Monthly Archives: May 2012
Sriram is the Senior Vice President for Banking and Financial Services at Wipro. He is responsible for business from banking customers globally for Wipro and focuses on bringing in non- linearity in the software services industry.
Sriram is Chartered Accountant with broad experience in all aspects of accounting, auditing and financial management and in-depth understanding of information technology as applicable to the Banking and Financial services industry globally.
Currently, he has taken a sabbatical from his close to 25 year IT career to set-up D3T (Dignity and Dreams for Dogs Trust). In this rendezvous, I discussed with Sriram about his new initiative and the future plans
I’ve personally known Sriram for more than a decade now. Going down memory lane, he was probably one of the first senior business leaders I have interacted with in my professional career. And though we had the opportunity to work closely years back, we lost touch along the way. An occasional mail, greeting or Hello is what we shared for the past few years. Thanks to my blogs, we were able to re-connect. Sriram has been appreciative of my blogging success – with a kind acknowledgement, appreciation and a dash of humor (which is characteristic of him) along the way.
To quote a specific example on his wit and humor - The one that I will always remember is that Sriram mentions with a naughty smile and twinkle in his eye that “His life is driven, controlled and influenced by 9 women – His mother, wife, 2 sisters, 2 nieces and his 3 pet female dogs – All of whom he loves dearly.”
Hence I was excited about this rendezvous. One, to speak with Sriram after years and Two, to hear about his new venture. I knew always that Sriram loved dogs, but his current initiative is taking this love to a new level…
Nischala: Thanks for your time Sriram for this Rendezvous.
Sriram: Hi. .. Good Morning! It’s my pleasure. Hope all is well
Nischala: Firstly, great to speak with you after so long. And Congratulations on your new initiative. Would like to learn a little about your new initiative… So what is D3T all about?
Sriram: As you know, both my wife and I love dogs and have always been passionate about their welfare. We’ve had several dogs of our own over the past few years. My fascination for the wide world of dogs started some 30 years back with a gift of a Alsation- German Shepard pup whom we had named Tina ( There is no alternative and we did not know that acronym then). She must have been one of the most travelled dogs in the railways at that time .
Over the last 5 years we have adopted three more dogs who stay with us. The first one (Browny) followed us during a walk and we didn’t have the heart to let her go. The second one (Wags) walked herself into our compound and stayed on. The third one (Ginger) we again found during a walk. She had been ill-treated and could barely talk. She’d lost her voice and was unwell – So we brought her home and gave her the required care and attention. Today, she’s perfectly fine and in fact, makes the most noise at home . These three have got us to understand loving the world of dogs and their needs.
Over the past few years, the more we observed dogs in our locality and other parts of Bangalore, we felt there was crying need for active work to be done for the welfare of dogs.
Personally, we do our bit and best at every opportunity we get. Every day when we go for our walk, we feed atleast 10 dogs (Langdu, Scruffy, Scratchy, Scardy poo, Tall and lanky, Eager beaver ,Blacky, Lambu, Stripes and Karia) and we have got our domestic help and driver also to adopt two dogs – Scuby and Rocky. And what we realized is that dogs are essentially creatures of habit.
They really need only basics things – 1) food at fixed intervals 2) Love and affection. 3)health care both preventive and reactive.
So this initiative was really born out of personal passion and the current URGENT NEED for ACTION to be done in this space. And D3T was conceptualized to do just that! D3T stands for Dignity and Dreams for Dogs Trust. The idea of the initiative is take a holistic view of all issues that a dog could possibly face from Cradle to Grave; and to provide the required aid / support / assistance to address these issues.
Nischala: That’s good to hear. So what are the real goals for this initiative?
Sriram: The ultimate long term goals of D3T are to ensure that every dog in Bangalore:
1) Has a place to live – home / foster home, etc. So, this will include identifying people who would like to adopt a dog and co-ordinate for adoption
2) Is sterilized so that they don’t breed excessively / on the road
3) Gets the RIGHT food everyday of their life
4) Has access to preventive healthcare – Gets timely vaccinations so that it leads a healthy life and also does not harm / injure anyone and medical attention in case a dog is injured or infected
4) And really to give a dog a befitting burial
So to summarize, the aim of D3T is:
1) To give Dignity to every Dog – Essentially a home when it is alive so that it does not have to scavenge for food or is not teased, injured or harmed on the streets. And then to bury it with dignity
2) To fulfill the 2 Dreams of a dog – One is really to get the right food during the day. And let me tell you that dogs are hungry all the time. Two, to give and get love and affection
Nischala: OK. It’s great that you’ve taken such a holistic view of the issue itself. Many people I know look at welfare of dogs in a very siloed manner and at a very micro level and one day at a time. So this vision is really very well thought out and strategic if I may say in business terms. So, what is the short term plan?
Sriram: The short term plan is to focus our efforts on the area / locality that we live in – primarily Indira Nagar and C V Raman Nagar. And what we want to achieve is this:
1) No stray puppies on the road – So basically, every new born puppy should have a home
2) All unhealthy / injured dogs in the area should have access to medical care – So basically, they should receive medical attention and care from an agency like CUPA, Blue Cross, etc.
3) All dogs should get the right food – And I emphasize on right food because if they are fed wrong / unhealthy food, the chance that they get infected is high. A lot of people feed dogs with a good intent, but end up doing more harm as they don’t know what is good for dogs.
Essentially, dogs need balanced food. Human food may not always be the best for dogs.They should not be given excess salt and sugar in their food. Excess sugar as in humans has the potential to cause diseases in dogs, and also leads to other side effects like hair loss, etc. And excess salt can cause urological problems, etc. Also if you give them stale food – It is unhealthy. So the focus is to ensure that they eat the right food at regular time intervals.
Nischala: OK. Great to hear. And also very informative. Many of us probably are just not aware of such simple things. So what after you’ve done this?
Sriram: The long term plan is to expand beyond the areas that we live in and ensure that we are able to institutionalize a model in line with our ultimate goals.
Nischala: So moving from the corporate world of 25+ years to starting out on your own. How do you feel? And how difficult was it to make this decision?
Sriram: It was a very difficult decision. Something which I have been thinking about for more than 1.5 years. Let me tell you it’s not easy to leave the corporate world, especially if you are doing well.
So, I think looking back there were really a few considerations:
1) Most importantly is the fact that we are deeply passionate about the cause and believed in it
2) There is an URGENT CRYING need for work to be done in this area. So even if you are passionate about something, if there’s no BURNING problem to address – There’s no compelling need to probably devote your full time and efforts here. But since there is a burning need for action in this cause and we were really passionate about making a difference, we decided to embark on it
3) Also along with me, my wife has taken a sabbatical from work. So in addition to the cause, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to also get some personal and family time. The last few years have been invested in our careers. So this is a golden opportunity for us to work together towards a cause we both believe in. Also, in India – Giving up your corporate career for a social cause is still not the norm and probably not so well accepted yet. And so there’s the element of societal pressures as well. But I think if you believe in your dreams or a cause, people will eventually support you!
4) The organizational reaction and support - So I’ve been in discussions for several months now with the Wipro leadership team. And once everyone recognized the need and also realized how passionate we were about the initiative, things became a lot easier. I’ve received phenomenal support from the entire senior leadership. .
So in the end, the passion, vision and personal commitment to the cause overtook everything else. Also, it needed to be done full time with dedicated effort and commitment and hence the decision to take a break from the corporate world.
Nischala: That’s great to hear! So, what are the key challenges you envision here?
Sriram: The first is probably to build the RIGHT team of people – Basically people who are equally passionate about this cause and are willing to work with us. Interestingly, ever since people in my network have heard about this, I’ve received a lot of calls and messages. Some people who are already doing work towards the welfare of dogs and are willing to extend the intensity and contribution towards our initiative or some who were interested but never really did anything for very many reasons! And so as of date, we have about a dozen people who have expressed keen interest in working with us.
Second is in terms of identification of the right organizations / agencies and teams that we can collaborate with to ensure that we are able to cover all aspects of our goals. So as of today, I don’t yet have a sense of how much we’ll need to work with the Government and other agencies. But we should be able to figure this with time. Based on our research, we have found that there are some parts (5-6) in Bangalore where there are other agencies who are already doing similar work. We’ll need to engage with them and work out a collaborative model for working.
So the point is that during the initial 6 months, the focus will be on ironing out the organizational aspects of the initiative – basically setting up the legal entity through which we can operate, get the paper work done, set up the banking accounts, financial models, commercials, etc.
One of the key aspects obviously would be to identify the funding mechanism. Interestingly, I am not too worried about this as of now as a number of my well wishers have offered to contribute without me reaching out at all.We will cross this bridge when we get to it.
Second is really to figure out the way to institutionalize the model of operation. It cannot be an individual based model for it to survive and sustain.
In other words – The proof of the pudding is in the eating. So really, the yardstick for success is in being able to have a long term sustainable model to achieve the goals we set out for ourselves.
Nischala: Great to hear this Sriram. Also, a great part of your success will be primarily driven by the awareness among people. So, any thoughts on how you plan to generate awareness about this initiative?
Sriram: You are so right! In the long term, awareness is the KEY to our success.
One of the immediate areas that we’d like to focus on is to generate awareness in school-going-kids. So we do intend to collaborate with schools so that there is an awareness session / class as a part of their school curriculum. The biggest benefit here is that we are building this awareness at an impressionable age and stage in their life. So these lessons they will probably carry through life.
Second and also very important is that children are great ambassadors of positive change and are increasingly the key influencers at home. So for e.g.: If your child mentioned this to you over a dinner or when you are driving past an injured dog, chances are you will take note and also probably act on it! (Atleast better chance than if your spouse told you .. Something as basic as when you see an injured dog, you can call CUPA or Blue Cross to inform them about the same.
All you need is
1) Awareness that such agencies exist and
2) their contact details stored in your mobile.
Two, is that in terms of a larger reach – we need to figure a way to reach a larger audience to make them aware and also, ensure that they take the right action within their sphere of impact and influence. So, for e.g: May be through your blog we are able to generate some level of awareness and interest in D3T. And hopefully, over a period of time people do take the right actions.
Nischala: Sure Sriram. I’ll be personally happy if my blog(s) can make a difference here. So every time I publish my blog, I have no clue on who’s reading it from which part of the globe – But do hope that this post can make a positive impact and difference to D3T. So coming to my next question – Given that you have been in the technology world for more than 2 decades, how do you intend to use technology for your initiative?
Sriram: Sure, technology will be an integral part of our initiative. We do plan to have our own web-site / blog, etc. in the next few months. And we also plan to leverage the power of social media – for generating more awareness and for wider audience reach
Nischala: That’s excellent Sriram! Thank You for your time! It was an absolute pleasure to talk to you. Best wishes for success. And hope D3T achieves the goals it set out with and every dog has its dreams fulfilled and gets dignity in life and death! Good Luck!
Sriram: Thanks for your time..
A personal request for you.. – Kindly do share this in your network to create awareness about the D3T initiative…
The decision to get back to work after becoming a mother is a personal choice. For some women, the decision if out of free-will, to some out of necessity, to some due to lack of choice and to some out of choice. What I’ve realized based on my own personal experiences and interactions with other mothers are that most working mothers do go through phases in their life when they need to strive extra-hard just to find a balance between their personal and professional priorities. And what clearly sets apart those who somehow manage to make it all work are:
1) Desire to Work
This tops the list. If as a mother, you don’t have a desire to work – then no amount of personal support and organization flexibility is ever enough. I’ve known women who had everything going in their favor BUT had just NO interest in working – That’s a personal choice. On the other hand, I’ve known women who had really all ODDS against them, but their desire to work and carve a meaningful career was so STRONG that they were able to achieve this. And then of course, there are all those in-between.
2) Supportive Spouse
As a women and more importantly, once you become a mother – You realize the difference that a supportive spouse can make. I’ve known mothers whose life is so easy just because their spouse helps in all possible ways to make a difference. This can be in little things like giving you 10 minutes of ME time every day, to waking up 15 minutes early each morning, to helping with little errands around the house TO larger things like supporting your choice of when you want to get back to full time work after having a child, to decisions related to how to parent your child
3) Reliable Support System
This is one of the key differentiators which have a direct impact on your day-to-day routine. As trivial as it may sound, for a mother knowing that her child is with a support system who she can completely rely on goes a long way in her ability to focus at work and also in her productivity. In the initial few years of a child’s growth – at least till a child is able to communicate and express, the support system (can be family or friends or professional help) plays a KEY role in how a working mother’s career evolves. As a child starts growing and becomes independent, different support systems are required – Nevertheless, they are vital for a working mother
4) Clarity on Priorities
As a woman, mother and more importantly, a working mother – Your priorities in life have to be CRYSTAL CLEAR in your head. There will be times when work is No.1 priority, times when your baby is No.1 priority and times when YOU will be No.1 priority and times when family will be No.1 priority, etc. And these priorities change with time, based on the need.
But the point is at any given situation your decision making abilities will be so much easy if you have your priorities clear. There will be times when you need to DE-/RE-PRIORITIZE – You need to be flexible to achieve a balance between what you expect of yourself, what your family expects of you & what your workplace expects of you.
And I’ve personally found that it is useful if you spend time thinking about what your priorities are – Only then you will get clarity. Write it down somewhere and go through it every day in the morning. This will give you the required perspective to handle any kind of situation.
As a working mother, I’ve found that some women seem to be having things moving in their favor all the time. And when I really analyze what they were doing right, the one thing that STOOD OUT was their OPENNESS.
You need to be open to ideas, thoughts, suggestions, new ways of working, new opportunities, people, situations, learning, technology, future and most importantly CHANGE. And ideas, thoughts and suggestions usually come in abundance to any mother.. And these come from everywhere – friends, family, people at work, and many times your kids themselves. You need to be open to listen, to try, to act, to change, to learn/un-learn/re-learn. This will make a SIGNIFICANT difference in your life
6) Ability to communicate in a clear and precise fashion
From personal experiences and observation, I can vouch that this makes a significant difference if you are a working mother. And to be able to clearly express yourself, you need to be first clear in your mind about what you want to convey – both in the form of oral communication and written communication.
Many women are good in clearly communicating data or what they know, but fall short when it comes to clearly expressing their emotions or thoughts or what they want. For e.g.: Ask the following questions to yourself or to a woman and see the difference in responses:
“How do you make tea?”
“What do you want to achieve in life?”
“3 specific ways your spouse can help you today?”
But the good news is that you can consciously work and improve your communication skills.
Before you speak,
• Think on what message you want to really convey
• Think about who is the listener and the best way you can express
• And then only speak…
Dr. Smitha Radhakrishnan is a sociologist, and dancer, and a mom. Her professional work in and out of the classroom focuses on questions of gender, globalization, nationalism and development. Her newly published book, Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class (Duke University Press, 2011) examines the culture of Indian IT professionals in urban India, Silicon Valley, and South Africa. She is currently in India conducting research for a new project on educational programs aimed at microfinance borrowers. In her previous research, Smitha has studied meanings of race, ethnicity, and femininity among South African Indians in Durban (South Africa). Her work has appeared in journals such as Qualitative Sociology, Theory and Society, and Gender and Society, among others. A more detailed bio can be found at http://www.wellesley.edu/Sociology/sradhakrishnan.
Smitha has studied Bharatnatyam for most of her life, and has performed in the United States, Canada, India, and South Africa. Since 2008, she has been dancing with Navarasa Dance Theater, based in Boston and directed by Dr. Aparna Sindhoor. Under Dr. Sindhoor’s direction, she has expanded her movement vocabulary to include yoga, kallari, modern dance, and theater. Previously, in California, Smitha co-founded NATyA with Vallari Shah, which choreographed and produced original classical dance productions from 2003-2007. Over the years, she has studied dance with Asha Gopal in Arizona, Padmini Ravi in Bangalore, Girija Chandran in Thiruvananthapuram, Prakriti Bhaskar in Mumbai, and Katherine Kunhiraman in California. Currently in Bangalore, she is reconnecting to Bharatnatyam under the tutelage of Chitra Dasarathy. In 2009, Smitha became a mom to Medha, who now takes up more of her time than all her other interests put together. Before Medha, she had time to produce Desi Dilemmas, a popular podcast that ran from 2005-2006, and also blogged occasionally for UCLA’s online magazine for Asian-Pacific Arts.
Nischala: Smitha – Thank You so much for your time to do this Rendezvous. I really appreciate it.
Smitha: Thank You. It is indeed a pleasure to talk to you
Nischala: Smitha, you have an incredible Bio. One of the most impressive I’ve read in a while. For many reasons – One I don’t know of too many PhD’s in my peer group – An abysmally small number of people even tread down that path. Two, A PhD along with a passion and active involvement in performing arts is really commendable – Not to mention, a rare and unique combination. Also, the additional credits you have in terms of your book, research work and your articles that I’ve read about are impressive. So looking back at your life, how did it all come together for you?
Smitha: I was raised in a fairly traditional Indian family in the US. I enrolled into dance at the age of 5. So dance and performing arts is a part of my identity. To be honest, I can’t imagine life without dance. For a long time, I had to internally deal with the what seemed to be the unique difficulties associated with “multiple identities” – Being raised in an Indian home, but also participating in everyday life in the U.S. My experience seemed unique at the time. But as I grew and got more educated, I realized that there’s nothing so special about my personal situation. History is filled with examples of people migrating and dealing with multiple cultural affiliations. Cultural change is the norm, not the exception. Embracing this perspective was liberating, and allowed me to do my research and travel with a sense of wonder and humility.
Nischala: That’s an interesting way to put it. And from all your travel, research and writing, I’m sure you’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with so many people across the globe – which is really exciting and can be a great learning experience in itself. So what has been the real lesson that you’ve taken away here?
Smitha: What I’ve realized based on my research, reading, interactions and introspection is that engaging with the personal experiences of others is the key to learning and growth. Shifting the focus away from my own personal issues to a broader world makes you see things differently. I was privileged to be in a position where some of these lessons emerged from my research. What I really learnt is this: Every one of us has a story to share – based on our own personal experiences. So, life is really not so much about me – or my struggles, issues or successes. But it is really about every individual’s journey in life. And when you wear that lens, you world view changes. I find it very humbling to engage and connect at a personal level to people from diverse walks of life – and to have the opportunity to listen one-on-one to their life stories. And each person’s story is rich – When I say rich, I mean it is rich with their life events, memories, joys, sorrows, achievements, trials, etc. What’s important is to step back and listen, to ask the right questions, and to give importance to the insight and wisdom that each person you meet possesses. So it is worthwhile to extend one’s point of engagement beyond yourself, to observe and reflect upon the experiences of others as well, so you can frame and re-model your own views and perceptions. At times, I am astonished about the things I don’t notice! But these realizations keep me humble and keep me looking to find out more about those things in my environment that are not completely obvious.
Nischala: That’s a powerful thought and a very unique way to look at people and life. So, coming back to your PhD. What was the motivation to pursue your doctoral studies?
Smitha: Since high school I had an interest in research, which I pursued through my undergraduate studies. At Berkeley, the exposure to an amazing intellectual and social environment was truly rewarding and satisfying! I learnt so much by being a part of such a great institution, working with some amazing faculty and having wonderful classmates. Coming to the PhD, I think it was just a logical step for me – I was passionate about research and writing, and sociology gave me the opportunity to pursue research and writing on social topics of my choice! So, it’s everything that I love – and if someone was going to pay me for this, then how could I turn down the opportunity? The main attraction for sociology was the possibility of doing fieldwork, which would allow me to interact with people I would never otherwise have the chance to engage with.
Nischala: So, what was the topic of your doctoral research?
Smitha: My research was centered around the cultural impact and role of the IT industry on Indian women, and the role of the IT industry in transforming “Indian culture” as a whole. I conducted extensive research over several years across 3 places – US, India and South Africa. The issues which most working women deal with are probably somewhat similar all across the globe. But what I found to be very unique to the women in India who are part of the IT workforce is that there is an “expectation” that women need to preserve the “Indian” character of the home and yet display a “global Indianness” as a part of their professional IT jobs. So this puts them is a difficult position and brings forth several dilemmas for women to deal with. Women find their own ways to deal with their specific situations. Some quit working, some make compromises in their professional life, some let-go of many things in their personal life. So there all combinations, but each of these compromises has to deal with the dilemma of being a professional woman while at the same time feeling a normative pressure to maintain an essentially “Indian” home. And the reality is that although there’s a lot of data on the increasing numbers of women in the Indian IT industry which are positive and encouraging – If you look a little closer, the numbers are still abysmally small, especially at the top tiers. Although women enter into the IT industry in equal numbers as men, most women still do opt out of their corporate careers once they become mothers. These decisions are always framed as “choice,” but are often not as freely made as we would like to believe.
Nischala: So any specific trends that you have seen in women living in India and part of the Indian IT industry?
Smitha: Throughout the industry, there is a moment of crisis for women when they have a child. This is a point at which many women make difficult decisions in their professional careers in IT. IT companies are still figuring out the ways in which good policy arrangements can allow women to continue their careers and there is a lot of effort in this area. It is still too early to say whether these new policies will prompt women to make different decisions. Men do not face the same dilemma when they have children because even though women have become equal earning members in many cases, men have not had to shoulder an equal burden in the area of childcare.
Nischala: In your personal case, how have you dealt with balancing all your responsibilities and passions?
Smitha: I have a 2.5 year old daughter and I have been able to somehow manage raising her with my work and dance. This is possible because my spouse shares an equal duty with regard to caring for our daughter. Equal responsibility at home has been a fundamental understanding of our relationship. Still, it’s difficult for us to manage both our careers, personal interests, and our daughter. Especially after living in India for the past few months, I’ve realized that we really need to take things one day at a time, it’s impossible to plan everything and budget every moment of every day. You have to be open to deal with changes and challenges. But in all this, I’ve found it most important to be true to myself. In this sense, dance is not a “break” for me, but a part of who I am. I won’t be a good mom, a good scholar, or a good partner to my spouse if I don’t dance! So, for each person, in whatever way it fits, I think it’s important to know who you are, what you need, and be true to yourself.
Nischala: That’s such a profound and valuable advice. Thanks for sharing your personal journey and insights on topics close to your heart. This was an absolute pleasure. Thanks again for your time
Smitha: Thank you for this opportunity. Have a great day!
Photo Credit : Ganesh Ramachandran @ Purple Ganesh Photography