His life definitely has been a roller coaster. From street vendor to waiter, milk delivery boy to door-to-door salesman, and eventually General Manager at Panasonic Corporation, Sreedhar Bevara is a life study on how embracing your moments of signal can help you realize your full leadership potential. Sreedhar, an alumna of IIM Ahmedabad, also held key positions at LG Electronics, Dometic, The Hindu and the Tata Group. Sreedhar also runs a charity through BMR Trust to offer “Bright Morning Rise” to the needy and suffering. He is passionate about the “leadership within us” and has spoken on the topic to world-class names in the region. Living currently in the vibrant city of Dubai, Sreedhar travels extensively and is obsessed with fitness. Here he opens up in a freewheeling chat with BrandKnew on his life, his trials, his inspiration and of course his just released book ‘ Moment of Signal ‘.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about your growing up days, your education etc? I believe your story is both fascinating and inspiring.
BK: Having come from a humble background and a family that struggled to meet ends – wasn’t a contrast with most of the villages in rural India. But poverty can play hard with lives and separate people in the most unpredictable manner. All four siblings had to settle in some benevolent relatives’ place in order to lessen the burden on parents, who actually had no choice. So it’s natural the education suffers and I wasn’t an exception either. Having failed the intermediate exams repeatedly, and the circumstances getting more and more tight, had to find alternatives to first survive. That’s when I joined as a waiter in the Taj Group of hotels for a salary of $10 a month. Biggest hope was to be able arrest the scarcity of food and some tips to manage the month to support family. This is when, I sensed more opportunities to work and earn. Be it an
entrepreneurial milk vending job or door delivery of ready to cook chicken. Former was a disaster and latter was a stupendous success. Having saved some money, going back to school became priority but this time determined to master business administration, based on the direction of my elder brother Murali, who is my eternal Guru. A strong desire to study with India’s finest management college, IIM Ahmedabad; managed to pursue the General Management Program in 2013. Out of poverty-stricken life nothing would be easier and that includes the basic food needs. However, I kept finding right signals and that helped me find right people to bail me throughout the critical developmental phases. People support people when they see common objectives. We don’t need to know them always.
Q: What attracted you to Dubai/UAE? How has the experience been?
BK: Those were the days when people from my state of Andhra Pradesh would study with a single focus of going to the USA as software engineers and I wasn’t an exception either, having chosen to do a dual specialisation of Marketing and Systems in my Master’s days. A couple years before that, my brother Murali
has started his career with Jumbo Electronics, Dubai under the leadership of Manu Chhabria. Every time I would speak to him, he would talk about the dynamism of UAE and Dubai in particular. He would tell us the stories of life in here, his office and more interestingly his meetings in the presence of Mr Chhabria
while he was finance lead of Jumbo’s refrigeration factory called Supra. I sensed this is my place to explore and what more than that would I need, if I can be with Murali?! I moved into Dubai in April 2003 and as manager in a German Car Refrigerators company in Jebel Ali Free Zone and the rest is history.
Q: Share a bit about your professional background and what is it that you currently do?
BK: Worked as a waiter, street vendor and door to door sales man for the first 7 years. But after going back to college and completing Master’s; started second innings with The Hindu newspaper, considered the national newspaper in India, in the year 2000. Moved into Dubai in April 2003 to join a German company Waeco Middle East and until 2007, I had worked as a regional marketing manager. Later joined in LG Electronics’ regional headquarters for Middle East & Africa region in 2007 and headed their Business Solutions under the leadership of Mr KW Kim, the then CEO of MEA region until I had found my new signal. Joined another great company Panasonic as General Manager in April 2011 and currently heading the Solution Business for the African continent.
Q: What was the big motivation behind MOMENT OF SIGNAL? Is it a signal of things to come from your end?
BK: The best way to excel is to find the right signal and you have to find that signal for yourself, in order to follow and get what we want. This approach has helped me to change my life and the way I look at it. Many a times, you cannot connect the dots upwards. But it is possible to do it backwards. But when you keep connecting them, you will know what has been working for you and what’s not. Life precisely is all about the two main factors; Choice and Action. Choice one takes and Action one implements. And then to stay consistent with making the choice work. Well, this approach will not assure you success but is designed to minimize the failure chances as every choice comes with built-in unpredictable results. To comprehend, if I could make it to here from absolutely nothing, anyone else can too. That, I thought must be shared with
everyone who doesn’t celebrate enough, the leadership within and around. That’s when, I started penning down my thoughts and ideas to bring this in the form of a book to reach as many across the globe.
Q: What attracted you to writing? Any particular writers, authors who inspired you?
BK: I have been into writing since I was in primary school. Since I was 10 years, I was into writing short stories and poetry in my mother tongue Telugu. Later I shifted to writing poetry in English and Telugu became slowly a rarity. But business management and leadership writing became my first priority for the last ten years or so, and I consider fortunate to have greater opportunities at work too, that helps me consolidate the need of it, in it’s true relevance. Malcolm Gladwell is one among the few writers who I admire for his style, presentation and the relevance of the subjects he chooses. Outliers: The Story of Success from him was one of his excellent works that I liked much. He knows how to effectively connect with contemporary readers, leaders and issues alike.
Q: We are in an eco-system of perennial connectedness and surveillance- how do you see personal branding in the context of an always on world?
BK: This is a relevant question in the perspective of MoS (Moment of Signal) I must say. Everything is within(self) and around (Environment) us. The signals are free to everyone and one needs to find what is the right signal to follow. Good thing is, they become much more visible based on how strongly one is rooted with the respective environment. That alone is the key to find right signals which we can work upon and stay ahead of the curve. So to answer your question; building leadership can help build the personal branding and not the other way around. Whoever is building such a personal branding, are communicating with the world, that they aspire to stay ahead of the lot.
Q: As organisations clamour for digital transformation(the new buzzword), what is expected of corporate chieftains and leaders in the context of building their image online and in the process that of the organisations they represent?
BK: We are a part of an evolution and we as a general consumer has made great progress. For example, look at the way we pay bills today. Transfer cash via PayPal. Order provisions. Order services. We even are forced to order the current trend, the Tesla online. Things have changed and they won’t stay the same either. In a world that has moved so much into online, it is imperative for anyone to digitalise the offerings. Shape in or ship out is the only equation for the leaderships today and I see the shift is happening decisively too. In such a scenario, the digitalisation hasn’t moved much for now but I’m confident it is going to transform in a rapid pace, especially the machine learned and the futuristic AI technologies playing a major role to personalise the image of the companies.
Q: Is there a distilled Do’s and Don’ts list that you recommend to writers, executives and entrepreneurs when it comes to brand building and thought leadership in the virtual domain? Can you elaborate on that?
BK: One must first decide how do we want to project ourselves and then stay consistent with an approach and actions that justify it. It’s not difficult if one is running the daily jog on working around it but it’s not easy if one wants to turn into a champion overnight. No doubt, it’s a very tough path but patient approach with consistent networking on a given platform (keep it to one strong platform initially and only after building, can move to another) can help one make progress steadily. Also, we shave some authentic branding-experts who are good at it and can help us walk through building a brand, through open collaborations. When it comes to Don’ts; the only advise for the aspired is not to be inconsistent. People do not follow or like someone for nothing. They see value and one must realise what is the value being offered.
Q: Writing a book they say is akin to bringing a baby to life- could you take us through the journey especially considering that MOMENT OF SIGNAL is your first book?
What has been your experience in bringing out this book and how do you plan sharing it with other budding writers/authors?
BK: This is one of the most complex cases I have ever gone through and in the end, I have learnt, writing was the easiest of all (smiles added). There are no short cuts and there are several areas one has to go through before giving it a shape of a book. Internet does help to a great extent to help authors make their work see light, but all this will come at a certain cost of time, energy, effort and money. I had personally spent a good 2 years to give it a shape from the time I have completed the manuscript for about 4 years. Having gone through such laborious and tedious process, I have decided to bring a book later on how to write, publish, promote and be a best seller too – all at a cruising mode. It can be a breather for the forthcoming authors. Book publishing may sound ad-hoc and easy but it has a methodic approach that makes the whole process less complicated. Even though I have published an anthology of my own poetry in 2004; Moment of Signal remains the best effort so far.
Q: You released the book at the New York City World Trade Centre in early December-any particular reason behind the selection of the venue?
BK: For a book, it can’t be Rome’s best seller, Sydney’s best seller, San Francisco’s best seller or even Mumbai’s best seller. It got be New York’s best seller and that’s the prime location inarguably. And there’s no better venue than the World Trade Centre in NYC. Things have fallen in place (also thanks to those delays after delays due to several setbacks during giving it a final shape). And then, coming back to other nations means, your control is higher. If at all a book receives applause in the US, the access to several other markets become relatively easier.
Q: We are in a ‘ Post Truth ‘ world and in a lot of cases there is apprehension and an ‘ authenticity drought ‘- what do you recommend are the ways in which these issues can be addressed?
BK: Gobels is the first thing I reckoned with this query. I believe in top down approach and most things are possible with such an approach to percolate the effect downwards. Culture being one of the main engines of how an environment is looked at; addressing these things at a higher level is strictly confined to world leaderships’ commitment to taking steps to curb/minimize it. However, this has become a norm and the big democratic nations like India, US, UK along with several other nations too resort to this dangerous phenomenon. This isn’t a new scenario nor it will recede in the future. When it is reflected to personal branding; staying credible is one-thing and to create a credible branding is another. Both are different and one must clearly define the roles. It’s like having a great product and not being able to market well versus an inferior product which is reaching masses with its brand promotion power. Alertness to signals can guide us to stay well informed and to make a better choice. Be it to believe in something or to buy in.
Q: Searchability, Viewability, Believability, Likeability: would you consider these 4 to be the pillars of making a stellar online personal brand presence in an ‘ always on ‘ world? And what way in your understanding does a writer/author stand out vis a vis his peers?
BK: While all of these are influencing factors, credibility is the most fundamental factor based on which the above mentioned four elements shine on. And credibility is a long term game and no one can conceal and get on forever.
Credibility however comes with consistent approach of being sincere to whatever task undertaken.
Q: If there is an inspiration mantra that you want to articulate for entrepreneurs & executives, what would that be?
BK: Dream, dream and dream. Work, work and work for it. Be sincere with whatever you want to do to bring out the best while doing it so. As Robin Sharma keeps saying ‘bring out the legendary’ and don’t compromise for any lesser while you are at it. To one’s greatest surprise, signals get visible and help
comes along the way. It’s not tangibly visible but people have common objectives. They help each other when they find value and values in them. You don’t need to know someone and help comes out unconditional. This has been my life and all my growth as a person and a professional was due to such an
approach. Be kind, especially those who are lesser fortunate than you are and stay credible for that is your personal branding’s main foundation.
Q: Which are the books that have most inspired you and which are the ones that you look forward to reading?
BK: I haven’t read much growing up and the first proper book I read was Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Spencer Johnson when I was pursuing my Master’s. That was my great beginning and led me to read many more thereafter. Few significant ones are AlChemist by Paulo Coelho and Winning by Jack Welch, Leader Without Title by Robin Sharma and Rich Dad and Poor Dad by Roberto Kiyosaki. The next book I want to read is Factfullness that is now being endorsed by Bill Gates.
Q: What is the Road Ahead for Sreedhar Bevara? More books, Speaker circuit, Entrepreneurship?
BK: Yes more books are imminent and especially with a successful first non-fiction outing (while I’m writing this answer, a renowned publisher from India had contacted for the terms and conditions); I’m now encouraged more and more. The kind of feedback and calls received so far has been overwhelming and prepares me much stronger for the next. My next project ‘Roaring Lambs’, is a leadership fable of animals, set in the backdrop of the East African jungles and is scheduled to release in July 2019 and the third ‘ Custodians – Born to Protect ‘, book 1 of a trilogy, a sci-fi interlaced with mythology set in the backdrop of 2050 AD, will release in January 2020. Speaking to both emerging and seasoned leaders has been going on but will take a defined state hereafter. We all have a duty to let the leaders know what they can do and what greater things they can achieve to impact several lives around. I have a great job in a great company that I like but Entrepreneurship – I’m yet to find the right signal into that, even though that’s how I started my life vending out in streets and trading by door to door.
Q: How does Sreedhar Bevara wind down? Share a bit of your hobbies?
BK: Reading and writing are in the main that I wind down with, especially writing, as it relieves me from the stress. The pain is only during producing work but once produced has a dopamine effect until the next. Gymming is another wind down activity that helps me release endorphins to give the body a refreshing
outlook. To keep fit is not mainly for a physical appeal. Rather, it is to sustain the house for all the great aspirations one has in life. Without a proper house (or Body as in this case), no great ambition can ever take shape. No body means no nothing!
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