Ram, Ramu, Ramchandra Rao is no more.
My partner in Basil HR Advisory left for his heavenly abode on 17th Feb night. I was away at Surat in an L&T program, a client we had worked on together since 2015. One of our first clients, after starting BasilHR in 2014 Oct. It is a testimony to Ramu’s contributions and commitment that since 2015 we have been regularly working for L&T Hazira!! In the process there have been multiple line leaders of L&T who co-ordinated & directed our cultural transformation initiatives. Yet the succeeding generation of leaders kept us engaged…the biggest certificate for Ram sir’s strategic orientation on how BasilHR can add value. The ultimate proof of this : L&T team actually observed 2 mins silence, to pay respects to the departed soul on 18th itself. I can’t think of another example where a large corporate does this for a mere external consultant.
But then, Ramu was never a mere consultant. He got involved intricately with whoever he came in touch with & left an indelible mark. Having studied in Darbhanga, Bihar, Ramu’s chaste Hindi diction & his wide ranging vocabulary, would automatically put any Bombaiyya hindi-wallah on the back foot. His repertoire of curse words and off-colour anecdotes would put many a sailor to shame. But that was a put on persona.
Other times he was a true “ladies man” immaculately dressed with total, upmarket branded clothes, properly polished shoes with laces!!! so well groomed that one could easily take him to meet the Queen & he would be totally at home there!!! Or to any client, or prospective client. With his most prim & proper board room behavior he could charm any client. And when he spoke, people listened. His ability to work through objections & suggestions others made, blending their ideas with his agenda, made us a very successful team. All our present clients have been giving us repeat business for years & years. Because of Ramu’s demeanor, BasilHR became the first port of call for many clients who required HR support.
This meant we were on the road, together, for 20 plus days of a month. we travelled and worked together so very much that we were like a married couple, still in love!! And a more classic Odd Couple you would not find after Walter Matthau & Jack Lemmon. Every which way we were perfectly mis-matched. To his broad picture, world view I was the nuts and bolts guy. To his sartorial elegance, were my crumpled shirts and mis-matched trousers. When I met him I was shocked to hear he had 800 Rs haircuts and regularly indulged in grooming makeovers, while my criteria to select a barber was just close distance from home & cap of 80 Rs haircut!! His love for food, against my “”Lunch/Dinner is just a time to get through”. I think the only thing we both agreed upon was our passionate love for our drink: but here also he was a sophisticate Whiskey guy; while I am a committed sadak chaap Old Monk drinker. But still, after all the hurly burly is done, we both loved drinking.
Possibly that is not fair. Another thing we both thought important was family. His eyes would light up everytime he talked of his grand children. His affection for his 2 daughters continued unabated till the end. Family is my priority, too
What always surprised me was his outgoing nature & ability to have a truly mixed caboodle of friends, belonging to all strata & factions of society. Builders, Professors, Contractors, Doctors, Businessmen, Politicos, Academics, Corporate Professionals all considered him as one of their own!! Despite such a wide spectrum of friends, he was always hungry for more contacts. He was a pied piper let loose: he could get along & befriend anybody, from a canteen worker to a CEO. Always ready to help, taking on other people’s battles endeared him to many! I have often see him work his charm on all & sundry and come out of every interaction with more friends, more people wanting to go out of their way to help him.
For an introvert like me, forever wary of speaking to the other sex, Ramu gave me an insight how Krishna must have been with the Gopis. From the first glance, Ramu had made a connect. And could always find things to talk. His light banter always charmed, and I have not seen a single lady who could resist his charm. Well dressed, soft spoken, neatly coiffured, he had the entire audience hanging on his words. And he could get away with any comment, any innuendo because of his charming smile & engagement with all.
He openly admitted being an XLRI graduate by accident. His brother, an IIT-ian, was the brain in his family. Ramu was often at the receiving end from his parents, due to the odious comparison. But he remained true to his core. Living in a small town, (where everyone knew his father), meant when Ram had to use the town’s Christian Cemetery as his smoking lounge! Advantage: no one came there! So he & his merry band from school sat on the grave stones & smoked. Before going home they ate raw mango leaves to mask the smell. Post marriage he used chewing gum to mask the smell of cigarette & liquor on his breath. Yet he was honest to admit: ghar walon ko sab pata hota hai, they just pretend they do not know, to protect your image.
With such a rich & varied people orientation, it was no surprise he was very successful HR professional. In Indal, VIP, Wockhardt, Hinduja Group, and GVK, he led his team to great heights. He was happy with the fact that many of his chelas became HR heads with much larger roles than what he had ever played. He felt beholden that he could recount 20/25 names of people who worked in his team & then rose to be Heads of HR in different companies. In the course of our travel, I had the opportunity to meet many of them & they all treated him with the deference & respect due to a true Guru, who led by example & groomed his team to go to greater heights by his challenges.
For me personally it is a great loss. I can never meet another partner who could challenge & jell with me at the same time. I feel super proud of what we achieved together. The value add we jointly created will live on beyond him. And will keep reminding me & our clients that we had a Giant walking amidst us. A Giant with a heart. A Giant with a gentle step. Suffused with love for all. If I miss him so much, I can well what his family must be going through. He loved his daughters and his grandchildren and often talked of the support his wife gave him through his journey. Ramu would want them to be happy. So I hope they find their solace soon.
To them and to his many many professional fans i will only say झालेत बहू होतील बहू परंतु ह्या समा हाच!! ( There were many before, there will be many later; But no one will be quite like this one!)
Let us be happy that we met & enjoyed with Ramu for the years we did.
Ramu keep loving & blessing us as you always did: in grief, vikas
PS: My wife who is my QC for every blog told me that writing about his smoking & drinking, is it ok? I told her that was the Ramu I loved & so would not like to edit it out. I hope you, my readers, agree