100 year young Company Secretary Mr.V.K.Murti

October, 2017

The Institution that he belonged to turned 50 recently. He himself had turned 100, 2.5 years back. However he didn’t live to see the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Institution. In July this year, he bid good bye at a ripe, grand age of 102 years, 5 months. Rarest of rare, isn’t it ? Especially when you consider that he was active till the end. Had a good memory. Walked around. Heard fairly well. Spoke coherently. Most of all took pride in the fact that he belonged to the profession of Company Secretaries – the profession which just turned golden formally on 4th October, 2017. Yours truly belongs to the same profession that is generally low key but carries tremendous responsibility to uphold the governance in corporate India.

Shifting gears from Corporate Governance to National Governance, our Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) celebrated its 50th anniversary at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi in a display of grand showmanship, where PM Modi spoke at length about the achievements of his Government. We would have loved to hear more from him on issues directly relevant to our profession and us but we did not miss the big picture on the economy and the concluding call for action from him to the CS – the sentinels of Governance !

On this occasion, I am happy and proud to share with all of you an interview I did with this gentleman ………..Mr. V Krishnamurti (V K Murti), a CA and a CS who had turned 100 in 2015. Today he is no more with us but the nuggets of wisdom I got from that single conversation are worth recalling:

One professional qualification is not enough.
One needs to constantly upgrade oneself.
Dismiss worries. Do not get disturbed.
Ensure there is no mental conflict.
Always felt I can and I will, much before Obama said it.
Be courageous, firm & strong. Be bold in pointing out violations – Uphold sanctity of the section
Don’t bring work home.
Exercise well. Walk every day.
Approach people with tact and caution.
What you write and how you write is critical – be brief, precise, clear and keep it short
Personal efficiency is most important.
Do as best as you can.
Books are an inspiration. Read, condense and write a book in 20 lines. Will do wonders for you.

Interview with a 100 year young Company Secretary!

CS V Krishnamurti (V K Murti) turned 100 in February, 2015. Perhaps he is the ONLY LIVING GRAND OLD MAN OF OUR CS FRATERNITY IN INDIA!! I had the rare privilege of meeting him personally and chatting with him for nearly 2 hours in September. At 100+ he looks just about 80 but feels and talks enthusiastically like an 18 year old. He was well dressed in his white dhoti and full shirt and was waiting for me eagerly at the appointed time. His wife, companion and friend – all of 92 years – took a dig at him that he was dressed like a ‘bride’ for the interview ☺ I was amazed at Mr. Murti’s elephantine memory, his dedication to the CS profession (though he is a CA also), his work ethics, his coherent conversation and his child-like curiosity in understanding what’s happening with the economy and the world around him. Listening to him, I got a deep insight into the professional that he is. There was no way I could keep all this to myself.

Read the excerpts from this interview. Several gems of wisdom from a seasoned professional!

1. I heard you read the Economic Times (ET) everyday. What interests you most in that ?

President Mukherjee reads ET every day, must read it for an hour every day. I was reading TOI earlier. Reading ET now for the past 15 years. My wife is mad at me that I spend so much time on ET but I enjoy reading it. It helps me stay updated. I read about shares acquisition, CEO’s changing jobs and annual reports of companies. However I don’t understand the start-up system. I subscribed to profitable companies like ACC, HUL and have stayed invested for several decades. I did not speculate. What companies stand for is important. Intrinsic worth goes up in profitable companies. My advice would be to invest in solid companies which provide utility for public. S.C.Sharada with V. K. Murti.

2. How did you choose the CS course?

I enrolled for CA in 1931 and completed it in 1934 from Mumbai. There was no CS course in the country then. Pursued CS from Bennet College in Sheffield, UK, in 1940 through postal tuition. Queen Elizabeth is a patron. Took a public exam in Bombay – Intermediate & Final and became a fellow member. In 1956 there were only 40 people in India with CS qualification. We were allowed up to 5 years to become members of ICSI. My membership no. is 9. I received a “Top of 3 senior most Company Secretaries” certificate in Delhi region from NIRC (proudly displays it). Much later I got an MBA from Las Salle University, USA. One professional qualification is not enough. One needs to constantly upgrade oneself.

3. What is the secret of your mental alertness and longevity ?

Don’t worry about anything, dismiss worries. Do not get disturbed. Ensure there is no mental conflict. Norman Vincent Peale said “Fear kills more people than anything else.” I started writing Ram Naam since the last 18 years. (which means began at 82 years age!). Have written 7.5 million times. I derive pleasure in meeting targets and climbing up and progressing. This keeps me away from worries along with prayers to God. (Mrs. Murti gestures – What worry when I used to take care of everything? Big joint family gave lot of happiness. Others would take care and he had no worries. He was ‘married’ to the CS profession)

4. What was your approach to work? Did you face challenges at work?

At work, I didn’t confront any problems at all. Always deployed different perspectives for solving problems. Never felt diffident and shaky. Always felt I can and I will, much before Obama said it (chuckles). Get your priorities right and shuffle them frequently. One at a time. Learnt this by listening to cassettes on time management from USA. Your mantra should be – “I can + I will + set priorities + don’t worry”. How to make this work ? Groom your successor over a period of time, not just before leaving. Don’t do everything yourself. Choose a right person and delegate. As a Company Secretary, I always focussed on right communication. For example, when writing letters or making applications to the Government for approval, my style was – be brief, precise, clear and keep it short. Hit the nail on the head. Don’t write history, three lines will do but it must convince the other side to give a favourable reply.

5. Please take me through your professional life.

Stared my first assignment on 15th September, 1934 with a Britisher handling taxation of individuals, partnership firms and foreign companies under the IT Act of 1922. My professional career spans over 65 years across 3 metros – in Mumbai for more than 30 years, in Calcutta for more than 5 years and in Delhi for more than 30 years. Worked in General Motors, the world’s largest automotive company and Good Year, the world’s largest tyre company. Retired from Good Year in 1973. Thereafter took up consulting – converted public to private company, did all 3 types of CS work in Delhi viz., conversion, approvals and number of public issues. In the last professional job, I used computers with assistance for shareholders’ update and dividend payment. Retired from active profession in the year 2000 (at the age of 85 years !) and moved to Bangalore. I recall distinctly that CS V Sridharan (our past Central Council Member) took me along to vote at the ICSI elections when I came to Bangalore in 2000. When Companies Act, 1956 replaced the 1913 Act, I wrote a summary of the provisions and presented it to the management. Did proof reading and sense reading of 9th edition of Companies Act, 1956 by Ramaiya. My name is mentioned in the Preface. I also set CS papers and contributed as an evaluator.

6. What is your message to corporates and professionals today?

Be courageous. Don’t worry about job, promotion, job satisfaction etc. Focus on the thing in hand. It will take care of you. – Don’t get shaky. Be firm and strong. Be bold in pointing out violations. I think section 54 or 59 makes CS at par with directors. One of the foreign directors lost his job because he did not get govt approval. I told him that you should have told me before the Board meeting and not after. Be truthful to the Board. – Be bold in telling the Board what is right and what is not. No violation should be permitted. Uphold sanctity of the section. Uphold the rights and duties prescribed under the section and do not tolerate violation. However, I am not saying that we can topple boards. A CS should uphold rights and duties fearlessly. – Be upright and build your reputation by creating confidence in the management.

7. You must have qualified when Companies Act 1913 was in place. After that 1956 Act was enforced. Now it is the 2013 Act. What are your thoughts on the changing legislation and economy?

During the 1913 Act I was a student. During the 1956 Act I was working. 2013 Act, I have not read……somebody gifted me the book. Understand that this Act does not satisfy the corporate sector as per newspaper reports. Perhaps it is not drafted with full consultation of chambers of commerce. They should be the guiding factor since they know where the shoe pinches. Otherwise changes were made in the 1956 Act. Why again changes? Consult Chambers of Commerce and not the law department. In the previous legislations also, delays were excused but not violation. As a professional, we must point out consequences. We must be a ‘watch dog, not a blood hound’. I understand that a CS is elevated as a Chief Compliance Officer. He is responsible to the public, answerable to the Government and other stakeholders. He must be kind, considerate, smooth and understanding when public approach him. There should be no room for high handedness just because he is elevated as a KMP.

8. Any mantras for good work-life balance?

Umm….(thinks for a while). No specific mantras. I would say, – Don’t bring work home. After work forget about office things. Helps you to be fresh. (so relevant in today’s 24×7 connected world!) 4 – Exercise well. Walk every day. I used to do this in Bombay daily, come what may. I would play Tennis though I wasn’t good at it. I love Tennis. Forget about things. Breathe fresh air and feel fresh. (CS Murti used to walk around his apartment complex until a few months back till he had a fall. Even now he moves around the house independently. After a 2 hour long Q&A session, he gets up and walks to his room comfortably to fetch his CS certificates and other documents. He displays them with child-like pride and joy.)

9. Any specific corporate life experiences you want to share…how did you handle conflict of interest, office politics ?

No conflict of interest in buying shares. Was always open about my holdings. No office politics ever gotten to me. I had 60 people belonging to 3 depots in Bombay. I have always tried to help people and learn from them. People, not awards are dear to me. It is important how you go about your life. Approach people with tact and caution. Be careful and diligent. I have dealt with people at all levels, including the President’s office. I recall how I wrote to President Radhakrishnan for an appointment for the top management of Good Year. I began by saying …. “You had inaugurated the world’s biggest facility of Good Year…..”. Call and acceptance came immediately. What you write and how you write is critical. Look at this …I have still preserved this 1967 meeting confirmation from ADC to President with my name on it. (shows me the yellowed document with a sparkle in his eyes). I had the privilege of meeting President Radhakrishnan for 45 mins. Mr. Ranganathan, Secretary to Industries Minister also gave me an interview.

10. You turned 100 in Feb, 2015. Congratulations! Are you ready to start a 2nd innings now?

May not be. I have lived a full, peaceful life. I am content with my Raama naama japa. (His wife adds ………we have seen life. Nothing left now.) 11. Who was or is your inspiration in life? No great personality in particular. Oh, yes, one electrical engineer in B ombay who inspired me early in life. He said personal efficiency is most important. Do as best as you can. I have been following this throughout my life. Books are an inspiration…….recall Winson Pele’s “In tune with Infinite”. I always used to buy books in airports…inspirational books rejuvenate me. My advice would be “Read and try to condense and write a book in 20 lines. It will do wonders for you”. I had printed out the questions for Mr. Murti since he is slightly hard of hearing. He read every one of them and answered patiently and at length.

As I got up to thank him, his words rang loud and clear in my head – ‘Be bold, be Mr. & Mrs. V. K. Murti 5 courageous, prioritise, delegate, be precise & brief, don’t worry, help others, be vigilant, uphold the sanctity of the section and stay fit’. I felt enriched with all the take aways I had gathered. I felt proud to belong to a profession that he belonged to, that he revered, that he dedicated his life to – the profession of a Company Secretary. I took his blessings and also his wife’s who no doubt has played a significant role in his life by being the ‘invisible and often unrecognized’ woman behind the success of a man!

I felt honoured to have a got a firsthand account from perhaps the First Citizen of the CS profession!!

“A Company Secretary must be kind, considerate, smooth and understanding when public approach him. There should be no room for high handedness just because he is elevated as a KMP (Key Managerial Personnel)”.

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