Introducing a new Friday series: Coffee & Conversations with Rahul Kishore: Ashok Venkatramani, CEO, MCCS

20 Mar,2015

We kick off the first season of a new series of easy weekend interviews conducted by Rahul Kishore, senior media professional, now turned entrepreneur. In Season #1, Rahul interviews a cross-section of media CEOs. But no shoptalk… nothing on business, plans, targets… Presenting Season #1, Episode #1


Ashok Venkatramani, Chief Executive Officer of MCCS India, the people who bring us popular news channels like ABP News etc, may come across as a quiet, blasé, non- aggressive person if one took him at face value. But scratch the surface and you find a funny, soft-spoken yet forceful individual who speaks his mind freely. We meet over a coffee at a Barista outlet in Gurgaon


So does he consider himself lucky?

Yes I do, was his response. He’s been lucky in quite a few things. Hard work, he says, takes you up to a point, but then luck plays a part. He’s been lucky in the kind of people he’s worked with. The colleagues have been wonderful as have all his bosses who gave him a long rope and lots of space to express himself. He trusts people and has been rewarded with excellent relationships all around that have helped him immensely. Though essentially a private person, he seems to be quite a people’s man. Ashok himself will never prejudge you. He will allow you to grow and guide you along the way.


The beliefs that keep him going?

I am extremely punctual he says. He expects it from others too. Being a Bombay boy and commuting on local trains has taught him the value of time. I have observed this myself, being very punctual myself too. He maintains a strict work life balance. Never works on weekends, fixes no meetings after 5pm and does not socialise much with the fraternity. Money does not motivate him. If he does his job well, money will follow… “but it’s far more important to do my work well”. Empower people, is his credo. He is trustworthy by default. Yes, people have let him down sometimes, but he still goes with trusting them unless they prove otherwise.


And how does he de-stress after a hard day at work?

Ashok says that he has learnt classical music and can play the keyboards and piano upto a certain level. These days he sings old raga-based songs as he feels that is true music. A state level badminton player till three knee surgeries put paid to any hopes he may have had of playing at a higher level. So, he walks a lot these days. And holidays by the sea as a Piscean and water is what works for him.


If there was a movie made about his life who would he like to play him and why?

Ashok kept with his penchant to surprise me… normally a guy would opt for one of the Khans or a Ajay Devgn or even Amitabh. He said after a great deal of thought: Irfan Khan!


Why Irfan? “It would need a very sensitive guy and a good actor to capture the finer nuances of my sensitivity on celluloid. It cannot be one of the with-it guys. Has to be someone who is a master of the actor’s craft.” Ashok says he is very poker-faced and nothing ruffles him, nothing at all. And Irfan would do justice to the role


Dream job and why?

CEO of Air India. He said it saddens him to see the plight of a genuine Navratana and how it’s been brought to its feet by terrible mismanagement. Ashok feels he has the ability to make a difference in this case. We are on the verge of losing a family jewel and we should do something about it, to restore it to its former glory.


Three things most important to him?

Values. NO compromise at all on these. Maintain a healthy work life balance. He doesn’t work on weekends ever, strange as it may sound. I know it’s easier to get a media CEO at 1 am than it is at 11am. Ashok is different. A good night’s sleep and keep things simple.


Lastly, rate me as an interviewer

7/10. No, make that eight!


Rahul Kishore is Managing Director, Taurus Infomedia Pvt Ltd. A man of many interests, he has authored a book on his Facebook updates, does a fair bit of gardening, likes meeting people and says he’s the best badminton player never to have played for India.


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