Vikram stands in front of a single-piece fibre glass sculpture of a yogi, showing his power centre all lit up – a work by Prafull Singh. An open Bhagavad Gita lies on the bookstand, while a 3-D collage showing a newstand bearing all the big stories of the past century (details visible on the right below) remains one of his favourite ‘finds’; “We saw this at a street art fair in Florida, the artist had about 50 such works! It didn’t cost much”

Vikram Gandhi

Tell us about your formative years, how you feel it has led to you being a globetrotting philanthropist, art collector and visionary in the world of global finance?

“So, I have had the good fortune and opportunity of being reasonably successful in my career. I was born in Allahabad, my naani and naana lived there, and those days you were born where your mother’s family was. Thereafter, we moved to Mumbai, and I grew up here in Cuffe Parade, went to St Xavier’s School, and grew up very respectably middle class. Since my parents were actually migrants from Pakistan, I am, therefore, one of the patrons of the Partition Museum in Amritsar. In fact, we just had a big function there, and I am thinking of dedicating a gallery there in my parents’ names.”

You had a brilliant career even in academics and clearly were born to a strong work ethic… even though you say your dad was not very educated?

“So, as I said my dad came here, and yes, he was not really highly qualified, but he came up the ranks through sheer hard work. He reached the level of CEO and President of United Breweries, working for Vijay Mallya’s dad, by the time he retired. Growing up, the focus they encouraged was on my studies; they did encourage extra-curricular activities, but given the economic strata that we were in, a focus on art was as far away from anything, so actually there was zero exposure!”

Your global professional career in finance clearly took off due to your exceptional performance as a student at Harvard Business school…

“I got into Harvard Business school because my dad believed in me. I wasn’t a scholar. He somehow got the funds organized, some support from the Tata trust and a few other organisations, he took some loans which I paid back over time. They only have scholarships now – they didn’t back then. Yes I was named The Baker Scholar – but that was based on achievement. Every year they admit 850 to 900 students – the top five percent – so about 40 students, would get the highest academic achievement honour. So, every batch, would have its Baker Scholar.”