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Issue of September 2006 

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A man of many talents

He is a man of diverse tastes. From being a fan of all kinds of music to being an enthusiastic Net user to enjoying theatrical performances, Manoj Chandiramani, the VP of IT at Man Financial, reveals his inner self to Rishiraj Verma.

With the kind of pressure that heading the IT department of a finance company may put on an individual, a broad, cheerful smile comes as a pleasant surprise from Manoj Chandiramani. The smile continues even as he talks about a most serious accident he has had. This is what makes the man stand out from the crowd.

The Moulding years

The years of study are when you’re supposed to study a lot, play a little, and get very good marks. And after school, college must start and a good job must follow suit.

Chandiramani finished his schooling from Indian Education Society’s New English School in Mumbai. He says that school days were the time when he had a lot of fun and learned at the same time. “It wasn’t one of your high-profile schools, but definitely had a good mix of academics and co-curricular activities.”

Technology, it seems, has always interested the man. That’s why he went on to get a diploma and then a degree in computer technology engineering from Mumbai University. He says that he has also done a few certificate courses in the same stream.

What followed was another face-to-face interaction with the IT world, in a smaller environment though. He started studying at Aptech, the computer training institute, and that was where he set foot on the path that led him to where he is today.

The First Step… and the next few

Chandiramani started small, has learned much, and has moved on.

His first job was at Aptech itself. “I was studying at the Santacruz (in Mumbai) branch when I noticed a board which said that they required part-time trainers.” He applied for the job and got it. He says that his part-time job here included training people who were senior to him. “They were all like uncles and aunties, and it was funny when I had to teach them how to start and shut down a computer.” This job, he says, was like a whole entertainment package. “My shift was from six to nine, after which a few of the trainers would sit down with coffee and music and have loads of fun!”

Later, in the same year, he worked on a few back-end projects with them. He then went to Middle East and worked on a few IT projects for a period of about two years with various organisations. He came back to India in the 2000. A two-month break followed, after which he joined Man Financial India, then known as Refco India. “I’ve been working in this company since June 2000,” says Chandiramani with a look of satisfaction on his face.

Climbing Everest and placing a flag

A man’s devotion to his work can be seen when he names an area of work even when asked about personal achievements. Chandiramani is one of this committed and devoted clan. Says he, “Professionally, the biggest achievement for me is being where I am today.” He says that his stint with Man Financial has been a long and enjoyable one. He then emphasises that he has not been alone in this journey. “A lot of people have helped me get here, and I am thankful to them.”

His personal achievements are linked to the IT world as well. Exclaims Chandiramani, “Being the youngest in the CTO/CIO segment was the biggest personal achievement I’ve had during my recent visit to Sri Lanka for a tech summit.”

He says that he is happy with whatever he has done so far in his life, because it was done with his own efforts and the help of people close to him.

Rapid Fire
  • Retirement plans?
    The way IT is moving today I think I always want to be young so I never have to retire.
  • Favourite film?
    Among the recent films, Iqbal by Nagesh Kukunoor.
  • Favourite book and author?
    I'm not really a voracious reader, but I do read some technology books. I haven't read one in a long time now.
  • Favourite colours?
    Blue and White.
  • Wish the most in life?
    I wish for the same thing that the whole world wishes about. I want to see myself where people will always remember me.
  • Miss the most in life?
    Right now I miss spending time with my family the most. Work can get really pressurising sometimes, but I still love what I do.
  • Love the most about self?
    If I trust someone, I end up being loyal to them right till the end. This is one thing I really like about myself.
  • Hate most about self?
    It's got to be my anger. I hate it when I get angry.
  • Idea of a great vacation?
    I'd like to be in some place where I can be in touch with nature. I'd like to be there in the cold winter when I can feel the breeze. I'd love any place where you can actually feel the clouds.
  • Do you know of a place like that?
    In India itself there is Jammu & Kashmir. I was there in 1987 and I remember the place vividly. The clouds actually coming into our hill-facing room was an amazing feeling. But now all I hear about the place is bomb blasts and terrorism. It makes me sad to know that the place is finished now.
  • Specific interests?
    I like writing. I haven't written much, but I like to write down whatever comes to my mind in my free time. I also love driving. The accident however has put the fear of two-wheelers in my head. But driving cars is another thing altogether. I have a far-away dream too. That of owning a Lexus. But as I said, it's far, far away.
  • Message to fellow IT heads?
    There is a lot that we can still do for this industry. Being Indians, if we put our heads together, we can do a lot, not just for ourselves, but for the world.

Getting to work

The VP-IT of Man Financial says that there is absolutely no way he can pinpoint a favourite IT project from the many he has undertaken. “Everything has been my favourite.”

According to him, every project he has undertaken has come as a challenge. This has made him think of his entire stint with the financial firm as a challenging project. Summing up his work in just one sentence Chandiramani says, “I’m a Garfield in my own field.”

Sun Sign : Scorpio
Born in : Mumbai
Family : Father retired Superintendent Engineer from BARC.
Mother working in the Income Tax department.
Wife entrepreneur.
Son keeps jumping around all over the place.
Younger brother working with Intelenet-Barclays.
Sister-in-law working with Polaris Software.
Special talents : The ability to address an audience whenever a microphone is handed to him.

Getting off work

Says he, “Music is the one thing I really like.” He says that he likes listening to any kind of ‘chilled out’ music. But ghazals and instrumentals top his list of favourites, and he is a Kenny G fan. Tiranga was one of his favourite jugalbandi live shows where the maestros of Indian classical music came together on a single platform.

Adding to his list of likes he says that he is also a big fan of the Internet. “I surf the Web regularly, but I don’t have a favourite Web site or anything.”

That’s not all he does in his spare time. “I love watching theatre performances.” He says that he had been a theatre person back in college, and wouldn’t mind going back to the old days. So when was the last time he enjoyed something similar? “A few days back, at my cousin’s wedding. We enacted a scene of them meeting for the first time. It was a whole lot of fun.”

“I like singing as well,” comes another revelation before we move on to the next question. And it’s not just bathrooms that he sings in. “You give me a microphone and I can start singing.” He adds that he does not suffer from stage fright, and this is what makes him a good compere too.

The league he follows

There is a huge list of mentors who he looks up to. The list starts with his parents. “My father and mother have always been there for me,” says Chandiramani as he talks about the values that his parents have given him. According to him, it is these values which have made him what he is today.

After his family, he says that his two close friends, Sunil Gujral and Rajiv Garela, have always watched his back for him. In spite of being in one of the most coveted positions in the IT world, he doesn’t seem to have forgotten the days when his teachers influenced him. “Prof Narkar and Prof Amit Abhyankar from my college days will always remain my ideals. They have greatly influenced me.” He also adds his erstwhile teacher at Aptech, Sagar Sule, to his list of mentors.

Explaining his beliefs, he says that hope is the one thing the world lives on. ‘Nothing is impossible’ is the school of thought he follows everyday.

Chandiramani says he isn’t a superstitious man. However, even when his elders say something which sounds superstitious he is inclined to agree with them.

Learn, learn, learn

We ask the man from Man Financial to rate himself on a scale from 1 to 10. And what does he reply? “I’m below one.” On being asked about his modesty he says that the IT world is a huge space and that he needs to learn a lot more before he can even rate himself at one.

Defining Moment

He recalls that the one moment where he felt really happy about himself was when the Man Financial MD called him and said, “You’ll be now designated as the Assistant VP of the IT team.” Chandiramani says that this was the moment that shaped his life and told him where he was going from there.

A Bad Memory

To see how long a cheerful smile could last on the man’s face, we ask him about the one bad memory he has. Without much thinking, he starts talking about the motorcycle accident he had in 2002.

He was on his bike when the accident occurred. “The impact was so nasty that my helmet was shattered into five pieces,” he remembers. “The next day I received the money for the bike which had been sold off by my parents.” The brush with death changed him. “That was a second life I was gifted.”

Just for the record, the smile never disappeared.

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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