From Being All At Sea To All That I Should See — Sridhar Ranganathan #JeenaIsiKaNaamHain
There’s an old phrase — to be all at sea which is used to depict topsy-turvy situations. Today’s #JeenaIsiKaNaamHain column is dedicated to those who are prepared to play the long-haul — is about an individual who started his career wanting to be a ship manager, far removed from the world of products or software.
Sridhar Ranganathan’s story is like no other. As a sea-farer in the mid-nineties, he gathered lifehacks that have immeasurable depth. The sea makes one see things that aren’t easily visible within the safety of ports. The first time he entered a ship, and it was a massive one, a 40K tonner measuring 170 meters in length and 30 meters in breadth, he was awestruck.
‘There was this huge “vehicle” lying stationary by the port side” he says, ‘and it captivated me in its hypnotic gaze. At that very moment, it wasn’t difficult to understand why men like Captain Ahab (Melville’s character in the legendary book Moby-Dick) went back to the sea again and again.’ The comforts inside were most impressive — design, architecture, food, etc., and it did not seem very different from being on land. A misconception that would turn on its head, soon.
The ship sailed around 2.45 am when he was fast asleep. It was around 4 am (when he checked later) that he found himself on the floor of the bunker, and obviously in a state of shock. His last recollection was of falling asleep and on waking up, he sees he has fallen on the floor.
The ship had rolled and so had he — off the bed! It was a frightening experience to be in a state of extreme discomfort without a preamble. At times, life is like that and it hits you when you are least expecting it. Sea-farers go through numerous experiences and they only have the crew to share them with. Usually, it’s a team of 15–20 people or lesser in the case of modern-day ships. Despite the hard life, it helps, he says, “to have a pleasant disposition.”
I met Sridhar in 2013, introduced by Sharad Sharma of iSPIRT while doing roundtables at iSPIRT for product managers. Having worked in product management in stellar companies such as Zoho, Yahoo & InMobi, Sridhar brings in perspectives that have few parallels in the industry. We did about 6–7 such roundtables across the country and it was an opportunity to travel with him and get to know the man.
He is extremely well-read on a vast range of subjects and brings energy which at times seems unreal. I guess, life at sea has made him very tough and he can see the horizon from a distance that others may find not so easy to spot. The conversations that I had with him on these flights to various cities, left me a richer person as well.
He carries a backpack and you will see him wearing sports shoes most of the time — he is always in a running mode, I gather. Once I met him in a hotel in Bangalore and he opened up to me. He spoke about his past, his experiences, and a life of no regrets. He continues to fight it out in the B2B space and I am sure he will make it very big because men like Sridhar are the true givers. He has given much to society and in turn, earned a lot of respect.
A fun fact. Naveen Tiwari and I share the same birthday. Sridhar wishes Naveen every year and he calls me up as well. Next time I meet him I should ask, would he have done the same if our birthdays were on different days? I’ll tell you what — he would have remembered. The caring man that he is, he holds his friends very close.
I call up Sridhar when I am curious or clueless or simply frustrated. Irrespective of the time of day, he has always given me a patient hearing, non-judgemental advice on what to focus on, and wisdom through his years of experience. One time it was focussing on ICP and positioning. It is easy to get seduced on building and going after every customer and Sridhar had brought me to ground many times. As a SaaS entrepruneur, we are lucky to find someone in the startup community who is well read and experienced through fire and water. ~Srikrishna Swaminathan, CEO & CoFounder — Factors.ai
Thank you, Sridhar, it’s been a privilege being your friend and perhaps someday we will sail together and I can see us sitting on the deck having a deep conversation, and with the sea waves for company. And, oh ya, thanks for warning me Skipper — I will know what to expect at 4 am but I promise you, it will be with a smile that close friends often share.