Vivek Sood

Vivek Sood Website Design

My Personal Journey

All journeys are interesting, especially when you do not know
the destination. Mine is no exception. If you would rather see
my journey in an easy to absorb infographic, please click

Exploring the world (in 80 months, or so

One of the first incidents on joining sea, on the ship's maiden
voyage from Japan to Los Angeles, I nearly lost my left hand in
a major accident in heavy rolling seas. I was 18; the worry of
losing the use of left hand started creeping in. Luckily, the
highly skilled surgeons in Los Angeles managed to bring back
95% functionality of my hand within a few months. But then
again, that didn't prevent me from spending the next 11 years
in the merchant navy. The opportunity to travel around the
world and learn was too good to miss.

Is Personal Journey Still Relevant?

What fueled me to study economics while at sea

My first assignment was to go to a shipyard in Japan to take
delivery of a brand new ship being built there. At this time, due
to the severe depression in the global shipping industry, I saw
many super tankers, worth several millions of dollars, sailing
on their maiden voyage straight from the shipyard to the
demolition yard. it was painful to watch, akin to being forced to see a baby
being killed at its birth. The eye-opening experience aroused in
me an intense desire to study the causes of recessions and
economic cycles.

Experience is the best teacher

As I circumnavigated the globe multiple times on ships
working 12 - 16 hours a day, 6 - 7 days a week, I spent all my
spare time reading voraciously about the economics, finance
and modern commerce. I tried relating what I read to what I
saw - e.g. once I saw the exchange rate in Argentina fall by
more thant 300% in a matter of weeks, leaving me with a
stackful of useless currency notes. I worked in hundreds of ports, harbours, shipyards, dry docks and with people all around the world. After learning so many
ways of doing the same things, I started learning how to
combine the best practices to make things even better where
I could. With progressively more responsibilities and
perspectives, I learnt many things at sea.
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I still use what I learned many decades ago

In a recent (August 2015) keynote speech at Marina Bay
Sands in Singapore, I said the following on the complexity of
achieving end-to end optimization:

Here's What No One Tells You About Personal Journey.

"During my seafaring days, I remember being a second officer
and put in charge of navigating the ship. My only job was to
optimize the route from point A to point B. From time to time,
there'd be some complexities, but optimizing the route was
still a manageable task. Than I became a chief officer and had
to optimize both route and cargo. Later on, when I was made a
captain, I was responsible for optimizing the route, cargo and
costs. Fuel is a huge expense, typically amounting to 33% of
the total costs for any shipping company. As you can see,
achieving end-to-end optimization in any sort of business is
challenging, and involves a wide range of variables."
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Why I said goodbye to the life at sea?

Even though saying goodbye to the sea was difficult, the
stagnation of being a Captain for rest of my life was even
more difficult to accept. I had arrived at a dignified point, and
the time had come to move on and learn new things. It was
not a final good bye though - I still do some consulting work
on ocean freight strategies; and I sail boats and dinghies on
the harbour, when I can.