How did you enter the recycling business? I started at a very young age going to my dad’s scrapyard, then I would go next door to take horseback riding lessons. I was always so in awe of all the heavy equipment and metals that were around, even as a preteen. In high school, he hired me as an intern during the summers, and I learned export/import documentation and all that it entails. I jumped in full time the day after I graduated from college, and I have not looked back since.
Did you ever consider doing anything else for a career? Yes, I wanted to be a criminal lawyer, like the ones you see on TV. I sat for the LSATs and even applied to law school. I am happy that friends of mine who are lawyers talked me out of it. They said it’s nothing but paperwork, and it’s nothing like what you see on TV.
What do you like most about the recycling industry? I love all the different personalities I have encountered in this industry and the stories of where people came from and how they started. It’s not taught in school, so it’s fascinating to hear how others began. I also enjoy the fact that no day is the same [as the last]. We ebb and flow with the commodity markets and have our ups and downs, which is a welcome challenge.
What do you like least about the industry? When the markets suck, it makes it tough for everyone. For us, even if nickel [prices are low], we are OK with that as long as it is stable.
What’s the biggest business challenge facing your company? COVID-19 is the biggest challenge we’re facing right now. How we’re all going to come out of this is extremely unpredictable, and that’s scary. I’ve seen predictions that 25% of all transportation companies and 20% of all metal-related companies will not make it through this. Those are numbers no one wants to hear, and I truly hope that does not come true.
How would you sum up your business philosophy? I believe in being proactive rather than reactive. Let’s stay ahead of the curve so we don’t have to constantly put out fires.
What are the keys to success in the recycling industry? Hire the right talent: Make sure you have the best team around you possible, and show how much you value your employees. Stay innovative and make sure you and your company are agile enough to steer the boat in the direction needed. And communicate effectively and educate those in and around your company because knowledge is power.
What lessons have you learned about business in your career? Thanks to COVID-19, I’ve learned what business agility means, and the value of technology. It was refreshing to see the shift from in-person meetings to video conferencing, to see that you don’t always have to conduct business in person. Even though we miss the social interaction, members of my team have learned new technology that they otherwise might not have used.
How do you personally gauge success? For me, success is a well-balanced life. All work and no play is not success. If you cannot enjoy the fruits of your labor, then what is it all for? I also love to share my success with others, whether it’s through some of the nonprofits I’m involved with, serving on ISRI boards and committees, or just passing along the knowledge I’ve gained.
What are some of your greatest personal achievements? I graduated high school a semester early, moved to India, and used that time to learn more about my roots and culture. I also have my yoga teaching certificate, a real estate license, and my MBA. I love to learn, so even to this day, I am signing up for continuing education courses in my free time.
Which of your traits do you like the most? I am sociable, which has helped me when attending industry-related events. It has helped me increase my network in a way I don’t think I would have been able to do if I were not as outgoing.
Is there anything about yourself you’d like to improve? I wish I could be more of a morning person. I have always been a night owl, even when I was young. I’d like to believe this has something to do with the time you were born, but that could just be my excuse. I’m still working on changing my internal clock to this day.
You’ve been a great supporter of and participant in ISRI over the years. Why do you think that’s important? ISRI gives us the tools and resources [we need] and goes to bat for us, which is extremely important. If it were not for ISRI, our companies would not have been deemed an essential business, so it is very important to stay engaged. ISRI has also opened many doors for me professionally and personally.
What’s your favorite movie? Gone in 60 Seconds. I love the part in the auto-shredder yard!
Favorite TV shows? Scandal and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
What are your favorite foods? I’m a huge fan of Mexican food—I’m from Texas—and Punjabi food, which is a northern Indian cuisine.
Favorite drinks? Coke Zero and Champagne or anything bubbly.
Favorite places in the world? Tahiti, Hawaii, Austin, and Spain, where I lived for a semester-abroad program.
Favorite musical artists? I love all old-school ’80s and ’90s hip-hop (the non-explicit kind), and R&B.
What are your hobbies? Swimming, shooting pool, traveling, and spending time with my loved ones.
What’s your passion? I am very passionate about helping others in any way that I can.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Champagne, even when I’m not celebrating anything.
What makes you mad? Ignorance and selfishness.
Is there anything you still want to accomplish in your career, or have you achieved your goals? I still have a long way to go. I’m walking in my dad’s footsteps, and those are hard to follow. I would be happy if I am able to attain half of the success he has in his professional and personal life.
Do you have any words of wisdom for the next scrap generation? Always believe in the work you are doing with a clear vision in mind. Make sure you work as a team, embrace each other’s differences, and embrace change.