South Asia

'Why I ditched my banking career dream'

Image caption Naman (left) says travelling around India helped him reassess his priorities

The global jobs crisis has forced many young people to abandon dreams of high-flying careers. Two years ago, aged 21, Naman Pugalia returned to India, having failed to secure a job in investment banking in the US. Instead, he travelled around India for six months and found a job in a new field.

When I graduated from high school in Mumbai (Bombay) in 2005 I left for Boston in the United States and enrolled at Brandeis University.

The idea when I went to the States was to pursue economics and focus on finance because investment banking was always one of those seemingly glamorous professions.

The search for jobs post-graduation took quite a while and when I found opportunities it was very difficult to get through because there were a lot of people out of work at that point.

By May 2009 I had given up.

I decided something that I thought would help me do two things.

One was just to explore my country at my pace and on my terms.

The other was to "introspect" and to figure out if there were alternative career options that I could look at.

I travelled across India and met a wide range of people.

When I went to college I was just 18 and had a world view which was not nearly as broad as the one I had after my travels.

And that is why I started to be drawn to something more meaningful.

There was a very exciting project under the Planning Commission of India, to do with providing identification to all Indian residents.

So I decided to change tracks.


Banking or financial services offers immense financial rewards. And I can certainly vouch for the financial stability that comes with being in that sector.

However once you sort of pan out and look at other options, I think one doesn't mind taking that cut on the pay cheque.

And looking at this as a learning experience, the financial rewards are not nearly as good, but I think there are a few things there.

One: What financial rewards mean to me personally. The definition has undergone change.

The other thing is of course that you don't mind that cut, if the experience is rewarding you in other ways. And one doesn't mind making that trade-off.

Because I am looking at these years as investments.

As a banker, in the first year you expect to make about $60,000 upwards, including bonuses.

At my current assignment, I end up making about $12,000 - which is about a fifth of what I could have made had I stuck to banking.

But you don't mind that cut if the experience is rewarding you in other ways.