It was exactly a year ago, in the first week of January 2017 that I did an interview (“Inspiring life story - Humble beginnings to great success.”) with an achiever from humble beginnings. He had not only risen to make a better life for himself but made significant contribution to society. ( Link: https://hrdian.blogspot.in/2017/01/inspiring-life-story-humble-beginnings.html) Seeing the enthusiasm of readers then, I had felt that more such success stories of people around us need to be highlighted through interviews. This post is an attempt towards this end.
In this post, I am interviewing Mr.S.Sundar Rajan, Director SRS Management Services Pvt Ltd Chennai. He is a chartered accountant with over three decades of experience in the field of accounts, auditing, process implementation and due diligence.
It is interesting to note that I first met Mr. Sundar not in his professional capacity but at a poetic meet. The organizers had allotted time during the last leg of our get together to do some shopping. Everyone was enthusiastically buying banana chips, tapioca chips and other local special varieties of chips of Kerala to take back home. I noticed that Sundar was buying a lot more than the others.
So I asked “why so much?” to which he replied that it was for his office family consisting of around 20 members. I was impressed by his response and told myself in the mind “Here is a guy who knows how to motivate his people!” Personal touch is so very important and effective, particularly in small organizations for inspiring your employees to give their best. Later, I requested Sundar for an interview to which he readily agreed. He turned out to be a multifaceted or if you prefer a multi-talented personality.
Rajeev Moothedath (RM): Greetings Sundar! It is a great pleasure to interact with you. Could you share some details about your childhood?
Sundar Rajan (SR): Hello Rajeev, it is a pleasure talking to you as well. I was born in Chennai and have lived here all my life. I am blessed with loving parents who have always been a source of strength. They guided me and my siblings to adopt good values in life
I am the youngest in our family of three brothers and a sister. We are a close-knit family. I did my schooling in a convent, Don Bosco Matriculation School, which has given me a strong foundation. The fond memories of those days are being adjudged the outstanding student in school and winning a gold medal instituted by the Lions Club.
RM: Chennai was Madras during your childhood days. What are the important changes you have witnessed in the city?
SR: When we were growing up, Madras was still known to be a very conservative city. I did my graduation in science with Mathematics as major in A.M.Jain College. Those days, there was generally a closed outlook. Today, there has been a sea change. Chennai has become more cosmopolitan. There has been a steady flow of immigrants from other parts of India. The residents of Chennai have also been open and accepting of the changes. I now have exposure to more variety of people and a better understanding of people one comes across in the journey of life.
RM: I understand that you were into athletics and the game of cricket during college days. Tell us more of this period.
SR: Well, we were a bunch of guys who simply loved cricket! I was fortunate to represent not only my school and college but also a club in the cricket league organized by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association. I attended two cricket coaching camps conducted by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.
The camps were a lot of fun not only because we enjoyed playing and learning but also because it gave opportunities for chatting up and building friendships with fellow cricketers from other districts. We had excellent coaches in Mr. Mustaq Ali, former India test cricketer and Mr. Kamath from Mumbai.
Our bond is so strong that even today we continue to keep in touch through the alumni association and play a cricket match together every year. For 47 years, our association has also been organizing an annual All India cricket tournament of 30 0vers a side, As an athlete, I won many prizes in track events in school and college meets.
RM: Sunder, tell us about your first job experience. What was the reason you decided to quit working and start your own partnership firm?
SR: After clearing my Intermediate in Chartered Accountancy, I applied for Industrial Training in Ashok Leyland Ltd and was accepted. On completion of my Chartered Accountancy, I was formally recruited in the same company and posted to the Internal Audit Dept.
My job involved touring across India and it was a very good experience professionally. It also enabled me to polish my people handling skills. An auditor is generally looked upon as a person whose major mission is faultfinding. However, without compromising on my role, I built up a good relationship with my auditees, encouraging them to avoid making likely mistakes. This approach has continued and has blossomed over the years.
Perhaps my adventurous streak prompted me to team up with my schoolmate and start a chartered accountancy firm after three years of working for Ashok Leyland. When we started;, we had no clients but only the belief in ourselves with an ambition and determination to succeed.
RM: What were the challenges you faced in floating a start-up ?
SR: The twin challenges we initially faced were getting clients and having a monthly cash flow for office and domestic requirements. We gave lot of importance and focused on servicing and meeting our client’s requirements. Gradually, happy with our work, they referred us to their contacts and our practice began to grow.
Another challenge we faced at a particular stage was flattening of the revenue, as we recruited more employees since the company was growing. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we put in extra efforts for increasing our customer base and the number of customers.
RM: I have noticed that you are a team person; always motivating and encouraging others to do new things and in a better manner. When and how do you think this trait developed as a part of your personality?
SR: I should say that my family background and sports have played a significant role in this regard. Cricket as we all know is a team game. At school, the students were divided into houses and we took pride in performing well as a team in any activity and to win as a team. In athletics too, our relay teams focused on teamwork.
In the work area also, as a Director of the company, I felt the need for building a good team for the long-term growth of the organization. This, I surmised can be achieved by identifying the strengths in each individual, training and tuning the employees to the current requirements/demands of the work. This involves building the confidence of the employee for handling the challenges, motivating and appreciating him/her in public when a job is well done.
When there is a slip up, I talk to the staff in private and counsel them so that the mistakes do not recur.
RM: Tell us about your interest in poetry. How a chartered accountant (a profession where the practitioners are serious and matter of fact) became a poet and a published author?
SR: It was during my final year in college. One day, I stumbled upon the “Poet” in me and told myself to give it a “try” which culminated in my first poem. This success encouraged my interest in Poe(t)ry and before I knew it, I became an amateur poet.
Much later, with the advent of social media, I started sharing my poems with friends and relatives who expressed a lot of interest and encouragement. The positive feedback and support motivated me to write more and today I can proudly claim to be a published poet. My maiden book "Beyond the Realms" was released in 2016.
RM: I know that you are a nature lover who has developed a beautiful garden around your home. Can you tell us more about this passion?
SR: I have been a nature lover right from my school days. It is a blessing that I have green fingers too. The occasion to put this talent to use came when we moved our residence from the bustling city to the outskirts. I developed a good garden in the space available, with a wide variety of plants.
The government of Tamil Nadu also encourages citizens to grow organic kitchen gardens on the terrace. I made use of the facilities provided to fulfil my passion for gardening. In this connection, I also have the support of many well-wishers.
RM: Finally Sundar, it is heartening to note that in spite of having so many things on your plate, you find time for social service. Could you tell us more about these activities?
SR:I have started a tree planting exercise in my neighbourhood with the support of willing residents. I am spreading the message of “Achieving a green neighbourhood”- by every resident adopting a tree and taking care of it. The response has been by and large, positive.
I act as a catalyst in such ventures. I have adopted a village, Nemili near Mahaballipuram, where every six months we organize medical camps for general health, eye check-up and cancer screening. We have a team of dedicated doctors in each speciality for this exercise. The medical camps are extended to other rural areas also whenever there is an opportunity.
I feel great satisfaction to be able to give back something to the society that has contributed a lot to making me, who I am today. I see many avenues opening up before me. I find that boundaries are merely what people perceive as limits. Therefore, I have coined the byline-“Boundless Boundaries Beckon” and seek to live by it.
RM: Thank you so much Sundar. It is not often that one gets to interview a multifaceted personality like you. I am sure that the readers would be inspired by your story. May the Almighty continue to give you good health and strength to contribute even more in all the areas of your interest in the days to come.
SR: Thank you. It was a pleasure talking to you Rajeev.