I had Ram as my boss for only about five years, but that spoilt me for life. It’s been roughly twenty years since that time, and I have come to the realization that the bar he set was just too high for anyone else to come anywhere close, notwithstanding the fact that I have worked under several others whom I hold in very high esteem.
In a world that seems to be fast filling up with charlatans and poseurs, Ram is the genuine article and the real deal, authentic to the core. To me, he has not only been my boss, but also a mentor, a teacher and a friend, and in all of those roles he has always and only been himself. I don’t think he knows how to be anyone else and I’m grateful for that. Otherwise I might have lacked much, especially in cognition, discernment and professional dignity, not to mention, love for food, drink and all things Apple. The little exposure I was lucky enough to get in technology, typography and design are also all thanks to him.
A man of many talents, but above all else, Ram’s professional ethics have always been impeccable. While many could argue that in the dog-eat-dog corporate ethos of our time, especially in the advertising industry, ethics can be a liability, I have never known him to compromise – not once. That may have cost him much material success, and the kind of fame and fortune that have come to lesser beings, but what he has earned instead is an enduring and enormous amount of love and respect of all those fortunate enough to come into contact with him.
There is this one instance that I can never forget. This was when I was running the Delhi office of Clarion, the great agency that unfortunately became better known for its periodic hara-kiri. We were struggling for profits and to generate positive cash flows and as its managing director Ram was under tremendous pressure from the board to quickly turn the agency’s fortunes around. One day, one of the clients of our Delhi office, which was also perhaps one of the agency’s largest accounts, behaved inappropriately with one of our female colleagues handling the brand, causing her considerable emotional distress. I was faced with a serious dilemma. My heart wanted to sack the client, while my head was filled with worry about its financial consequences. Though the call was mine to take, I lacked the courage of conviction, and out of cowardice asked Ram to help me make the decision. His precise, unequivocal words, which made my decision clear and simple, still ring in my ears and have gone on to become the foundation of my professional conduct since. “Samit, business is important. But human dignity is more important.” I have Ram to thank for teaching me one of life’s most valuable lessons.