After leaving WGS as the first cohort to complete GCSEs, Saurav went on to Queen Mary’s Grammar School (Walsall) for 6th Form and then embarked on a voyage of discovery at the University of Manchester, notionally reading Economics and Government, but practically playing hockey, drinking, clubbing, and other types of student buffoonery.
After graduating in 1993 he worked in Retail for Warner Bros. in Manchester before opting for a life of adventure in 1995, or more prosaically, working as a stock broker on the National Stock Exchange of India in a start-up in Mumbai. Three years later Saurav returned to the UK and completed his MBA at Cranfield University School of Management, graduating in 1999. Since then he has worked as a Strategy consultant in various guises – innovation, growth, new venture creation, proposition design, turnaround, and large-scale business transformation – at large and small consultancies in London. Now he is a Principal at Market Gravity, a specialist proposition design consultancy working with the world’s leading companies to design new propositions and services. Every big business is full of brilliant ideas and ambitious individuals looking to make them real. He works with clients to develop great ideas and make them real, quickly.
What influenced your parents to send you to the Grammar?
I was at the Royal Wolverhampton School between 1982 and 1985. The Royal was already school number eight at the age of nine. My mother convinced my father to let me continue in one school rather than change again, hence the transition from the Royal Junior to Wolverhampton Grammar Senior school.
What was it like and what do you particularly remember about your time here?
I loved it at WGS. The first shock came with the lack of gender diversity as WGS was not co-ed at the time. I joined Freddie Foreman’s Form 3iv and was buddied by Noel Parkin to show me around the school and generally help me settle into life at WGS. It helped that we were in the same house, Campbell, but here again the school differed from Ophney in that the house system was far more of a loose affiliation than an intrinsic part of the culture of the school. All the guys in my year were very friendly and went out of their way to make me feel very welcome. Quickly, the hilarity began in earnest inside and outside of the classroom. I remember a lot of laughter over the course of three years at WGS; with teachers and fellow pupils.
The next shock came when I realised that despite all the larking about that I was no longer the sharpest cookie in the class. In truth that was the biggest adjustment I had to make. There was a lot of ground to make up on the likes of Dherminder Kainth. No matter how fast I ran it felt like I was running to a standstill as just when I felt I was reaching parity he and his ilk would leave me for dust with an intellectual sprint. Still, it helped bring out a certain tenacity and bloody-mindedness in that period as well as the realisation that success isn’t the result of a moment of flash inspiration, rather it’s about consistency, effort, focus and a relentless desire to be the best you can be. Brilliant as the best of the best were they remained humble, approachable and willing to help, despite their naturally competitive nature. They were secure enough in their ability and wanted to raise the general standard. It’s one of the traits of successful people and many Old Wulfs have gone on to be precisely that; highly successful.
WGS didn’t have a swimming pool and we didn’t have swimming lessons either, which I missed. So when I approached Mr Johnson about forming a swimming team he embraced the idea and asked me to drum up a swimming team and he would organise the fixtures. You don’t ask, you don’t get, but if you do be prepared to take responsibility to make it happen. It’s an opportunity – grasp it. We press-ganged a number of boys into the team and chucked them into races against different schools including Ophney. I was surprised how well we did considering the scratch nature of the team. It’s amazing what can happen when you put a group of like-minded and motivated people together, give them time, exposure and encouragement. Good things happen. Another interesting observation of WGS is that individuals were encouraged and given the opportunity to excel in fields that interested them; maths club, rugby, hockey, fives, drama, music, art – you name it there was someone who excelled in it and that culture of individual and collective excellence permeated throughout the school.
We had a lot of teachers who were able to bring out the best in their pupils; Mr Martin (French and German), Mr King (Geography), Mrs Roberts (English), Mr Johnson (Sport), Mr Brockless (French and Classics), Messrs Stott and Bennett (Physics), Miss Dobrowolski (History), and Mr Thorpe (Biology). Each had a different style for sure, but individually and collectively they were an incredibly talented body of teachers who imparted knowledge, encouraged discussion and debate, while maintaining an iron hand inside a velvet glove to keep their pupils moving in the right direction – upwards and onwards, way before ‘no child left behind’ became a political catchphrase. They cared. Invest the care, time and effort in people and see spectacular results develop over time.
Are you still in touch with people now?
Most of all I remember the friendships that have lasted a lifetime. Remember, I left after only three years, long before the internet, social media, or mobile phones, so once you were out of sight you were out of mind. However, I’m still in touch with Noel Parkin and a bunch of others from my year, picking up with several of them at the quincentennial celebrations in 2012. So, friendships, like any other relationships need to be nurtured in order to flourish and last. Invest time in them because they are the family you get to choose.
What advice would you give to a parent thinking of sending their child to Wolverhampton Grammar School?
Do it. It’s a place that encourages independent thought and has created a nurturing environment. Certainly in my day the teaching staff were excellent and now that one of them, the Deputy Head, Nic Anderson, is from my year I have no doubt that is still the case. They will encourage and challenge your child to be the best they can be in all facets of school life – academics, sports, music, drama – because they care. And the facilities are excellent.
What advice would you give to a current student/someone about to leave the School?
Thinking beyond school and university for a moment, I will always give a pupil from my alma mater time if they contact me. This is something that was actively encouraged at Cranfield and is part of the culture there, something that sets it apart from other business schools I’ve encountered. My view is that we should foster a similar ethos at WGS. We are there to support the generations of Old Wulfs who come after us.
Pick subjects you enjoy – have the courage of your convictions – and excel at them. One caveat on that: Make sure they are intellectually rigorous subjects.
Do extra-curricular activities.
Be brilliant at something.
Help others be brilliant, too.
Grades do matter.
Grades alone are not enough for you to stand out, however.
Use your summer holidays wisely – use personal networks to gain valuable work experience.
Work hard. Play hard.
Competition is part of life. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose; it’s how you respond to setbacks will shape you.
Take a few risks and try something outside of your comfort zone – it’s how you’ll grow.
Pick up the phone and use your network to get yourself roles, you’ll be surprised how far this will take you.
University isn’t for everyone.
Take your relationships and work seriously, not yourself.
Success is a result of consistent application, commitment, effort, hard work and pushing yourself to be the best you can be.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Only you can define what success looks like for you.
The only limit on your success is you.
Believe in yourself – you can do anything you set your mind to.