Ravi Subramanian is an award-winning author of bestselling books like If God was a Banker, Devil in Pinstripes, & the Incredible Banker. His first book went on to become a national best seller in 2007. In this exclusive interview with Infibeam, Ravi gets candid about his life, work and his latest book 'The Incredible Banker'.
Q.1. For the few people who haven't heard of you yet- Who and what is Ravi Subramanian all about?
Ans: Like all his readers, Ravi Subramanian is a typical middle class Indian and symbolizes the values and the human thought process of middle class.
Ans: Brought up in a traditional south Indian family, I grew up in the heart of Punjab (Ludhiana), believing that the only way to succeed is to study, study and study even more. When I was a kid, despite hating it, getting good marks was the ultimate goal in life. I grew out of those goals soon a liberal dose of Punjabi culture interspersed with South Indian conservatism helped me develop a thought process and aspirations which were quite realistic and different from either of the two roots. It made me a balanced human being.
I live in Mumbai with my wife who I married seventeen years ago and have a daughter who is 11 years old.
My pride at having written "If God was a Banker" lay shattered when my daughter all of Eleven, gave me a 40000 word manuscript a couple of months ago… and said, "Dad get it published". It shattered my author's pride, but my emotions as a proud father more than made up for it.
Q.2. There's a lot of hype surrounding your new book- "the incredible banker”. What in non-economic jargon is 'The Incredible banker' about?
Ans: My books are about life in foreign banks, but there is no economic jargon in it. Any English reading human being can read it and understand the same. It is written in English as is written and spoken in most parts of the country.
The Incredible Banker, is an intriguing story of love, corporate politics, unbridled aggression and money laundering. Politics at workplace and the constant tussle for one upmanship is so inherent in our work ethic that many a times we tend to ignore the negative effects of it. My book deals with the situations and the issues arising out of the political fallout of two protagonists, Karan and Deepak, both of whom work in senior positions in Greater Boston Global Bank. (GB2)
GB2 is a bank which is trying to grow in India, but is struggling because of its retail business which is dragging down the profits. An expat CEO is sent to India to turn around the bank and rebuild the business. But in no time, he finds himself entangled in an intricate web, arising out of political fallouts, process control lapses and lack of ownership, which is at times the story of most of the banks in India. How he manages to not only extricate himself from this, and save his career from doomsday, is what this book is all about.
While it has been set in a foreign bank, it might well have been a story set in any other industry. It’s quite an industry agnostic story.
However it has a very interesting twist, which I would rather not talk about and have the readers read the book and figure out.
Q.3. What made you write a third book concerning the intricacies of banking life after having written two books exploring the same industry?
Ans: Oh...Banking is so full of exciting stories and it amazes me and at times also dismays me that many people have not come up and told these stories to the public at large. What do you need for an interesting story – People, Relationships, Love, Sleaze, Money (lots of it), frauds, crime, investigations.. Well our banking industry today has all the above and more. I am not yet done telling stories of the banking industry.
That said, my readers would know that most of my books are written in a very simple language which is easily understandable by all and in fact it could hold ground in any other industry too. That’s why people relate well to my books.
Q.4. What can someone whos reading this book look forward a lot to-Crime? Drama? Suspense? Moral dilemmas? What should the reader lookout for in this book?
Ans: All the above and more.
If there is one thing a reader cannot find or look forward in this book – it is a "dull moment". I promise my readers a fast paced book which makes them want to turn the page and keep reading. A good reader should be able to finish this book in two sittings.
Q.5. Your previous two books have built up a steady fan base in your genre-any nervousness considering there's going to be a bit of expectation you'd have to deliver on?
Ans: No. It's not about nervousness. How many authors today are so blessed to have a reader base which is large and likes your books? Hence I have no complaints.
Its more about being conscious of the expectations and putting in that extra effort to make sure that readers like what they read. Sometimes writers tend to become predictable and one needs to avoid falling into that trap...Otherwise fans will desert you.
Cautious experimentation needs to be done to make sure that one does not become routine and monotonous, nor does one become so esoteric that the connect with the readers of your genre completely evaporates.
Q.6. Do you feel that organizational politics are part and parcel of the corporate world or is there a way to counter them?
Ans: I believe that the one who cribs about organizational politics, in all probability, is the one who will lose out in the game of politics. One would never see a winner whine about the politics he has to deal with at the workplace.
Politics today is a part and parcel of corporate culture. When you put hundreds of bright intelligent people together, politics is bound to happen. It's a strange weapon which is a natural tool for human defense and aggression. My message through my books is very simple. Don't fret about politics. Learn to deal with it. Someone might turn around and say that he or she is not interested and hence will stay away from it. By all means…. But remember, it won’t be too long before organizational politics catches up with you. You many not play politics, but someone will play this game with you, and if you don’t know how to respond, you will end up losing a game. It’s a game where people don’t have a choice of not playing. So be politically aware and deal with it.
My only regret about our management education system is that there is no institute, no syllabus in this country, which teaches a student on how to deal with politics at workplace – which he is likely to encounter from his first day at work.
Q.7. What inspired you to start writing books? It's not everyday that someone from the financial industry turns to authoring inspirational books leave alone having a flair for writing...
Ans: The reason for my starting to write books is very philosophical. Apart from the fact that I had been in the industry for over a decade and a half and I had seen and head enough to write over fifty books, what inspired me to write was the fact that I wanted to leave behind a legacy. I wanted to be remembered long after I am gone from this earth. Through books, which are alos seen as academically acceptable, I hope that I will be able to achieve this dream. Long after I am gone from this world, in some corner in a small library, there will be a book written by Ravi Subramanian which will remind people that there was a banker by the name Ravi who also wrote books.
Q.8. When you aren't spinning brilliant stories or heading your financial firm, what do you enjoy doing whenever you get time off?
Ans: I spend a lot of time with my loved ones, my wife and daughter whenever I get time off.
Apart from that, I enjoy visiting bookshops, connecting with readers, observing what they do, what kind of stories they pick up from stores, trying to make sense of their buying decisions etc.
I also listen to music...mostly Bollywood. And I am a huge Rahul Dravid Fan. To me cricket is Rahul Dravid.
Q.9. Does your daughter get intrigued at the prospect of writing someday?
Ans: She has given me a complex. She has just penned her first novel, which is the first of a tetra-logy. (Series of 4). The entire series is called: "The Moon Wand Chronicles" and the first book is called Moonrise.
Initially when she told me that she was writing a book, I didn't take it seriously. I just saw it as a passing phase, but when she kept at it, and even completed it, I was intrigued and extremely proud.
This brings to the forefront a very important point, which I keep highlighting in all my lectures. If you put your mind to it, there is nothing that you cannot achieve.
Q.10. Any other/upcoming projects in the pipeline?
Ans: I am nearly done with the next manuscript. IT just needs a little fine-tuning, which I will do once I am done with promoting "The Incredible Banker". Watch this space.
Q.11. As mentioned earlier you do have a steady and ever growing loyal fan base who can swear by your books. What do you think separates you from the other authors?
Ans: Many things...Firstly the subject. My stories are about corporate fiction – life in a corporate, work environment, banking stories etc – and there is no author in India who writes on these topics. So to that extent there is no comparison subset.
Secondly, I do not depend on writing for a living. Hence, what people see is an expression of a creative output rather than masala, which you would write with intent to sell copies.
Thirdly and most importantly, I solicit feedback and view it very seriously. In fact when I wrote IF God was a Banker, there were extreme reactions to it. Some liked it like never before and some hated it. In fact, I even got critical feedback. When I saw a trend emerging in the feedback, I made sure that the feedback was taken into account when I wrote Devil in Pinstripes, and in fact I even went back to each and every individual who had given me a negative feedback telling them how I have valued their feedback and how it has been addressed in Devil in Pinstripes.
Q.12. So if there was one reason for a person who hasn't read your books to go and do so...that would be...
Ans: The stories would keep you riveted to the book. Can there be any better reason? If you learn anything about corporate life, as you read the book, it’s only an added plus.
Q.13. A final message or advice for your fans? Where can we catch up on the latest news and information of everything "Ravi Subramanian"?
Ans: Do read "The Incredible Banker". People who have had a preview into the book, have said that it’s probably the most difficult subject that I have handled this far and have liked it. If you like it, do let me know. If you don’t like it, even more so important that you let me know. It will only help me improve.
To catch up on latest news and happenings, please connect with me on
www.facebook.com/authorravisubramanian or on twitter @subramanianravi
You can even find more details about me and my books at www.ravisubramanian.in
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