“Heard the latest? Ranjan Das is dead,” my friend Sudesh updated over GTalk. The bit of news numbed me, and for a moment I thought it must be some other Ranjan Das he might be referring to. Certaily not the Ranjan Das that I knew, the MD & CEO of SAP, who was young fighting-fit with a cherubic face. Amongst the many IT top guys that I knew, he was by far the fittest, Ranajajoy Punja (ex-cisco and now Vodafone) would come in second. I remember meeting Ranjan a few months back, the suave and genteel man seemed completely in control and excited to drive the German company’s revenues in India. In fact, SAP after many years had nominated an Indian for the top job (followed by Alan Sedghi) and Ranjan seemed to be the best man for it proved by the soaring revenues even as the economy took a dip. Hence, after a few anxious moments, I asked Sudesh “the SAP one?” To my dismay it was. And all that remained was a shock.
The reason for this profound effect was his age. At 42, Ranjan could be termed to be at his prime. He was physically fit, in fact he was returning from a session at the gym when the hands of fate stopped his heart beat. Going by my own gait and girth, I for once would have been a more likely candidate for such an event in comparison to Ranjan. But then Ranjan is not the exception when it comes to a life snuffed out in the prime, in my own personal sphere I have come across numerous instances like Dewang & Sunil Mehta from Nasscom, Vivek Dayal from Mphasis, etc.
The one thing that is common to all these departed souls except for their relatively young age, is the fact that they all were involved in fairly high-profile work. All of these people including Ranjan were complete go-getters, always on the move, with set goals for the future and moving briskly towards them. The only thing a miss was that such work and lifestyle brings in tons and tons of stress with it. Somewhere their bodies could not keep pace with their ambitions and it gave up. Hard stress and not hard work killed them. Continue reading
Settling down for a cup of tea with a CIO friend of mine, the discussion veered about things in general and not so general. After glossing over issues like the elections in Maharashtra, water cuts in Mumbai, and Nobel for Prez Obama, the topic veered towards the various clubs et al. The clubbing bit was a trigger and my friend showed me an invitation that he (or another CIO friend of his) had received from reputed IT publishing group. The company was establishing a CIO club, and was soliciting advice on it.
The proposed club had almost all the features like the other CIO clubs, but it went a bit ahead. Namely, there will be family outings, tuitions and career guidance for kids, cookery classes and kitty parties for wives, caretakers for old parents, etc. In addition, there will be all those ‘exclusive’ conferences invites, the offsite events, etc. etc. Yet one of the most distinguishing features of the proposed club was the annual fee, a whopping Rs. 1,00,000 per annum.
With a rather obtusely open mouth, I asked my friend what he thought of the initiative and the annual fee. He smiled at me obliquely and responded; “why pay when you can have all this and more for free”.
Indeed, over the years that I have spent in the IT industry, one observation that has been reaffirmed time over time that among all the other top executives within an organization, the Chief Information Officer or CIO stands tall and is treated differently both within and outside the organization. It has been a long journey for the Indian CIO, often starting as an EDP manager in the days of yore and then going on to head a function that was at bestconsidered to be a support one. Today, the IT department is critical glue that not only connects the disparate functions within the company but now is also a strategic one than can help in curtailing costs and gaining market share. As the weight age of the IT function zoomed over the years, so has the stock value of the CIO. Continue reading
Received an innocuous mail from TCS today, it was regarding a press meet at their heritage building HQ in Mumbai with the CEO and MD. All seemed like yore till my eyes actually read the name N Chandrasekaran instead of the usual S Ramadorai. In fact, the mind is so accustomed to see his name, that it took a moment to realise that the change of guard that had been in the offing, is finally at hand.
Come tomorrow (October 6), the curtains will be down for one of the most illustrious CEOs of India, Subramaniam Ramadorai or S. Ramadorai as he is more universally known. The top-honcho at TCS, the $6 billion IT behemoth, will hand over the baton to his successor N Chandrasekaran (Chandra, is his appellate) and take a back seat as the vice-chairman. The handover is necessitated by the Tata Rule book that states that no individual can continue as a CEO beyond the age of 65. There have been exceptions in the past, but Rama has chosen to follow the rule-book and not take the easy way out. In fact this is one of the most defining traits of Rama as an individual and as a CEO; he never flinches to take a long arduous path if he believes it to be the right one. With a grit that only a few can match up with, Rama will keep working at the goal tirelessly, day in and day out. And yet, except for the few around him not many would realise that this calm serene sexatarian is a workaholic, who even when is calm and serene on the out, is in fact working at a frenzied pace within. Looks can be deceptive, is a phrase that would have been coined for Rama, if it wasn’t before.
It was much this grit and determination that won him the CEO cap at TCS, when the doyen of Indian IT, FC Kohli retired back in 1996. Back then, not many knew who exactly Ramadorai was or would have given him much notice, considering the fact that back then TCS was a private company and fairly secretive about its revenues and spread. In those days, for Indians IT meant Infosys or Wipro, or even HCL, but certainly not TCS. And yet, Rama who had joined TCS as a junior engineer in 1972 was destined and determined to change that. He rose through the ranks and eventually was charged with setting up TCS’ operations in the United States in 1979 in New York City, where he got an opportunity to prove his mettle.
Hailing from Nagpur, Rama grew up in Delhi where his father worked with the Indian audits and accounts service department. After studying physics at the University of Delhi, he headed south to Bangalore to study communication technology at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science. Continue reading