A Lasting Impression


 Hans Verrijcken (Founder & CEO of Coteng N.V)

As I am far from a good writer, especially in English, I will restrict myself to write down some personal memories and briefly describe a few moments that I shared with Mr. Ramanujan... Maybe I should write "MSSR" as that was the first name I heard when I came over to India for the first time.  I'm sure everyone tried to make me feel comfortable and not to confuse me with "difficult" names (at least for Europeans).

Although my initial contacts— at the time via Insoft— were very brief, I still recall our first real discussions when I came over to Chennai for two weeks to discuss possible plans for setting up IT Bright.  Our contacts immediately convinced me of his extremely analytical way of thinking and structured way of ordering his thoughts.

Always writing down notes, always structuring ideas in a table, a structure, a drawing...

Next to discussing our initial plans, we slowly also started talking about more general and personal experiences in life... something we kept on doing during the few years that we have known each other... (as far as you can "know" someone of course).  Every time  when we met, he was always proudly talking about his family, his wife who shared her interest in languages and French with Sukanya... Lavanya working and getting more and more responsibilities in the US...

He also often mentioned some of the biological "wonders in nature" and few programs on TV he enjoyed about that.  Like a detailed explanation about some animals or a full description about "pomegranate" (a fruit I did not know before... ), and that is was healthy and good for the digestion as it's seeds were more or less "combing" the inner side of the intestines.

Some other things he mentioned to me, I am also sure I will never forget...

"Basically life is very simple... unless you make it complicated"... a lesson that (sometimes unfortunately) is very true indeed.

On another occasion, while discussing the quality of software (and the sometimes even absurdly detailed "need" for Quality in Europe and the US), he mentioned that India had a disadvantage in the creation of new software, "because we Indians are prepared to live with almost any level of inconvenience".

Even today I am convinced that analysis holds true in many ways.

On many other occasions we were discussing new projects and work planning.  After analyzing all required steps and ensuring he fully understood both the purpose as well as the desired results that had to be created... he often concluded with a simple sentence "consider it done".

I always knew he fully understood the requirements whenever he mentioned that.

From the first moment I met him, I have always very much respected him in many different ways, both for many of his personal views as well  as his professional approaches in work. On top he always managed to convince me the appreciation was mutual.

Jewish people have a saying, something like "if you want to have a friend, look up one step on the stairs".  I think he always reached out to help people climb the stairs.

Seated (L to R): Shri. Ramakrishnan, Mr. Hans Verrijcken, Shri. MSSR

Standing (L to R): Shri. Seshan, Shri. Venkatesan, Shri. Parthasarathy

Shri. J. Srinivasan  

TTK Industries (MSSR worked as consultant with him)

A short recollection of a couple of instances of our long conversations in the evenings (these conversations took place almost 23 years ago) . These recollections, though short and brief, are representative of the impact that MSSR has.

It was common for both of us to meet late in the evening and walk to in the road for him to take public transport and for me to get back home.  He wouldn't, in those days, use any one’s vehicle but would walk down and take public transport where necessary. Never in the habit of getting obliged to someone nor would he ask any favour for himself  at any time. We have had several interludes in the evenings.

One of them, I could recollect was, when I mentioned to him that “when I retire at 58” ,that was our superannuation age “I wished to create an Endowment of say , 2 million rupees, which could be used as a guarantee amount for helping Entrepreneurs setting up Tiny Industries.” I told him that, I would also help using my management skills and experience in setting up several tiny industries. Thereafter help them in establishing a market for their products. My plan was to initially help at least 10 such industries  involving maybe 5 to 10 people in each industry. Thus creating 10 entrepreneurs and employment for at least 50. This thought was shared with Mr. MSSR. He quickly reacted saying helping tiny industries may not be appropriate for me and he said that my employers would use my services for more years and that I should continue with them and use my skills to create hundreds of jobs. It so happened what Mr. MSSR  foresaw  that evening came true and I had continued in employment for a few years more and I had chance to create numerable job opportunities.

MSSR never talked about doing anything which may end up in self glorification or self protection. He always was concerned about young people, in general, their future, society and its trials and tribulations. Education, he thought, had to be more purposeful and qualitative.

In later years we had his rich experience in computerizing our factory operations. The meticulousness, exacting methodology, eye for details, care and grasp were greatly admired by every one, workmen to managers alike. He earned the greatest of respect and regard from everyone in the factory. Many a time, he appeared soft spoken but those he worked with realized how firm he was with his conviction and knowledge.

Shri .M.S.S. Varadhan

Head of Om Consultants (India) Pvt Ltd (Partners in multiple public sector projects)

I had the privilege and pleasure of being an elder working associate of Sri M.S.S.Ramanujan for more than two decades from the early 1980s. In the beginning he used to provide the guest lectures on MIS in the Management Development Programmes of Om Consultants (India) Private Ltd., for leading organizations. His sessions were always much liked by the participants. The clarity with which he could put across concepts were remarkable. His ability to simplify concepts in a lucid manner always used to captivate the listeners. He had a unique story telling form to illustrate how the concepts were applied in practice. Once in Trivandrum after listening to him I asked him in private when the session ended as to which organization it was about which he gave a case example. With a smile he replied “A virtual organization”!

It was during the late ‘80s that we were associated together in the pioneering efforts in Forestry sector. Those were the days when computerization was just being introduced. The Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) was providing aid to the Government of Tamil Nadu and this brought us together with the Swedish expert Mr. Skaarud, stationed in Chennai. He used to be highly appreciative of Ramanujan’s effort in getting break through in a difficult bureaucratic set up. Ramanujan’s ability to speak their language and put across the concepts in a simple manner helped in no small measure to bring about  a change in their way of working. Whoever came into contact with him had a great regard for his expert knowledge coupled with his soft nature of putting across things. He had also the uncanny ability to distinguish the wheat from the chaff and not be carried away by mere sleek presentation!

He used to go in depth into any problem that he came across. The way he guided the young researchers team in Kalpataru Foundation for developing a model to interface forestry was admirable. Element by element starting from fundamentals he could help them build an effective model which they felt in the beginning  was almost an impossible task.. Perseverance and Patience were his hallmarks in approaching complex tasks.

The ‘90s brought us together even more intensively in the forestry sector with the British Assisted Project in Sirsi at Uttar Karnataka. The knowledgeable people in the department who were progressively minded were highly impressed with Ramanujan’s ability to grasp their requirements and respond in a manner that appealed to them immediately. A brilliant British expert Mr. Dermot Shields who was associated with the project was much in praise of Ramanujan’s ability to harmonize the new concepts with the time honoured ways of working. More importantly he was amazed at Ramanujan’s ability to introduce the computerized working even at the lowest range level in the highly hierarchy oriented forest department. Ramanujan’s capacity to be equally at ease and win the admiration of the highest and lowest alike was indeed remarkable.

The late 90s brought us together for a project on Fisheries on to the auspices of FAO of UN. Here again Ramanujan demonstrated his ability to grasp the needs of the situation and come up with the right response. Mr. Rathin Roy, an FAO expert, used to have tremendous regard for the way in which Ramanujan could address the grass root issues and link them up with the high philosophy of FAO

Having been his elder brother as well, it was a twin privilege for me to enjoy working with him. He always had a cheerful countenance and had a wonderful way of smilingly interacting with people. He had his own sense of humour and we have had many a laugh together often, whether at work or otherwise. I have been the recipient of his affectionate gestures in his own way. He believed in charity unassociated totally with publicity. It was only after his time that I came to know how he had helped the cycle riksha wallahs in the vicinity of Tambaram.

Altogether the personal and working association that I had with Ramanujan is deeply embedded in my heart and one which I greatly cherish.