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He took Kone to great heights…
He was a human dynamo. He helped build the-state-of-the-art pistons and rings plants of India Pistons Ltd at Maraimalai Nagar in quick time. He effectively transferred the fruits of these technologies to IPL’s older plants at Sembium to great advantage. That’s A Sankarakrishnan (a k a ASK) for you.
I REMEMBER THE occasions when ASK would drop in for a dosa breakfast, pick me up in the early hours and drive all by himself to Maraimalai Nagar. He would then work late into the evening and drive back in his modest Maruti car. As Executive Director, he built the plants of IPL and IP Rings with such passion and dedication! He mentored Ram Anantharamakrishnan who succeeded him and several others at IPL.

He took charge when the workers were on strike...

In March 1992, ASK took charge as the CEO of Kone Elevators. It could not have been the most ideal time: the employees of the factory were on strike; but his reputation as a dedicated manager and leader was a big help.
The President of the employees union, W R Varadarajan knew ASK well. He called off the strike within three days of the new executive assuming charge (and this without even formally discussing the industrial relations issue with ASK!).

The trust was well-placed. ASK firmly held that the IR issue was essentially a management problem. He believed that “basically every employee wants to work and earn uninterrupted.”

The Finnish engineering giant, Kone Corporation set up the Indian unit at Ayanambakkam near Chennai in collaboration with Best & Crompton in the late 1980s. When the economy opened up and when Best & Crompton, taken over by Vijay Mallya, languished, Kone acquired full control and appointed ASK as the managing director. From a unit that was struggling to earn profits, ASK turned it around and expanded. By the time he retired, he had made Kone a significant player in the elevator market: the company accounted for nearly a fourth of the total elevator market in the country.

Kone with headquarters at Helsinki has made remarkable progress in this high technology engineering field and earned a big reputation through quality, reliability and energy-efficiency. The Monospace elevators, introduced by Kone, eliminated the need for a separate machine room adding to the elegance and economy of building designs.

When Indo-Finnish ties expanded...

The reputation earned by Kone understandably paved the way for larger Finnish investments into India through Wartsila Diesel and subsequently by Nokia which later dominated the cell phone market in India for well over a decade. Soon Finnair introduced direct flight to Delhi: ASK deserves credit for the vast improvements in Indo-Finnish economic collaborations. I remember meeting him as a member of the Indian business team when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Finland in 2006.

I remember the confidence with which ASK introduced a bold new strategy that made deep in-roots into the near monopoly of the leader Otis Elevators: ASK offered to supply lifts in two weeks against the longer lead time demanded by Otis!

ASK was President of the Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Director, Allsec Technologies, India Cements, and India Cements Capital, among others.

ASK lost his son in a road accident at the prime of his age and didn’t recover from the shock. Afflicted by terminal cancer, the end came on 9 April 2013. IE sends in its condolences to his family and the thousands who worked with him.          

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IE, the business magazine from south was launched in 1968 and pioneered business journalism in south. Through the 45 years IE has been focusing on well-presented and well-researched articles. When giants in the industry stumbled to keep pace with the digital revolution, IE stayed affixed embracing technology.
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