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  ISSUE OF JANUARY 2003
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Ragas To Riches

Piety, passion and perseverance, not necessarily in that order, characterise the entire persona of Vijay J Lazarus, president and managing director, Universal Music, discovers Charmaine Fernz

This isn’t the cliched rags to riches success story, it’s about ragas to riches, about taking your passions seriously and making it your Universe. This is exactly what the president & managing director of Universal Music, Vijay J Lazarus did, as he virtually created music divas just by following his inner voice.

Pretty much a ‘one thing led to another’ sequence of events initiated Lazarus into the world of music. Back in the 1970s, in his position of president of the Rotary Club, he approached Polydor, a reputed music company as a prospective sponsor for a music programme the Club was organising. In his interaction with the managing director, he not only managed the sponsorship but also landed himself a job as he completely floored the MD with his concept and diligence. A strategic step at the time, as the music industry would certainly offer growth prospects. Down the years Lazarus grew consistently with the company assuming the title of MD in the 1990s and is currently the president and managing director. He has basically seen the company through its the years as it changed from Polydor to Music India to Polygram and now Universal. He has also contributed to ingenious solo singers becoming icons in their realms. The likes of Pankaj Udhas and Peenaz Masani have been introduced to their fan followings during his long standing career. In fact it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that he has almost created an audience for the Ghazal and Bhajan genre of music.

‘London has the highest comfort level, with its countryside ambience, unassuming lifestyle and of course – theatre’

But its certainly not been a journey of all work and no play for Lazarus as he played lead Opera roles such as that of the famous Oliver, and Robin Hood in his scholastic days. He’s also been quite a "player" strictly with the implication of being a sport. He’s been part of the national bandwagon of cricket fanatics and has made it to the inter-collegiate level although he sighs he couldn’t be a part of the national cricket team. But while he couldn’t take cricket to the national level he tried his hand at tennis, football and hockey. Tennis he follows to a great extent and has been to the Wimbledon on two occasions with his wife.

So does Universal’s MD’s cosmos revolve around music and cricket?

Not a chance. Travelling is the unprecedented numero uno among his varying interests. Travelling through his thoughts, he humourously remarked, "As a family we have travelled so extensively that my son was once asked if collecting visas was his hobby. I basically believe that travel is an education in itself. I travel a great deal on business but I simply love to take time out and travel."

With wife and (extreme right) daughter

On a reminiscent note, he very fondly says, "One of our most memorable vacations would be in Yugoslavia, in this town called Prates Lava, which is on the other side of Venice. Beauty is in abundance, everything so natural, even the habitat, flora and fauna. It was extremely rustic in comparison to the sophistication of Venice." As someone who has to travel long distances as a result of his position what he appreciates the most when travelling is the feeling of "home". In fact when travelling in India, he tends to patronise the Taj group as he feels that they bring out the essence of Indianness. Even the cuisine at the Taj hotels, he says, is essentially Indian. When travelling overseas he isn’t particularly difficult but in-flight cuisine often poses a problem. However, he feels in-flight services on an average have ameliorated significantly in most airlines,especially Swiss, Lufthansa, KLM, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and Malaysian Airlines. In terms of places, London, he says has the highest comfort level, with its countryside ambience and unassuming lifestyle and of course - theatre. "New York always leaves me amazed with its pulsating rhythm. Among the other places that I prefer are Australia and the Far East. Within India nothing compares to the beauty of the backwaters of Kerala and the evergreen charisma of Kashmir. Of course the real joy in experiencing places is with the family,” he says.

So what is the driving force behind devoting endless hours at work, spending quality time with the family and pursuing his varied diversions. The answer was prompt and straight from the heart, " I have drawn complete strength in experiencing life through my faith in the Almighty."

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