Most often successful people are defined by their professional achievements and financial metrics. But there are few successful people who manage to relegate their quantum of success and let their human side come to the fore. This by no means is a small challenge, but people like Sri D Ramanaidu knew how to overcome it.
It is no wonder then, that many of the people who interacted with him, remember his personal nature more than his professional accomplishments. May be the word ‘mogul’ has never appeared more human, as in reference to him.
I just had a few fleeting interactions with the ‘movie mogul’. But I was privileged enough to know quite a bit about him from people who had interacted with him first hand, including my father, Sri Agastya Sastry.
My father first got in touch with Sri Ramanaidu in the late 80s when Ramanaidu Studios was just in its infancy. He would often tell me about his on-the-ground-managment and his attention to details. And of course, his generosity in discounting the price for the usage of the facilities
Swayamkrutham- A TV episode shot partly in Ramanaidu Studios
Here are a few important points related to leadership and management, I picked up from my father and various sources.
1) Vision and execution: Sri Ramanaidu had a grand vision but had his eyes on the execution all the time. His punctuality on the movie sets was legendary. Even at the peak of his success, with a locked script in hand, he would never lose the on-the-ground management approach. He would often communicate the vision in simple terms. For instance, his simple statement–‘producer should come with a script and leave with a print’ — translated into a huge effort involving hundreds of employees and partners.
2) Driving Growth: He set goals to facilitate growth and expansion. For instance, making films in all Indian languages etc. This also helped him to divide responsibility among the family members.
3) Clock building: According to Collins and Porras, the authors of ‘Built to last’, They (great business leaders) concentrate primarily on building an organization — building a ticking clock — rather than hitting a market just right with a visionary product idea and riding the growth curve of an attractive product life cycle.” Sri Ramanaidu is definitely one such business leader who created a business that could flourish irrespective of his presence at the top. He did everything right under the corporate management umbrella…business process management, division of responsibilities, fiscal discipline, succession planning etc…he did it all. This was visible in simple and big changes. For instance, when his elder son Mr.Suresh debuted as the producer in 1990, a simple change was proposed in movie titles from then on; movies produced by Mr.Suresh to have ‘D. Ramanaidu presents’ and his films to have ‘D Suresh babu presents’. Simple things like these bring great clarity in execution and also help tremendously in intra-group transactions. Speaking of which, I heard that, during the same time, he divided his businesses into independent profit centers to be headed by individuals from the family. Super thinking to let the fire burning and keep everyone on their toes.
4) Returning the favor: Apparently Jack Lemmon used to say, “You’ve got to send the elevator back down,’. Sri Ramanaidu undertook several initiatives for the welfare of others, through various vehicles, in his film and political career. He even produced films to divert the profits to his employees (Ex:’Prema’ or ‘Dharmachakram’?). Most of his studio assets were created during a low or non-existent real-estate market, as his way of giving back to the film industry where he prospered. Infact, the biggest contribution an entrepreneur makes to the society is through job creation. Sri Ramanaidu did that and also helped others to achieve their dreams; he introduced several new movie directors (B.Gopal etc) and giving a second chance to not to so successful directors (E.V.Satyanarayana etc).
Tailpiece: “Ahana pellanta”, is one of the very well known films of Suresh Productions. Incidentally, it was Sri Ramanaidu who was responsible for green-lighting Brahmanandam for the role, which by no means a small contribution to Telugu cinema