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Roca's Ranganathan draws motivation from music

KE Ranganathan, MD of Roca Bathroom Products, on his obsession with planning and how work-life balance helps efficiency

Ranganathan plays tennis for an hour every day.  (Roca Bathroom Products)

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 KE Ranganathan, managing director of the bathroom fittings company Roca Bathroom Products, runs the organisation is a “regimented” way. “It’s very systematic, process oriented culture that we follow. But it’s a fun place to work at as well else we won’t have so many younger employees,” he says. Chennai-based Ranganathan brings in this discipline to all aspects of his life and thanks his upbringing as a son of district court judge and his stint at TVS Group for this quality.

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A Fulbright scholar, Ranganathan has worked in varied roles in his 33 year career – finance, business planning, strategy, marketing and sales, for example. Prior to heading Roca’s India operations, a 100% subsidiary of the Spain-based Roca Group, he worked with Murugappa Group and TVS Group. In fact, while working at Murugappa Group, where he headed the Parryware division as CEO, he played a crucial role in the business entering into a joint venture with the Roca Group.

In an interview with Lounge, Ranganathan talks about why he loves to plan everything ahead of time, how work-life balance helps him perform better, and the importance of music in his life. Edited excerpts:

Who do you consider your mentor and why?

I have had the great fortune to work with many great leaders during my tenure in both TVS and Murugappa Group. However, I am afraid I do not have a mentor as such, who, in hindsight, would have made me an even a stronger leader. 

One major insight you implemented with the guidance of someone you looked up to?

Although I didn’t have a mentor, I did learn a lot from my seniors that helped me change a few things in my working style. The most significant one would be to have a fine work-life balance and distinguish between office & personal matters. I recall a senior advising me at TVS Group had advised me ‘don’t take work home and don’t bring home to work’. 

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It’s been like building the Great Wall of China between the two, and as a result, I get to spend quality time on both sides. My wife never calls me when I am in the office; she messages me only in case of emergency. This is so that there is no distraction at work and you are able to concentrate on your work. It has benefitted me immensely. The outcome of this is that the quality of work doubly improves. It’s also the key to efficiency. 

What does be a mentor mean to you? How do you mentor your colleagues at work?

For me, a mentor is one who goes above and beyond giving normal advise and tries to make the mentee a successful professional in every aspect. The mentor gives a thorough understanding and guides the mentee to see the 'big picture', a holistic helicopter view of the situation. 

I mentor my colleagues by giving them a honest feedback, and helping them see the larger picture. I try to make my team feel that they get value whenever they come to me for any advice or assistance. The other thing I constant follow with my team is the 5H model – Humility, humanity, humour, hope and health. This is essential to me to lead a good life, and I keep checking with my colleagues on their progress with this model. 

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What are your productivity hacks?

I am a fan of planning and execution and follow the 6P formula – proper planning positively prevents poor performance. About 60% of my time is spent on planning, where I think through Plan B and C as well. I do this even with family trips and my sons used to laugh at me for the military precision with which I would plan the trips. It makes me productive and saves time. 

What time do you wake up and what's the first thing you do after waking up? 

My morning starts around 5.30 am every day with a warm cup of coffee with my wife. I spend about 15 minutes on my phone scrolling through WhatsApp, Telegram and emails, updating myself with fresh information from previous night. I stop checking my phone by 9 pm.

Around 6.15 am, I go out to play tennis with my friends for an hour. Around 7.30 am, after a shower, I pray for 10 min after which I practice flute for about 30 min. After breakfast, I head to office around 9 am.

What's the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?

During the pandemic, I have started eating my meals on time. I have also developed the habit of drinking plenty of hot water and it still continues. These habits have helped me stay healthy. 

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How do you unwind?

I have two serious hobbies – tennis and music. Without these two, I won’t have the energy I have today. I play tennis every day, and the same goes with music where I practise mridangam and flute. My wife and I started learning flute four years ago, and while she sticks to Carnatic music, I play Bollywood and Tamil movie songs as well. Actually, I am preparing for the flute exam next week. These things keep me motivated.

Any book/podcast/ videos you would recommend about mentorship and workplace growth? 

I diligently follow HBR (Harvard Business Review) videos. During the pandemic, I saw over 500 videos on management topics, and it is always interesting to listen to different speakers enlightening us on intricate subjects. It’s an amazing learning experience, and I would recommend the same who are growing in their professional spheres. 

Monday Motivation is a series featuring founders, business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics.

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