Nothing succeeds like success – Mr. K Ramkrishna

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Nothing succeeds like success – Mr. K RamkrishnaMr. K Ramkrishna – General Manager, Industrial Development Bank of India Limited.

Let us start with your educational and professional background

At the age of 9, I suffered with Glaucoma in left eye. Unfortunately surgery did not succeed and I lost my left vision. Subsequently at the age of 13, vision in my right eye also started deteriorating due to retinal detachment. By the time I was in standard 8, I lost vision in both eyes.

Since my family was not aware of the support system of writers and readers available to blind with which I could have continued my studies, I was compelled to discontinue my studies for five years.

During that period, officials of National Association for the Blind India (NAB) came to my help. They made my parents aware of the support services available to visually impaired students. They encouraged my parents to send me back to school. My previous academic record was good enough to get me back (admission) in the school. After that there was no looking back.

I graduated from St.Xavier’s College in Economics and Statistics. Then I Post Graduated in Economics with Mathematical Economics and Econometrics as special subjects in 1976 from Bombay University. Subsequent to that I joined a friend of mine in electronics industry for four years looking after finance and marketing. Then I joined Computer Maintenance Corporation (CMC) and worked mainly in the Corporate Planning area for year and a half.

I was given a dream by a friend to do MBA even before she or I understood what is MBA. I was very passionate about this three-lettered dream, and I strongly believe that if one is passionate about one’s dream and has a focus like Ekalavya, one succeeds. So in 1982, I left CMC to appear for the MBA entrance examination. There were only four colleges in Bombay then offering the degree in management studies (MMS) and for 200 seats there were 20,000 students competing. I stood third in the merit list in the S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR) and had an option of joining either Jamnalal Bajaj or SPJIMR. I joined SPJIMR due to the Institute having better finance faculty. After completing MMS, in 1984 I joined a small consultancy firm and later joined IDBI in 1985.

How did you join IDBI ?
I never had difficulty in getting a job. Through campus recruitment itself I had many offers in hand. I had offers both from ICICI Bank and IDBI. I was very keen to work in the financial sector. Since I got the appointment letter of IDBI first, I joined IDBI. I will be completing 20 years of service at IDBI.

What is the profile of your job ?
I joined IDBI as an Industrial Finance Officer in B grade. I was promoted from B to C grade in 1990, C to D in 1994, and D to E in 2000. At present I am a General Manager and involved in leading a team carrying out commerical appraisal of industrial projects in select industries, viz. Iron & Steel, Petroleum Refining, Petrochemicals, Drugs & Pharmaceuticals and Infrastructure including Telecom, Power, Special Economic Zone and Civil Aviation.

The Government norm is to have 3% of workforce from the differently abled category. In IDBI what is the status and what percentage of these are visually impaired ?
This 2-3% is on incremental employment basis and not on total workforce. Of late there has been very limited fresh recruitment in IDBI. IDBI being a professional organisation, depends more on knowledge base. We recruit management trainees having professional qualifications like CA or MBA.

There are very rare visually impaired having such qualification. Hence there is no other visually impaired at officer’s level in IDBI, there is only one telephone operator who is visually impaired.

Work requirement has changed, it is very much technology savvy. More people with professional backgrounds are required. Unfortunately visually impaired people have not made dent in these areas. We have to match what market wants rather than forcing ourselves on markets.

Did you get any special training once you joined IDBI ?
I did not receive any special training. I also do not know Braille, because I always wanted to specialise in quantitative subjects. Braille unfortunately those days was not compatible with quantitative oriented subjects. So I never had motivation to learn Braille. By the time I wanted to learn Braille, I was through with my education. I strongly believe that whatever new technologies emerge, visually impaired must learn Braille. It will give them considerable independence in education, training and employment, store and retrieve information whenever required both confidential and official. There is no substitute for Braille.

I am very strong in Mathematics. Visually impaired being strong in mathematics is something unheard of because we have to attune our mind to calculate without a sheet of paper. Most visually impaired do not tune their mind in this way. I am a regular visiting faculty at various Management Institutes in Mumbai where I teach highly quantitative subjects, viz. Advanced Financial Management, Risk Analysis, Equity Research, Project Finance, etc.

What kind of support HR offered to you when you started ?
During the initial 7-8 years, I was provided with an assistant for reading and writing at IDBI’s cost. Later with the help of screen reading and scanning softwares, I was no longer dependent on assistant. For success, complete independence on job is required. I use technology to make myself absolutely independent. Even the software that are installed are financed by me.

Today I have a secretary, which is like a secretarial support given to any General Manager.

What kind of challenges does one face when one joins an organisation ?
Personally I did not face any challenge. We are dealing with a society that is not used to seeing visually impaired person successful but we need not blame them.

Showcasing and demonstration of success is very important in creating awareness in the society about the capabilities of visually impaired. Initially there were some apprehensions, but as I kept proving myself, slowly I was accepted. One should not try to prove worth by being aggressive but by silently performing, one’s true potential stands out.

Are you given the training to handle these challenges while you studied ?
I have studied in a normal school so I was not given any special training to handle challenges in mainstream society.

What is the most important, (and often left out) lesson that you have learnt before/after being employed ?
I strongly advocate that as far as possible visually-impaired children should not be sent to sheltered and special schools.

Children studying in special schools have difficulty in adjustment with mainstream society. This is so because they are always in a company of visually impaired and they are used to communicating their way.

I am a firm believer of integrated and inclusive education. There should be no special expenses made for the visually impaired. Blind schools and specials schools should ensure that children are continuously allowed to interact with normal children, so later they do not have any problem.

You have reached the position of General Manager, how do you rate your performance in comparison to others on your scale ?
I rate my performance excellent vis-à-vis my colleagues.

Do you have to put an extra effort to reach the same standard or you take help of advanced technology ?
Yes. However good you may be at job, but man’s ego does not permit him to accept success of others. Extraordinary results do not come with ordinary efforts. With any disability or setback, one needs to put additional efforts to cover those extra miles. Having a disadvantage, I have to run faster or adopt a different strategy.

My senior once asked me, you have achieved so much in your academics and career but is their anything you have lost in the process? I said, yes, I have lost the right to commit mistakes. To ensure, that there is no mistake in my work, I have to put one and a half times the efforts put in by others because there are chances of associating handicaps to any mistake which could have also been committed by any other normal person.

How can corporates help in the pre-employment phase for the visually impaired ?
I personally feel that corporates should freely fund training activities for visually impaired. There are many organisations providing the benefits of access technology to blind. More Corporates should be involved in these activities. Large corporates are already doing it but they should do it much more.

IT companies should employ visually impaired without hesitation. It has been proved that employing blind does not affect efficiency and productivity. With minor training they will be able to perform as well as any other. Today, a country where IT is going to be biggest employment generator visually impaired should not find it difficult to get a job. I would request all IT companies to employ these people based on performance.

Infrastructurally, what are the things corporates can do to make your mobility easier ?
Fortunately visually impaired do not suffer from a mobility problem. They only require screen reading and scanning software.

I believe that technology should be inclusive, meaning that there should be nothing specially made for visually impaired because others cannot use it. I was the first to bring JAWS in the country in 1986.

What is the attitude of management and your subordinates towards you ?
It is absolutely friendly and perfect. I would like to share an instance here.

In an NGO meeting in 1990, Mr. Suresh Nadkarni our ex-chairman was told that it is really good that a visually impaired is employed in an organisation. To this comment his instant reply was whom are you talking about? That person said I am talking about Mr. K. Ramakrishna.

Mr. Nadkarni replied, is he visually impaired, thanks for the information for future I will keep it in mind. The message is that he has not felt any difference in mind working with me. So top management has never discriminated between my other colleagues and me.

GTL Forum on Visual Impairment is focussing on employability of Visually impaired. Through this forum, we would share examples of successful employment, concerns of visually impaired , profiles of all employed visually impaired and profiles of potentially employable visually impaired.
How can this service be most helpful ?
Showcasing success is important because nothing works like demonstration. The message with this forum is sent across very clearly and others are motivated and awareness is created.

GTL through this forum should help in acquiring access technology products, which are not easily affordable by many blind. GTL can set up centres where these people can come and use the technology.

NAB has set up a cyber café in its Head Office in Mumbai with the financial support from Miscosoft India.
Indian Association for Visually Handicapped (IAVH) installed an electronic reading centre at the University Clubhouse, Churchgate, Mumbai with the funding support from IDBI and HDFC.
Microsoft India funded the installation of an electronic reading centre of IAVH in Hyderabad.
State Bank of India funded 3 electronic centres of IAVH at Pune, Nagpur and Lucknow.
State Bank of Travancore funded an electronic reading centre set up by NAB, Kerala Branch.
Amway Corporation funded the project of publication of Braille materials for schools in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, etc. in collaboration with NAB India.
Number of corporates are extending fund support to NAB, Delhi for their electronic reading centre, computer training centre and DAISY project.

So GTL can set up a centre where blind can come and use centres free of cost which can enhance their employment opportunities.

Would you like to share some tips with other visually-impaired persons ?
They must have a dream and passion for success. Passion with direction and focus and of course a lot of hard work will help them reach the goal. The blind should assess what the market needs. Instead of forcing oneself on the market, look at what market needs. You have to put extraordinary efforts to achieve those skills.

Finally, nothing succeeds like success. If it requires putting 25 hours of efforts 8 days a week, one has to put in. In the process you are not only enriching yourself but are creating awareness for entirely differently abled community.

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