(The Economic Times has bestowed Dr. Ram Charan of the ITBHU Mech Engg. 1959 batch with the Global Indian of the Year award after the jury unanimously chose him ahead of other well-known names such as Ram Shriram of Shepalo Ventures, Ajit Jain of Berkshire Hathaway, Anshu Jain of Deutsche Bank and Vinod Khosla.
It is a proud moment for all ITBHU alumni, and we congratulate him on this achievement. )
(Mr. Ram Charan)
ET Awards 2008-09: Global Indian of the Year- Ram Charan
25 Aug 2009, 0509 hrs IST, ET Bureau
Ram Charan is The Economic Times Global Indian of the Year after the jury unanimously chose him ahead of other well-known names such as Ram Shriram of Shepalo Ventures, Ajit Jain of Berkshire Hathaway, Anshu Jain of Deutsche Bank and Vinod Khosla.
The jury gave high marks to Ram Charan's work for several leading companies, the respect in which he is held by several CEOs including Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric. From working in the family's shoe shop in Uttar Pradesh as a teenager to a high-flying management consultant, author and CEO trainer who travels nearly 500,000 miles a year, Ram Charan has a life as storied as the many companies he routinely works with. That's a list that includes GE, Bank of America, Ford, Verizon, DuPont and closer home, Marico Industries and TechNova.
Mr Charan, who will turn 70 this year, completed an engineering degree from the Banaras Hindu University. He went on to do an MBA and acquired a PhD from the Harvard Business School in 1967. Starting off as a professor at the Harvard Business School, incidentally one of the first Indians to do so, he followed it up with stints at Northwestern University and Boston University before he finally became a tenured professor.
He also taught at GE's famed Crotonville Institute, in the famous 'Crotonville Pit', where GE invites several thought leaders and company CEOs to discuss ideas and learnings with its staff. However, by 1978, he decided to give up teaching (despite winning two Best Teacher awards) and get into full-time consulting.
Ever since he began his consulting career, Mr Charan has led a nomadic life. He works with the biggest global companies, across continents. His association with GE goes back to the time when Jack Welch became the company's chairman. Mr Charan was the first person Jeffrey Immelt sounded out soon after he succeeded Jack Welch as GE chairman, according to a Fortune report. "He (Mr Charan) sleeps in a hotel every night ("Professor Charan, welcome home," is how the doorman greets him at the Waldorf on Park Avenue), except when he's sleeping on a plane or, rarely, in someone's house," the Fortune report adds.
Last year, Mr Charan finally bought a house in Dallas, Texas, the first one he's bought in his lifetime. He has in the interim lived exclusively out of a suitcase, travelling across continents as a routine and spending time in planes or airport lounges. His staff at Ram Charan Associates in Dallas routinely sends him clean clothes by FedEx at the hotel he's put up in and he sends back the soiled linen two days later. Incidentally, he still hasn't been to his office, though it's been in operation for more than six years.
The companies he works with vouch for Mr Charan's simplicity. His work embodies Hindu philosophy, something that's very obvious in one of his favourite phrases, "Purpose before self". Time and again, he emphasises that everyone has his/her own strengths and weaknesses (three God-given gifts) and that CEOs should identify those in their future leaders.
He summarises company strategy into a single page for his CEO clients, a habit he picked up early in school. Many CEOs have publicly lauded him for the absolute humility with which he does his work and for his great communication skills.
Closer home, he's interacted extensively with Marico Industries and its CMD Harsh Mariwala. Mr Charan and Mr Mariwala have been acquainted for more than eight years, and Mr Charan has visited the company three times to critique the business model and strategy of the company. Says Mr Mariwala: "He has the gift of identifying key issues very easily and his language is very powerful. He has identified long-term processes and explained how to preserve our 'strategic funding', which he simply refers to as Parachute." Other companies that Mr Charan has worked with include TechNova, whose CEO Pranav Parekh is an HBS alumnus, and EgonZehnder.
1) The 2009 TIME 100 -The World's Most Influential People
Home Page of Ram Charan
Ram Charan in Chronicle
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Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University
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