From Wall Street to Bollywood, Rahul Bajaj '99 is truly "at home in all lands." The investment banker-turned-entrepreneur-turned-actor has worn many hats in his short career and crossed the Atlantic to pursue a dream (or two).
As the son of an Army family growing up in India, Rahul was "enchanted" with the liberal arts concept of education. That concept, combined with a desire to experience American culture, brought him to Brunswick, Maine, where his dorm's proximity to the hockey rink quickly immersed him in a completely foreign culture. "My first year, I lived in a dorm filled with hockey players," he recalls, "and I learned more about American culture living with the hockey players than I ever could have imagined."
After graduating with a degree in economics and philosophy, Rahul tried his hand on Wall Street, where he soon found himself envying clients who had businesses of their own. "I found them very inspiring," he said. "I wanted to be like them." Rahul quit his job and returned to India, where his first venture crashed in the dot-com bust. His second, a security company called G.I. Group, was a different story, becoming one of the biggest security companies in India.
While on business in Mumbai, Rahul spent his weekends in the slums, performing street plays with social awareness messages about HIV and education. When talent scouts approached him about acting in a national soap opera, Rahul said his curiosity got the better of him. He accepted the role, and a new side-career. "Here I was, an ex-investment banker and entrepreneur, acting in primetime national soap operas in Bollywood," he recalls incredulously. "Things began to get crazy."
In fact, Rahul says he barely had time to sleep. When the Indian economy took off, he made the difficult decision to quit acting and concentrate on business. In his spare time, he took to documenting his acting journey and the observations he made about the Bollywood empire. The result was a bestselling book, Bollywood Roulette, which gave an inside look at India's motion picture industry and the country itself. "It's a book about India during a very transformative point in its history," Rahul says. "I was lucky to have been in the center of the action at an interesting point."
Now back in the U.S., Rahul is pursuing a business degree at the University of Chicago while developing plans to expand his business in India. He credits his undergraduate experience with piquing a lifelong academic curiosity. "The beauty of a liberal arts education is that it turns you into an educated person, and that is a gift that pays dividends every single day."
Posted May 10, 2010