Anilesh Ahuja stands as a paradigm of the American dream. Beyond his academic journey, it was the personal hurdles that facilitated his success. Sales and trading, investment banking—Ahuja's varied expertise propelled him to great heights. Yet, it's the trials of his past that can be credited to these achievements.
The year is 1982, and a young Anilesh, small in stature at the age of 14, makes his way through a sea of a predominantly white student body in an American boys' school. He joins his father in small-town New Hampshire as the pair emigrates from the crowded streets of Mumbai to rural America. A speck of brown in a sea of white, Ahuja remembers this time as "a significant social hurdle," comparing the experience of "being a brown kid in Mumbai and a brown kid in New Hampshire" as entirely different.
Much like the vibrant energy of New York, Mumbai pulsates with a dynamic blend of artistic expression and bustling business hubs. Ahuja reflects on the city's spirit, stating, "Everyone’s trying, both from arts as well as fina nce, to make it." His father, another example of aspiration, worked as an operations engineer at the U.S. company IBM in India while later establishing his own business, which eventually brought him to America.
The influence from Ahuja’s father carried on as, under his pressure, Ahuja skipped 9th grade and climbed up to the next, creating even more of a disturbance to his new reality. “It was massively physically and socially challenging,” Ahuja explains, noting the intimidation he felt surrounded by older, much larger kids. “I was already height impaired,” he continues. “Then I was put in a grade with older kids.” Unbeknownst at the time, it was experiences like these that would fuel his success through the acquisition of proper coping mechanisms as well as strength.
Fast forward to years later. A tenacious, highly educated, and industrious Ahuja makes his way down Wall Street in lower Manhattan. Receiving a degree in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania became his “bouncing ground” to a 20-year career in investment banking, sales, and trading. He went on to achieve “lots of firsts” for his professional as well as personal development, some of which included becoming a senior vice president at the age of 25 and Managing Director at 27.
Shortly after these achievements, Ahuja married Tania, also an Indian native, as a 20-something-year-old young professional later fathering three children. His legacy of success and hard work lives on in his children, fostering an encouraging family environment for education and high achievements.
Following years of strenuous work, Ahuja stepped up to become the global head of mortgages at Deutsche Bank. Then in 2008, a spontaneous opportunity called him to partner with a former boss. Ahuja reflects, “This is a phenomenon that happens…when you meet someone when you’re younger in your career. They might love you, but they still think of you as that junior person.”
Ahuja further describes the call that changed his path, and through a little bit of convincing, mentioning the evolutionary growth and accomplishments he had received, his former boss was sold. Alas, his fund, Premium Point, was born.
Through the thick of the financial crisis in 2008, Ahuja still managed to overcome any obstacle thrown his way. Taking “a different path,” his fund became $2.5 billion of assets under management, including a wide range of high-end investors “from university endowments to sovereign wealth funds, to some of the largest private wealth families in the country, in the world.”
He pauses for a moment, reflecting on how adversity and challenges in his youth transformed into valuable lessons and opportunities. It's in these reflections that Ahuja's desire to make a positive impact on the world becomes evident. This commitment is not just a sentiment but a driving force behind his business strategies, encompassing both the ambitious projects he has undertaken and the promising ventures he envisions for the future.
In one such instance, the fund expanded beyond its original scope, transforming into a comprehensive initiative aimed at assisting prospective homeowners. Ahuja's fund acquired a mortgage service and a rehabilitation company, fostering "the life cycle... of a person's experience and time in the home." This innovative program involved purchasing houses struggling on the banks' balance sheets, refurbishing and maintaining them, and introducing a rental phase, allowing individuals to rent before eventually transitioning to mortgage ownership.
After an eight-year journey with Premium Point, Anilesh Ahuja embraced change and embarked on a courageous return to his roots in India, joining Solitaire Valley. As a board member, he has set his sights on elevating the company to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) within a mere five years. "Stay tuned," he declares, "as in, I don’t give up that easily."
This renewed chapter in Ahuja's career not only speaks to his resilience but also underscores his unwavering determination to push boundaries and pursue new horizons. The journey ahead with Solitaire Valley promises to be a testament to Ahuja's tenacity and his unwavering commitment to creating impactful change in the world.
However, as ambitious as this goal is, Ahuja acknowledges the setbacks. “I mean, working in India is out of my comfort zone,” he describes. “I’ve been out of the country for 40 years.” He continues to describe the challenges of language barriers but that doesn’t stop him from achieving success as he studies Hindi day and night.
Regarding the current projects of Solitaire Valley, Ahuja describes there’s a lot of work to be done, “a lot to build…to add to society.” These projects are aimed at attempting to create an aspiring township encouraging modern, positive conservation for 14,000 families with schools, playgrounds, and a number of facilities in less developed, privileged, and educated places.
Through his business endeavor, Ahuja realizes the importance of these modern concepts for the future of our world, “building a whole lifestyle concept,” such as a “space for kids to be kids [to] play instead of just running around the cars.” He aspires to create a company with multiple verticals with different revenue streams and services to the community.
He continues to share other aspirations for the future which seem to promise to better the community and future way of living, hoping to decrease stress in our modern lives. He provides an example by breaking the unfortunate news of recently losing a friend to suspected side effects from stress with a heavy heart. This unshakeable loss fuels his dream of establishing a Vedic Village which will aspire to host 200 guests. The goal is to detach from your daily lives, “think[ing] about what worked in the past” by uptaking meditation as well as a sustainable lifestyle.
Throughout the ebb and flow of life's trials, Anilesh Ahuja has navigated a myriad of challenges, emerging triumphantly on a path of remarkable professional success. His achievements resonate not only as personal victories but as contributions shaping a brighter future for our world. The remarkable success he now enjoys is a testament to his resilience learned through hardships, challenges, and experiences that propelled him beyond the confines of his comfort zone. The show must go on, as Ahuja states, “It’s not like I’m just sitting brooding and not moving ahead. In all aspects of our lives, we work hard and we push through.”