An unlikely friendship, an innovative business mind and an absolute love for dogs: these phrases sum up this one millennial who is a close friend of none other than business tycoon Ratan Tata. Shantanu Naidu, the 28-year-old guy who you must have seen hanging out with Ratan Tata, is someone whose story you would want to know.
Here is everything to know about Shantanu Naidu, the young business assistant of magnate Ratan Tata.
Shantanu is a fifth generation Tata employee, and although the professional connection of the family with the Tata brand has been strong, he is the first one to work closely with the man himself, Ratan Tata. He is a mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Pune, and joined Tata Elxsi as a junior design engineer.
It was during this time that Shantanu first came up with the idea for the organization that would change his life, Motopaws. As he had to work night shifts as a junior engineer, he noticed dogs being run over by cars on the street. When he tried to investigate the reason behind this, he ended up talking to 80-100 people who were regular drivers in the area. Shantanu found that it was happening because people were not able to see the dogs at night.
And thus to protect the dogs out there, Shantanu decided to create ‘glow-in-the-dark’ collars for dogs to make them visible from a distance, and hence founded the organization Motopaws to further his initiative.
As initially the funding for the project was not enough, the organization used denim pants as the base material to create the collars, which they collected from neighbouring households. After kickstarting the process, Shantanu and his team created 500 collars for the dogs.
Now, as the initiative became a huge success, it was highlighted in the newsletter of the Tata company, which got Shantanu a personal invitation from another canine lover: Ratan Tata himself.
Shantanu and I first met because of our common concern and affection for stray dogs. He has led a team of young college students to ‘adopt’ these dogs and give them affection, food, find homes for them and give them a sense of belonging.
The meeting proved to be the first of many.
While Motopaws was scaling up, we became closer. Work emails slowly turned into asking questions about one another.
Soon after, Shantanu left India for studying in the US, in Tata’s alma mater, Cornell University. The graduation ceremony was attended by Ratan Tata too. On his return to India, Shantanu started work as Tata’s business assistant.
I had mentioned it [the graduation] to him in passing and he said yes. Cut to the actual day and there he was!
The duo developed a deep friendship over the years, and it was Shantanu’s millennial impact that turned Ratan Tata into a social media star! At the age of 84, Tata is one of the select businessmen who have an engaging Instagram handle.
Shantanu taught him about all the social media trends, lingo, emojis and hashtags. Ratan Tata now has more than 5 million followers of his handle.
I enjoy seeing Shantanu’s freshness and concern. We never see enough of this in the ‘dog eat dog’ world we live in.
Shantanu is responsible for managing Tata’s office affairs. He even offers the veteran businessman advices on new startups the Tata brand can venture into.
At meetings, I take copious notes and keep records for future discussions. As Mr Tata walks in, I’m there to brief him on the happenings of the day. He gives me his plan and we start attacking it one by one. He’s a very focused worker – non-stop, no breaks.
Moreover, Shantanu even launched a ‘companionship company’ GoodFellows, that aims at providing intergenerational friendships, not unlike his own with Ratan Tata. Employing young, educated graduates up to the age of 30, the startup will help to reduce the loneliness of elderly people by making them friends with the younger generation.
Intergenerational friendships are a kind, meaningful, and authentic way to help the elderly living alone with companionship and warmth in the way that GoodFellows is offering. I am keen to see how GoodFellows progresses and wish Shantanu and his young team all the very best.
Last year, Shantanu launched his book I Came Upon a Lighthouse: A Short Memoir of Life with Ratan Tata, which explores the relation between ‘the millennial Naidu and the octogenarian industrialist, Ratan Tata’.
Five years ago when I started to get to know Mr Tata better, my mom suggested that I write down all that’s happening in a small red diary. Eventually that one red diary lead to two, three red diaries and I realised that my parents, and the people who found out about my stories and experiences with Mr Tata, were keen to get to know more about him. So I felt it’s worthwhile to share this privilege with people.
Shantanu Naidu and Ratan Tata are the unconventional fast friends who even watch films such as The Other Guys and The Lone Ranger together.