“As long as I continue to learn and grow, I know I’ll always move forward: Robert John

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We talk about great people and their great deeds, but we hardly notice the great deeds of the not so great people—the stars who somehow remain hidden among the 1.2 billion people India boasts of. Who are these people, who slog through long days and burn the midnight oil month after month to create a successful company, and in the turning process their lives into inspiring stories? These men and women are blessed with great energy and passion, and often sacrifice their personal lives in pursuit of their goals.

Meet one such self-made man, who turned Amphenol Interconnect India, a 100 per cent subsidiary of Amphenol, into one of the largest manufacturers of interconnect products in the world. After joining the company in 2000 as its CEO at the young age of 40, Robert John, now a veteran in the Indian electronics industry, transformed the Indian subsidiary into one of the top 10 electronics companies in India.

While narrating his life story to Nitasha Chawla of Electronics Bazaar, Robert John, director & CEO, Amphenol Interconnect India Pvt Ltd, shared some interesting incidents from his life that can inspire our readers. “I have my own way of thinking, which makes me aware that I can strive for perfection and that makes my work perfect. As long as I believe that I have room for improvement and continue to learn and grow, I know I will always move forward, says John.”

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Although I originally belong to Tamil Nadu, I was born in Hyderabad in a simple middle class family. My father worked in the Department of Defence and my mother was a primary school teacher. Often sons are more attached to their mothers, but I bonded more with my father, who silently inspired me to take the right decisions in every sphere of my life. My mother, on the other hand, taught me to be a fighter and inculcated in me the will to win in order to succeed in life. I shared a healthy relationship with my younger sister, Isabella, who is still like a friend to me. We had different interests academically. I was always inclined towards science and mathematics, while she was an arts student.

Soon after I was born, my family moved to Pune as that’s where my father was posted. So I started my schooling in Bishop School, Pune, and was quite good in academics as well as sports—I played hockey and basket ball. This again I inherited from my father, who was an all rounder—equally good in studies and extra curricular activities. Besides being a good sportsman, my father had an excellent command over English literature, and that is how, at a very early age I, too, developed an interest in literature. However, mathematics and science were also my favourite subjects—a unique combination, right?

Throughout my academic life, I fared well, always emerging among the top five students. Whether it was extra curricular activities like sports, debates, quizzes or studies, I performed very well. My relationship with my teachers was very strong, and I imbibed the quest for perfection from them. I am still in touch with some of my school teachers.

Since my father’s job was transferable, I had the opportunity to explore different places and interact with different people, which helped me to learn about the diversified culture of India. It also made me an extrovert, a broad minded person, and more understanding of people’s shortcomings. I still love to travel, and I feel it teaches you to appreciate life and nature.

Coming back to my schooling days—from Pune we shifted to Assam, where I did three years of schooling, from standards 6 to 8, and then relocated to Rajasthan. After short stints at different schools at various cities across India, I came back to Pune, where I completed my schooling with flying colours. I joined Ferguson College for a one year pre-professional course, which was mandatory at that time, before pursuing engineering. Finally, I joined the College of Engineering in Pune, in 1976, to study mechanical engineering. This was another wish of my father, which I fulfilled.

My first job in Philips: A learning ground

While I was in my final year of college, I had received several job offers, but I chose to work in Philips. It was then one of the biggest and fastest growing companies, and joining it proved to be the right decision for me as I had ample opportunities to grow. While working in Philips, I learnt to face challenges and find solutions for them. I learnt to plan and make strategies. Throughout, it was a world class grooming ground in all aspects—technical, managerial, decision making models, etc. In fact, for the first time in my life, I was introduced to the outside world through stints in the US and Europe, and had the opportunity to learn about different work cultures and several other things related to my career.

Having spent almost two decades in Philips, I always fall back on what I learnt there whenever there is a crisis or a testing situation at work. I had donned many hats at Philips—from a junior engineer in the stamping division to the deputy general manager of the company. I had the opportunity of working in different departments after every four years, and that made me rich in experience in manufacturing, sourcing, procurement and business development.

In my career, Ranbir Mukherjee, my senior in Philips, inspired and taught me a lot. He was a very dynamic personality with a talent for quick decision making and a very strong analytical brain. He would often experiment with new ideas and give me the chance to do the same. He knew how to make an ordinary person handle an extraordinary job. He taught me how to embrace a problem and simplify it.

Amphenol made me a quick decision maker

Despite my rich learning years in Philips, I decided to move on, and in 2000 joined Amphenol Interconnect India Pvt Ltd as the CEO. The Amphenol offer sounded apt for my career at that time and I was confident that I would be able to perform it well. I went by William Shakespeare’s saying, “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,” and accepted the challenge.

Amphenol gave me ample opportunity to prove my mettle. Having worked in an established company like Philips, it was a challenge to take charge of a company which was a big name globally but not in India. Besides, joining as a CEO was a big responsibility and I was ready to take the leap. With all the learning acquired from my superiors in Philips, I was confident of taking Amphenol India to new heights and I am glad that I have been able to do so.

When I joined Amphenol in 2000, it was a Rs 300 million company, and today it has grown to be a Rs 4 billion company. Now, my target for Amphenol India is to touch the US$ 200 million mark in the next five years.

I have to mention the contributions of my entire Amphenol team, as well as my seniors in the global offices of Amphenol, in helping me achieve these heights. With a small dedicated team, I took up the challenge of making a name for Amphenol India. Some strategies really helped me in this journey—to be a patient listener, a quick decision maker and solving a problem by breaking it into smaller parts. Once I do that, I can come to the crux of the problem and am able to find multiple alternative solutions. That is how I have been able to solve many issues at Amphenol successfully.

Once, at Amphenol, we took up a project that was much bigger than what we could handle. We had promised a customer eight sets of a complicated product within a month, at a time when we weren’t even delivering one set in two months. When the customer called me to complain about the delay from our side, I took charge of the situation immediately. I met the customer to know more about his exact requirements and then met my team. I dissected the whole issue with my colleagues and helped them to identify where they were going wrong. So, within a span of 60 days, from making one set in two months, we progressed to eight sets per month.

My strategy for growth is to let my team grow

I strongly believe that we work with people who have their own ways of working, own ideas and own strategies. So I give them the opportunity to explore and deliver. Occasionally, we require to check on things and if something is going wrong, we need to find a solution and rectify it immediately. The message I pass on is that an individual is not at fault, but something that has gone amiss, needs to be brought back on track immediately. What is important is to get to the root cause and resolve it. I let all people involved in the making of a product suggest solutions to a problem being faced by them. I also believe in going into the details as the devil lies in the details. In the process of solving the problem, I coach my team and help them to develop an analytical mind, which can be used in decision making processes.

I have handled several cases and issues in Amphenol that were hampering its growth—be it on the production front, related to interpersonal communication, customer complaints or supplies. However, with great support from my team, I have always worked on the root cause of these issues and solved them. Such exercises have transformed the company into a proactive organisation. And today, we are able to serve our customers in a better way.

I am also trying to inject new blood into the organisation so that we get a new set of ideas to mix with the old ones. But the most important task has been to transform the existing team, empowering them to progressively evaluate the situation, and nurturing the risk taking ability among the decision makers of the organisation. This is how, in my own little way, I am giving back to society

My role as ELCINA president

I have always accepted challenges with open arms and I believe that I have given my 100 per cent to every role I have played. So is the case with my role as ELCINA’s president. I was first elected as the president in 2009, and was re-elected in 2010. I strongly believe that the government and the industry need to work together to stimulate manufacturing and catalyse an electronics boom that can contribute significantly to the development of India.

It gives me a sense of satisfaction to see some of the proposals I had made during my tenure being implemented by the government now. In a short span of time, I managed to launch quite a lot of programmes for the electronics industry. This includes encouraging private and public investments in certain projects which will boost the domestic electronics industry. The government has happily accepted this proposal and is implementing it.

It’s a joy to have a happy family together

My home front has been equally successful and pleasant. My family has always been very supportive and encouraging. I have been married for 20 years now to Anjali, and we are blessed with a daughter named Leah. She is now seven years old, and is in the second standard.

I met Anjali at a church in Pune in 1983, and we became friends. In no time, we decided to tie the knot and our parents’ blessings were always with us. Anjali works with SBI, Pune, in the loan servicing department.

I have given equal importance to all my relationships, including my marriage. The same time and dedication I give to my work is given to my family too. I make sure that my wife is content with her job and in life. This relationship has been the most glorious thing in my life, and I hope that my relationship with my wife and daughter becomes even stronger. It’s a joy to have a happy family together.

Today I am content with whatever I have achieved—both at the personal and professional levels. However, I still have a long way to go. I am a God fearing person and I have immense trust in him to give me wisdom and guide me in my life.

One thing that I would like to change

In this country

The way knowledge is being imparted in schools and colleges. The right values are not being imparted. People should be taught that, progressively, over time, one will achieve milestones in life. Also, one needs to develop a sense of patient learning.

At my work place

I want everyone to do their work with their heads held high. They should be happy and satisfied with what they are doing.

In society

If we can have our value systems nurtured better, we will have a society free from evils like corruption and dirty politics.

In myself

I want to devote more time to myself and get involved in more activities outside work.

These are a few of my favourite things

Music: Western classical

Food: All types

Book: Among the recently read books—‘The Blue Ocean Strategy’ by W Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

Dress: Smart casuals

Colour: Light blue

Historical figure: Abraham Lincoln

Actor: Gregory Peck

Actress: Audrey Hepburn

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Inspiring personality.

    We are kept away from goal not because of debacles, but by clear vision to lesser goal.

  2. Glad to know about your career sir,I feel proud to be a member of Amphenol Group .
    May God bless you and you achieve all the success in life.

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