Twenty-twenty five years ago, what could have been a dream of a sales man selling Generator Sets- to sell more Gensets; may be an ultimate dream where he can become a big dealer of Gensets for a specific territory or may open his own shop in his area. What could be the highest aspiration of a person selling and setting up antennas at people’s houses?- To furthermore sell television sets, to make a little more money, to make his life a little more better! That’s it.
Years ago, such a salesman, looked up into the sky and the sky asked him, “What do you want?”, he said, “I want to become you!”, that was the beginning of the life of Keshav R. Murugesh, Group CEO, WNS. This is not a story; it is a message and learning to everybody and anybody, who wants to achieve and be successful. Everyone one of us can very naturally connect ourselves with the journey of Keshav. Let’s have a tour to his journey of life.
It is a living story of Keshav R. Murugesh, Group CEO, WNS, one of the highest paid CEO’s in the IT/ITes and BPO sector. Being an ordinary sales man, selling TV’s, fixing up Antenna’s on people’s houses, Keshav always kept alive his passion to succeed and go higher in life. Along with this business in line, he parallel completed his chartered accountancy and became a sharp and witty C.A. A unique combination of Tamil and Bengali, Keshav could speak both the languages as his mother is a Bengali. Keshav started his early career from a tinsel town of Vishakhapatnam.
“My journey started long back. I sold TVs, generator sets; I was in the shipping, clearing and forwarding business along with which I studied and achieved to become a Chartered Accountant. But interestingly, I had no interest in either accounting, taxation or any of those areas. And I was actually a pretty good businessman. I never read the CA magazine,” says Keshav.
Keshav’s Philosophy of Life
If you have to achieve your present and future, you have to respect your past. Your prospect should always carry the retrospect to be successful. There is no formula to reach the top. The best Universities of the world can extend you knowledge, but not success. Success comes to only those people, who learn from the world around them and know the art of transforming their vision into a mission.
First Professional Break
Fortunately, my mother once read the CA magazine and asked me to apply for a job in a company called ITC Limited because she came from Calcutta and she loved that name. I applied; I was very fortunate that I was selected by ITC Limited.
Very interestingly, I was asked to appear for a number of interviews in Chennai and Calcutta and at the last I was the only person who got selected.
The last question to Keshav that fetched him a Job: - Tell me, how many bricks and mortars were used to make the Dolphin Hotel in Vishakhapatnam?
“My last interview with the then CFO of ITC is hilarious. The first question he asked was, “In Vizag, there is a famous hotel-Dolphin. Tell me Keshav as you are a man of numbers; how many bricks and mortars were used to make that hotel?” I felt a little embarrassed with this strange question and without wasting my time, I replied- Nine lakh, nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety one. The CFO was stunned for a moment.
He got irritated and asked me how do I know this? I told him that this was again a strange answer befitting the strange question asked by him. He did not waste his time asking questions anymore, he told me, “You are selected, congratulations!”, I shook hands with him and was taken onboard the next day. I took a job which paid me much less than what my business was already paying me.
Finally, I was selected to join the Internal Audit department. I learnt a lot at ITC and participated in a number of interesting businesses. I started in Audit, moved to Treasury and then joined the Investments and Diversifications Planning Dept under the Deputy Chairman where we created the Agribusinesses division, Sundrop oil, ITC’s Financial Services business including Classic Finance and ITC Threadneedle Asset Management, Real Estate business and finally ITC Infotech which was a Company I helped create and in which I was the second employee. Since then, I think, it is history.
I was super confident because I didn’t need the job, maybe that’s why I got the job. I spent time in one of the most risky businesses one could think of. I always chose the riskiest business to be in, and I helped that company create a number of new businesses that did very well in the beginning. Years later also, they were not doing too badly. But along the way, I kept learning. And that’s how my long journey started.
My journey has been very interesting.
One lesson I have learned is – do not ever forget your customer and never underestimate what the customer wants. While selling TVs, while selling antennas, while selling generators and having products thrown back at me saying that this product is not good quality, it always taught me to be very close to the customer and understand the thinking of the person on the street.
Those early days of selling Antenna’s and Gensets taught me the nuances of consumer behavior, which I learnt and experienced through hard selling. I think, this kind of learning cannot be taught anywhere.
We are all salesman from top to bottom; we are the custodian of our products and services and brands, which we are selling. Client always comes first.
I have always said that client comes first. Listen very carefully to the client; make sure you understand why you exist. As long as you do that, you will always be very successful. I have walked with that sight and faith all through my life – whether it was in business, whether it was in shipping, whether it was in ITC an FMCG company, thereafter at my last company Syntel on the IT services side and even today at WNS.”, says Keshav.
A long journey from being a Salesman to a CA, to CFO, COO, CEO and now the Group CEO of a leading global Outsourcing Organization, was not at all a cake walk for Keshav. It was a very tough struggle. “Ascending the ladders of success requires not only hard work, smart work but most importantly patience and perseverance.”, says Keshav.
The Secret! The Lucky Charms in Keshav’s Pocket!
I have a very big secret. I don’t leave home without these. I keep them in my wallet. Less of money and more of emotions and inspirations. I have photos of my family, my daughter, my wife and everybody.
But more than these there is a bigger secret
- This is an emergency cell phone that my daughter drew for me and gave me when she was all of six years old. I always keep it with me in my wallet because this is my backup phone.
- And when my son was three, after seeing that she had drawn this, he gave me an emergency telephone book which I still keep with me. I don’t leave home without these, and these are the small things that allow me to carry on my life in this format.
The Cricket Connection; making Keshav a Complete Man.
Keshav : Although cricket has given India two World Cups, cricket has also given Keshav many things. Facing many ups and downs in Life; Keshav always has one person, who is always with him, his motivation, his fuel of life, his wife- Shamini.
“Definitely, at home she is my boss, Shamini. She has done a lot for me in terms of making sure that I am always positive, I am always encouraged and I am always motivated to do well and keep on increasing my achievements everyday.
How Keshav bat the first sixer of his life; his marriage with Shamini!
Keshav: Our family’s best kept secret is that our fathers were Madras Ranji Trophy cricketers. Together they helped win the Ranji Trophy, Chennai, for the first time in 1958. So we were actually introduced to each other by our parents and an uncle of mine. We got married and since then, we never looked back.