Interview With An Engineer
April 07, 2017
Mr. Ramesh Santhanam is presently Director & Corporate Advisor for EUKA PTY.
How it is to be an Engineer?
I experienced the learning curve of what it takes to actually function as an engineer, during my days in research and development. One great lesson I learnt is that in the workplace, engineering skills are devoted a lot towards managing people- it comes down to engineering people. More than your skills, it is what your boss thinks about you – your professional image. Managers look for ways to maximize their profits, and never tire of asking themselves if a particular job can be completed at a cheaper rate. A disturbing objective of management, however, is to get the job done cheaper, faster, keep debt lower, and make company run on working capital. The hard truth in today’s world is that finances run everything.
What do you consider the turning point of your career?
During the nineties, I was studying in the USA. I learnt a lot about perceptions, and underwent paradigm shifts and transformations that one just can’t experience from books. During my time in research, there was a period when I continuously got negative results. I was working on control shrinkage and distortion-free metal elements, with the idea of having a perfect surface - everything, however, showed up negative results. After a year, when I looked back, I realized that my answers lay in these negative results - there were various parameters which deviated, peaks and downs, but at different time intervals. If I could play around with the time interval, and cancel out complimenting deviations, I had my result.
"I was working on control shrinkage and distortion-free metal elements, with the idea of having a perfect surface - everything, however, showed up negative results.
Which phase of your journey would you say really tested you?
Bosses tend to be highly opinionated and, more often than not, they don’t tell you the whole truth. My testing period was when I ran a highly profitable enterprise - eighteen months into it, the board decided it was most profitable to sell the company; the enterprise value had shot up. Should I have done a mediocre job and made it less profitable so I’d probably still have the company? When TATA Motors and Ashok Leyland produce the same products, why does TATA have a much higher share? Market perception is the key here, while pricing is another factor. It is hard to spot the difference between an iPhone priced at 75k, and one at 78k. Between two engineers, one with the technical expertise and know-how in his head and the other having it in his iPad, the net information with both remains the same. A scientific engineer would choose the person who has it in his head, but the production engineer would choose the person with iPad because he’d be cheaper - he’s merely going to be provided with a repetitive, monotonous job.
"When TATA Motors and Ashok Leyland produce the same products, why does TATA have a much higher share? Market perception is the key here, while pricing is another factor.
What is one change you wish to see in the next 5-10 years?
The most persistent problem with any novel idea or project is finding right partners who will put in their wholehearted efforts and have trust and faith in the project. We have to establish how well the product functions in the market - once it is convincing enough, that’s where greed comes in. Who gets a major share of the profit? It is always about making money - a tug-of-war between the guy who has made the product and the guy who is going to introduce it to the market. I haven’t found the right ones yet. Angel investors nowadays look for exorbitant returns, 6-7 times in 2-3 years. It will make a difference once I find the right partners.
Any words of advice for future engineers?
If you have a sustainable family business, go for it. For the most of you that don’t have one, get a job that interests and motivates you. For this, you’d need to prepare yourself very well, from a practical point of view. First, make sure your engineering basics are really strong. Second, study well the industry you aspire to be in - know their product portfolio, get consumer perspectives, research their competitors and marketing trends, develop a good understanding of their economic scenario, and talk to current employees of the place to gauge your expectations and abilities. With this, you can even negotiate 6-8 lacs in the beginning, but you have to propose a business model that is going to give back the company 6 times your salary.
Reality is hard, this should create awareness and be the first step in becoming cognitive and knowing the outside world.
The Guindy Times would like to thank Mr. Ramesh Santhanam for sharing his insights with us.