Ballmer and conquering chaos

Aug 26, 2013, 07:24 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

Perhaps his former CEO at Microsoft Steve Ballmer whose announcement this week that he would step down from his leadership position created such waves should peruse Ravi Venkatesan, Microsoft's erstwhile India Chairman's book Conquering the Chaos: Win in India, Win Everywhere, (Harvard Business Press

>> Perhaps his former CEO at Microsoft Steve Ballmer whose announcement this week that he would step down from his leadership position created such waves should peruse Ravi Venkatesan, Microsoft’s erstwhile India Chairman’s book Conquering the Chaos: Win in India, Win Everywhere, (Harvard Business Press).

Ravi Venkatesan

This picture he posted on a social networking site though harks back to an earlier time when both men were both in their saddles, driving the world’s largest company to greater heights and chaos nowhere on the horizon: “In happier times... Ballmer and I walking out of the Prime Minister’s office after talking about piracy and taxation,” he wrote. So, when’s the next book out and will it be on his years at Microsoft? After all, who better to tell the story of the world’s most successful IT enterprise and its larger than life personalities than the man who between 2004 and 2011, made India Microsoft’s second largest and fastest growing markets? Venkatesan, currently a director on the boards of Volvo, Infosys, and founder and chairman of Social Venture Partners India says: “It’s the end of an era… Steve’s retirement does signal a dawn of a Post PC era. In contrast to a lot of colourless CEOs, Steve was truly a big personality. Although not universally loved or admired, it is hard not to admire his passion and his tenacity, which did not diminish over 30 years. While under his tenure Microsoft missed phones, tablets and search, his performance in protecting and extending Microsoft’s PC franchise is quite extraordinary. If anything Steve’s mistake might have not known when to let go. Many years ago, Sunil Gavaskar advised leaders that it is better to step down and have people ask, ‘Why did he go,’ rather than stick around and have people wonder, ‘When will he go’. Steve’s tenacity and doggedness may have worked against him. And while it is easy and convenient to blame the CEO for all that went wrong, one has to wonder, what was the board doing? Where is the accountability here?”

Florentine celebrations
>> It’s going to be the party of the decade that’s for sure, when Nita Ambani celebrates her big birthday on November 1 (incidentally, for all those who find significance in astrology she shares her birthday with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, another strong beautiful woman). And word comes in that her loving husband and family are planning the party in great style in Florence.

Ever since a few Indian families held weddings and anniversaries at the celebrated capital of Tuscany, mostly at the Ferragamo estate, it’s been a venue for high rolling extravaganzas. But, of course, the Ambani festivities will be a cut above the rest and raise the bar on anything the Italian resort has ever seen with its attention to detail and hospitality.

Expect planeloads of flowers, Indian and international master chefs on hand and world famous acts to be enlisted. And, of course, the usual jockeying for invitations by all those whose careers and profiles depend on being seen at the right places (already the scramble to be asked has begun by the usual suspects.) As for the lady herself given her preference for the company of her family and close friends -- perhaps a quieter getaway to a wildlife resort will follow this more exuberant one. And no, we don’t know how Aishwarya plans to celebrate her big day yet.

Another billionaire netted
>> Oh dear. The lady who had got the kitty party lot up in arms a few months ago with her dalliance with the dashing NRI said to be the father of private equity financing in India has now positively set the cat amongst the pigeons with her friendship with the much married steel, oil and gas, power, and communications tycoon. This time there’s even more consternation as the tycoon’s wife is a much loved and admired personality in social circles. “The last time around since the wife was abroad, there wasn’t so much outrage,” explained one prominent SoBo socialite.

Health Spa glow
>> When former Tata group chairman Ratan Tata made his first appearance at the Supreme Court on Wednesday to hear his counsel Harish Salve argue his petition to uphold his right to privacy following the publication by the media of his private conversations with corporate lobbyist Nira Radia, it was to be expected that his presence in the apex court would attract the attention it did. After all, not only is he one of the countries most respected business leaders but also someone whose personal dignity and ethic had set international standards.

But besides the significance of his case for the rights of citizens (his plea was predicated on the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the right to privacy of Italian PM Bettino Craxi) Tata’s lean frame, glowing skin and nimble step were remarked upon by all who saw him that day. Was it retirement and a cessation of the daily grunge of running the vast Tata empire that could be attributed to his youthful glow?

Possibly. But more likely it was the week he’d spent at a European health spa that was the cause of his glow according to our source, a lady of discerning taste, a regular at the same resort.

Glamorous company
>> His appearance with Queenie Dhody, the attractive high profile jewelry designer last November in Udaipur, the site of the head-office of Hindustan Zinc, Vedanta group’s flagship company when he dropped into interact with the students of Indian Institute of Management (IIM), did not go unnoticed.

Queenie Dhody with Sushmita Sen at Dhody’s store launch

And last week when Anil Agarwal, the dynamic billionaire, executive chairman of the United Kingdom-based Vedanta Resources Corporation took time of from his busy schedule to make it to her flagship store in Bandra along with Parmeshwar Godrej, Sushmita Sen, Sheetal Mafatlal and a host of other glamorous socialites it was an affirmation of Dhody’s considerable social clout.

Anil Agarwal

“People were making a beeline to meet him,” says a guest at the occasion. “Perhaps, because it’s so rare to see him at social events of this kind.” The store incidentally is said to be one of the most stunning of its kind in the country.  

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