Ravindran’s challenges as RI President

With eminent Heart Surgeon Christiaan Barnard and his wife Karin Setzkorn.
With eminent Heart Surgeon Christiaan Barnard and his wife Karin Setzkorn.

With the clock ticking away before K R Ravindran takes over the top leadership at RI as its President, he shared with Rotary News the challenges ahead and what he plans to do to uphold his promise to the Nominating Committee to bring “meritocracy into Rotary appointments, drive down costs, focus on governance and add value to Rotary membership in different ways.”

“I’ve given up the biggest power I had — the power of making appointments — and have groups of people acting as selection committee in a widely expanded basket of proposed names. I’m not saying this is the best system but it at least removes subjectivity and is a step in the right direction. I did that with training leaders even with the (TRF) Trustees, the biggest appointment a president makes. And I have surrounded myself with the best brains in the business from around the world. You then not only look good but get the best results too. It’s a win-win situation; they do the work and you get the credit! So why wouldn’t you pick the best,” he asks.

He is happy that President Nominee John Germ, his successor and someone he admires much, is carrying on in the same vein. “We are planning to advertise committee vacancies in The Rotarian magazine, so that anyone can apply,” he says.

RI dues are only around Rs 3,500 for a year. If you can’t pay that, you belong to the category which requires Rotary’s help.

Cutting costs begins with him; “I’ve made substantial cuts to my own President’s budget; my wife doesn’t travel with me all over the place. I’ve eliminated spouses from Board meetings; set KPIs for the Directors insisting they visit every district physically; removed a lot of the frills associated with President’s Reps; “in fact I will not send President’s Reps to conferences having 200 people or less.”

Talking about President’s Reps, Ravindran has already announced that he will mostly send President’s Reps who have not done the job before, on the basis of recommendations he will seek from senior leaders from around the world. However he will reserve 15–20 per cent of the total appointments for his own friends, colleagues, senior leaders on the Board, PRIPs etc..

Receiving an award from Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
Receiving an award from Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

“They represent me; so you won’t grudge me that,” he quips. An online tool is being developed which will enable club Presidents or their representatives to evaluate the President’s Rep at a district conference so that the President does not have to rely on the submissions of the DG alone in ascertaining the performance of the person who represented him.

Thus he will be able to ensure that those who recommend names to him take responsibility for the performance of those they suggest.

He is encouraging outsourcing of jobs to low-cost countries and renegotiation of every contract to Rotary’s advantage.

Similarly he is expecting cost reductions from the Evanston staff. He is encouraging outsourcing of jobs to low-cost countries and renegotiation of every contract to Rotary’s advantage. And his office at Evanston will remain open to all Rotarians. “Many people visit me, take pictures with me and then ask to see my room. So I tell them of course; this room belongs to you. I am only occupying it for a year.”

“I’m telling DGs to create vibrant clubs. Once you do that, other things fall into place. If people enjoy Rotary, what keeps them together are the projects. Friendship is fine but if you want only friendship, then you join the Gymkhana!”

He is also keen that governors reduce cost. Rotary becomes expensive because of the actions of governors and club presidents, not RI. He is short with those who want the RI dues changed for countries like ours. “RI dues are only around Rs 3,500 for a year. If you can’t pay that, you belong to the category which requires Rotary’s help,” he thunders!

He wants district governors to be transparent in their selection process, accounting and most importantly, reporting financials to the District.

He has indicated that he will expect the Board to take a tough stand on all election-related and ‘financial indiscipline’ matters at District level. Going by the reputation he had as RI Director, he might just do it!

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