My sixth guest on the Play to Potential Podcast series is Ravi Venkatesan. He is the Chairman of Bank of Baroda and the Co-Chairman on the Board of Infosys. He is the co-founder and Chairman of Social Venture Partners India, a network of engaged leaders attempting to address complex social issues through venture philanthropy. He invests in young organizations through Unitus Seed Fund. He also works as a mentor with some start-ups that need guidance. Ravi is the former Chairman of Microsoft India and Cummins India. He is the author of bestseller “Conquering the Chaos – Win in India, Win everywhere” published in 2013 by Harvard Business Review. He is an alumnus of IIT Bombay (B.Tech – Mechanical Engineering), Purdue University (Masters in Engineering) and Harvard Business School (MBA).
Ravi has had several interesting transitions through his career 1) Moving from the US to India to head Cummuns 2) Moving from heading Cummins in India to heading Microsoft 3) Leaving Microsoft to pursue his current portfolio of Board memberships, writing, speaking, philanthropy, investing, mentoring start-ups and more. We spoke about a range of topics including the transitions he has made, leadership in the social impact world, building a career in a growing gig-economy and more.
This conversation was published around March 2017.
Want to make a difference in society? A lot of us want to positively impact the world around us. But often times, this intention fades into the background or does not come to fruition. Enter Social Venture Partners- a platform for people like you who want to be agents of change. Hear Ravi talk about their ‘million jobs mission’ and the unique challenges faced by leaders in the social sector.
How much of you as an individual can be attributed to early childhood experiences? In this nugget hear Ravi speak about three main influences in his early years that shaped his personality. Did you know that he had to take a year off from school due to medical reasons and this turned out to be a boon in shaping his boundless curiosity!
In this rapidly changing world, Ravi has three main nuggets of wisdom for graduates who are thinking about their careers and professional life ahead. How has the view of a ‘career’ changed over time and what is the best way to think about it today? What qualities should one spend time cultivating and nurturing? Hear on.
How does being a business leader in India differ from leading in other international markets? Hear Ravi elaborate on what you need to succeed in India by sharing some personal experiences. Don’t miss the bit about Jack Welch of GE and the concept of a younger mentor.
Having worked in Cummins and moved up the ladder, Ravi took up the challenge of being the CEO of Microsoft India at just 40 years of age and against the advice of family and friends. This was an industry he knew nothing about and a culture his friends thought he wouldn’t adapt to. How did he make this transition successful? What did he pay attention to? Hint: The anecdote of his interview with Bill Gates is very interesting.
Ravi’s career trajectory has often taken him to sectors and organizations he did not know much about. The key to his successful transitioning, according to him, has been listening; but listening to what and whom? Get the details and some tips in this anecdotal nugget.
One of the many hats Ravi wears in his professional life is that of an investor. He is a venture partner and invests in young companies. In this nugget, he talks about the five main qualities he looks for in any entrepreneur before backing him and how he goes about deciphering whether those qualities exist in the individual or not. Hint: It is much more to do than your academics or career record!
Start-ups often grow at a rate faster than the rate at which people build the leadership muscle. This leads to the risk that your job may outgrow you. Hence, it is imperative to keep growing as a person and as a leader. Ravi lays down three aspects you should focus on in order to grow with the times and your organization.
There is an inherent assumption that successful executives can easily transition into non-executive roles on the boards of organizations. However, as Ravi points out, that is not necessarily true. Hear him talk about the special responsibilities and skills of a Board member. He also puts forward four questions you should ask yourself before taking on a non-executive responsibility.
Ravi has had two long stints in Cummins and then Microsoft, after which he switched to a portfolio of opportunities. He talks about evaluating this deep root vs. wide branches approach to structuring your career. He also has important tips for organizations looking to attract good performers. Tune in!