In the journey of life, one who does whatever he wants to do, with patience and hard work, is bound to be successful, happy and content. Prashant Ugemuge certainly fits the profile. He started his career in 1992 with a sales job, even before the result of his final year engineering exam was out. From being a sales executive to becoming the chief promoter of Vidarbha Infotech Pvt Ltd and the owner of Highland Park and IT park in Nagpur, Prashant has come a long way. He’s known for his chilled out attitude and least complicated approach towards life in the business circles of Nagpur. In an hour-long interview with Nation Next, Prashant Ugemuge opens up about his struggle and his love for the three pillars of his life – his wife Jyotsna and his two sons – Shreyas and Karthik.
You come from Vadner in Wardha district, where your parents worked as schoolteachers. Your mother left her job to raise you and your siblings. How was your childhood like?
I had a typical childhood of a village boy. My mother would motivate us by narrating various motivational stories. My parents focused on good upbringing of ours and most importantly, gave us good education. They taught us to be good human beings.
You once said that your father was very strict and you owe your success to his strictness. Do you think today’s generation is being served everything on the platter?
Yes, it’s true, but in my case, it’s the other way round! While my elder son Shreyas, who is in Florida for his engineering, is cool, my younger son Karthik, who is still in school, is a bit too strict with me. He doesn’t approve of my careless and fun-loving approach towards life. He’s extremely disciplined and organised.
You hold an engineering degree in electronics from Amravati University and an MBA degree in finance and marketing. You started your career as a sales executive. How did you become an entrepreneur?
I never planned anything in my life. I would never worry about my engineering even then. The only things I plan are my personal commitments. Like after your interview, I plan to enjoy a couple of chilled beers with my friends! (Laughs)
Surprisingly, you have been vocal about your vices i.e. love for gambling, alcohol, etc. Aren’t you bothered about your reputation?
I’m highly bothered about my reputation, especially as a father. But if you talk about my personal choices, I’m bothered about my reputation only in my eyes. If I feel I’m a good person, I believe I’m a good person. I’m basically a content man.
You worked part time as a photographer to fund yourself during your college days. Are you still passionate about photography?
I am not passionate about anything. I only live for the moment. As we had a limited source of income, my parents started using their bath soap every alternate day to fend for the expenses incurred on my education. I always had the guilt that I was bothering my parents with the financial burden of my education, so I started pursuing photography in the third year of my college. I clicked pictures of our college’s annual gathering. My fellow students were keen on buying the pictures of our female batchmates as they, being less in numbers, were very popular. I grabbed the opportunity and earned some quick money!
After working in a cellular company in Mumbai, why did you relocate to Nagpur?
I think initially, I was allergic to Mumbai. I couldn’t cope up with the fast life there, so I relocated to Nagpur. But now things have changed and so has my approach towards big cities. Many of our businesses are being driven from Mumbai these days.
You worked with Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) on developing software and online system for Octroi, which was previously being managed manually. You also developed similar Octroi systems for Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) and Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC)…
It was quite an interesting experience for me. Because of the automation of the octroi system, speed and transparency came in. Working with BMC was a sort of an eye opener for me. I found it to be the only corporation, where most of the employees loved their job, and their priority was the wellbeing of the organisation. I realised that contrary to the public opinion, only 10% of the babus are corrupt in NMC. As the hierarchy goes up, corruption decreases.
Your detractors accuse you of leveraging your proximity with certain bureaucrats and politicians to manipulate the system to bag projects and make quick money…
What’s wrong with that? I don’t mix business with friendship. If I have some business issues with a person who’s also my friend, I won’t alter my friendship with him. There’s nothing wrong in talking help from friends, unless it’s illegitimate.
While there is a perception that businessmen fuel corruption, business community claims to be the victims of the corrupt system. As a businessman, who has dealt with the organisations like NMC and NIT, where corruption is very prevalent, how do you perceive this?
It is all about an individual’s choice, perception and patience level. Our company (Vidarbha Infotech Pvt Ltd) is known across all the corporations as the one, which never bribes. Our files go through all the required checks; and this process takes at least, 10 days for the payments to be released. If somebody doesn’t have the patience to wait for 10 days, he will pay bribes.
I’ve a simple business philosophy; I never evade taxes or do anything that troubles my conscience or comfort in life.
You bought Highland Park a couple of years back. How do you plan to revive this loss-making amusement park?
I love challenges. I know my business and have my calculations in place. Highland Park is the only place, so near the city and bang on the highway, where you have a lake and a hill. We would soon be offering destination wedding facility and family entertainment zone there. Innovation is always needed for any business to flourish.
Please tell us about the IT Park you are making.
It’s basically a ‘DBOOT’ project (Design, Build, Own, Operate and Transfer) with Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT). We are soon coming up with three projects – core IT Park, convention centre, and service apartments. Another upcoming project of ours is at Saoner where a person can enjoy nature closely. It’s designed on the lines of Jindal Naturecare Institute, along with a resort, which would have 101 service apartments.
Your wife Jyotsna majorly owns most of your businesses? Do you believe in lady luck?
The logic behind making my wife the majority stakeholder is that if something happens to me, my wife should not wander for help. She should be independent and aware of my businesses.
After making a humble beginning, you’ve made it big in life. What’s your success mantra?
My employees! They don’t feel they are working for my company. Rather they feel they are working for themselves. They have a feeling of ownership. My priority is to give delightful experiences to the customers of all of my businesses. I’m a content man, as I don’t have an agenda of amassing wealth for my kids.
How practical is this in a world, where parents are obsessed with accumulating wealth for their kids?
Thankfully, my parents gave me a good upbringing and made me realise the importance of education. When I look at the people around me, I think nobody is wealthier than me, as nobody’s as carefree as I am. I’m not indebted to a single person. I’m fearless because I feel I don’t have anything to lose. I have secured my family’s future financially, so they don’t need to work hard for their livelihood. They can pursue what they want to. But I don’t want to leave 100 crores behind (for my kids) as it may make my 22-year-old son aimless!