Mr Venkatram Vasantavada, MD&CEO SeedWorks International Private Ltd., was invited to the 27th Convocation of Vignana Jyothi Institute Of Management (VJIM). A Management Institute at Hyderabad, Telangana as Chief Guest for Convocation Ceremony on 18th December. Mr Venkatram’s speech was inspirational and created a positive emotional experience for the audience who resonated with him. His words inspired the audience and motivated them to act, and grab the opportunities coming their way.
Mr Venkatram’s speech is as follows:
Dear Shri Sureshbabu Garu, President, Vignana Jyothi, Shri J.S. Rao Garu, General Secretary, Vignana Jyothi, Shri Durga Prasad Garu, Director, VJIM, Dignitaries, Faculty, Parents, and students. Greetings, It is an absolute honour and privilege to be part of the 27th Convocation of VJIM. I want to thank Dr Ravinath for reaching out to me and Dr Durga Prasad Garu for inviting me to this occasion.
Congratulations to the students on this special day, This Congratulatory message becomes special and unique in these distressing times. You navigated the unprecedented crisis of pandemic successfully at such a young age. I would like to appreciate and acknowledge the resilience, tenacity, and determination you have demonstrated during these unprecedented times. I know your journey was not easy. But if the mountain were not steep, and the climb did not test your resolve, the view would not be such a revelation or such an inspiration. Now you stand at the peak, and opportunity stretches out before you.
Thank you, dear parents, for standing with your child and all the encouragement and support. (Human being is a very competitive animal, He fights till he succeeds, or doesn’t t want to lose out, it is only in the case of children where parents want to lose for them to win.). A big Thanks to the Faculty for their support and encouragement. Alber Einstein said, “It is the supreme art of a teacher to awaken joy, creative expression and knowledge”. Brad Henry Love said – “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instil a love of learning” and our shastra’s also asked us to bow in reverence to all of them–” मातृ: देवो भव | पितृ: देवो भव | आचार्य: देवो भव |.”
In a speech at an American University in 1963, John F Kennedy said, “Our Problems are manmade-Therefore they can be solved by man and Stephen Spielberg in 2016 speech at Harvard said—“Your job is to create a work that lasts forever”. Both these statements are very profound, and there is a call for action. This was relevant at that time and continues to be more appropriate given the unprecedented changes in technology and extreme events in climate which we are experiencing. The three broad areas in my speech would be revolving around the above two profound statements. All my examples around the three broad areas will relate to contemporary companies and leaders whom we hear, listen to, and see in action.
1. Purpose Driven Leadership (If I had to give this speech a decade back, I would not have spoken about it in this forum, but in today’s world where graduate students like you are well informed, career choices are beyond pay and perks, many of you are becoming job -givers than job seekers). It is very relevant, and we all need to get inspired by these great companies and leaders and start putting it into practice. I cannot resist the temptation of offering you a few snippets of wisdom from my professional experience as I am navigating my career.
The Purpose is a living concept, invites accountability and is commercially valuable. It helps respond to external disruptions. However, it must be made to live by deeds, concrete commitments followed by action. The Purpose is now at the heart of the Corporate Governance and stewardship code.
Allen Jope, Unilever, says that Purpose is a pathway to better profits. I quote him,” There is a view there is a trade-off that somehow or other it costs you to run your business on a sustainable and responsible footing. By looking after your people, customers, and impact on society and the planet and worrying about your mark on your community, The shareholder will be better rewarded as a result. He concludes that it is not ESG/Sustainable business/purpose/responsible conduct or financial delivery. It is not Purpose or profit. It is Purpose leading to profits. (Sharing of personal experience -Extempore)
Mohit Joshi, President, Infosys, reinforces the point “when you have those tough decisions to make and if you have a purpose statement, it gives you that frame-to know in what direction the result should be there and there isn’t a conflict”. He talks about huge investments which Infosys made way back in wastewater recycling, solar plants, and training. Some Analysts and competitors thought it to be a wasteful expenditure in building these substantial white elephants, as in those times, Green was not fashionable and an In-Thing. However, today, the company is reaping the benefits of a responsible company towards society at large, and stakeholders appreciate the same. He says that there is nothing except a short-term conflict as in the long term, there is no conflict. He concludes by saying that Purpose is the single most ingredient to success (Sharing of personal experiences-Extempore).
Sir Simon Stevens, CEO, NHS, England believes that NHS’s clarity of Purpose has been vividly demonstrated over the Covid Pandemic “Under the most extreme test the health service has ever faced, it has risen to that remarkably. Necessity has driven change and questioned accumulated ways of delivering care to a third of a million very severely ill hospitalized coronavirus patients successfully. However, the question he is having in his mind is not about clear Purpose but how one bottle and sustain the extraordinary response one has seen in the pandemic to the next phase of the health services department. (Sharing of personal experiences-Extempore).
To Summarize—People no longer want to work for an organization that is purely focused on profit. They want to know what companies are doing about the environment, local communities and how responsible they are towards society. As an individual, Entrepreneur, and prospective Employee making choices– unless you have the clarity of Purpose in anything you do, you are at a gate blowing in a breeze. If you can’t articulate why, you are here and what you are trying to do concisely, you don’t know what you are doing.
(Sharing of personal experiences-Extempore).
2. Leadership Moments: We all need to be ready for those moments when our Leadership is on the line, and the fate and fortune of others depend on what we do. We need to be prepared if we are to seize the opportunity. One of the most effective ways of preparing for such challenges is by looking at what others had done when their Leadership was on the line. By examining their experience and asking what they did and what they could have done, and by wondering what you would have done to yourself, you can better anticipate what you should do when faced with your leadership challenges. Leadership has acquired nearly as many incarnations as there are analysts and consultants. For Historian James MacGregor Burns, Leadership is a calling. For Peter Drucker, Leaders are those whose followers” Do the Right thing”, For Abraham Lincoln, Leadership appealed to the” better angels of our nature”. There is no one definition, and there can’t be one. Leadership is to signify the act of making a difference, revamping a languishing organization, and serving the greater good.
Roy Vagelos ends river blindness in Africa—Know Yourself-Roy was the Senior Vice President of Research at Merck & Company. He had to choose to invest huge investments over a long period in a drug to cure River Blindness in Africa, which did not have any commercial value. At the same time, one can’t contradict the company’s axiom that Health precedes wealth. Roy Vagelos finally sought commercial approval for Drug and, in the meantime, also was promoted as CEO of the company. He got support from the Governments for the Drug, which is famously called “Mectizan”, but then had this daunting task of distributing the Drug and reaching it to the interiors of Africa. Merck had lost $200million or more by this time, almost free of cost. The critical lessons of Leadership: a) Achieving an organization’s imperative is the leader’s calling, but sometimes we confront moments when we must do otherwise. Such decisions must be relatively unique and consistent. b) Clear Headed Thinking about why you have been appointed to an office and what those who have placed you there expect of you is a pre-requisite to clear mind, if not predictable decision making. C) Know Yourself: Understanding your values and where you want to go will ensure you know which paths to take. (Sharing of personal experiences-Extempore)
Clifton Wharton restructures a pension giant-Prepare Yourself- He was running one of America’s great public university systems, The State University of New York and was a developing economist, He had run neither run a financial services firm nor an insurance firm, but he was offered to run the largest non -Government pension system in the world. a) Moving through varied and increasingly responsible management experiences develops the personal confidence and diverse skills required to master a different and more ambitious array of tasks. b) Buy-in by all those affected by an organization’s change hastens its achievement. Consultation with them, their engagement and appeals to them are the critical steps for accepting the change. c) Criticism of the past is essential to foresee a better future, but honouring the past can be equally crucial for moving into the future (Sharing of personal experiences-Extempore)
3. Winning at Work and in Life—11 Mantra’s (Sharing of personal experiences-Extempore)
1) Is Money the essential variable in a career? Money is important. If you are good, Money will follow, Try and be good at whatever you pursue and that will guarantee a promising career and good compensation
2) Switching Industries in a career, there is no substitute to preparation when you consider moving to a new Industry. New Industries are coming up as the economy evolves, opens, and gets disrupted.
3) Should I turn Entrepreneur? Telangana is one of the states doing great work in encouraging entrepreneurship, starting with a good product or service idea that can be unique or differentiated. Have an experienced sounding board to challenge you and tell you the truth no matter how bitter the truth is.
4) It’s all in mind: You are your deep driving desire, As is your passion, so is your will, As is your choice, so is your act, and as is your act, so is your destiny.
5) To get, you must first give
6) Connect with people
7) Passion is what passion does
8) Look beyond yourself and learn to forgive yourself
9) Coping with unfairness is a common hazard in a career
10) Balance is the key
11) The seeds of physical fitness must be sowed early in life.
As I said earlier, we all are witnessing disruptive changes, Some of the Jobs which are existing today were not there earlier, and we would see many new opportunities coming up. Today’s education may or may not be relevant fully. This change would require a different kind of Leadership. It should be one born of Optimism, Ambiguity, Continuous learning, and Value creation. I do not doubt that you will positively impact thousands of lives throughout your careers. I have confidence in your talent, your determination, and the quality of the education you have received. I would encourage you to demonstrate the qualities we spoke about, actions you can take, and attitudes you can adopt, which will help maximize your success as a leader in the years to come. Your success is going to be your humility. You are the leaders you have been waiting for. You see things clearly, get angry, transform that anger into action, and get into good trouble if required. We live in a fast-paced world that is infinitely connected and has unlimited memory. While you move on the path of academic excellence, it is equally important that you take care of your Health by undertaking regular physical activity and adopting a healthy lifestyle. Spend time knowing Yourself and constantly striving to be a good human being.
ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु मा कश्चिद्दुःखभाग्भवेत ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः॥
Acknowledgements: I would like to sincerely thank and acknowledge the leaders (Authors too in some cases) for their inspiring actions, Authors of the book who have narrated their inspiring stories and actions.
1. The Purpose Tapes (The Purposeful Company), May 2021
2. The Leadership Moment, Michael Useem.
3. The Right Choice, Shiv Shivkumar
4. When the Penny Drops, R.Gopalakrishnan
5. Go Kiss the World, Subroto Bagchi
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