Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dr. M.V.Sridhar - A Man Of Many Dimensions

I first met Dr. M.V.Sridhar, currently Vice President, Human Resources, in Mahindra Satyam, but also a man of many achievements in various fields, more than thirty two years ago. If I remember right it would be 1977-78, when I had just come to Hyderabad from Warangal and joined All Saints High School. I almost simultaneously joined the table tennis camp at the Lal Bahadur Stadium and used most of my energies into playing table tennis in those early days. Not having too many friends, finding it difficult to cope with the language, I stayed in my shell, played table tennis and went to school. One day I met Sridhar at the table tennis camp. He enquired warmly whether I was from All Saints (from the uniform I guess) and we spoke for a few minutes. Those few moments were enough for me to make out that here was a person with extraordinary people management skills. Sridhar can instantly make you feel very comfortable, make you feel like rooting for whatever cause he is espousing, bring much passion and authenticity to the moment, you feel like you always knew him well, that he knows you extremely well, and that you will both be co-conspirers in all that happens. There is this air of warmth, of being in control, of being able to control any difficulty as long as he is around. No wonder then, that he has excelled in areas of corporate leadership, people management, administration, coaching and mentoring, among so many other areas. Doc, as he is known, M.V. Sridhar, is the man of the moment, the man for a crisis, as the Indian team found out when they were in a massive bother in Australia weathering for the first time, racism charges against them. The famous Bhajji-Symonds affair was smoothly handled under the guidance of Sridhar, then the Media Manager of the team.
Dr. M.V.Sridhar and I at his residence

I caught glimpses of Sridhar at school, he was two years my senior, and also knew that he played cricket for the school team. He was already topping academics and was one of those Head Boy material - articulate, clear thinking, leadership material, carries everyone with him - though I am not sure if we had a Head Boy concept in All Saints then. We would hear whispers of the cricketing greats at school - Azhar, Milton, Sridhar, Bhatnagar - as middle school boys. And then as seniors do, he passed out quietly, but not before he represented Hyderabad Under 15, in the South Zone tournament which we won. And for many years I preserved the photograph of the Under 15 team that won the Pattabhiraman trophy those days with Bro. Joseph as the coach that appeared in the Sportstar. The photograph had many school boys who played good cricket for several years and who later became known to me - Dr. Hariprasad, was the captain, Dr. M.V.Sridhar, Sanjay Bhatnagar, Abhijit Chatterjee, Subba Rao, D.T.S.Prasad. Mohan Natraj, Rajeshwar - these are some of the names that come to me now, and they were heroes that I could see. And they beat a team from Tamil Nadu that consisted of W.V.Raman, L.Sivaramakrshnan and others which was no mean feat.

Doc with the Indian team picture of which he was Media Manager
 Sridhar moved on to Little Flower Junior College which was then in Chirag Ali Lane. LFJ was a serious college and all aspiring professionals went to LFJ those days; but they also had a sporting side to them. They encouraged sports and  I remember watching Sridhar and D. Chandrasekhar (the energetic older brother of D. Suresh) play for Hyderabad in the Under 19 games, performing well and getting selected to play for the South Zone. In many ways Sridhar always epitomised the fact that one could play well and study well right from those days. And there was never going to be any doubt that he would succeed in whatever he did in life. When I first played for All Saints in the season of 1981-82, the only year I played for the school, we frequently played friendly matches on Saturday afternoons with the LFJ team which consisted of both Sridhar and Chandu and several others including Percy Vowles, Mukhid, Konda Reddy among others.

In later years I heard that M.V.Sridhar was studying medicine at Osmania Medical College which pretty much meant that he gave up cricket. D. Chandrasekhar and Hariprasad were the other two cricketers who chose medicine and were studying to be doctors, as was Ananta Parakrama, the younger brother of Ananta Vatsalya. Sridhar and I'd bump into one another during Inter varsity matches, because by then they had made a separate University called the NTR Health University, and we'd always catch up for a couple of minutes. He always had a polite and encouraging word and would almost always make you feel comfortable and happy with his larger than life presence. I made my Ranji debut in my second year of engineering and by the third year I was already out of the team, but I continued to play for the Osmania University which meant that I kept meeting Sridhar once in a while.

And then, when I was probably studying MBA, in Sridhar's final year of MBBS, he scored so heavily for Osmania Medical College that he forced his way into every side that Hyderabad could pick. Six centuries at league level (or more) centuries at Junior and Senior zonals, centuries in the Under 25 game, and then a century on debut in his first Ranji Trophy game. It was as if he could get centuries in any game he played and we all watched in amazement at this kind of scoring, so consistent, so fast, and at all levels. Sridhar never looked back after that season. He played for several years for Hyderabad, for more than a decade, despite the late start, that you wonder what he would have done if he had started a few years earlier. He put together several records for Hyderabad - highest run getter with 6701 runs at an average of 48.91, 21 hundreds and highest individual score of 366 - and those were good days for Hyderabad which ranked among the top teams, frequently making it to the later stages of the knock outs. He played for the South Zone and even the Rest of India and it is a travesty of justice that he never played for the country. But he had made his mark, in many ways. He married my junior and a good friend, Sagarika, daughter of the well known Shankar and Rama Melkote, and I have been fortunate enough to attend their wedding as well.

By then he had gone far from medicine and practice, having made up his mind to play the game. He played for Syndicate Bank in the league, moved into the HCA administration and also handles the Matrusri group of Educational Institutions of which he is the Chairman. At some point towards the end of his cricketing career, Sridhar joined Satyam and true to his nature, found his biggest strength, people management, did his MBA and became one of Satyam's highest ranked HR officers. He handled the crisis that Satyam went through after the Ramalinga Raju scam, stuck by it through thick and thin, saw the change of management, the retrenchment, the reorganization, and still continues to do good work for the company under its new management. Sridhar was instrumental, the key person involved in Satyam's deal with FIFA for the 2008 Soccer World Cup in South Africa when the company became the first Indian company to be the FIFA IT sponsor. It was a huge task handling all the IT requirements of the event and it went off smoothly - with Doc in charge, you know they will.

But the biggest crisis he handled, in my opinion, was the one he handled for the BCCI against charges of racism against Harbhajan Singh. That was an acrimonious tour and one where India showed its character in more ways than one - on and off the field - and returned with their heads held high. Much credit must go to Sridhar for his adept and delicate handing of a potentially explosive situation with possible repercussions of far reaching nature, and enabled India to return home on a high, beating Australia decisively in the final test at Perth. As Venkatpathy Raju, former Indian player and Indian selector that time put it - 'Had it not been for Doc, we were done for.' These acts, behind the scenes, are so much more important, especially for a cricket crazy nation like ours which draws inspiration from the daily exploits on the field.

And he continues to battle crisis after crisis still. As recently as a few weeks ago, when Hyderabad crashed for its lowest score ever, 21, the Ranji coaches Venkatpathy and Vivek resigned leaving the team with no one to look to. The management in its wisdom requested Sridhar to take up the job which he did, and the team came back strongly in the next game and has been doing well since. 'It's a stop gap assignment,' he said, when I met him. 'But I had to do it.' He is busy as ever, as warm and as energetic as ever, and just as he was when we met all those years ago in the table tennis camp at Lal Bahadur stadium. Unless he chooses otherwise, Sridhar will certainly handle many more important assignments and will make his talent for carrying people, for shooting crises available to much larger fora in the future. I foresee much for him in the future, in whatever domain he chooses, as a leader, a coach and mentor, a thought leader. His intelligence, energy and uncanny man management skills make him a very different proposition altogether and I think can be used in much larger scales, larger mediums. I caught up with him briefly when we did an interview recently. Here's wishing you all the success Sridhar in all the endeavours you take up, and we can only applaud in advance, because I know you will only take anything you do to the next level.


budugu said...

just finished reading the book and would love to watch the movie. btw, r u acting in the movie?

Harimohan said...

Hi budugu,
Thanks for writing in. Hopefully you liked the book. I have a blink-and-miss part in the movie (the kind of a part without a dialogue). Hope it will be retained in the final cut. Will post when the movie is to release.

pennashri said...

I fully agree with you. Doc has been a steady influence on just about everyone who has known him one way or the other. For all his tall achievements he does not have the arrogance that one finds among the current crop. I have known Sridhar through a cousin of mine who is a fellow doctor. I wish him luck in all his future endeavours.

Harimohan said...

Hi Pennashri,
Sridhar is a doer in all senses of the word which is why he is always doing something new and interesting. Can't really describe Sridhar's energy in words, one has to meet him to feel it. Thanks for sharing.