Today when I went to Starbucks in the morning, I saw that empty table , where I would find Sudhakar most mornings after his morning walk and my cycling.
The habit of Starbucks , coffee and soya latte comes to me from Sudhakar.
Wherever we travelled together he would find a Starbucks and we would have our soya latte , later he switched to almond latte.
We were both Vegans , yet occasionally we had our cheat days . He was fond of sweets though he was a diabetic he would indulge once in a while.
I first met Sudhakar when I joined an IT company Mastek as head of Corporate Communications.
I had to work on the Annual report within days of joining.
As a new chap in the organisation I did have the usual challenges of getting accepted by those who had been around.
And I was being given a difficult time . I went and told this to Sudhakar as the annual report had a deadline. He did what was needed . I forgot about the incident.
Cut to a scene in Goa when the team was having annual family get together ‘Run Time’.
Suddenly Sudhakar called me on stage and announced an award for the most creative Annual report.
This then was Sudhakar, unlike any boss I have worked with . Once he gave you something to do he would Trust you 100% and back you no matter what.
I went on to work with him for the longest time of my career almost twenty years till he passed away recently.
As a leader I learnt from him so much about the word ‘Trust’ , ‘Being Authentic’ , ‘Love’ and also ‘Karma’ .
When Sudhakar was with me he was with me , fully present in the moment . I was the most important person . He did this with everyone.
I don’t remember a single mail or message in these 20 years he would not have responded to , no matter how busy he was or wherever he was in the world.
He had a rare quality of genuine and deep empathy . He would feel for you. He did this for everyone.
When he passed away and I shared the sad news on LinkedIn the post had over fifty thousand views and hundreds of comments .
Each message shared told me how quietly he had touched many lives .
He was very understated and this I later understood was also the brand of Mastek . Not flashy , authentic, more substance than style , caring.
Through my life journey if I could confide in someone and get an unbiased pointer it was Sudhakar .
He would listen deeply , and in his typical way he would not tell you the solutions but rather get you to find the answers.
As I was directly reporting to him , over the years we built a strong bond . This got deepened during his journey of The New Constructs blog and later the book ‘The Connected Age’.
We travelled together across the remote parts of the country meeting some amazing people and leaders who were following a new way of building organisations, communities , education and sustainable farming.
He did this besides wearing the hat of the CEO of the company and travelling the world. He would be out two to three weeks in a month on business trips and yet have the time and energy to work on the blog and travel places for getting insights into the idea of a new world.
This was the other side of Sudhakar he was a visionary leader way ahead of the times . He believed in the idea of small is good for organisations and non profits, that we need a new way of education and more sustainable ways for our planet.
He would take some of the ideas we picked on our five years journey of The New Constructs to implement them at Mastek and he had the guts to do so . Like doing away with the concept of a leader , overnight he flattened the structure and did away with annual appraisals .
The idea of self managed teams with Mastek 4.0 was one of the boldest experiments in the corporate world only someone like Sudhakar could have taken.
His life was never a contradiction, he lived and practiced whatever he believed in .
I could almost read his mind and knew what he would do because I knew he lived by his truth and that was consistent.
There was a term he used for anything that happened “How wonderful” .
He lost his bag and passport at an event in the US and he said “How wonderful” . He enjoyed the experience. Sounded crazy to me at first .
Once during the startup days at Benow we had to go to the police station because someone was threatening as he was not able to use our live platform GivNow Live which was in pilot. Sudhakar said “How wonderful, otherwise we would have never got to see a real police station:)”
But he did that every time . It is said when a man nears death his true self is revealed.
Despite him knowing about his cancer he practiced this belief “How wonderful” , it was shared by Girija that Doctors told her they had not seen a person so graceful in death , completely accepting and having no regrets , none.
I believe here again he would have lived his principle of 100% trust . If he gave you anything to do he would trust you completely. He would have done the same for his doctors.
There was no pretence in Sudhakar he was so completely authentic. From Mastek I moved to join him in his startup as a cofounder.
I once asked him why did he need to get into a stress of a startup at late stage in life , he did not need the money .
His answer was interesting he said “I am a Karma yogi and my dharma is being an entrepreneur , I cannot do anything else”
He stayed true to this through his life and death , till the week before he passed away I am told he was attending an AGM from hospital. He was doing discussions with VCs on the startup with full energy.
When he passed away later many were surprised how he could have that energy and enthusiasm when he was so close to death.
And as I said he had no regrets , he always did what he loved and when he did not he would just drop it and walk away. On this issue he was unemotional and he had mentioned that to me.
Whatever he did he was completely passionate about it , almost like a child , he would like to explore and try the untried , untested .
I have experienced Sudhakar’s love , here was a boss who left a board meeting to be with me in the most difficult event of my life. He did this through his life , always be there when I needed him.
Even during the pandemic while he dealt with his health challenges, he would respond to my messages on advice I needed .
His understanding of Karma was complete . Once I asked him the startup is draining money was he not stressed as I never saw any stress on him . His answer was “it is only money” .
I then understood it was never about money and he was truly not attached to the outcome , not that he did not care about the outcome , he gave it all his best , he would be totally and completely involved and do his dharma as an entrepreneur but not be ‘attached’ to the outcome. I had read this in the Bhagvad Gita , I now saw a leader in the corporate world practice unattached action .
He always did what was right with the values he held . I saw him tell me in the Board meeting not to cut the Mastek Foundation budget even though the year had not been good , I remember the words “doing good is not a tick mark”.
Once we had a conversation with the cofounders on what would we do if we made millions from at our startup venture. Each co founder spoke about their desires , Sudhakar spoke last , he said “I will give away the money to support good causes and non profits.”
This was Sudhakar, I have seen him silently cut checks to support good work. He never refused anyone who came to him for help.
Sudhakar is a rare person, very rare . When one of my colleagues at Mastek passed away and I was broken. He told me “Sanjay, life is living , loving and leaving a legacy behind”.
I see that empty chair at Starbucks every time I go there , I miss him but I feel his presence through the his legacy of ‘living fully’ as per ones dharma and ‘loving fully’ everyone who comes into your life a message he has left behind with me and the thousands he touched.
One thought on “SUDHAKAR RAM , A VISIONARY LEADER LIKE NONE”
Perhaps, only you could have written this, Sanjay! Kudos!
Like I have mentioned earlier too, Sudhakar was ahead of his time in more ways than one. One of the best things that have happened to me after choosing Software Programming as a career, was to meet, know and work with Sudhakar.