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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Uber Cool CEO

Left: Dr Ranjan Pai and his wife with their favourite pugs

At the helm of one of the largest and successful healthcare organisations— Manipal Education and Medical Group (MEMG), Dr Ranjan Pai (35) is considered to be one of the youngest and ambitious growth engines fuelling the Indian healthcare industry. One may assume that it was easy to establish himself with his father Dr Ramdas Pai being the Chairman of the Manipal Group. But, he begs to differ. "Initially, which was almost three to four years ago, it was quite a challenge, as people considered me just as a kid. So, trying to gain a foothold was difficult. But over the years, one gain respects as one takes people into confidence and shows them respect. And it is, of course, a fact that I'm quite young, so I don't mind asking my seniors if I don't understand certain things. Also, I tend to avoid ego-hassles." And the circle that he also looks forward to getting advice and mentoring are his father Dr Ramdas Pai, Mohandas Pai, Director and Head of HR of INFOSYS and KV Kamath, MD and CEO, ICICI.

Another aspect to his leadership style is his unfazed nature. "I don't think I would call myself as a tough task-master. I'm definitely sensitive to people issues, but that does not mean my decisions are ruled by the heart. I make quick decisions, I may be wrong, but I'll never be in doubt."

Dr Pai went to the US to do his hospital administration (Wisconsin) after doing his MBBS from Manipal. He then worked in a Children's Hospital and a health insurance company before joining the Manipal Group. He joined his father's group at the age of 28 in the year 2000. "I was in charge of setting up the group's activities in Malaysia (set up a Medical College there). I lived there for five years and then returned to Bangalore in 2005," he shares.

The young leader has been responsible for the restructuring of the entire group and also in charting out strategic direction for the group. "I have also been responsible for inducting high quality talent from diverse backgrounds into the group which has led to our success," he says.

Leaving aside his big business plans, and shifting focus on his weekend activities, Dr Pai prefers to spend time with his wife Shruti (28) and his two pugs. Whilst pugs are considered quite cute, these dogs are known to entertain and give his guests quite a hearty laugh as their names are Gabbar and Mogambo! The fact that he has named his dogs behind such iconic villainous characters, one understands the subtle humorous side of Dr Pai.

His wife is an entrepreneur in her own right as she runs a spa and wellness resort. In this light, is it a mere co-incidence that he is promoting the concept of preventive care through 'Manipal Cure and Care'? "Oh I don't know! Maybe you need to ask her if she has a role to play," he grins.

He feels he is yet to follow his new-year resolution— to gym and lose weight! "It's been five months that New-Year has gone by, but I'm still determined to go for a work-out. I think it's more of an excuse that I don't have time. It is very important to be fit and in-shape," he remarks.

He is also a huge fan of cricket. He has regularly participated in the local cricket tournaments. "I play as a batsman," he states. Like millions, Sachin Tendulkar is his favorite. He also likes Anil Kumble. So, what is it that he admires in both? "He started off his career when he was just 16 and I have been following him right from that time. People have a tendency to write-off when they are in a bad phase of life, but I certainly believe that he is a true champion," he shares. And talking about Anil Kumble, he says, "He is a very consistent guy with a strong temperament, who never gives up and is a true gentleman." Anil Kumble also happens to be the brand ambassador for Manipal Education.

Discussing about movies, he says, "I like almost all kinds of Hindi and English movies." Catching up a movie along with his wife is his favorite time-pass. "The last movie I saw was 'Tare Zameen Par' and I thought it was fabulous," he says. He normally likes contemporary cinema like 'Dil Chahta Hai.' As far as music goes, he likes the era of 80s— be it the Eagles or Police and also popular Hindi music. "I don't particularly follow any particular Hindi song. Any current flavour of the season will do," he shares.

Dr Pai is not much into the world of books. "Unfortunately, I don't really like reading books. I read a lot of magazines and newspapers and keep myself abreast of the latest trends— be it business or politics."

When asked to answer 'the mixed-bag' questions, he laughs, "Feels like I'm in Kofee with Karan!"

The Mixed Bag

Your best prize in life so far
My wife

Your first day in school
Oh, it was quite traumatic! I just remember crying in the local nursery at Manipal.

Your first ambition
I always wanted to become a doctor as far as I can remember.

Your first day at work
It was interesting. I had joined a paediatric Hospital in the US in the year 1997.

The first time you fired somebody
It was in the year 2000. I really felt very bad about it. I had a long chat with him and took this decision. I remember I was quite sensitive to his needs.

The toughest decision you have taken
I do not think that there has been such a moment in my life. Life has been pretty good to me.

The best memory of your childhood
Going for vacations with my parents and sisters. The time I spent with my father Dr Ramdas Pai is truly special.

Your happiest moment
The college days at Manipal Medical College. Once in a while, I meet my college friends and we remember the good old days.

Three things I cannot do without
My blackberry and laptop. That's it. Just two!

One trait you would like to change about yourself
The fact that I'm quite shy.

One parental advice that you remember
My parents gave a lot of advice, but particularly the one I remember was humility— always have your feet firm on the ground. The credit more so goes to my mother, as my father kept busy. She was quite a disciplinarian and never gave us everything that we asked for. We were taught to prove our mettle and also the fact that we were brought up in a small town like Manipal assured us that we were kept away from the whims and fancies of the ultra glam world. So, we as a family led a very simple life.
I also remember the advice, no smoking and no drugs, which luckily I followed.

Your first vehicle
It was Maruti-800 in the year 1990. I must have been 20. My father got it for me and being the 90s, I don't think there were many choices as well.

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