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A Different Kind of Swag – Remembering Amit Bordia (1976-2023)

Very few people have the ability to win you over based on their humility and personal connect, even when they bring to the table something that is worthy of serious attitude. A different kind of ‘swag’!

It did not take long to get to know or reference Amit, through the Deutsche Bank networks or his IIM-A circles. The narrative, as well as the big smile on every face in response to his mention, has always been consistent. The smile is invariably a reflection of fondness combined with admiration and amazement. 

When we first met Amit in early 2018, he introduced himself as someone that ‘grew up in a small town called Udaipur’, and mentioned how he had exhausted his language learning capabilities in trying to learn English through middle school. We backed him for a journey that was close to all our hearts – an ambition that we shared. He truly and deeply cared about the fact that education did not result in ‘employment with dignity’ in India. He had a plan – to enable the youth of the country along with housewives, retired folks and anyone else with spare capacity to discover their true strengths through new age career paths. He wanted them to be able to do this with pride, without getting boxed into stereotypes defined by their societal role or their education … and for each of them to find a personalised goal that solved for unemployment in a meaningful manner, at scale.

This was never going to be easy. We knew we needed an exceptional leader at the front of this and as part of getting to know him better, he took us into the field (the market) – in this case, on Amit’s keen request, to his hometown in Udaipur. Apart from all the ‘validating’ conversations on the ground, what struck me was the pride so many people felt for Amit. His success and growth had led to a shared sense of pride, not just for his family, but also for his neighbourhood and community – everyone felt they partly owned this success. 

He was a person of incessant details and was highly intellectual, one of the rare founders that pushed me to fatigue and frustration with his detail oriented negotiations. This was until I pulled out the trust card to ask him to sign up to my final but completely revised, zero base proposal without a single word negotiated. To my surprise he did – in an instant, without brooding over it. That was Amit.

I got to know him a lot more post his diagnosis. Through the last 3 odd years, I was always amazed by the strength and clarity he had during his ‘good zones’. He was clear about food, about work related stuff, about people (he never ran out of patience interviewing candidates) – about almost anything you threw at him. Some of our conversations were deeply philosophical. We exchanged notes on Vipassana and Nietzsche, and we also talked about his fascination with waterfalls i.e. how unpredictable it is for the water that flows – until the last moment – when the fall begins and when it hits the ground. 

I grew fond of him as I got a ringside view of the person in him (and not just the entrepreneur), his mind and spirit, of the insanely close friendships he had in the world, of his passion for details even in the midst of madness. His long apology messages when he was late or couldn’t make it to a board meeting because he was waiting for his next scan, and his genuine care and defensiveness about not being able to definitively commit to a time to meet or speak, used to partly amuse me. The last time we met in London, he insisted on driving us to our next meeting, still trying to work through logistics for us. One just had to accept this as normal, because he left one with no choice.

Towards the end, one knew it was a matter of time – but with Amit, there was always an irrational side of the mind that believed he would somehow find his way out. I had mourned this moment once before when I realised how bad things were, but this time, it hit home deeper in an unexpected way. The only thing that helped make peace was a resolve to carry on his ambition for real change on the ground, and ensure it is lived out. A different form of denial maybe –  but some people tend to stay with you … forever.

Amit, you will always be an Elevar entrepreneur and an integral part of the Elevar journey – someone that we care about deeply. You will remain core to the ambition that we will live out collectively. The ambition that has flowed through like a waterfall with all its force, and one that will also result in fountains of hope and joy for millions around the world.