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Obituary: V Ramani - An Indian Digital Media Veteran
Obituary: V Ramani - An Indian Digital Media Veteran
By: Sunil Punjabi

The digital industry lost one of its pioneers this week. V Ramani, a force to reckon with in the digital industry, breathed his last. Sure he had been battling for his life for the last few weeks but everyone expected him to emerge victorious in his fight and resume office soon. Everyone expected to hear his bellowing voice reaching from one end of the office to the other and his imposing 6 feet plus frame, accentuated by his bald pate to inspire awe or confidence in his staff and everyone else, depending upon how you stood with him.

I know this because I have had the opportunity of working with him way back in 2001 in Mediaturf. In the last 12 years since I have known him, he had not changed one bit, neither in appearance, nor in demeanour. Tall, bald, with a booming voice and a hard-as-nails attitude, unparalleled astuteness but strangely softie at times. How he juggled between the two attitudes is yet a mystery to me. Back then, we used to operate out of an office in the Blow Plast compound and the most vivid memories of that time have been the constant banter that used to be a part of the daily routine in office and Ramani being as much a part of it as anyone else. I remember Dil Chahta Hai had released just then and Ramani was particularly tickled by the sequence where Saif gets duped by a firang girl and is recounting his story sitting on a pillow because his backside is aching from having hitched a truck ride. No matter what the situation, the slightest mention of this sequence would bring about chuckles from him. And he was usually so loud that everyone in office would stop what they were doing and listen to him and join in the levity.

That is not to say that he would not have taken people’s pants off if they did not perform the way that he expected them to. He could be very nasty when it got into him and heaven help you if you were on his wrong side. He would not see where he was or who was with. He would literally roar and people around him would cower in terror. Be it in Euro or in Mediaturf or in any panel, which he was either a part of, a moderator of or just an attendee. Sometimes it seemed he took sadistic pleasure in shredding people’s incorrect beliefs to bits with cold logic and hard facts. At other times, he would just toy with people to see how much they knew and how much of what they said was pure bull. He was well known in the industry as a loud personality not to be messed with. He exuded raw power.

But just as he was profuse in his abuses, he was also lavish in his praises. He would not hesitate at all to tell you when he thought you did a good job. After having put together a presentation, after having delivered a presentation well or even something as small as identifying a small improvement in the way things needed to work. He was so thrilled when we had identified a group mailing software and knew that all the mails could be personalised and sent out in one shot. I am talking about times when these things were still difficult to do. And not just that, he was also known to give you unheard of gifts if you did a good job. This was when digital was still not a part of too many media plans and we had to really, really scope clients out. I remember that just a few days before I joined Mediaturf, Amar, our Head of Sales, because of his efforts and some associated success had been gifted a, what was then very expensive and sought after, computer. Such was his largesse.

Ramani used to be very fond of Hindi songs and while travelling with him in his car for a meeting, one would hear the choicest of old Hindi songs. There was no desire to also belong to the latest crowd by listening to English songs at all. He was happy with his Hindi songs and that warmed a lot of us to him. I remember once when we were returning from a satisfying meeting from Nariman Point and he was dropping me off at Juhu, where he stayed. The entire journey, we played Kishore Kumar and more Kishore Kumar and we would hum along. And he was incredulous that I remembered so many songs and so many lyrics and with a trademark abuse that included my non-existent sister and my conjugal relationship with her, he said, ‘How do you remember all this?’

One thing about him that always impressed me was his number crunching ability and since I have fairly decent number crunching abilities, I think somewhere in some way it was his guidance that has led to the honing of my skills too. It is not very often that one gets a chance to express gratitude over softer skills such as this and I think it is just right for it to be mentioned in his obituary. Of course, that he majored in Mathematics would have been largely the reason why he was what he was and I am glad to say I benefited under his tutelage for whatever little time we worked together.

He was also a person who knew what he could do and could not do. I had written a story at that time and had circulated it in office, a copy of which had also reached him. He read the entire story and he had walked up to me and said that it was a bloody good story. And in the same breath, he said that he could never think like that or write anything like that. Of course, it was fiction and in retrospect, an irrelevant piece of work but for him to come up to me and say that made me feel very nice.

Another time when one of our colleagues was talking about Vipassana, someone happened to mention that Ramani would be able to go through the rigour easily. He trashed that opinion and stated that he was not made that way and would definitely not be able to do it. He wasn’t consumed with vanity to believe that he could do anything and that was such a human thing to do.   

Everyone knows of his penchant for Ganesha idols and cricket and he was the first person who had a mantel piece of a cricket match being played by several Ganeshas at home. Wherever he is now, I am sure he is batting really well because he has Ganesha on his side. Rest in peace, Ramani.