The compassionate deal maker and his superpower to connect with people —
M R Rangaswami(MR) #JeenaIsiKaNaamHain
As you know, I use this column to talk about people playing for the long haul. Today, let us spotlight a leader who has already played that game and set an example for many people worldwide. He travels from the Bay Area to various cities in India with frequency and lightness as one would do a Bombay-Pune commute. Perhaps it has got something to do with his build, forever slim and fit without having put an extra ounce of fat since the time I got connected with him more than fifteen years ago. Beyond genetics (the obvious tongue-in-cheek repartee from the not-so-fortunate souls) it has got something to do with his personality, of which I am certain. How else will he continue to make heads turn in his florid shirts? That characteristic spring in his step (oh so pronounced when he’d take the lectern frequently in pre-Covid days) has to be matched, after all.
M.R. Rangaswami or simply, MR, to his friends (and I am privileged to be a part of that cohort) is an icon. The NASSCOM Product Conclave, NPC, the apex body’s second-most powerful brand (after NTLF but I reckon the pole position may be ceded soon) wouldn’t have achieved this kind of global outreach if it hadn’t been for MR. The vanguards at NASSCOM may not take too kindly to the suggestion that NPC may someday overtake NTLF but the way the Indian software product ecosystem is maturing, the possibilities are strong. I would also like to clarify, that I do not mean disrespect to this remarkable brand (NTLF) that NASSCOM has arduously built over three decades. In fact, it was at NASSCOM Technology Leadership Forum, NTLF (NILF, back then. The “I” stood for India but gave way when technology became synonymous with our great nation) and I think it was in 2006 when Dr Ganesh Natarajan introduced me to MR. At that time, the ecosystem of the Indian software products was preparing for the big leap, and NASSCOM, as always was pivotal in its contribution, and I was the chosen one to drive this initiative — the NASSCOM Emerge Community.
We struck off on a cordial note and he spoke with great passion about an event in the US that he was staging to bring to the world, Indian software products and their unique appeal. Under its aegis, there would be a pavilion — US-India — which would be the go-to place for all such showcases. Subsequently, he made some very connections for me that I could build upon. I was fairly new at NASSCOM and being connected to global heads of companies such as Motorola, Salesforce, and SAP among others opened up a new world. When I went to the US, I experienced for the first time the manner in which global conferences were done. It was an eye-opener and these ideas incubated over time. I was able to bring home some of those ideas and nudge NASSCOM’s leaders as well. A chanced meeting got me two things — an astonishingly supportive well-wisher for life and a pathway that shaped my career in the later years.
Those of you who have attended NPC in its various avatars — physical, digital or even phy-gital — would know how central MR’s contribution has been towards shaping this unique event. I will say “unique”, and justifiably so because when we started there wasn’t any other. Of course, over the years, the me-too brands have caught on and some organizers have shamelessly copied the idea. I believe, that copying shamelessly, is the best tribute one can give, though I am aware, that there is a legion of folks fighting to protect IP and they may not take to this statement too kindly. Be that as it may, NPC owes a lot, to MR. A huge lot if I may add.
When I left NASSCOM and moved on to iSpirt and later Accel, I continued to seek his counsel and he was ever-so-willing to add value to my life. MR is so much more than NASSCOM, of course, and though my column so far has been structured around NPC, the reality is that it only provides a glimpse of a man who has aced the art of making friends and influencing people. He has sold Sandhill ventures, the company he founded but he continues to work feverishly with Indiaspora.org his other venture in connecting the two Indias — the one out there in the US (& other parts of the globe) and the one here which is synonymous with some of the brightest minds in technology. He straddles the two worlds with panache and connects with regular folks just as he would with a global leader.
I remain convinced that there are two MRs that we constantly engage. If it sounds absurd then it must be an identical twin the world is not aware of. How else do you explain the amount of work this man has done in his life? His promptness in response can only be matched by apps, I suppose. He is always there. And, of course, his indefatigable energy. Fatigue is not a part of his dictionary. But behind the florid shirts, countless luncheons, dinners, keynotes & toast-raising occasions, breakaway sessions, fireside chats, et al, is a compassionate man who is a great friend of the community and forever willing to make that life-changing connection for you.
As I wish him good luck for the years ahead, I’d like to reiterate — he has already played the long haul. A leaf out of his books is up for grabs. I got mine. Did you?