About the Guest Transcript

Subramanian Kalpathi

Well, there is a lot that has been said and discussed about this generation. The point is why do we even need to define generation? If yes, then why is the generation known as the disruptors? Instead of questions, people have notions about this breed of Homo Sapiens. So, here we have Subramanian Kalpathi who has authored the book "The Millennials: Exploring the World of the Largest Living Generation" to shed light on the professional aspect of this group. Tune in and do share your thoughts on everything "millennial"!
The guest has had a myriad roles to play in his lifetime, right from HR to Consulting to Writing Columns and a lot more, professionally. But as he puts it, these diverse streams were not disconnected to each other but rather convergent and had an overarching theme which connects it all.


Shubham(00:00) -
Millennials have been much discussed about debated on appreciated and ridiculed by the generations before them. But I think the next generations are always seen at with a critical view unless you know, they have proved themselves by the earlier generations. I happen to discuss this topic with a friend of mine Harshit, who very beautifully explained it. He said Millennials are the experimenters, trying a new approach for almost every aspect of their life personal or professional, and hence the difference of opinion. Our guest today Subramanian kalpathi has authored the book The Millennials, subtitle exploring the world of the largest living generation to shed light on the professional aspect of this group. So, let's hear from him.

Shubham(01:00) -
Namaste, Welcome to secrets of storytellers. I am Shubham Agarwal. This is a podcast where I interview authors and writers from the world of business, literature and many more discussing stories and concepts. Don't miss out the last section where we get to know secrets from the storyteller themselves. Hello, Subramanyam. How are you? Welcome to secrets of storytellers.

Subramanian(01:19) -
Doing well. Thank you, Shubham. And thanks for having me on your podcast.

Shubham(01:23) -
Great to have you. So, you've served various roles throughout your career consulting, HR, researching, teaching, writing columns, and these are quite diverse if I look at them. To add to it, I've also authored a book. So how did this authoring journey happen for you?

Subramanian(01:41) -
Yeah, thanks, Shubham. So, I think it's, it's been a bit of a roller coaster of our career for me already. And thanks to you not fully grateful for all that I have all the experiences that I've had so far, right, including, of course, writing a book. And as you rightly mentioned, I've had the opportunity to do a bunch of things through my career over the last decade or so. Right, and the way that you articulated it, right, although they appear to be disconnected, or diverse, as you put it, which is, you know, consulting, HR research, teaching, writing column research, I really don't see them as disconnected I, in fact, you know, they come together quite well. And one sort of feeds off the other. Right. So, to give you an example, the way that I got into writing the book, right there, so the writing of the book happened much later. But then much before that is, you know, where I started just experimenting with writing, right? So, I used to write my own blog, I used to contribute to magazines, like, times, and economic times, and people matters and so on. Right? So, I wrote for quite a few magazines and different kinds of publications and sort of got my feet wet, right? And then I realized that, you know, this is this is good, because I was getting good feedback on my writing from people who used to read my stuff. So, I thought why not, you know, look at a bigger project for myself. Right? And I thought, let's, let's sort of take the plunge and find out, you know, what, what writing a book is all about. So, one thing really led to another and it thankfully, for me, it all sort of came together. And then, you know, I think about six to seven years back is when I actually started researching and, you know, thinking about writing a book. Right? So that entire phase took about three years of research. So, the book itself took about three years of, you know, talking to people, or people, researchers who are doing work in this area, economists, professors, professionals who are working in organizations, right, so all kinds of people. So that process itself is satisfying, just, you know, understanding what's happening in the field for about two to three years. Post, which, of course, I actually got into, you know, finding a publisher. And so, I think it's been a great journey. Throughout. I'm quite happy with how it's turned out so far.

Shubham(03:55) -
Yeah, I can feel that journey was great. While you were explaining it, and I am sure that you know, those, all those things connected Well, yeah. So one, let us first define who a millennial is, you know, because there's a lot of debate about it. And there are enough and mode bifurcations, and all kinds of timelines and everything. So, who is a millennial, according to you?

Subramanian(04:18) -
Yeah. So, it's a great question. Right. I think there is a lot of debate and there is a lot of, you know, also arguments in terms of, you know, first of all, do we even need to define generations? Right, let's start with that. Right. Right. Are we sort of pocketing people forcibly into arbitrary generations, where, you know, there might not be any meaning whatsoever in the way that we sort of bucket them? That's number one.

Shubham(04:42) -

Subramanian(04:44) -
The other thing is okay, even if we do, where does one generation start and where does the other day right? And of course, there are global definitions of how generations have been defined? Correct. And of course, there are local sort of nuances to it. Right? Right. So are lots of you know, different shades in terms of, you know, defining a generation? And it really also depends on who you ask. Right? Right. But that doesn't mean that there aren't enough people who research on the subject, there are enough and more people who are spending time and effort really trying to figure out, you know, what, what comes of it in terms of actually researching and putting it down? Okay, so long story short, I think, Siobhan, you know, my go to place when I started researching for the book, was this institute called the Pew Research Centre in the US, okay, I'm right. So, they have been doing a lot of survey-based research, it's basically a think tank based in the US, and they do a lot of work and research around defining generations, right, and putting together ears to those generations. So, for, for the sake of my research, I looked at them, because they, you know, they're quite credible. And other researchers also called there, you know, definitions of who Millennials are, and not just millennials and also other generations. Okay. So according to the Pew Research Centre, you know, Millennials are born between 1981 and 96. Right, right. So that's the, that's the clear cut off that they have, okay, but you can, you know, sort of a good rule of thumb is, anyone who's born after the 1980s, or in the 1980s, onwards, up to probably about 95, or 2000, is defined as a millennial, right, right. So basically, the way that it works is generations are defined every 15 or 20 years or so, right? So, we say that, in every 16 or 20 years or so a new sort of generation emerges, and you'll see them, you know, not just in the economy in the way that you see consumption patterns, and so on, but also at work, in terms of, you know, what drives them and so on. So, we'll talk about it. But in a nutshell, this is the this is the generation definition as per the Pew Research Centre for millennials.

Shubham(06:46) -
Okay. I totally respect that, you know, I'm sure that you went deep into understanding what were the reasons of it. But say, I want to give you the chance to define it. What do you have done it on the basis of timeline? Or would you have done it on the basis of how when things? What has really changed in those years that, you know, we needed to define a new generation? What do you think? Yeah

Subramanian(07:09) -
I think it's an it's a good point. So, I think the way that I look at it is that, you know, if you if you look at professionals who came of age in the new millennium, right, which is 2000 onwards, which is why the term millennials, right, because these are professionals who came of age in the new millennium, right? And therefore, the kind of opportunities that this artwork the kind of consumption patterns at this on the market, right, so there is a unique context attached to the way in which this generation sort of came of age. Right, right. And of course, it is also context attached to the way in which they were brought up. So, I'm also a millennial. And so are you, like, so being, let's say, for instance, 90s kids, right, so people who have been brought up in the 90s have a very different sort of, you know, approach to life, because we've had some unique experiences in the 90s when we were growing up as kids, right. So, for instance, I was reading yesterday in the newspaper that, you know, DDLJ, will complete 25 years, next week, 25 years of being released. So just that phenomenon of having watched an iconic movie, like DDLJ, right, what is that you like? Right, those have been very unique experiences that we had already formed. Right. And movies also reflection of the reality of, you know, society in a way, right.

Shubham(08:25) -
I agree. Yeah.

Subramanian(08:26) -
Okay. So that's so therefore, you know, for instance, if you take, you know, the economy had just opened up, and, you know, there was this entire, you know, a lot of things were new to people who are sort of already, you know, working at that point in time in the 90s. But as millennials, we weren't working, right. So, it was just an entertainment outlet for us. And we, we sort of found out what's happening. So that's, that's one part of it. Right? So I think, to your point, context really matters. And I think context is everything. Right, in in the way that we define generations. And also, yes, to your point that, you know, it shouldn't be just a factor of age. I agree. Right. Right. So, what is one important distinction that I would like to make here is that, you know, a lot of things that people assigned to generations might not be a factor of the generation, but it could be a factor of age. Okay. So for instance, what I mean by that is, as youngsters, for instance, you know, we might be expensive, right? We might spend a lot more than we save, right? But that's a factor of us being young, not a factor of us being millennials. Right?

Shubham(09:26) -
That's a wonderful way to look at it. Yeah.

Subramanian(09:28) -
Yeah. So probably our parents did the same. And they were young, right, because they were also naive, they were also right. So, I think there is a lot of misattribution that happens. Right? Which I don't think is correct. So therefore, that that sort of, you know, fix has to be clear in our minds and the way that we look at things,

Shubham(09:45) -
Right, I love I think the fact that you know, you relate to the facts over everything , I think that makes a lot of sense. So then, so when what are the two most important traits which define them in Millennials, or their approach towards the professional world, let's say. Sure.

Subramanian(10:04) -
So this is actually I like the fact that you're asking this question. Because when I do my sessions with, you know, so when I when I give talks around my books, and I've done that over the last four years since the book was published, right, it's a trick question that I like to put in my presentation. Okay. Right. So, what so the way that I phrased The question is

Shubham(10:21) -
Sort of decoded your presentation, then you have a question? Great.

Subramanian(10:27) -
But it's a trick question. Right. So, the way that I phrased The question is, Millennials are dash, right? So that's all I give. Okay. Right. And then people respond saying that, okay, Millennials are entitled Millennials are lazy millennials, like autonomy, Millennials are entrepreneurial. Right? Right. And it's a trap. Really, right.

Shubham(10:44) -
So it's collecting data at your end?

Subramanian(10:47) -
Exactly. But look, I'm not collecting data, what I'm really connecting is people's perceptions of the generation, right? Which may or may not be true, right? It's a perception at the end of the day, the way that you experience new yourself being a millennial, the way that you experience life and the way that you respond to it. Right, someone who's observing you experiencing life, there are two different perceptions to our time. So therefore, correct. This is an outside perception. This is basically a commentary of someone who's older than you, who was, you know, giving you advice or giving you judgment as to how you are doing right, right, visibly you yourself being from the generation saying that, hey, this is how I perceive things, right? That's not right. So, it's very interesting, because, you know, if you look at any other demographic, right, if you look at, let's say, women, for instance, okay, you will never see a panel of speakers talking about, for instance, women leadership, without obviously women being on the panel. Right. But that's not the case for generations, unfortunately, I have to say, because I have seen enough in more panel discussions where Millennials are not represented on the panel. Right? So

Shubham(11:54) -
That's a very valid point.

Subramanian(11:55) -
Yeah, you have a whole bunch of seniors, you know, no disrespect to them. But then there is no representation, right? So, I find it very strange, right, in a way that because you know, you're looking upon your youngster, you're looking down upon your youngsters, and you're not giving them enough due credit. I think that's wrong. Right. Right. So therefore, you know, so I think it's a trick question next. But to answer your question, you know, I think it's a great way to define millennials, not in terms of, you know, traits, because traits are not fixed traits are always evolving, right? Right, somebody who's lazy or entitled today can very well be entrepreneurial, or autonomous tomorrow, because you know, certain life events happen, and therefore you change. So, I think it's important to define it going back to our earlier point of defining it in the context of their way of working or what you're doing in life, or defining it in terms of the external environment. So, I like that, wherein, you know, if you if you if you think about what has changed, right, over the last 10 years, or 20 years, take one change, one big change that has happened is that you see, you know, digital technology has sort of exploded, correct. Right. So therefore, as millennials, you know, you've you've had access to technology, and this term called Digital Natives, right has released stuff to millennials, because we are sort of the first generation that came of age, when technology really exploded, right. And we are very comfortable, you know, working with technology. So for instance, you're doing this podcast, right at at such a young age, so therefore, we are quite comfortable with Yeah, so that's, that's one I would say is, is a very important trait that sticks to millennials, not because of any inherent trait that they have, but by virtue of the generation using, you know, their external environment, well, to be able to exploit it and make sense of it. So that's one. The other thing that I would say is, you know, it's a phrase that I like to borrow from a quarter of, you know, another author that I admire Rajiv German, and he talks about this entire phenomenon of being boundaryless. Okay, right. So, I like to believe that millennials are quite boundaryless in the way that they think, in the way that they approach, you know, not just work, but also important issues around them, right. And there is also a connection to technology there. So, for instance, you know, tomorrow, today's anything happens halfway around the world, you are bombarded with that news in an instant, right? So you know, that something important is happening halfway around the world, let's say at, you know, some remote saris part of the world, and you go about it instantly, right. So, you're, you're informed about it, unlike before, where you had to wait for that news to reach to you. So therefore, you are able to think and act in a way that, you know, you're not constrained in the way that you think. And so therefore, these two things I like to think about one is, of course, technology, digital, and the other is globalization, boundary lessness and the way that they think and approach their work,

Shubham(14:35) -
Right, I agree, those two things are quite unique with our generation. And I think that was not so comfortable in in these terms for the earlier generations. Right? Right. So, so real, quick, fast. Rapid Growth is something that the millennials always look for, you know, either they've achieved it or either they're looking for it. However, the elder ones The old wisdom tells us that you know finer things in life take time they take effort, they take some hard work. Do you think the generation of millennials have been able to prove otherwise?

Subramanian(15:10) -
Yeah. So, I think there are two parts to this answer. I think one is that if you if you look at disruption, right, for instance, right, lot of, you know, disruption, technological disruption or otherwise, is happening across industries, right. And if you look at start-ups, if you look at the Indian start-up space, you will find at least in India, you will find that most start-ups, at least the successful ones, and even the unsuccessful ones, have been pioneered by young folks. Right, right through to take, take typical sectors, like, you know, transportation, or food or any of those. So, when I was researching for the book, also, I found examples about, you know, over examples, and I'm talking about six, seven years ago, I'm not talking about now. Yeah, right. When I was researching for the book, I found so many examples, and so many instances where, you know, Millennials were challenging the conventional wisdom, and saying that, hey, is there a different way of doing things? Right, right. And therefore, you know, that led to innovation that led to, you know, technology being utilized differently. Right. And we see so many examples of, you know, that and brands that have become household names overnight. Right. And just a couple that I can share with you right now. And I'm sure you will also agree, is Ola, for instance, right, right in the way that it has disrupted the entire mobility sector, or swiggy, for instance, the way or the Moto driver in the way that they have disrupted the entire food delivery ecosystem. Right. agreed that, you know, there might not be, there might not be innovations across sectors. But I think there are lots of examples where, you know, younger folks who are thinking differently, even the EdTech space will see now the entire disruption that's happening in the tech space, right? Many of them being led by Millennials

Shubham(16:51) -
Are no taking away the credit because they've changed a habit. they've brought in a new culture, which is never prevalent in India as a system. And I think that's a huge thing. It's a big thing to change a habit of a complete generation or so to say, a mass of people. So yeah, they've done a wonderful job.

Subramanian(17:06) -
Absolutely. And I think the poster boy of start-ups in India is really Flipkart right, as you think about no doubt way that such an such an unbelievable sort of disrupted ecommerce, for instance. Right. And also unique in the way that they have set up the organization, the culture, etc, that you were talking about, is so unique. But having said that, the second part of my answer to that Shubham, you know, millennials, I think there is a there is a tendency to equate millennials to only folks who are young. But I would like to point out the fact that the youngest or the oldest millennials, today are already touching their 40s. Right, they might be very soon, right. So, they're not young anymore. So, which means that they have also evolved over the last decade or so at least the older millennials. Yeah, they have also evolved enough. Sure. There are still they're still 2030 more years to go in their careers. Right. Right. And of course, that wisdom will take shape as they as the role and as we evolve as professionals in our lives also, right, personally and professionally. But it's not like you know, they are young anymore, right? So, they have also seen the world they have made their mistakes. True, they have made their corrections, and now they have sort of, you know, pivoted in the way that they are.

Shubham(18:16) -
That's, that's right. So, this, this difference of opinion, when this reaches the organizations, which have a mix of all generations, both the older ones and the millennials, have companies had a hard time dealing with this force, or has it helped in a solid push towards growth and better economic standing? Yeah, so

Subramanian(18:34) -
I see, I don't think there's a clear answer to this. I may have, you know, I may have given you a certain answer, maybe even as researching and writing the book. Because, you know, in the last five to six years, I think a lot has changed. Right. Also, if you go back, you know, a lot of the start-ups that have become really successful today. We're really just getting started up in the last five to six years, or maybe a decade ago. But I think a lot has changed. So therefore, I think, you know, so two things, right. So one is, of course, if you talk about growth, no doubt, I think there have been several organizations that have witnessed phenomenal growth over the last decade or so. So we are in 2020. So if I were to just take from 2013 onwards, last seven years, I think there are plenty of examples of, you know, I'm just talking about start-ups, because there that's why you see millennials heading your organization and sort of growing the organization, right. So I think there has been a lot of growth, no doubt about it. But if you talk about culture, right, so that's, that's, I would say, 5050. Right? Because a lot of organizations and a lot of leaders, young leaders have also learned the hard way, what works and what does not work. Right. And in fact, Simon Sinek he, he was giving an interview, I think, a few years ago, there's a nice video, or not the viral video with that everyone talks about but there is another video where he's having a conversation with Adam Grant, okay. And he says that, you know, leadership is suffering in organizations, right. And, you know, older generations, just do not Know how to manage the youngsters who come into the workforce. Right. Right. So therefore, there's a lot of adjusting that's happening both ways. Right? So, younger folks have to adjust to, you know, the wisdom and the intellect that they're much experienced peers bring. Right. Right. And vice versa. And I think a lot of organizations also sort of appreciate the fact on leaders also appreciate the fact that the youngsters bring in, you know, unique perspectives, and therefore, that also has to be respected. Right. So, I think, I think it works both ways. Right?

Shubham(20:30) -
I agree. But then, you know, we, the millennials are the ones who have seen the context that we talked about transition, you know, we did not have a lot of technology at our hand, though. Now, we are extremely technology oriented. And you know, a digital technology has taken almost every aspect of the life. However, the next generation, the Gen Z, is someone who has been born with it already. So, do you see a different context emerge for these people? And they're more radical in their approach?

Subramanian(21:01) -
Yeah, so I think, you know, great questions. I think there is a lot of research, ongoing research around Gen Z. And one of the one of the authors that I like, who does interesting work in this area is this lady called john trench, right. And she does interesting work. And she's published a book called agent. Okay, right. And, you know, a lot of the answering that I'm going to give you for this question is from my reading of that book. Okay. Right. And just a quick summary, right? Because it's not my area of expertise of the next generation. So I would sort of defer to her. Right. So therefore, you know, what she says is that people who are born are kids who are born 1995. And later, they already grew up with cell phones. Right? Whereas for us, millennials, cell phones sort of came in a little later in life.

Shubham(21:47) -
Were a luxury. Yeah

Subramanian(21:48) -
Yeah. It's not like we had it while you were growing up in school or anything. I didn't have it. Yeah. Right. So, it's not like I had an Instagram page when I started high school. Right. So that also happened much later for me. Right, right. And I don't remember a time. It's not like, I don't remember a time before the internet, right? I very clearly remember this. You know, the time that I started going to cyber cafes and accessing the internet,

Shubham(22:08) -
Or do you remember the time there were CDs and internet used to come in CDs? Yeah. So, I remember we used to install CDs can get into that. So that was crazy time, I think.

Subramanian(22:19) -
Exactly. Yeah. So, you had to install that. And you had had a floppy disk and what have you, right. So right. So, the transition sort of happened. So, we saw it, whereas the next generation is, is already born with it. Right? So, it's not like they saw this entire shift. Right. So, I think the oldest members of this generation Take, for instance, the iPhone when it was launched in 2007. Right, so this, this new generation was just about 10 years old, or maybe seven years old, right? When this when the iPhone and the iPad was launched. Yeah. Right. So, what, you know, what this author genre is what she says, is that, you know, the, the AI and she calls it the AI generation, right? So, she calls it the agent. Right? Right. And the AI basically stands for, you know, several different things, right. So that's what she refers to. And I'm going to tell you a few of them that I like, right? So in the, in the context of this conversation, right, so she says the iPhone stands for in no hurry. Okay. Right. So that's the first time so the extension of childhood into adolescence. The second is internet, of course. Right? Okay. The third is in person no more, right? Because you don't, you know, you don't really need social interaction so much, because everything is happening virtually on your phone. Yeah. Right, the next day is insecure. Because there is a sharp rise in mental health issues. This image is

Shubham(23:42) -
Not a great, but yeah, it's there.

Subramanian(23:44) -
Yeah, the next is irreligious, which means that there is a bit of a decline in religion, especially for the younger Lord. The next is, she says, insulated but not intrinsic, right, which means that now there is an interest in safety, but there is a decline in civic involvement. Right? So really figuring out what's happening in your, in your society and so on. The next is income and security, right, which is, there is an entire new attitude towards work. Next thing that you know, okay, there's the gig economy happening like at work not work, right. And there is also this entire piece about inclusivity right, because there is also acceptance, need for more equality, right? Free Speech, things like that, right. And the last I that I like, is independence. Right? Because they like to be independent, they use the way that they work. Yeah, you look, these are the, you know, nine eyes out of the 10 that I like, right? That she that she says is sort of characteristic of this next generation Gen Z. This is

Shubham(24:47) -
Wonderful. I mean, is a really good take, obviously not making any judgment on which is right or which is wrong aspect, but these are, I think, in total the aspects of the next generation and I agree again, Great, I think it was a wonderful discussion on how many nails have shaved up, and how are they shaping up? And where are we headed? This brings us to the last section of the podcast, which is a comment section across all the episodes. It's an interesting one and a personal favourite is when. So, you know, we call the show secrets of storytellers. So I want to ask you one secret about the book or about your journey as an author, while you were writing the book that you've probably not read in any other platform yet.

Subramanian(25:28) -
Yeah, so I don't know if it's a secret, really. But people who know me know that. So I took a sabbatical, right? Because writing a book is no easy task, right? And there are several people who do it while they are working or doing. But for me, I realized that, especially the writing part of it, right, so the research is okay, you can talk to people, you can put data together, but then unless you unless you make the writing really come alive, that you don't really do justice to the book, right. So therefore, I realized that, you know, I just can't do it while I'm working. So, I took a sabbatical. So, I was about three to four months away from work to give it, you know, my full shot, so I had never done it before in my life. So, I didn't know what would come out of it. But I had already, you know, I had already signed up with the publisher. And there was a looming deadline. So, I had to submit a lot for months. So, I didn't really have much of a choice. So, I realized that Okay, I need to get this done. So, my employer, of course, was kind enough to let me go give me some time for me to finish writing the book.

Shubham(26:30) -
Good, good. backups.

Subramanian(26:32) -
Yeah. So that was an interesting exercise. Yeah, four months of just focusing on writing, getting the book out.

Shubham(26:38) -
But were you nervous or scared while taking that step? That's, that's a bold step to take a sabbatical for writing a book, which you've never done in your life before? of a four-month duration?

Subramanian(26:49) -
Yeah, of course, there was a lot of uncertainty. Because, you know, see, unlike writing fiction, here, you have a lot of dependencies. So, if you can read my book, you, you will see that there are lots of case studies, and you know, real life examples of how people are doing right at work. So, there was a lot of dependencies on, you know, organizations giving me data people being kind enough to, you know, talk to me, and you know, I think, like I said, right, so I'm quite grateful to all those people who took the time out to actually speak to me, give me the data. And we're sort of trusting in me saying that, you know, this guy will do a good job. And therefore, of course, I did make mistakes. It's not like I didn't, you know, struggle, I made plenty of mistakes, and I learned from them. But I think there was a lot of faith and trust that was interested in me, and thankfully, I think it was it all came out fine. But to answer your question, of course, I was nervous. Of course, I was afraid. It's not like, you know, I knew exactly how this is going to pan out. Right. But yeah, if I didn't do it, I wouldn't know. So, I'm sure yeah. Correct. So that's the big learning.

Shubham(27:46) -
Right. So, I think you took the millennial approach, and it worked out for you. Well, so great. Thank you so much for giving this time. It was a wonderful discussion. I hope you enjoyed it, too. Thank you.

Subramanian(27:59) -
Thank you. This is great. Thanks for having me on the show.

Shubham(28:02) -
The pleasure is ours. And thank you to all the listeners until the next secret and the next story teller. signing off. Bye.

Managing the Millenials with Subramanian Kalpathi


Related Episodes

Indranil Chakraborty

Storytelling has been revered as one of the most important skills since it ensures you leave an impact on the listener and communicate effectively.

Take me to the episode
Suresh Sadagopan

A majority of us have a hard time planning our personal finances, often. While we know it is important and we intend to manage them better, we are lost as to where to start.

Take me to the episode
Harish Bhat

What does it take to become a Brand Custodian at the Tatas, who better to answer than the Brand Custodian himself.

Take me to the episode