The Life of Chicago’s Niranjan Shah: Childhood, Career, and Contributions
Chicago’s Niranjan Shah is best known for blending his business acumen with his STEM background in order to found the Globetrotters Engineering Corporation. This entrepreneur is known for his diligence and intelligence, but more than that, he’s known for his gratitude and generosity. We’ll look at everything from his life in India to his civil engineering feats to his philanthropy.
It Takes a Village
Shah started in India in a small village called without running water or electricity. At a young age, people in his community took an interest in his talents and they invested in his future. This was how Niranjan Shah ended up studying civil engineering at Sardar Patel University.
His story wasn’t necessarily a typical one in his country. There were countless people who wanted to go to college but never got the chance. Having been given this gift by those who loved him, Shah was determined not to let anyone down. In fact, he chose his degree specifically as a tribute to his hometown. He knew that more infrastructure in his village would make a difference to its denizens, and he wanted to be the one to build it.
After graduating in 1964, he came to the University of Mississippi to earn his master’s degree, thanks to having won a full scholarship. With the enduring love and support from a village thousands of miles away, he was able to take his mastery of civil engineering to the next level. It wasn’t long before he ended up at Harvard Business School to complete the school’s executive management program.
The upward trajectory of Niranjan Shah’s early life can tell you a lot about who he is as a person. As a child, he used his talents to give back to his village, which made everyone want to rally behind his education. In school, he chose his future profession based on what his fellow villagers would want. They held him up while he was at Sardar Patel and they did the same when he was in the US.
That belief they had in him, and the belief Shah had in himself made it easier for him to punch through the next barrier. It should come as no surprise that he didn’t just want to become an engineer, he wanted to have his own firm.
The Globetrotters Engineering Corporation
Niranjan Shah had a few consulting jobs when he started his career, but he never found the right fit. The path forward to serve as his own boss quickly became clear. In 1974, the Globetrotters Engineering Corporation was (and still is today) a company that prides itself on cutting-edge services.
Competitive in practically every sense of the word, Globetrotters was chosen for the reconstruction of I-80, Chicago’s Deep Tunnel Project, and the Chicago O’Hare Development Project (Terminal 5). The organization has been formally recognized by governmental groups and industry organizations alike. The American Society of Civil Engineers has awarded Shah’s company with the Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award and the Illinois Department of Transportation awarded him with the Consultant Exceptional Service Award.
In addition to the development and construction of traditional infrastructure, Niranjan Shah was also quick to update his firm based on the needs of the day. For instance, many people in Illinois turned to Globetrotter’s when they were in need of fiber optic networks. Most notably, when the 911 Emergency Communications Center for Chicago, the staff turned to Shah for answers.
As he honed his expertise, his goal was always to stay a step or two ahead. This wasn’t so much as a way to edge out his competition, but as a way to meet the ever-present needs of his clientele. For instance, those calling into an emergency line wouldn’t have any margin of error. The infrastructure needed to work every single time.
Shah’s reputation for going the extra mile earned him more than a few calls from different branches of the US government to assist on different projects. In addition, he’s consulted for Belize, the Philippines, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Costa Rica — just to name a few.
Giving Back and Getting Ahead
Most people would consider Shah’s responsibilities to be on another level. His life is one major project after another, and it’s time-consuming to keep up with new zoning regulations, safety restrictions, and building protocols. However, when Shah thinks about his role as a leader, he thinks about what his life was like as a young boy. If there was no one to see his potential, he might never have had the chance to use his skills to improve the world’s landscape. He might still be wondering what could have been if only he had been allowed to study a meaningful subject for him.
This is why his life as a leader is marked by giving back in any way he can. When he thinks about the good he can do, though, he’s strategic about the decisions he makes. For instance, he prioritized a high school and medical clinic in his home village of India, ensuring people could get their basic needs met so they could plan their own future.
He has also been instrumental in improving the relationship between the US and India by working with the chairmen of the Committee on Foreign Relations. He’s consulted for sitting presidents like Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, which gave him the chance to talk to people in power about what it was like to live in a developing country. They learned more about the customs and challenges, so they would know how to make a difference. Shah was particularly close to Clinton and his administration, and even spent a night in the White House.
Shah believes that the path to long-term change is paved by building strong relationships with key partners. However, people can also count on him in times of crisis. When the Gujarat Earthquake hit India, he sent 200,000 pounds of supplies, including food, clothing, and medicine. He airlifted it all to the most distressed areas as quickly as he could without compromising anyone’s safety. In 2005, he unsurprisingly received a Glory of Gujarat Award.
Niranjan Shah’s Life Advice
Shah has been known to look at even the most minute details of his life, including what he reads and how he spends his money. The idea is that he wants to have an unifying approach to life, as opposed to one set of values at home and one set of values at work. He encourages other people to be honest about their situations, skills, and larger goals.
He also preaches the importance of staying optimistic about the many opportunities out there. Negative thinking might be relatively commonplace (it might even be understandable), but it’s ultimately unhelpful. Self-defeatists may shield themselves from the sting of failure at times, but they also waste what’s been given to them.
He encourages people to think about the true reality of their passion and talent. For instance, Niranjan made his living on his penchant for science, but that doesn’t make skills like empathy and communication any less valuable. Once a person knows what they want to do, it’s their job to pursue it until they get to where they want to be.
Shah has made it his mission to give back more than he received. It’s a tall order considering where he started, but it’s one he’ll continue to work at for the rest of his life. Based on his track record thus far, he’s made quite a big dent in his debt. He’s managed to not only help Gujarat with his engineering talents and the empire he’s built. The ripple effects of his work have stretched far beyond the US and India, and well into every corner of the world.