Memoirs Lives a Legacy

Sray Agarwal, Consulting Editor | January, 2011


S Ramadorai, the ex-CEO of TCS, writes in his book 'The TCS story.... and beyond' that he ‘loved to see the colourful flying objects soar high.’ The book vividly describes his entire journey in TCS and the way his team scripted the vision statement for TCS in 1998. Here is a book that talks about the TCS philosophy as shaped by Ramadorai. Such books by leading CEOs have not only enhanced the stature of the individual but also the corporation they headed.

No one from the business world would perhaps dispute the fact that dynamic CEOs are intrinsic part of brand equity of the companies they work for. Brand champions like Bill Gates, Vijay Mallya, Steve Jobs, Jack Welch and many others have not only built their own legends but also ensured that their own eulogy enhances the organization’s brand equity. However, the moot point is what would happen to the brand value of these companies after their celebrity CEOs resign or for that matter sign off from the world. In order to keep the branding of companies intact, most of these CEOs leave a legacy behind – a legacy that is unsaid but laid down principles for the coming generations. They make sure that their personality traits get embedded in the innards of the value system of the company.

For instance Steve Jobs’ innovative instinct is part of Apple’s core philosophy. Similarly, Richard Branson’s adventurous and surprising style is reflected in Virgin’s endeavours of foraying into new and untapped business. The same is true for Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Michael Dell and the likes. There is something new and daring about the current crop of CEOs who are transforming today's industries. Just compare them with the executives who ran large companies in the 1950s through the 1980s. Those executives most of the time shunned the press. But today's corporate leaders such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Jack Welch and our home grown chiefs Murthys and Nilekanis - hire their own publicists, write books, give interviews, fill the newsprint with their personal philosophies – that are in sync with the organization work culture.

The books written by CEOs like Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Sam Walton are of course more for guiding the thoughts of fellow travellers, besides being part of business school syllabi and case-studies. Amidst several strategic and non-strategic steps they take to align their beliefs with company’s DNA, writing a book is one that goes a long way. Not only Western CEOs' tribute have been framed in the form of books, but Indian CEOs like Subrato Roy of Shahara, Gurucharan Das, Subroto Bagchi and S. Ramadorai, the latest to join the bandwagon, have all penned down their stories and the way they steered their companies. These books become single point of reference for investors for knowing the company. Books by CEOs not only enhance their own celebrity status but also enhance the brand value of the corporate entity. In an article published in ‘Knowledge@Wharton’ on April 07, 2004, the author quotes, "Marketing experts at Wharton and elsewhere say that making a celebrity out of a business owner can be a good thing, as long as certain safeguards are in place". Supported by his research, David J. Reibstein, a Wharton professor of marketing proved that a business person who is also a brand can deliver great value to a company. A white paper titled ‘Superstar CEOs’ by Ulrike Malmendier and Geoffrey Tate of UC Berkeley (and NBER) notes that books authored by “CEOs can serve as a marketing tool and thereby increase firm value.” An article by Charlotte Cutter titled ‘The real value of publishing a book’ opines that publishing a book can increase publicity and business opportunities for entrepreneurs and professionals and gifting a book to a client acts as a promotional tool as well. Martin Roll, a renowned thought-leader on value creation believes that in companies like Sony, Virgin, Starbucks, Microsoft and many others, the top executives are involved in leading the branding vision. Todd Hopkins, CEO of Office Pride and author of ‘Five Wisdoms for Entrepreneurial Survival’ suggests that writing a book is one of the best ways to help people get inside the author’s head and to understand how these luminaries think and what drives their decisions.

Writing books by the top brass of the organization creates legacy and channelizes their principles and values for the guidance of the corporation. It helps to differentiate their brand against their counterparts. It is a win-win proposition for all the stakeholders - the author, the corporation and the readers of the book.

A quick glance through the corporate brigade (especially in India) would pinpoint authors who never made it to corporate world but write about it, then there is another lot which has done it but are reluctant about sharing their ideologies. But the best consists of those who did it in the past and lived to tell their tales. They are the ones who act as a beacon for the next generation. Wonder why so few of them pick up the pen, or shall we say; punch the keys of their laptop to share their strategies and action plans with the rest of the clan.