The amazing story of Col David Devasahayam’s super successful journey from the battlefield to the boardroom
“It was when I was commanding an Assam Rifles Battalion in Eastern Arunachal Pradesh that I saw the kind of unemployment that led to the youth joining the militancies ”, reminisces Col David as he leans back in his favourite sofa in their spacious drawing room of their mansion near the East Coast ,‘ Radiant Villa’.
“Poverty alleviation by Employment Generation , is our Group’s motto and today I can proudly say that we offer thousands of jobs across the length and breadth of our beautiful country. That gives me a great sense of satisfaction.”
Born at New Delhi in an Army family to a Service Officer father, Major Y Devasahayam and a home maker mother, Karuna , Col David was very attracted to life in the Army right from the very young age of six. He remembers the constant transition from one military cantonment to another after every two to three years and his closest companion and friend was his elder brother John with whom he would explore each new location and military bungalow that was allotted to them. A lot of friends were made in each new station. His special memory is of the 1971 India- Pakistan War when their father had to move to the forward line and they stayed back in Ferozpur, a border town, coming under heavy Pakistani Artillery shelling. He remembers as a eleven year old those nights sitting in a shelter trench which had been dug in the compound of their bungalow and listening to the sound of the artillery shells overflying them to deeper targets.
Schooling was initially in Convent schools followed by Kendriya Vidyalayas which was necessitated by their constant transfers. This inevitable transition from one place to another has helped him in being a true Indian and also has a very deep understanding of people from different cultures and backgrounds. He proudly states that he has visited every nook and corner of our beautiful country.
He had no doubt in his mind that he would join the Army as an Infantry Officer.
Accordingly, he appeared for the National Defence Academy ( NDA ), Khadakvasala, Pune examination followed by the selection process, succeeding and joining it in 1976 at the young age of sixteen. The three years in the NDA and the one year at the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun are amongst the fondest memories that he has and some of the best friendships which were formed there. “Five of my closest friends and batchmates from those days are today an important part of our Group of Companies.”he says with a smile.
On commissioning, in 1980, he joined the Second Battalion of the Eigth Gorkha Rifles. Famously called the ‘ Sikand Aite’, this is one of the most reputed Infantry Battalions of the Indian Army. The years in the Army were full of adventure, camaraderie and excitement. This was also the time when full blown militancies cropped up in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and the North East. It was a life with a lot of combat experience and uncertainty.
In 1988, he married the love of his life, Renuka, a budding medical doctor, at Coimbatore. It was an electric alliance with amazing chemistry and she herself, drawn from an Air Force background, brought a lot of love and laughter into the serious Infantry Officer’s life. The children came along with son Alexander being born in 1990 and daughter Angela in 1995. A totally committed professional, Col David graduated from the Defence Services Staff College in 1994. He also did his combat day and night paratrooping jumps during this time besides being involved in intense combat in the Srinagar Valley. Finally, he commanded two Assam Rifles battalions in combat and an Army Training Centre before deciding to hang up his boots and set up the enormously successful Radiant Group of Companies in 2005. The flagship, Radiant Cash Management Services is today the second largest Cash Logistics Company in India with a Pan-India presence in over 2400 locations. A serial entrepreneur, the Group is also into Guarding Services, Medical Services, Knowledge Process Outsourcing and Defence Software Development.
Col David received the Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2011 and this year has been the recipient of the Socially Conscious Entrepreneur of the Year and the Udyog Ratna award from the Government of India. In 2012 he was selected for the three year long Harvard Business School executive MBA programme, the Owner President Management Programme, successfully graduating this year and becoming an alumnus of Harvard Business School.
A family man, he is totally involved with both his children. Son Alex has graduated with a Masters in Management from London’s prestigious Imperial College and daughter Angela is in her second year of Medical College. A voracious reader, painter and shooting enthusiast, Col David is also the owner of one of the finest car collections in Chennai including the latest Rolls Royce Phantom.
Looking back at his initial years of setting up his business and when asked as to what were the key criteria for his exponential success, Col David states that the key is detailed planning. Once your planning is in meticulous detail and very pragmatic based on ground realities one can react to business contingencies in a more innovative manner. Financial planning must also be extremely incisive. Never should one take one’s eye of the financial ball as profitability is the oxygen of business.
Going further he states that the entrepreneur should be perpetually optimistic. Just as the prospectors of old had to run through tonnes of dirt to seek out a few grams of gold so also whether it is people or the business environment one should go looking for gold and focus on the positives. This is one of the reasons why there is such a positive work climate in the Radiant Group and the positive energy is palpable both in the Corporate and Regional offices. “Another not easily available asset is a beautiful wife who has complete faith in your ability to succeed and has walked steadily by your side…otherwise it would have been difficult for us to successfully carry out this transition from Army life to Corporate Life..”, he smiles at Renuka, herself a highly acclaimed Wellness Expert.
“India is so highly respected in the West today for the quality of its people…” he continues. “ We must exploit this demographic dividend and the need of the hour is quality entrepreneurs..”he concludes.
As we head out of Radiant Avenue on East Coast road after bidding farewell to him and his ferocious St Bernard, we are touched by his passion and optimism and walk away with an abiding faith in India’s Radiant destiny…