Mehrota had been admitted to the University of California, Berkeley, but he’d been turned down for a student visa three times by the U.S. Embassy in Delhi. His exasperated father decided to accost the U.S. consul as he returned from lunch.
“He had no interest in talking to my dad,” recalled Mehrota, who was 17 at the time. “Somehow my dad followed him, and I tagged along behind my dad, and my dad kept making the case that I should get a visa. The consul let my dad into the office, my dad pretty much blasted the counsel out of love, and out of disbelief that my student visa was denied.
“The consul didn’t say anything; he let my dad make the case. He was like my trial lawyer; he was like my manager; it was the performance of a lifetime.”
As most of us know by now, Mehrota got his student visa. He went on to finish a bachelor’s and master’s in electrical engineering and computer science, and to help start SanDisk, a memory card manufacturer that was sold last year for about $16 billion. And he learned a valuable lesson that’s still with him, Mehrota told a crowd at a Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon at the Boise Centre.
“I consider that yes, there was some element of luck involved; in all our lives and all our successes and achievements, luck has a big role to play,” said Mehrota, who joined Micron in May. “But the lesson I learned is if you seek success, start with tenacity. It was the tenacity of my dad that got me into the U.S.”
“This core value of mine aligns extremely well with Micron, which, too, is an extremely tenacious company.”
Micron, founded in Boise in 1978, certainly has a success story to match Mehrota’s. Mehrota’s new employer reported revenues of $5.5 billion in the third quarter of this year, and has 34,000 employees in 17 countries. After a wave of mergers in the global memory and storage industries, Micron is the No. 6 player in the world, Mehrota said. It employs about 6,800 people in Boise and has filed for more than 26,000 patents worldwide.
Micron produces the semiconductor memory and storage that is used in almost all of the gadgets that have become indispensable over the last 15 years, including mobile phones.
Mehrota encouraged his listeners to think about how Micron’s success has affected each one personally. Because of Micron’s research, he said the cost of memory has dropped by a factor of about 250,000 since the first 64K DRAM product was shipped in 1981.
“If the automotive industry had achieved the same kind of cost reduction, you would probably be buying a car from the change that is in your couch,” he said.
The last 15 years in technology have been exciting, but they have nothing on the next 15 years. The DRAM and NAND flash memory and storage industry is now a $120 billion industry globally; Mehrota expects that to grow by about $10 billion per year. Artificial intelligence is still developing, but many people believe it will help solve the world’s largest problems. And to do that, it will need to use a lot of data.
“Micron is absolutely at the sweet spot of the trends sweeping the world today,” Mehrota said.
Anne Wallace Allen is the editor of the Idaho Business Review.