Employee Spotlight: Ashish Upadhyay
As COVID-19 spread worldwide, the UnitedLex applications manager became stranded, then helped thousands on their own journeys home.
Every February, UnitedLex applications manager Ashish Upadhyay makes the journey from Overland Park to his hometown of Patna, India to visit family.
Upadhyay has called Kansas home since 2012, after relocating from the Gurgaon office. The annual visit had become routine, but in February 2020 there was a new urgency. He knew his mother’s health was in decline. She passed not long after he arrived with his wife and son. Like most, Upadhyay was acutely aware of the increasing spread of coronavirus globally.
While Upadhyay tended to his family’s needs, the world began shutting down. He was planning a return home in March until all flights ceased. A nationwide lockdown in India followed and confined everyone to their homes. Upadhyay, his wife, and young son have been in India ever since.
In Patna, laborers who had come from hundreds of miles away also suddenly had to return home; thousands began making the journey on foot, often without enough food.
“This started appearing in the news everywhere,” Upadhyay recalls. “So I just thought, let’s do something.”
Upadhyay began gathering food and water and bringing it to areas along the path of thousands of workers. Others began to chip in, and soon he was managing the distribution of thousands of meal packets.
Word spread about his work locally, then one day co-workers in the Gurgaon office saw him on television. Back in the US, manager Bruce Otte, Vice President, Enterprise Applications, was not surprised to see newspaper clippings making the rounds.
“As an employee, Ashish is one of the most accommodating and conscientious team members I’ve ever worked with,” Otte said. “He never wants to say no to anyone. He is always focused on client-centricity, and is great example of how others should interact with other parts of the business.”
Gerardo Herrera, Chief Information Officer, remembers Upadhyay as one of the first UnitedLex employees to relocate from India to the US. “Those early efforts helped build the company’s capacity for making similar moves,” Herrera says, “and it allowed us to keep building a professional relationship and a friendship.”
“He’s a quiet person,” Herrera adds, “but you know he’s someone who cares for people.”
Upadhyay notes that while he grew up in Patna, his son was born in the US. And his teachers in Overland Park ensured his ability to continue his education online as the family remained stranded in India. While it was too dangerous to help his father with relief work, his son helped collect money for the effort.
The media attention—as well as commendations from local officials—yielded more supplies and volunteers. Seemingly overnight, Upadhyay’s team was preparing 5,000 food packets a week, with soap and water included. The additional resources, however, came with a simultaneously increasing risk.
“Going into a crowd of 500 people was a huge exposure,” he says. “I was always extremely careful and cautious to protect myself, and it brought a lot of satisfaction to work for the community when it was in need.”
Upadhyay continued to prepare meals until India’s lockdown eased, turning his attention to his own family finding a flight home. By the second week of July, nearly five months after arriving in Patna, they made it back to Overland Park.