Continuing the interview with Mr. Sundarshan (Part 1), please find the part 2 of the interview below.
Me: You joined Viveks after the brief stint at Hyderabad. How was your experience? What was your role?
Sudarshan: Retail was the sunrise sector when I started. Viveks was a small family company with 3 stores managed by 3 brothers and they wanted to make it a big chain. They started a corporate office for this growth plan. They hired a lot of professionals. I was the general manager of HR. They hired a person from Whirlpool for marketing, we also hired a dedicated project manager and we stream lined the whole process.
First the project manager would do the initial set up like putting up showrooms. Then I, as a part of HR, would hire the employees for the shop, put them to training in other showrooms and ensure that the employees are ready to handle the work. Then the marketing manager would work on marketing displays before finally opening the shop. This 3 stage process took about 2 months to complete.
We went on to open about 27 showrooms in about 4 years. My primary role was to recruit, train & place people. I was also responsible for a professional module for training the employees. We also opened a couple of shops in Bangalore – One at South end & another at Rajajinagar. In some places, we also acquired a few shops and rebranded them to Viveks. We had stream lined the entire expansion plan and were prepared for a plan for 100 showrooms.
Me: If work was as exciting as this, why did you move out of Viveks?
Sudarshan: Well, the work didn’t move as fast as expected from there on. Actually the owners didn’t want to expand beyond 30 stores. That is when we realized that they just wanted sufficient shops for the next generation to take over. Their kids were all doing MBA abroad and they were about to return to India. Hence the purpose of expansion plan was more of a family level growth than a full fledged growth.
Me: So what was your thought process at that point of time?
Sudarshan: I had seen various sectors by then. I had been a part of banking, services, chemical & retail. I felt I was too old for software.
In fact, when Infosys was 150 people strong, I had given an interview with Narayan Murthy. I felt it was too small. I was not sure what would be my role. At that point of time, I was handling 3000 people. I couldn’t understand the need for a HR head in the company.
Not only that, I didn’t know anything about software. NITT also had just begun. Hema Ravichander, Senior VP of HR in Infosys actually joined 5 years after I gave the interview.
Personally I had never used a computer. We had secretaries and there was never a need to open a computer. It was during my tenure at TVS, that we first introduced computer for processing and efficiency improvement. Those days we never had connectivity. We used to transfer data in a floppy. Initially, we used to think that IT department was only staffing people and doing no work. The accounts department had 30 people and IT department which was supposed to reduce the work, actually employed 50 people ? I wasn’t really convinced that IT added value at that point in time when I interviewed with NRN.
So I ruled out the option of going back to IT. That’s when I thought all these days I was teaching as a hobby and why not consider it as full time. I enrolled for a phd and simultaneously I joined as a visiting faculty in Symbiosis.
Me: Wow that was one interesting experience. Thank you so much for your time and sharing all these anecdotes. Finally, can you share one message for the youngsters?
Sudarshan: If there is one message, I would say differentiate between short term goals and long term goals and give them their due importance.
Me: On behalf of all CWS readers, I would like to thank you once again.