MD Ramesh | President & Regional Head South & East Africa Olam International Ltd

MD Ramesh

MD Ramesh has expertise in the Agri/Food Commodities sector in Africa. He joined Olam in its early years in Nigeria and has since worked in multiple countries across Africa. He headed Olam’s India operations at one time and commenced Olam’s trading desk in Europe before returning to Africa.  He has worked close to farmer groups, worked alongside government programs, set up and run logistics and processing operations and also set up distribution structures in African markets. He is widely consulted by banks, government structures, NPOs and by businesses.

MD-Ramesh_P1My Definition Of Success | Success is the end game of all my endeavors and is an outcome of passion, direction, determination, discipline and smart work. The definition of success has definitely changed over time. Legacy and a lasting impact on all associated stakeholders have increased in importance within my definition of success.

I Am Driven By | Achievement of the endgame through personal learning and development, team construction and increased span of control drives me and supplies me the energy to keep going.

My Highlights | My family is a balanced, secure and achievement oriented unit. My wife is an accomplished professional who has played a large role in bringing up 2 lovely daughters. That’s a great life achievement for me. The importance of a stable, balanced family environment can’t be over stressed in a highly challenging career.
My organization, Olam international, is a much acclaimed success story and I have had a part to play in building a small unknown startup in a highly competed market place to being such a significant player over a short span of 25 years. We are a recognized industry leader and a benchmark in many respects today. Being a part of this journey over most of the lifetime of my organization is a great career achievement in my books.

The Difference Between Good And Great | Passion for what you do, open-mindedness, humbleness to learn, energy to keep going especially when you are down coupled with raw ambition. The greats carry these traits for sure.

A Key Talent | Optimism and positive thinking, especially when one is passionately involved with the role is a defining quality that has kept me mentally and physically in shape and hence ready for more. These traits help beat stress and focus our energies in the right direction. Contrary to popular belief stress is prevalent even when things are going well because business leaders don’t necessary live wholly in the present. There is a part of them in the future and that part worries how the current success can be replicated in a constantly changing business landscape. I have seen the damaging impact stress has had on young professionals and worked out the formula that positive thinking under all circumstances has worked brilliantly for me. Ambition, which I have mentioned above, is an important ingredient in success, always brings about fresh challenges, many times of unknown proportions. Using positivity to drive myself and hence raising the bar for the team at all  times leads to greater achievement. This skill of bringing a positive twist to situations   also leads to a balanced life through better behavior and attitude in the family situations.

MD-Ramesh_P2The Characteristics Of Success | Perseverance, energy, good planning, time management and win-win solutions and carrying the team along in all decisions have all paid me off very well in the long-term.

Principles I Live By | Integrity, Mutual Respect, being self-motivated, always giving better than your best and making sustainable decisions have been principles I have lived by.


Critical Skills I Develop | While the endgame is crucial, never lose track of the process that will get there is an adage I have found very useful in my journey. We, so often, remain focused only on the endgame and lose sight of the process and hence easily get waylaid. This has happened to me on a few occasions and I continue to try to improve this method.

Learn to enjoy the journey to success. That ensures you are at your best and hence the likelihood of success is higher. If you don’t enjoy what you do, please find a place you would.

How I Use My Mind | Aim very high so that the mind and effort is aligned to achieve way beyond what we imagined our capabilities to be. That is to stretch our resourcefulness and imagination. This is about having very high aspirations and not selling oneself short. Then back the high energy effort with a positive outlook so that challenges could be overcome without too much stress.

Lessons I Have Learnt |

  • Never ignore the details. Nothing is too small to trip over.
  • The weakest member of your team will define the strength of your team
  • The leader has to be ever optimistic. He defines the mood and tempo of the team
  • Diverse skilled teams are highly effective but only if the leader can, like an orchestra conductor, align them into a tune.
  • Open, inclusive and fair leaders always get loyalty. Resulting in amazing drive within the team.
  • Listening skills outdoes speaking any day

Dealing With Doubt | It is perfectly normal to have fears in a career and in life. Sometimes I think it is good to have some fear because it keeps you disciplined and careful. It teaches you to respect and be watchful.
Given the nature of our formal education, most of us are trained to think logically and sequentially and when I joined Olam we were in the process of setting up a world-class business on a crowded playfield. Even though we were a startup business, our aspirations were high and while we have been successful over time, at the beginning we had enough reasons to worry if we would be able to win. Managing a business with no real rule books, living in gray areas at all times, being watchful of resources even as our competitors were huge, well entrenched organizations with deep pockets were enough reasons to have jitters. The team’s immense belief in ourselves, our unique model, amazing team spirit and bottomless commitment all combined to keep us ahead and moving faster than the market.

Performing At My Peak | Passion for what I do comes from the strong belief in the cause that I pursue and the objective I try to achieve. Remaining passionate, fuelled by self-belief and positive messaging to myself keeps me in a good space to perform at my best.

Resources I Use To Stay Inspired |

  • Interactions with people I respect and can learn from..and I have a long list of them.
  • Periodic meetings with economists, academicians and researchers I know.
  • Business and Africa focused magazines
  • Soft instrumental music.
  • Committed physical activity [ sport, run, swim etc] keeps the body in good trim



The Meaning Of Life | Leaving the world a better place than you received it through ingenuity, effort and clear direction while impacting lives positively in as many ways as you can.

The Best Advice I’ve Received | In the profession you have chosen, time will be the scarcest resource…professionally and personally… Be diligent and careful in using and allocating it.

Advice On Building Wealth |

  • Craft and back sustainable, win-win plans only.
  • Constantly better yourself
  • The fast will consume the slow and the agile will destroy the fixed.
  • Build great teams…they are a sustainable method of attaining success.

 On Inspiring Others |

  • Always be on the prowl for good talent
  • Keep them hungry by raising the bar always
  • Reward , compliment, acknowledge the great work they do
  • Provide them learning opportunities that keep them intellectually challenged.
  • Stretch their capabilities continuously

I Am Inspired By | Two kinds of people inspire me:

  • Those who start a business/team from scratch and make that a world-beating enterprise/team.
  • People who convert modest natural personal talent into extraordinary results

Our Group CEO, Sunny Verghese, has built this empire from scratch starting with just a dream. He remains an inspiration. Strategic clarity, ambition and amazing people ability are some of his awe-inspiring strengths.
I have followed the career of Pakistani cricket captain Imran Khan who molded a fragile but highly talented bunch into a world-beating side through meritocracy and inspirational leadership. Personal examples he set became the continuously rising bar for his men to follow.

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