Portraiture and Visual Stories

Ashok Kishore - Life Story

Life Story


About yourself

I was born and grew up in India moving across various towns, depending on where my father was posted by the Indian Railways, finally finishing my MBA from IIM Calcutta. After working in Mumbai for a few years, I moved to Switzerland with my wife Smita in 1986. Our older daughter Srishti was born that same year, followed a few years later by our younger daughter Kiran.  They have in the meantime moved to other countries, but my wife and I still live here happily.

My work is trading in industrial chemicals. In a nutshell, this involves moving product from surplus to deficit areas. My career started here 30 odd years ago, working as a trainee trader for an American company called Trammo,  where I eventually became the CEO. Sadly, Trammo shut down the division last year and this has without a doubt caused a lot of upheaval in my life.


What are you passionate about?

I was very passionate about my work at Trammo, having worked there for 29 years, which is most of my adult life. Since that ended, I am looking for a new passion. I tend to spend time outdoors walking, biking, running and recording all manners of data relating to these activities! Another passion is food and wine - I have traveled extensively for my work and am always on the lookout for good, local food wherever I am! I also remember the times when the girls would ask me to choose for them off the menu!


What projects are you working on right now?

In order of priority, these would be: a) preparing to become a grandfather, b) how to exit the corporate rat race and c) what to do once I have exited.


Tell us about the most difficult phase/experience in your life.

There have been a few difficult phases in my life, but perhaps the most difficult was the period after our marriage. We were young and lived with my parents and in the early 80s in a north Indian family it was tough for them to accept a bride who was from a different religion, speaking a different language and not chosen by them. Obviously it was tougher for her than for me, but as luck would have it, opportunity came knocking at the door in the form of a job in Switzerland. It gave us the escape we needed as well as the chance to become independent. In the end, it has worked out well for everyone. Distance really does make the heart grow fonder!


How did you overcome this difficult phase/experience?

All I could do was support my wife and make sure she knew I was with her every step of the way. My father was very easy to win over as Smita helped him a lot with typing the lengthy texts that he used to work on. As for my mother, well once she found out that Smita was also inordinately fond of playing cards, she was given the seal of approval and joined the ladies’ taash sessions whenever she could!


What is your favourite failure which set you up for success later in life?

I would rather refer to it as a learning experience than a failure (It would probably be more appropriate to refer to it as a learning experience rather than a failure). I think I went through my own early mid-life crisis when I decided to give up a settled existence here and take a job in  Houston, Texas about 20 years ago. It was a very short lived decision and we were back in Switzerland within a year. I did not know it at that time, but later I realised that everything does happen for a reason. I returned to my old company and I eventually helmed and steered it to unprecedented success. It takes courage to admit when one has made a mistake and then to rectify it. I found that courage that I might otherwise never have known that I had and the rest as they say, is history.


What is your most prized possession?

I used to love having the newest gadgets. I loved my first Lexus. I own some nice watches. But as I grow older, I find that material things are just not that important any longer. Books used to be one of my prized possessions. With frequent travel, I graduated to the convenience of a Kindle and it's not the same anymore.