I have never written an obituary for someone before. I never assumed I would have to, till many, many years from now. V Ramani just forced me to.
What can I say about Ramani?
Tall and towering, ‘taklu’ with piercing eyes, spoke an accent that sounded it came from a country called Mathematics - precise and undoubtedly overwhelming.
If you ever met him, you can picture him without making an effort. If you never, you missed an experience.
I can only describe things and people via experiences. These are a few experiences that made Ramani … Ramani!
I first encountered Ramani in the India.com office in 2001. Madan Sanglikar was handling the India.com account for Mediaturf and I was the new contesting guy in town with contests2win.com (c2w).
c2w had done a boomerang marketing deal (sending traffic from c2w to portals to learn about them and back to c2w to answer questions) with India.com. Digvijay Singh was the CEO and Arvindra Kanwal was the COO/Marketing Head.
The deal I had done was quickly going sour. The agreement was that c2w would send a guaranteed number of ‘engaged’ traffic to India.com and get paid per visitor. I had taken the entire amount in advance by offering India.com a cash discount. The traffic push had started and we were on track in delivering as per commitment.
Just when around 25 per cent of the deal was consumed, India.com wanted out. The reason was that mail.com (India.com’s parent) was closing down. The group wanted to cut advertising across all its properties globally.
Ramani asked Madan to summon me to the India.com office and demanded that I stop the campaign and refund the balance money back to Mediaturf. I had in turn consulted with Pradipto Basu (who ran Yahoo marketing at that time), who advised me to say, “When you fill up the tank, you drive the car. You don’t empty the tank.”
I told Ramani that I would not refund any money because my inventory was pre-sold to India.com and I had refused other buyers for the same.
In the course of the next few days, Ramani really gave me hell. He faxed me, threatened me with legal notices and vowed to ruin my reputation and business dealings in the advertising world if I did not stop the campaign. Just for his client!
While I did not give in, I learnt absolute commitment towards client and service from Ramani. He fought much harder than the India.com guys did for their money and that really impacted me in the years to come.
Ramani told me, “Alok, the client can do what he wants. He can pull forward, pull back, pull anything. Don’t disobey the client’s wishes.”
I ingrained that in my soul as long as I was associated with online advertising.
I was once on an interactive marketing panel with Raj Singh (ActiveMedia Tech), Ratish Nair (then with Mediaturf) and a few other people. This was at the Grand Hyatt Vakola and I guess it was around 2003-4.
Just after the panel had ended and the Q&A started, a solid, deep voice hollered from the back of the hall and asked Ratish a pointed question. The question was awesomely intelligent and made us all sit up.
Given the crowds, I did not see who had asked the question.
After Ratish answered, the same voice asked another super question!
As Ratish began to answer, it became clear that it was Ramani who had seated himself at the back and was asking his own COO questions in a public forum. Ramani was CEO of Mediaturf!
I remember rudely saying, “Ramani Sir, please ask Ratish questions in your own backyard.” Ramani smiled and backed off.
Ramani taught me the meaning of ‘presence’. He was there in the room like all the other attendees, but he got himself heard, and how. He got Mediaturf noticed.
For quite a few years now, I always make it a point to sit at the last row of any conference and ask a question (may or may not be intelligent). I start by stating my name and company, just to get my company noticed.
It’s all because of the permanent lesson Ramani taught me.
In 2005, Neville Taraporewalla (then head of Yahoo India), invited me and KK (Krishna Kumar, aka KK – CEO of media2win) to a private dinner with the visiting global head of sales of Yahoo Inc, USA.
We were joined by Pearl Uppal - then head of sales, Yahoo India. We all met for drinks at the Apollo Bar at the Taj Mahal Mumbai.
It was not a surprise to see Ramani there as well. Mediaturf was the leader in interactive marketing in India and had a major roster of clients. Ramani was the face of Interactive Marketing in India.
At the bar, I had an expensive Merlot (‘coz Neville was paying). Pearl had the same. KK asked for beer (conservative, start up style) and Neville ordered something else. But Ramani was himself – he ordered a large Black Label and had a few rounds of the same before we left the bar!
We ate next door at Masala Kraft, and while I was sozzled with my third wine (I stopped after that) and KK had not ordered more than 2 beers, Ramani had washed down several more large rounds of his whiskey and was still going strong. What amazed me was that Ramani became sharper, more analytical and more focused after the drinks. He spoke the most sense at the table and effortlessly went to the men’s room and came back, walking like a soldier doing march-past! He was the leader of that discussion that night, drinks and all that, notwithstanding.
Ramani had the power, the strength, the will and the conviction of his beliefs. He had the guts to execute and the charisma to lead. For startup juveniles like me, Ramani was the father figure of interactive media and knew his numbers, ctrs, cpms, cpls, cpas, etc like we know our 2 times table.
Ramani, I dunno what trip you have gone on, but I’m gonna really miss and remember the old times like hell. May you rest in peace and may God be with your family.
Om Babaji Om. Jai Gurudeva.
The author is CEO and Co-Founder, Games2win.
Alok Kejriwal blogs at - http://therodinhoods.com