Gaurav Agrawal, a native of Jaipur who topped the UPSC CSAT in 2013 is the first person from Rajasthan to bag the title. He completed his B.Tech in Computer Science from IIT Kanpur and later completed his PGDM from IIM, Lucknow. Gaurav worked as an investment banker in Citi Group in Hong Kong for four years before taking the plunge into UPSC preparations; he realized that when one has to work for 30-35 years, money cannot be the sole motivation and that one has to look at larger things. Gaurav also routinely inspires UPSC aspirants.
What inspired you so much so, that you resigned from your lucrative investment banking job in Hong Kong to serve your country as a civil servant?
It was due to a combination of professional and personal reasons. The professional reasons included the challenging and dynamic nature of the civil services job which gave wide scope for public service and decision making powers at that age. Personal reasons were that I had wanted to come back to India, parental aspirations as well as the fact that this job earns you a lot of respect in the society. The biggest desire was to create an impact and the civil services offer a unique platform where educated people can bring about a change in present-day norms and situations. It’s a pretty vague thing, but my next most important goal is the rapid and expansive development of society and better lives for our people.
You have often mentioned that you have indulged in reading and writing since childhood. Having said that, are you working on your writing and if yes, would you like it to be published as a book?
Well, I surely have been writing for a long time. In fact, it’s been about ten years since I started my blog. I typically write on things I observe in my surroundings or jot down whatever I feel about contemporary things and concepts. But of course, at some point, I would definitely write a book, I’m just not quite there yet.
You’ve gone on record, saying that your father has been your greatest motivator. Which teaching of his has helped you brave life’s challenges?
I don’t think that I can single out one teaching of his per se, but my father’s overall approach to situations, his work ethic and his life philosophies have been instrumental in helping me face the rough tides in life. His patience and resilience, as well as the kind of maturity and deep understanding he shows, have guided me throughout my life.
What is one thing that you think can only be learned through experience?
Books don’t really teach you life lessons. One event that led me to introspection and burst my bubble was when I failed spectacularly during my undergraduate days. I had always excelled at academics and was AIR 45 in JEE 2002. I got into Computer Science at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, but then on, I became arrogant. I neglected my studies as I had started to believe that born-geniuses do not need to put in the work.
I had deviated from the right track which led to me failing not just academically, but it shattered my entire self. However, as I mentioned, my father has always been a great source of inspiration for me and one of the things that I learned from him was resilience. This incident actually made me stronger, I believe. I learned first-hand, that to overcome failure step-by-step, one must start working hard and should not let arrogance creep in. This is something experience taught me that no book ever could.
As someone who’s walked in those shoes before, do you have any advice or would you like to share some expert insight with respect to mentally preparing oneself for current civil service aspirants?
To all the young hustlers out there, who are trying to achieve whatever they want in life; I would say that don’t let a couple of failures keep you down. Life is a rollercoaster ride and situations won’t always go your way. The important thing is to bounce back when you are knocked down. Always keep faith in yourselves and your ability, and work hard because while talent is important, it ceases to matter after a point in time. What matters is application; how much you apply yourself. If you do that and pursue your passion, then you’ll assuredly do well.