He is among the new breed of fresh faces aspiring to win elections and bring in a change in Bengaluru. And he represents a party that brought about a sea change in the way the game of politics is played out in India. Meet V Balakrishnan, the representative of Aam Aadmi Party for Bengaluru Central Lok Sabha Constituency.
V Balakrishnan, called Bala by his partymen and friends, is the ex-chief finance officer of Infosys. Born and brought up in Vellore, Tamil Nadu in a classic middle class family, Balakrishnan has three elder sisters and one elder brother. His father was an automobile consultant and mother, a housewife.
He completed his schooling in N Krishnaswamy Mudaliar Higher Secondary School and Sri Venkateswara Higher Secondary School in Vellore. He went on to do his Bachelor of Science (Mathematics) from the University of Madras in April 1985.
He is a member of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, The Institute of Company Secretaries of India and The Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India.
He started his career as an industrial trainee at Lipton India Limited from April 1987 to January 1988. He continued at Lipton as Consultant till 1989. Later he joined Amco Batteries Limited as a senior accounts executive, from June 1990 to August 1991.
His career in Infosys began in September 1991, as a senior accounts officer. He climbed up the ladder in Infosys to become Chief Financial Officer. He even was inducted into the Board of Directors at Infosys Technologies Australia Pty Limited and Infosys Consulting, Inc.
He was conferred the ‘Best Performing CFO award for IT & ITES sector for 2008 and 2009 by CNBC TV-18, and the Best CFO (Information Technology, Media, Communications and Entertainment) award from the ICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) for 2008.
His achievements don’t stop here. He is the founder and Chairman of Exfinity Fund, which focuses on investing in the technology space primarily in products and solutions. He is also the Chairman of MicroGraam, which is an online peer-to-peer lending platform that connects less privileged people in rural India to socially conscious investors, by way of affordable, customised, flexible micro loans.
To watch the edited interview video, click below:
Balakrishnan has identified himself with Aam Aadmi Party, and has been declared as AAP candidate for Bangalore Central. Citizen Matters caught up with V Balakrishnan on March 13th, 2014, to understand his perspective as an MP candidate.
What are your thoughts on public issues? How have they changed over the years?
In Bangalore, especially, there is a decent amount of conversation happening between corporate and the government on various civic issues like roads, infrastructure etc. I don’t see it happening in any other cities. Because of such healthy conversation between government and corporates, Congress took the initiative to change the timings of restaurants and bars (referring to Bangalore’s nightlife extended to 1 am on weekends). I think they (citizens) have played a larger role with the government. Over the years, people from the corporate world are also coming out to make a change.
Yes, corporates like Infosys are coming out and making the change – what do they really have in them?
See, software is a global industry; we travel all around the world. When you travel you know how global infrastructure has changed the external world. When we come back, we expect the same change to happen in our country. Of course, change is happening in Bangalore, but a lot more can be done. I think we are trying to bring best practices from outside to be implemented here, so that over a period of time infrastructure becomes better.
What made you decide on contesting elections? Party pressure, or voluntary decision?
As an individual I wanted to do multiple things, I always wanted to come out of my comfort zone and try to do new things. So when I left Infosys on December 26, I was attracted to some of AAP’s ideas that were changing the political discourse of this country. Their ideas like clean and honest governance would give a chance to the honest enterprises to start and flourish their business. This idea attracted me which motivated me to join the party.
Now why did I choose to enter politics? The party discussed with me. They wanted me to contest. I took some time to decide as it was a new area for me also I have no political experience. But, that is also a very strong factor; you have no legacy to defend. You come with a fresh mind that suggests fresh ideas to change some of the issues in city and state. I thought it is the right time, for people like us to step into politics. Instead of giving views from outside, it is better to get into the system and then try bringing a change.
What convinced you to get into unstable politics by leaving a stable job? We heard your mother was upset about it.
Unfortunately, in this country middle class families do not consider politics, as their last option. They don’t even consider it a right thing. Just like all middle class family, my mother was also against it, but at the end of the day when I left Infosys, I wanted to do something on the corporate side. I started Exfinity fund which focuses on investing in the technology space primarily in products and solutions. I am also part of a microfinance company called Micro Graam which is working well both at Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.It has been able to bring in a change in the livelihood of village people. So I decided to join the party, as their idea attracted me. There are also corporates like me who want to do some social work. AAP is great platform because ideas are goods.
You were born and brought up in Tamil Nadu. Why didn’t you wish to contest from your home state, why Bangalore Central?
First of all we are all Indians. Right? I was grown in Tamil Nadu and finished my schooling and college there, but a majority of my life, I have spent in Bangalore. I came to Bangalore in ‘85 or so, you need to do some work well and make an impact, bring a change. I reside in Bangalore Central, so it is the right place for me to contest from there. If I am able to make incremental changes here it will be good.
Do you think people in Bangalore are politically aware?
Thanks to the media the awareness is very high. Even u talk to people on roadside, their awareness on what is happened in this country and what impacts them is very high. I think today corruption is very big issue impacting people from all the class. There is a general anger against corruption. I think that message is resonating among everybody.
You have spent your life in finance. Isn’t it different from law-making and governance?
Nothing is different. At the end of the day you need to have good intentions, which is the starting point. Unless we are able to establish clean governance there will be no good policies which cannot be implemented properly. To establish such clean governance, an attitude, background, intention is very important.
What have you learnt from the corporate world that you think will help you to serve as an MP?
We all come from middle class family with middle class values. We are not here for power or money. We have earned enough and proved enough in the corporate world. We are trying to get into the system to use some of our experience to see whether we can make changes here. Because at the end of the day if you have too much of legacy your ability to change diminishes. So people like us from different walks of life who don’t have legacy in the political world, who have fresh mind and fresh thinking can use their experience from the corporate world and try to bring solutions in the government.
What are the problems of your constituency? What is your plan of action for the constituency?
If you go across Bangalore irrespective of their constituency the issues are same — the bad roads, traffic, water, garbage, power. It is there everywhere. In some places it could be slightly better, in other places it could be slightly worse. The ability for the government to step in and implement the solution on time is a problem. Metro construction is going on since many years, but timeline is not adhered to. I think solutions everybody knows it, everybody knows problems, but implementation is the problem.
As an MP the role is different. Initially you become a brand ambassador for the city and then the state. You raise the local issues and try to get things done for your state and the city. You also have funds (referring to MPLAD) that are allocated for you to improve your constituency.
There should be transparency in the way the funds are used. One needs to ascertain whether the work is required and later measure the impact. It shouldn’t be that you are not just spending money. You should work with the constituency to understand their problems and needs. Of course within the constituency you look at the issues that they face and try to see how to work with the local government to solve it.
Why should people vote for Bala?
As I said earlier, the starting point is clean and honest governance. If people who have got good background, who are honest and who are clean go to parliament I think the quality of decision that the country will take will be much more better. Even if 15-20% of parliament seats go to good people, I think the country will change. It doesn’t matter from which party they are. The impact of AAP is, one is the direct impact and the other is indirect impact. Direct impact is they are trying to put clean and honest people into the government, while the indirect impact is the main stream political parties are trying to put forward good clean candidates. So, even if 15 or 20 percent of the Parliament consists of good people, I think that is going to be a good change.
What is your campaign motto? How do you plan to campaign?
We are ready to start our campaign. We will use both digital media, do the door-to-door campaign in the constituency and talk to people and convince them.
What issues will be highlighted in the campaign?
As I said, issues are known; you have to work for them. Some will be more or less here and there. I will talk to them and then highlight it.
Do you think knowing Kannada matters?
Knowing Kannada matters; I can talk Kannada, that’s not an issue. I can speak multiple languages, English, Tamil and Kannada. Language is not a problem, I can talk to people.
What is your take on urban poor?
There is no difference between urban poor or rural poor. A poor is poor. Government spends a lot of money on them. Ours is not a poor country, it is poorly governed country. The government spending is not making the desired impact. The implementationmechanisms are faulty, the way they implement programs are faulty.
Which political Ideologies you support?
I follow clean governance and effective governance. That is what is required.
Will you continue to be in politics even if you lose?
All of us campaign with an intention to win. Ultimately it is people who will decide and understand your ideas and vote for you. We believe that the time has come in the country where, there is an urge within the people for a change.
Are you here for a long haul?
We are always in for a long haul; As I said earlier, I worked for 22 years in Infosys! We are always in for a long haul.