Rare, Committed & Astounding!

It was a busy & involved day, sometime in mid-2010, when my office advised me that 20 minutes had been allocated to a magazine editor. Dot on time, Ramesh Kumar walked into the office and I hope to end the interaction even quicker with some rapid fire responses.

A few minutes into our conversation, I realised here was no simplistic journalist. Every query and its response had a follow-up enquiry that indicated a mind that was passionate to understand more, hungry to experience and empathetic to concerns. I knew he too would be short of time, but asked anyway, 'would you like to understand the intricacies of cold-chain?' 'Yes, please!' was his staccato response and we ended up spending one and a half hours together that first day.

We met rarely thereafter and chatted infrequently over the next years, but then, our casual exchanges soon became an exchange of ideas. I realised that here was a rare individual who would jump at the opportunity to personally experience and be hands-on about the facts he wrote about.

I was indeed honoured when he shared his first few chapters of his first book 10,000 kilometres on Indian Highways'. Astounding, that he actually travelled on heavy commercial trucks to face the same tribulations as the drivers on our highways! Astounding, that he was able to capture the intricacies of that trade that others would not even be aware of… and kudos, when that book was catalogued and listed in the US Library of Congress.

Ramesh's involved passion did not end here, as he persists his sharing the truckers cabin and continues to ride the torturous Indian Highways, now having gone on to clock more than 21,000 bumpy kilometres on trucks.

All through this duration he is not just writing notes for his books, he is also writing appeals on behalf of the drivers, he brings to notice travesties faced to the authorities who build and manage the highways, he sends pointed observations to state governments & ministers of the venality that occurs - he actually contributes and makes a difference to the tradesmen who he shares his endeavours with.

Here is a man demonstrating undying commitment, a thirst to learn and discover more and I was drawn to him and hoped some of the same would rub off onto me. I found myself sharing with him, bouncing ideas off him for his surprisingly honest and clear opinions.

I who had travelled the globe, leading a trucker's life at sea, had found a kindred who had surpassed those experiences. He had un-sated hunger to understand grass root complexity of supply chain and logistics, that professionals of the trade rarely exhibit.

Recently, I asked Ramesh if he would be bothered to do an observational study on post-harvest infrastructure in the North Eastern states. I need not have been polite in the asking, as he jumped at the offer and was soon driving the project in a region where few 'outsiders' would want to spend extended period.

In a region rife with strife and difficult to travel, he spent more than a month with farmers and government officials, with street vendors and transporters. He brought back insight and information that is rare.

I am proud to claim Ramesh Kumar as colleague and friend and will continue to enjoy & learn from his writings and his lively attitude!

Wishing Ramesh success, always….

Disturbing, but genuine

I met Ramesh Kumar for the first time at the Automotive Logistics India conference 2010 in Chennai and his frank and forthright exposition of his journey in trucks on Indian highways to understand the logistical challenges touched a chord in all those who were present that day. Though he started his trucking out of curiosity, I reckon, today it has become a passion for him. That only explains his first book, aptly titled, 10,000 KM on Indian Highways, that came out two years ago.

And now, he is ready with this new offering: An Affair With Indian Highways after completing 21,000 KM. He is doing a great service to the Indian logistics community: not only to the OEMs, but every single stakeholder. One thing that emerges out of all his three books, including the Naked Banana!, is his ability to mingle effortlessly with everyone: from CEOs to truck drivers. What strikes me the most is his desire to go to the nitty-gritties and understand challenges at the grassroot level. Otherwise, he would not have gone on such a back-breaking and strenuous truck journey on Indian roads.

Though most of us in the industry know these issues, he has brought them to the forefront. It is sort of a wake-up call - including policy makers. A tremendous initiative, given the fact that logistics is going to play a big role in the days to come as the Indian economy gears up for higher growth.

It is not an easy decision perhaps on his part to undertake this knowledge hunt and sharing his observations with no compunction. Believe me, it is not a PR exercise for anyone, but a genuine search for facts. Sometimes, the book disturbs you a lot. Like 10,000 KM on Indian Highways created ripples in the industry at home and abroad, am sure the new book will bound to re-awaken all of us.

Until now, if truck drivers felt that they had no voice to espouse their cause and concern, they no longer need to worry. These unsung heroes have Ramesh now. His clarion call to all of us is to bestow dignity and respect on these drivers. Well begun is half done.

Continue your journey, Ramesh!

15 February 2013

Kalpesh Pathak
VP- Corporate Supply Chain
Fiat India Automobiles Limited