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10 May 2012

Krishnamurti Rao, the first CEO from Class of '86...


People, let me tell you something....

Life is like a balloon filled with air and released. You don't know what trajectory it will take. You don't know what path it will take. 
ou can only fill the air, release the balloon and hope that you land up in Las Vegas and not in Sub Saharran Africa.

Krishnamoorthy Rao didn't know it then. The moment he said 'Good Morning Ramaswamy, How are you?', his goose was well and truly cooked.

"I am good Rao, How are you? where are you now?" I responded with a flurry of queries. 

"I am also good Ramaswamy" Rao responded in that affable voice of his, "I am in Mumbai now."

"In Mumbai? Where are you working now?" I queried

"I work for Future Generali General Insurance" he replied patiently

I moved on to talk to others. He moved on to talk to others.

I met him again during the program. 

"Rao, I wanted to tell you one thing. Years have added more glow to your face. You have that 'Ishwaryam' on your face. While many others seem to have aged differently, you seem to have done a good job of moving to middle age" man, wasn't I intrusive?

Rao said something like 'Thanks'. How can you respond to such comments, except wishing you were elsewhere? 

We moved on to talk to others.

If he thought that I was done with him, he was mistaken. I buttonholed him again at lunch.

"So Rao, you are with Future Generali now?" I started.

If Rao was fed up with me, he did not show it.

"Yes", he replied, cordial to the core.

"But you were in VSSC? " I was as persistent as a bulldog.

"Yes" he responded, resigned to Ramaswamy

"So what are you doing in Future Generali?" I enquired.

"I work for them" Rao replied.

"Yes I know you work for them. But what do YOU DO?" I was sticky as quickfix.

People, please understand my drift. Here is a guy, having graduated in Production Engineering, who had worked for VSSC, which was considered THE JOB for engineering graduates in 1986, is now coolly telling me that he works for a General Insurance company in Mumbai. You tell me, doesn't it call for a bit more prompting? What is an engineer doing in an insurance company? What the....

I was expecting some answer like 'I work in the risk mgt, analysing the technical risk of the companies that want to insure themselves with us'. That is what Engineers should be doing in an insurance company.

"So, Rao...." I was not going to go away without an answer.

"I am the CEO", he responded

I shot my bolt. What can you say after that?


In the evening, Rao joined us over a beer.


(Here you can see a US Visa photo of Krishnamoorthy Rao)

"Guys, did you know that Rao is the CEO of Future Generali?"  I initiated the opening gambit.

There were 'wows' and 'congrats' going all around for Rao. 

Ebby said that on the way to the hotel someone told that he resembled Tom Cruise. 

Different aspirations....

I continued from where I left off in the morning. I could see that two hours of rest had 'De Ramaswamy'fied Rao. It was time for fresh assault.

"So Rao, how did you end up in Insurance Industry? After graduation, you had joined VSSC, hadn't you?" 

This was a kind of starter question. In the morning Rao had already mentioned that point.

"Yes, that is correct" replied Rao.

"Then what happened?" I pressed

"I did not like Trivandrum. So when GIC (General Insurance Corporation, a government owned Indian Insurance Gaint) came up with entrance exam for trainees, I opted for it. GIC had openings in Ernakulam and I wanted to move there."

"Then?" I enquired "then what happened?"

"I cleared the exam and they posted me in Mumbai."

"So your original plan of working in Ernakulam did not work out." I pointed out.

"No, it didn't. In retrospect, It was a blessing in disguise" Said Rao

Rao moved to Mumbai in 1989 or thereabouts, I think. That was around the time MM Singh (Manmohan Singh, the then Finance Minister and the current Prime Minister of India) introduced the path breaking reforms that catapulted Indian Economy on an enviable growth path. Rao stuck on to GIC for about 6 years and then when the insurance industry opened up, he joined the multinational insurance industry (Some of these dates may be off by a bit. I am recalling from memory). In Future Generali, he rose to become the Country Risk Manager, before becoming the CEO of the organization.

Just take a pause and answer these questions...

Did Rao want to go to Mumbai? No

Did Rao want to be in insurance industry? My answer is again 'No'. If he did not expect a posting in Ernakulam, he would not have taken the entrance exam. Taking this exam was Rao's 'Air filled balloon release moment'. 

Did he plan to reach this level? Again answer would be no.

In 1989, did he know that economy is about to turn around in another 3 years? No again.

If all the answers above are no, then what did Rao do right?

What Rao did right, in my opinion, is to accept the challenges, show stick-to-it-iveness, and by being there when organization needed. Simple straightforward commitment....

Ladies and gentlemen, let me reiterate...

Life is like a balloon filled with air and released. You don't know what trajectory it will take. You don't know what path it will take. 
You can only fill the air, release the balloon and hope that you land up in Mumbai and not in Thumba (Place where VSSC is located). 

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