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All-India IAS topper's fairytale story

Last updated on: June 13, 2014 22:20 IST

All-India IAS topper's fairytale story

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Shahnawaz Akhtar in Jaipur and Prasanna D Zore in Mumbai

He quit a lucrative investment banking job in Hong Kong for the love of his country. Now, after acing one of India’s most competitive exams, Jaipur boy Gaurav Agrawal is all set to serve his motherland.

When the results of the prestigious Indian civil services exam were declared on June 12, all-India topper Gaurav Agrawal was busy training at the police academy in Hyderabad.

The Jaipur boy, who has always wanted to join the Indian Administrative Service, had cracked the exam last year too. But, at rank 244, he could not make the cut for the IAS. It did not deter him from his dream; he worked hard and what a fairytale ending he's had!

His proud parents, father S C Gupta and mother Suman, believe it is a fitting reward for all the effort he has put in.

A bright student, Gaurav is an IIT and IIM alumnus with many achievements to his credit.

In 2002, he had cracked the tough Joint Entrance Examination and joined the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Five years later, he emerged victorious from the Common Admission Test and joined the Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow.

Soon after completing his Masters in Business Administration, Gaurav landed a plum job at Citigroup's Hong Kong investment banking division that paid him a whopping annual package earned him more than one crore rupees.

"But, even as I left India, I knew I would return one day," Agrawal told Rediff.com. "I was with Citi for three years, from 2008 to 2011. Then I came back and started preparing for the civil services exam."

His fairytale has an interesting personal twist: He got married just nine days ago. In fact, he appeared for the personal interview just four days before his wedding.

His bride, Preeti Airun, is thrilled with her husband’s achievement. "I knew he would clear the examination but the fact that he has topped is a wonderful surprise,” she smiles.

Preeti, too, is in the throes of academics; she is studying to be a doctor and preparing for her final year exam.

Please click NEXT to read how Gaurav prepared and covered the gap from rank 244 to rank 1, his inspiration, his success mantras and his advice to India's youth


Image: Gaurav Agrawal and Preeti Airun on their wedding day
Photographs: Courtesy: SC Gupta and Suman Gupta

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'When I saw my name right there at the top, I thought there was some kind of mistake'

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Shahnawaz Akhtar in Jaipur and Prasanna D Zore in Mumbai

Preparing for the IAS: From rank 244 to rank 1

My performance last year definitely did not match my expectations. After I got my marks, my father and I sat down and analysed my weaknesses, where I had scored less, the reason why I scored less and how I could improve.

It turned out that I had scored very poorly in general studies and essay papers, whereas I had scored very well in the optional papers.

We realised my problem was not preparation but the fact that the kind of answers I was writing were not the kind the Union Public Service Commission wanted.

Once we identified the problem, I joined a couple of paper series and practised writing answers as per the UPSC standard.

Your reaction when you found out you had topped

When I saw my name right there at the top, I thought there was some kind of mistake. I was in my room at the police academy and browsing to check the result.

Training to be an IPS officer and preparing for the UPSC exam

It happened because of a combination of clear priorities and time management.

My priority was clear... my focus was to go for the IAS by cracking the UPSC exam with a good rank. Whenever I found time between my training sessions at the National Police Academy in Hyderabad, I would spend that time in preparation.

Please click NEXT to read Gaurav's success mantras and his advice to India's youth


Image: Gaurav's mother Suman Gupta offering sweets to her daughter-in-law Preeti Airun
Photographs: Chandera Mohan Aloria

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'When you fail, you should not let it dishearten you'

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Shahnawaz Akhtar in Jaipur and Prasanna D Zore in Mumbai

Inspiration and values in life

My biggest inspiration is my father. He has not only inculcated core values in me but has himself led a very upright and honest life.

My parents taught me to value patience, honesty, education and the need to keep away from greed.

I know for sure that I will be an honest and upright IAS officer.

Success mantras

I'm not sure if I can call these success mantras but these are my learnings from my experiences so far.

Successes and failures are part of life. Everybody fails, everybody succeeds. But when you fail, you should not let it dishearten you.

In fact, failures should be taken as learnings and one should use them to improve oneself.

Second, we should have the courage to admit our mistakes and accept our weaknesses.

Generally, we try to brush them aside, close our eyes and forget about them. After looking at these negatives, one should try to analyse them and improve upon them.

Your advice to India’s youth

Have faith in your abilities.

Be optimistic: if you become pessimistic and think nothing will improve in India because the system is corrupt, then definitely nothing will happen. Only hope will allow you to make the effort to change the system.

Please click NEXT to read why Gaurav quit his high-flying job in Hong Kong


Image: SC Gupta, Preeti Airun and Suman Gupta at their residence in Maharani Farm
Photographs: Chandera Mohan Aloria

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'When I left Citigroup I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was doing the right thing'

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Shahnawaz Akhtar in Jaipur and Prasanna D Zore in Mumbai

The decision to quit investment banking job in Hong Kong

I agree that the money (one earns as an IAS or IPS officer) is definitely not as much as the kind of money you can make working as an investment banker. But the job profile and the satisfaction you get as a government servant is something that money cannot buy.

This is a field job where we get to reach out to common people in India, understand their problems and find creative solutions to solve them.

When I left Citigroup I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was doing the right thing. I was convinced I had to quit the job and start preparing for the IAS.

Job profile in Hong Kong

I was a credit derivatives trader.

In my first year, I traded in convertible bonds. In my second year, I traded in local currency bonds and interest rate swaps.

In the year I quit, I traded in structured credit.


Image: Gaurav Agrawal on his wedding day
Photographs: Courtesy: SC Gupta and Suman Gupta

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