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Jairam : Can you give a short self-introduction ?
Neeraj: I did my Masters in Mathematics and Scientific computing from NADA between 2002-2004. After that I came to India and started my own company. I run a patent consulting firm between India and US called FormulateIP and I run a small investment fund called Excubator which is about helping startups grow. I also manage alumni activities in India.
J: Why did you choose to come to KTH? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?
N : That’s an interesting story. Their international relations president at KTH, Mr. Ramon Wyss had come to IIT Roorkee where I was pursuing my bachelors in Metallurgy & Materials Engineering. My professor, Dr. Vijaya Agarwala asked me to pick him up from Delhi and accompany him to Roorkee which was a distance of 300kms. During that journey from Delhi to Roorkee he told me a lot of things about KTH. I was very interested in the practical application of what I have learnt, however not in my core area of studies. I wanted to diversify. I was more interested in the industrialization of things. He advised me to apply for Masters in Mathematics to learn about fluid dynamics and similar fields. I think that journey of four hours changed my life. I got the STINT Scholarship and I did not look back.
J: What have you gained from studying at KTH?
N: Many things. The very good thing with KTH is that there is enormous flexibility on what kind of courses you want to take depending on your interests. For example, I did courses from various departments like Computer Science and Materials science and the combination really helped me a lot in my career later on. The practical aspect of studies at KTH was really helpful in understanding what we were supposed to learn. Also KTH has helped a great deal in terms of networking and how to utilize resources. So when I came back to India after my Masters I had a completely different perspective and fresh knowledge. When I started my company, I made sure the timings of my company were from 9.30 – 5.30 and that no one worked beyond that whereas in startups that usually doesn’t work as people end up working for around 16 hours a day. This changed the way people work in my company and I am able to get the best out of my employees. The Swedish culture of work that I could bring here is a huge gain from my time at KTH.
Whatever I am today, KTH has played a huge role in molding me.
J : As a person how did KTH change you ?
N: It made a more confident person and made me realize my true potential. This gave me the foundation to start my own company and succeed.
J : What do you think is the advantage of a degree from KTH ?
N : Apart from the knowledge you gain, it is the perspectives that you get from your time at KTH. It is not just about studies in Sweden. Right from your interactions with your Professors and friends, the international nature of Stockholm empowers you with fresh ideas and confidence. It changed the way I looked at life. At KTH education became an endeavor rather than a certificate which it was previously.
J: Apart from studies what all did you do in Stockholm?
N : I used to explore Stockholm extensively. I remember I used to search for cheap flights on RyanAir and travel to different destinations. We made a lot of Swedish friends and I am still in touch with some of them and they have even visited me in India. The Rock music scene is pretty good in Sweden and it was amazing to discover all that in my time there. We just love the Swedish way of doing things.
J: Can you describe the study environment that you experienced.
N : I love the study environment in Sweden. They don’t pester you on submissions but allow you to work at your own pace. You have a vast array of electives to choose from and it’s all very flexible. Professors are very helpful and I remember we could convert the examinations to a project based work if one was unable to take the exam. It is not about clearing the exam there, but it’s about gaining the knowledge behind what you learn.
It’s an open education system. Nowadays it’s all about cross domain work and having the options to choose from a wide variety of subjects helps you broaden your skill set. Also, there is a visible zeal for innovation at KTH. I am in the field of Patents simply because I saw the level of innovation and the research environment that they had. In the last 7-8 years I have seen huge number of startups based out of Stockholm and this atmosphere of innovation is exactly the reason for it.
J : How is your connection with alumni around the world.
N : All my friends from KTH are still very much in contact. We meet often and don’t even realize we are meeting after a long period of time.
J: Any advice to prospective students?
N: Just enjoy your studies and make use of the opportunity to live in a wonderful city like Stockholm. You will always cherish those moments like I still do. Once you are in KTH you don’t have to worry about your future because you have a secure future ahead of you.
J:Can you tell me bit about the journey from KTH as a student to an entrepreneur.
N: Like I said the education I received gave me the confidence. Most of the contacts I made in Sweden helped me a lot in networking and growing my business. Everyone was always helpful with advice. I received the support system any entrepreneur needs from the people I met at KTH. Like for an aero plane the taking off part is the most important, KTH gave me the perfect lift off and everything was smooth sailing after that.
J : What is your current relation with KTH?
N: I am very involved in alumni activities. I have frequent interactions with all the office bearers. Any event that happens in India , I proudly associate myself with it and always try to be there. I love giving back and volunteering for KTH. KTH doesn’t need to ask or thank me for the work for them. I consider it my duty to help in any way I can as I feel I received a lot from my education.
Whenever I have been in SF or UK I meet with other global alumni and have exclusive KTH nights and it feels like I am again a Masters student in Stockholm.