Alumni Author: Mobility Engineer 2030 – Ramachandran S, PGSEM 2009

Ramachandran S has recently released his latest book, “Mobility Engineer 2030,” co-authored with Dr. Shankar Venugopal from Mahindra & Mahindra. This collaborative venture delves into the realm of electric mobility, offering insights and perspectives on topics ranging from design thinking to sustainability and new business models. Inspired by their experience curating a newsletter on automotive trends, Ramachandran and his co-author embarked on a journey to bring these insights to a wider audience, culminating in the publication of their book. With plans to translate it into other languages, including English, Ramachandran aims to make his valuable insights accessible to diverse audiences. This publication stands as a testament to his commitment to advancing knowledge and understanding in the field, driven by a passion for sharing ideas and fostering collaboration within the business realm.

Thanks so much to the IIMB community and the LSquare team. Back in 2020, when LinkedIn launched the newsletter feature and offered it to a limited number of users, I decided to try it out. I started a newsletter for recent trends in the automotive industry, mostly focused on electrification of mobility, a hot topic. It was such a happening area that I could consistently publish one newsletter every week, sometimes even two. The feedback received was very good from both industry professionals and the academia. I have published more than 225 issues so far, with close to 17,000 subscribers.

During a discussion with Dr. Shankar, he brought up the idea of doing the same newsletter in Tamil, for a niche audience comfortable in their mother tongue. Motor Vikatan is a Tamil magazine devoted to the auto industry, as part of the reputed, century-old Vikatan magazine. When we approached the editor, he welcomed the idea and also suggested us to use a storytelling format to narrate the trends. When we had published more than 20 articles one each month, the idea came up to consolidate them and publish as a book. The Motor Vikatan team again enthusiastically welcomed the idea. Thus, the book we titled ‘Mobility Engineer 2030’. We reorganized the 25 articles, made a detailed review, added Forewords from industry experts, and finalized the book. The first short-form Foreword or blurb on the back cover is from our very own Prof. B Mahadevan who graciously agreed to pen it for us! The book is a curtain-raiser for electric mobility and gives a management perspective about EVs (electric vehicles), covering multiple topics from design thinking to sustainability, software-defined vehicles, new business models and revenue streams.

Both me and Dr. Shankar have seen professionals from other countries like Germany and China comfortable in carrying out cutting-edge research and publications in their native language. Our National Education Policy also encourages education in mother tongue. We were always convinced that education imparted in one’s own mother tongue would be significantly more effective than doing it in English. We have seen very capable students, friends and professionals cross our path, strong in their own domain but struggling to read, comprehend and express their thoughts and ideas assertively in English. So our idea was that a topic as important as EVs should reach every nook and corner of a state like Tamil Nadu. We definitely had the thought in mind to translate it to other languages including English and our regional languages, depending on the reception the book received. The feedback for the book has been good, with requests for an English version. We have started working on it.

It was very fulfilling to write in our mother tongue and bring out each article and the book. It was fun to decide what words to translate and what to keep in English! Google translator was of great help. Most of the writing was done before ChatGPT became popular! One suggestion we received after the book was published was to include a small annexure with a translation and explanation for some Tamil words which we thought were easy to understand. One dilemma was to do the translation manually or to start with AI. Manual seems to be the way forward!

The common, overarching principle for my book publications has been to look beyond the obvious, for business leaders to have a foresight, a futuristic perspective on talent building for competitive advantages. I was privileged to have my first book publication coauthored with Prof. L Prasad, before he retired from IIM B. The book was titled “Neoskilling for Digital Transformation”, with the input of several of our faculty included in it. In fact, the term Neoskilling was coined during one of the many intense discussions we had on campus, this one with Prof PD Jose about the continuum of skill development.

The seed for that book was sown as a blog I wrote on LinkedIn in 2014. When everyone had started talking about reskilling, a fundamental question I had was who will bear the cost for it – the industry, government, or individuals. When I approached Prof Prasad to extend it as a book, he readily agreed. We approached the Wiley editorial team in the MDC reception and they agreed to sign up. Reskilling was a topic they were looking for to publish books. We worked on the book for a few years, carrying out our primary research in the form of an online survey for business leaders. We interacted face-to-face or over phone calls and email with several influencers from NRN to NASA’s Chief Knowledge Officer. Future of Learning 2019 conference was the ideal platform to launch the book – a book conceptualized in the corridors of IIM B and released in the auditorium!

My choice of subjects has been broadly around manufacturing where my core strength and experience is, within that more specifically the automotive industry, electric vehicles more recently, Industry 4.0, sustainability, and the future of work. The power of tools like social and digital media help our writings get noticed. UNIDO, for example, invited me to its 50th anniversary event in its HQ in Vienna in 2016, to talk about Industry 4.0 as a panelist, after reading my publications on LinkedIn and other media channels. Consistent sharing of our thoughts and ideas, curated with that of others helps build bodies of knowledge on specific topics, spreading it among those with an appetite to learn. Social media helps bidirectional engagement among experts. There is quick feedback and knowledge dissemination.

Being an alumnus of IIM B has played a very significant role in my writing journey. My PGSEM days spent on the campus helped me evolve beyond just being an engineer, to look at the big picture, to see the world from multiple, diverse perspectives, and to question the status quo. The institute and our faculty, my network of classmates and alumni have always been a sounding board to reach out to – for ideas, suggestions, and collaboration.

My management education helped me make a major transition in my career – to that of an analyst when I joined market research firm IDC Manufacturing Insights. That is where I discovered my passion for writing, speaking and collaboration across the industrial and academic ecosystem. We should have a clear, assertive point-of-view on important topics, with proper justification. After I moved to Infosys, I was an early member when the thought leadership unit, Infosys Knowledge Institute was formed. My academic collaboration helped us contribute a chapter “Servitization in the digital era” (Springer) when IIT Madras and Nottingham University brought out a book on “Advances in digital manufacturing systems”.

My 2 cents for budding authors would be to start small and be consistent. All of us have ideas. We should prioritize sharing it in the form of a blog, an article, a video, a podcast, or even a short post on social media. Depending on the feedback the idea received and our passion to develop it further, we should ask for help, and seek out like-minded collaborators. Having a coauthor at least during the initial stages helps overcome challenges like ‘writer’s block’ – when we get stuck sometimes, unable to write and proceed. The IIM B network has been at the top of my list to reach out to. We should focus on a few niche areas to establish our name as a brand, and not try to be all over the place.