The Charan every top honcho seeks

Chitra Narayanan Vinay Kamath New Delhi/Chennai | Updated on December 26, 2011 Published on October 30, 2011

Mr Ram Charan

As the curtains go up on Monday on Ad Asia 2011, the biggest event this year in the advertising industry's calendar, taking the podium first at New Delhi's Taj Palace will be celebrated CEO coach Mr Ram Charan.

The fact that the corporate sage will be delivering the keynote ahead of a formidable array of speakers shows how seriously the industry hangs on his words.

Mr Ram Charan's fee might be intimidating yet Indian corporates have not shied away from seeking strategy advice from the bestselling author of The Leadership Pipeline and The Talent Masters.

Personal coach

Take Mr Analjit Singh, founder of the Rs 7,891.2-crore Max India Group, who stepped down recently as Managing Director of the firm, as part of a management rejig mentored by his personal coach Ram Charan.

From new economy players to old manufacturing firms, Mr Charan has mentored a diverse set in India. Business Line caught up with a few to find out what makes him so sought after.

For Chennai-based Cognizant, it's Mr Charan's ability to abstract the broad idea or theme from a whole lot of verbiage that has added value to their board room pow wows.

“When it comes to strategy, he can quickly understand the context, the goal, the message and the steps to get there in a wink,” says Mr Lakshmi Narayanan, Vice-Chairman of Cognizant.

For Cognizant, he says, Mr Charan has played coach/moderator/consultant during the annual strategy sessions with the board. “We have a unique way of reviewing and fine tuning our strategy and key goals every year, with the entire board and with CXOs of large customers. Ram Charan was part of these sessions for years and would help the management team think through the challenges and come up with key goals,” he explains. The advice seems to be working for Cognizant, which has recently become the new No.3 in the IT landscape in India, displacing Wipro.

For Delhi-based SRF, the Rs 3,500-crore tyrecord-to-fluorospecialities company, which is on a global expansion spree, Mr Ram Charan held a one day training exercise in Bangkok this April.

His advice to the 70-odd members of the SRF top leadership was to look outside their industry for ideas.

“He also told us that we need to know our organisation from the guts, and keep extending the knowledge on a day to day basis,” says Mr Kartik Bharat Ram, Deputy Managing Director, SRF, who says they are now implementing this suggestion. Each team now has to come up with a new learning every day and share it with everyone.

The company which is going through a change management exercise also got advice on how to get the organisation attuned to projects. On his advice breakthrough projects are first tested with employees.

Family-like relationship

“We call him Ram Cha — he is almost like a cha cha to us — as we share a family-like relationship with him,” says Mr Bharat Ram.

The Tatas too have called in the strategy guru to talk to around 100 of their top managers at a conclave in Goa. Mr Harish Bhat, COO, Watches, Titan Industries, who attended the session, says, “He is not a theoretician, but introduces new concepts in a practical manner, and in a way that it can easily implemented.”

Memorable sessions

So what's the one thing that makes the sessions with Mr Ram Charan memorable? “The fact that he speaks in normal language, sans jargon,” says SRF's Mr Bharat Ram promptly.

“The unusual thing about him is that he requires a large flip chart, lots of coloured pens, huge walls to stick the charts on and a large room for people to move about. It is almost like a football game, where every participant is trying to get to the ball, just that the ball is the strategy/theme or the flip chart,” says Mr Lakshmi Narayanan.

For Mr Bhat it is the fact that despite being so widely travelled and having taken all the continents in his grasp, Mr Ram Charan still wears his Indianness endearingly on his sleeve, breaking out into Hindi often!

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Published on October 30, 2011
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