Updated: Feb 6, 2021
Please meet Shyam Rao with Citi in Mumbai! Shyam and I went to dinner at the Westin Gurgaon. I learned about his work and his life outside of work, too. It was a really nice and interesting conversation, and I am very appreciative of his time. I put my own words during the interview into brackets, for clarity.
What is your full name?
Hi, my name is Shyam Rao. I am from Mumbai, India, and I work for Citi in Mumbai.
Where do you live? What is your house like?
I live in Mumbai in a place called Wadala. It's the central part of Mumbai, about eight kilometers away from where the airport is located.
I live in a complex called Dosti Acres. It's a huge complex with about 800 apartments. It has a gym, a swimming pool, a tennis court, a badminton court, a table tennis court---it has the works! Our home is a three-bedroom house with me, my wife, my son and my parents. It's a nice, cozy home!
What is your family like?
I've been married for close to 13 years. I have an eight-year-old son who goes by the name Ayush. He is in third grade! My wife, Divya, is an IT engineer, and she works for the BNP Paribas group, the French bank.
[How did you meet?]
We met through our families.
When she moved to Mumbai from Bangalore, I was at BNP Paribas, and they needed someone with IT experience, so I was able to refer her!
My parents are retired now, and they live with us, so there are five of us in the house.
How do you get around?
In terms of commuting, there are a lot of public transportation options in Mumbai. Personally, I prefer to drive because my office is about seven kilometers away (about a 30-minute drive each way) from my home, and my work hours can be a little unpredictable. Sometimes I work pretty late, and it's much more convenient to drive.
What types of clothing do you like to wear?
For work, I wear formal businesswear Monday through Friday. I prefer nice, comfortable, cotton formals and usually keep it as casual as possible unless I have a client meeting. When I meet with clients, I wear a suit.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to spend time with my son. I get very little time with him Monday through Friday because he is busy with school, and I am busy with my work. So on the weekends, I look forward to spending time together. I take him to his sport tournaments or classes that he may be having, or we end up playing a game of badminton in our apartment complex. We sometimes go swimming or even just for a drive. It's mainly activities centering around him!
What language(s) do you speak? How do you say "hello" in your language?
Living in India exposes you to a lot of languages. Obviously, English is taught in schools, and then you have Hindi, which is the national language.
Also, depending on which part of India you are from, you often speak a local language as well. India has so many states. Each state is essentially a country in itself, with its own language, its own way of being, and its own foods and eating habits.
I come from Mumbai, which is based in Maharastra. Marathi is the local language there. I know English, Hindi and Marathi very fluently. My mother comes from the south of India, which is Bangalore. I know a little bit of the southern Indian language, called Tulu.
All together, I know four languages, and these languages are completely different.
English: "Hi, Hello"
Tulu: "Yencha ullar"
Do you have pets?
We don't have pets, although my son has begged for the longest time to have a dog. It's a responsibility, and since my wife and I are both working, it can be very tough. Maybe when he's old enough to appreciate that he needs to contribute to taking care of it, we will consider it!
Have you traveled? Where have you traveled to?
Traveling is my passion. I have been to London in the U.K. recently, as well as Scotland, Switzerland, Italy, France and Spain. I have also traveled in Asia extensively, including to Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Dubai. I make it a point every year to travel to one country where I have not been before. In the last ten years, I have covered a lot of countries!
The next place I want to go to is Japan. April is called the cherry blossom season, so it is supposed to be the best time to visit Japan. However, it might not be the right time to travel now. Maybe we will go to Austria or somewhere else in Europe later this year instead.
My favorite place is likely New Zealand because of its untouched natural beauty. You just feel like nature has been created and left exactly like that. Europe is a mix of natural beauty and man-made beauty. I think my top destinations are Switzerland and New Zealand. My favorite type of food is Italian because I like pizzas and pastas!
What do you do for work?
Shyam is the director of foreign exchange currency at Citi in Mumbai. He has worked at Citi for almost ten years and is based in Mumbai. As a director, Shyam spends a lot of time guiding clients on currency risks and navigating the foreign exchange markets.
[What is your favorite part of your work?]
I enjoy being in the financial markets broadly speaking, though the asset class more relevant to me is foreign exchange (FX), as it gives me the opportunity to track the financial markets at large, whether equities, interest rates, etc. Through this exposure at a global level, each day there is a new theme or a new market reaction to things happening in the world. New geopolitical conflicts affect my work. Every day is a new challenge, and every day I learn something new about which way the financial markets are headed and how things are shaping up, which I enjoy. I think it brings a lot of novelty and makes the work I do exciting.
[You must be reading a lot then.]
I read a lot as a result. We usually refer to a lot of the reports on platforms like Reuters and Bloomberg. I always spend the first hour in the morning reading.
[What time do you reach and leave work?]
I reach work by 8 a.m. and usually leave by 8 p.m. It's a five-day week, so I have the weekends to myself.
I believe you should work hard whenever you're in the office, but you can still enjoy your life outside of work.
[How do you structure your days?]
I personally prefer to start my day early, as early as I can. Markets in India usually open at 9 a.m. I prefer to get to work at 8 a.m. so that I can read up on what is happening in the U.S., U.K., Europe and Asia. That way, when the markets open, I am able to share thoughts with clients about views on currencies and different asset classes. The first few hours of the day, generally speaking, are more productive hours. I think as the day goes on, the work takes over. The work dictates the flow of the day.
Is there anything else you would like to say to the students in the United States?
From personal experience, I would say that the earlier you start, and the harder you work in your initial years, the smarter you invest. When your base becomes strong, you can only take off from there. I see a lot of youngsters not being very clear about what they want to do. You need to have a balanced focus at the right age and right stage of your career. If you are able to put your head down and work hard, that will really help you over the long period.