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The power of “hello” resonates in alumnus Neelay Bhatt’s TEDx Talk

Thursday, March 24 2016 12:00am

Hello! Hola! Bonjour! Ciao! Namaste! Kon’nichiwa!

By Brianna Wilson

“Imagine yourself arriving in a foreign land for the first time. A place where you don’t know anybody, where you don’t speak the language, where you don’t even have a phone, and you sure as $%#$ don’t know where the one person who was supposed to pick you up disappeared...” This situation is exactly where Ohio University College of Business alumnus Neelay Bhatt was when he experienced the great power of one small word: hello.  

Then a graduate student at OHIO, Bhatt was arriving in Athens, Greece to work for the Athens Olympic Organizing Committee (ATHOC) for the Olympic Village press and media relations department for the 2004 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. He recalled a few Greek words a member of his cohort taught him, and approached a stranger, saying, “Hello” in Greek, followed by “phone?” Needless to say, Bhatt ended up where he was supposed to be.

Now, Bhatt is Chair of the College’s International Advisory Board, a successful consultant, entrepreneur and public speaker. But according to Bhatt, his most distinct identity is being a “citizen of the world.” Raised in India, Bhatt came to OHIO for its MBA and MSA dual degree in 2003. His Olympic experience in Europe was followed by time working for Disney in Orlando, before settling down in Indiana where he is, now, the Vice President for PROS Consulting INC. 

Everywhere he went, Bhatt noticed something. Being able to greet others with a “hello” and “thank you” in the local language went a long way. It helped him build better personal and professional relationships, break through barriers, and even use strangers’ phones—all over the world. Bhatt shared this observation publicly for the first time as the opening speaker at TEDxIndianapolis 2014 with his talk, “You had me at hello…hola…bonjour!”

“What we have in common is basic humanity,” Bhatt explained. “We all like to be liked. So simple gestures [like saying hello] have always helped me break the ice quickly because they create a sense of empathy.”

Bhatt’s nuanced observations were well received in Indianapolis—and beyond. The talk went viral, and now is being used in classrooms and professional settings around the world as a training and motivational tool. 

He says the College of Business and the Sports Administration program played a huge role in the genesis of his talk. “Spending time with classmates from all over the world, I was able to see first-hand the implications of hello at OHIO,” he said. “It helped validate that even at a top-rated program in the world, the same principles resonate in both personal and professional contexts.”

Today, Bhatt uses these principles not only in his personal life, but also as he tries to form partnerships for OHIO through the International Advisory Board. Most recently, he is looking to partner with institutions in Asia, particularly India, to offer international sports management programs to a global audience.   

“There is a lot of international interest in helping our programs grow, especially considering the caliber of our program,” said Bhatt. “Hopefully, these partnerships will allow an international audience seeking sports management education to access the caliber of OHIO’s programs and make a difference in their local or global communities.”