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Remembering V Ramani

2 August 2012 No Comment

V Ramani- the charismatic media personality from India is no more.

I found about this from Alok Kejriwal’s post on Facebook and his tribute- and then found out more through various news articles. Absolute shock. He was a little young to go.

Ramani was probably by far the most imposing personality I have met in my career. Tall, bald, with a deep voice and a completely no nonsense attitude.

He was an absolutely polarising personality – but the thing is- you could love him or hate him, but you could never ignore or forget him if you met him once.

His sharpness was unbelievable and he was brilliant with numbers. At the same time, I remember him as an absolutely sentimental person.

How could someone so sharp with logic and cold business environment take some decisions based on sentimental values is completely baffling.

I had the chance to work with him while in MediaTurf for a short stint in Mumbai and then when I was sent to handle business and Digital planning in Delhi – in 2001/2002.

I knew Ramani ‘liked’ me- as a professional and as a person. There are some things you know. He was intimidating, very senior and I was very inexperienced, crude and young- but we always had this strange mutual respect.

Some thoughts that I still have of him- extend beyond the media planning/professional part. There are many, but I will list down a few of them:

1) While visiting a client’s office (I think Indiatimes)- Ramani, one client servicing lady and myself (Media strategy) were in a lift. Typical Delhi. A guy in the lift was constantly staring at the lady. Ramani looks at this person- raises his finger threateningly and says- “Kya dekh raha hai idhar? Upar dekh” (What are you looking at? Look up- at the life floor counter). The other guy ran out at the first floor that the lift stopped.

Very filmy. But if he wanted to be the guy on the street, he could be. He had that attitude in professional life also- just a little more sophisticated in mannerisms.

2) Ramani was visiting Delhi on new business pitches. He asks me to prepare a presentation at very short notice to an important prospective client. He did that to you sometimes. He understood your limitations of time, but at the same time, he expected the best deal. Be ready with answers, the numbers. Or else you get it. Then and forever. Sometimes in front of clients.

We went to the meeting. Ramani introduced and asked me to present. The presentation went off really well. Client was impressed – we had the numbers, but more importantly some interesting ideas and the presentation itself- which were my plus points.

Coming out, I wasn’t sure what Ramani’s reactions would be. We sit in the car- and Ramani said- “you can present really well” I breathed a little. And then he throw-ed a tip “Just remember to evolve your style and not be stuck with the same presentation style”

Great combination of a boss and a mentor.

3) A retreat somewhere near Panvel, Mumbai. As someone who did not have interest in the latest cricket scores, who did not smoke (or drink at that time), and as someone who was generally less argumentative – I usually found myself a little out of the crowd. Till the night when I discovered this new side of Ramani. Whiskey in a glass, we went on a singing session trip- with Ramani taking the lead! Not in the singing part but requesting songs- and not letting the singers stop. The main singer being ME! So till 2-3 AM he would make us sing- and then expect us to be in the meeting room again at 8 AM. While we youngsters were struggling to get in on time. He was already there- fresh and ready to pounce upon us- numbers, figures, the works.

Party hard, work harder. Basically complete surrender to the work. Good or bad- that is what he was.

4) We were meeting a new CEO of a big dotcom in Delhi. My impression of many CEOs at that time (I had worked for all of 2-3 years by then) was that you have to be imposing. This CEO on the other hand, was extremely soft spoken and smiling all the way. On our way back, I asked Ramani- what do you think- isn’t he too ‘soft’ to be a CEO? Ramani said “Not everyone is like me Shalabh- being soft does not mean you can’t handle the demands of the job”

Great lesson. Unfortunately the industry is like that. Full of conniving, loud people. If only people treat others with the same respect. Softness does not equal weakness.

I remember my fiancee visiting me in office when I wanted to introduce her to Ramani. He was rushing off and getting late for a meeting- but he did make a point to come up and say Hi! when Ishaan Raina (CEO of Euro) and all other senior people were waiting for him to come over.

We did not keep in touch over the years- and saw lots of ups and downs. We had hardly spoken for 10 years or so. But some things are difficult to erase from memory.

God bless Ramani. May you rest in peace, and sing songs where-ever you are.