Tel Ganesan is learning to live in the moment. But that can be hard for the serial entrepreneur, who built his empire in the tech world before transitioning to a childhood dream of movie making. Today, Tel is living the life he always dreamt but never thought possible. Tel tells us about growing up in India, his successes, and why, to him, being a parent means leaving behind a legacy filled with memories and moments.
Tel, you have a very fascinating and storied kind of life from your beginnings to now. So of all the irons in the fire that you have right now, what are the one or two that you’re most proud of at this point?
At this point really, it’s getting into the film business. Being an engineer and a logical guy and a technology entrepreneur, so getting into an unknown area and trying to make some headway, it’s rewarding.
It’s not like it’s a second career for you or a second act, but to go from a structured engineering background to movie making is a huge leap. But I know that it was always a seed for you.
Back in the day when I was growing up in India before I came to the U.S., I was always fascinated by film making. We would stand in the queue for long hours before we would get to watch the movie. During that time, I would think, “Who are these guys and how are they making films? They’re probably really rich.” So those things were seeded a long time ago and over several decades got manifested. And it happened at the right time.
Do you think it means more to you now than if you had done this when you were 25?
Yes, I think so. Even though I had those dreams and aspirations, I never acted upon it. As Steve Jobs famously said, “You can only connect the dots going backward.” But those dots that we do today will lead to something down the road. So when I look back, lo and behold, it happened that way.
Let’s talk about your son and his involvement.
My son, being of Indian heritage, traditionally they would want to be in a structured, less risk environment, like being a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer…maybe a TV host at the most. Seeing him pursue his dreams has been very rewarding. He’s helped me in many areas, including the demographics. Because he’s so young, he’s in tune with what’s cool in the marketplace. He’s also very creative; I don’t know how he got it but he’s creative. I listen to him and get tips and tricks from him, and then I apply it to what I already know.
Is it everything you hoped for, being in the movie making field now?
I’m making progress every year. I started with low budget Indian movies and now I’m in mid-budget and hopefully I’ll be in high budgets. I just distributed Liam Neeson’s The Marksman movie to the Indian subcontinent. So those things show me that I’m making progress. Obviously, Liam Neeson is one of the top 10 best actors in the world, so if I’m able to get into those kinds of projects, I’m making progress.
Do you find that there’s more of a balance now in your career?
Yes, so what I’m doing is bringing my experience with working with a major corporation like Chrysler, for example, and using the bigger corporate mindset that the studio would look at. And then me being a self-made technology entrepreneur, I know how to start things from scratch. I know how to pick up a garbage bag, so I have all ranges of things. I take that into the creative space and I find that there are a lot of gaps because the people are so focused on being creative. That’s why it’s called movie business or film business because it’s both together. Unless you’re a major studio, some of the creatives can lack that business acumen. It’s a yin and yang; it’s like two hands, you need both to clap.
So much of your career has been focused on leadership. How do you then translate that into your personal life?
Instead of telling your kid, “Do this” or “Do that”, I think the best thing a parent can do is lead by example. Kids don’t follow you; they notice you. They don’t want to be told, but they’re very smart. Instead of preaching, I think we should start practicing. I used to tell a lot of things to my son, but I stopped telling. I start doing, and now I think he’s catching up and he’s doing it on his own.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but as working parents, I feel that we need to show our kids that we get pleasure and joy from work. Parents who are happy and involve them, as you have involved your son, so that it’s not like, “Here’s my work life and here’s my personal life.” It’s blended together.
Absolutely. Beautifully said, Jennifer. Life is one, but in the modern society that we live in, we try to separate them into different pieces, but life doesn’t show any distinction at all. We call it work life, home life, life on its own is one. Same with the days of the week; all days to me are the same. The sun and the moon don’t care if it’s the weekend but in the society we live in, we program ourselves and these mental models to be broken down.
What I’m learning more and more is how do we teach financial literacy. How do we make decisions in life? And we’re so into getting good scores on exams but most of the time we don’t use them. What our traditional educational system is not offering that is so important in the day-to-day life is how to make the right decision, whether it’s a business or a partner, and how do you manage your money? How do you manage your emotions, and how do you have the balance in life? To me, I think that could be the best thing a parent can offer their child more so than giving their wealth to them and offering this type of wealth instead because at the end of the day, this is what you’re leaving behind. It’s those lessons and the memories that we leave behind that must be stronger than the financial wealth we leave behind. I’m still learning; I’m still trying to figure out how to be a good parent and to me I feel that these are my lessons and observations in the last couple of years working with my son closely.
What projects are you most looking forward to?
I’m working on a film called Trap City, which will be released in the first quarter of 2023. I’m looking at launching a new wellness company and putting all the pieces together. I’m also assisting my son in his journey, wherever I can help him. And then I already have my other technology companies so time to time I go there and get involved, and that’s what keeps me involved. I remain open because a lot of times the universe conspires a lot of things for me. If it makes sense, I jump and get involved. I just keep going, enjoy life, and be in the moment.