A rendezvous with K R Ravindran

RC Coimbatore Metropolis President Jayakumar Ramdass presenting a memento to PRIP K R Ravindran. Also present are D 3201 DG Prakash Chandran and PDG V Rajkumar (left).
RC Coimbatore Metropolis President Jayakumar Ramdass presenting a memento to PRIP K R Ravindran. Also present are D 3201 DG Prakash Chandran and PDG V Rajkumar (left).

Rendezvous with Ravi became an evening to remember for the Rotarians of Coimbatore who participated in a talk show with IPRIP K R Ravindran, on his perspective of Rotary today. About 175 ­Rotarians from the city’s Rotary clubs, including DG Prakash ­Chandran, enjoyed his forthright, no-holds-barred response to a host of queries on Rotary and its functioning.

The session, hosted by RC ­Coimbatore Metropolis, was anchored by PDG V Rajkumar. Asked for his leadership mantra, Ravindran said a leader needed to put exceptional and smarter people in decision making positions around him. “I’m not very smart; I just surround myself with smart people in positions of responsibility,” he said amid laughter from the audience. He added that a leader must walk the talk, otherwise he would be “like a politician.”

Let’s not go in search of awards, prizes. Let’s just do our projects wholeheartedly; recognition will follow.

Transparency and accountability, in his view, were “everything” for the robust functioning of Rotary. He agreed that last year efforts to professionalise Rotary functioning and strategic cost-cutting measures had helped RI save over $2.5 million on operating costs. President John Germ followed up and opened up all the RI offices to the world and “we received some 900 applications for 120 advertised volunteer positions in the organisation”. He added that the Korea convention made a profit of another $2.5 million.

To a question on the steps taken against canvassing for DGN, he said that his mandate only runs in looking into allegations of electioneering prior to the actual election taking place; thereafter any appeal must go to the election review ­committee. ­Unfortunately, he added that no one complains in the run up to the election. They do so only when they have lost. If they win, their position is that it was a superbly conducted election!

He also added that if allegations are made in a timely manner, then they would be investigated and dealt with as appropriate, both with the miscreants as well as those making frivolous allegations.

On membership, Ravindran said it was the primary responsibility of all clubs to increase quality membership and retain it. “How many members were you personally able to bring in last year,” he asked a club president who wanted to know why Rotary membership had remained stagnant. He added that to his knowledge, the mentor-mentee process was the most effective way of retaining good people in Rotary.

On its part, RI had introduced an innovative global rewards programme under which Rotarians could get ­various products and services at specially discounted rates from leading brands. They could also put up their own products for sale on discount to other Rotarians. This programme was catching on but needed to be publicised among Rotarians, given its potential to attract quality members.

His assertion “we are very close to eradicating polio from the world”, was loudly cheered. RI, he said, had invested $11 billion over the years in this massive programme, and apart from saving children from being crippled, it would also lead to a cost saving of around $50 billion in the next 30 years.

What next after polio eradication? Will Rotary now be in line to get the Nobel Peace Prize?

“Let’s not go in search of awards, prizes. Let’s just do our projects wholeheartedly; recognition will follow” was his cryptic answer. Asked for tips on improving the public image of Rotary in Coimbatore, he suggested that if all 36 clubs of Coimbatore come together and take up one mega community project, that would certainly provide high visibility to Rotary.

Narrating a string of incidents, he recalled in a lighter vein how on his first day in office as RI President Nominee at Evanston, as he was waiting for the lift, an RI female staff member who did not recognise him, cautioned him in all innocence that if he intended to go to the 18th floor (the President’s floor) and if he did not have an appointment he would have a hard time to get through the tough ladies who guard the President! 

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