” who wanted to create the country’s first pharmaceutical research and development company.
“He asked me how come and I shared with him details of Advinus Therapeutics and the 2 brilliant co-founders Rashmi Barbhaiya and Kasim Mookhtiar,” wrote Kaul.
“I concluded by saying that I was at the end of my tether as I had exhausted all options and these 2 fine scientists were all set to return to the US over the weekend in spite of my best efforts,” he added.
Kaul says that Ratan Tata tried to cheer him up and promised him that someone from the Tata Group would call him. He, in turn, politely thanked the Tata Group chairman for his kindness but did not actually expect a call from his company.
The very same evening, however, Kaul received a phone call from a general manager of Tatas who asked if he and the two scientists could come to Bombay House for a meeting the next day.
The rest, as they say, is history. The trio made a successful presentation in front of the Tata board and Tata Advinus was given the green signal.“All because one man truly believed instinctively that the 2 scientists needed to be given a break in India. The scientists stayed back for over a decade and Mr Tata, the Patriot helped stopped the brain drain,” wrote Sanjiv Kaul.