Trust and Respect – Key to Belongingness

As part of the myAvtar My Identity series on our YouTube Channel, we featured an interview by Dr Saundarya Rajesh, Founder President, Avtar of Mr. Ramesh Iyer, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Mahindra and Mahindra Financial Services Limited. Here are some excerpts from it.

Dr Saundarya Rajesh: Hello Ramesh and a very warm welcome to you to the My Avtar My Identity show.

I must take you back to that day when as a young management trainee you joined this group and then over the next thirty-plus years you have actually risen within the same organization to become the Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of the largest group of companies of the behemoth Mahindra group. How is this journey? How did it feel? Can you tell us a little bit about this identity that you have developed over the years, Ramesh?

Mr Ramesh Iyer: I think it’s important that you know what makes an organization or an institution. You know many times everyone thinks differently. Some people think you have great products. Some people think you have a great process and all kinds of stuff. My personal belief is that it is great people who make institutions or organizations. So, therefore, I think the first level of identity for anyone is how well do you identify yourself with people and how people identify you within the organization. And if you can achieve that, then I think many things become so normal and natural. And that has to come only if you are willing to respect each other. And that’s what Mahindra group is all about. Everybody gets respected for who he or she is and not for where they come from or not for what they deliver. They are respected first as human beings. I think that makes life so easy in a group like this to then ensure that you start self-contributing and grow. I guess that must be the only reason that people stick to groups like this and stay here forever.

Dr Saundarya Rajesh: During this pandemic time, one of the things that I have actually learned by speaking to many leaders like you is the value of diversity. How that has become so important and I know having worked with your group as an external facilitator, I am aware of the importance you personally rest in diversity in the workplace. So how has this pandemic really changed it? Has it made it difficult? Are you able to pursue your diversity and inclusion programs even now or has it undergone a change, Ramesh? What are your thoughts?

Mr Ramesh Iyer: We should not do all of these on a project basis. If you do it as a project to tick box saying we are into a diversity program, this year we are going to devote so much time for this. I think it will never find its place in the organization. My take on this is that it has to become very natural and it should be the culture of the organization. So as you walk into my company and start speaking to anybody that you first meet, in your own way you are going to assess that and you will get a feeling yes this company seems to be doing it. And I think we have inculcated that as a culture not running it as a project or a program. And once you run it as a culture, then it doesn’t matter at what part of the day are you talking. Are you talking about difficult times or good times? So I have always told people these are times where you give space to the junior-most fellow to express what he or she wants. This not time where HO has to express what should we be doing, how should we be saving costs, how should we be improving productivity. These are times to listen to the last level of people because they are the ones who are suffering. You are still in the position to be able to tell them what is required. I think that’s the first level of inclusion that can change the whole pattern in the organization. So start listening to a very junior kind of a team member and then learn from their pain point as to what is required.

Dr Saundarya Rajesh: You know Ramesh, I read this interview of yours where you are speaking about patience and you actually related it to your music teacher who had so much patience to teach everybody whether or not they were musically inclined. But we know for a fact that you are very musically inclined and we also know that is one of your go-to methods for you to re-energize yourself and you know to bring back energy in yourself. I am going to you know ask two things of you in this question. First is, apart from music, how do you maintain your cool head? How do you handle all the pressures that come with this huge responsibility on your shoulders? That’s my first question. And the second request is, could you sing us a little bhajan by which we can share that musical happiness with your experience.

Mr Ramesh Iyer:  Okay so let me handle the first one first. I think all of us have to believe that everyone is as good as you are or even better than you in many ways. No sooner you start to believe that you are better than everybody because you are at so and so level, I think you have already made a mistake. Right?  I think the simplest way is whenever you are talking to someone two levels below you, three levels below you, just imagine when you are at that level what respect or what audience you got from your seniors. And if you were allowed to say what you wanted to, which is what brought out your best quality and that got you to where you are today. Please allow that space to your people as well. And when you allow that space to your people you realize that they are better than you in doing those things. Because certain things are meant for certain levels of people.

So, I keep telling people you must involve yourself but never interfere with what others do. And it’s a very thin line of difference between being involved and interfere. You know, I think I am involved, but actually I am interfering. So I must have the discipline of ensuring that I don’t interfere while trying to. So if you do that you have less problem taking back home. Because you have left somebody else to do. And the second thing is to build an organization or a team around who will have the confidence to come and tell you about something that’s gone wrong. So I tell all my people when I call you, please don’t tell me all the good things you have done, because that I am seeing through my eyes and I must volunteer to compliment you if you have done a good thing. Why should you remind me of that good thing? My purpose in calling is to ask you what is not gone right and is there a way that I can help. So if you build themes around these things, then you know everything that is happening around you. And somethings that don’t go well, you can help them to do it better and that actually reduces your work. And that infuses balance. I think that’s what has helped me.

Catch the full interview here (

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