Today, as he expands Layam’s footprints across India, his marquee clients such as Ashok Leyland, Fiat Chrysler, MRF and Yazaki employ his services to hand-pick manufacturing workforce, a majority of whom happen to be college drop-outs and migrant workers. Unlike the IT industry, which bets on headcount and talent acquisition from premier institutions, Ramesh prepared a blueprint of turning headcount into brain count.
He recalls his first “unemployed” entrepreneurship attempt in 1976, when he started a manufacturing unit for LML Vespa. On the advice of well-wishers, he stepped back to gain industry exposure before launching into business. At a job interview chaired by Russi Mody, which led to his career with the Tatas, Ramesh said, “I would like to start where you did and end where you are.”
Of guts and glory:
Mody, who joined Tata Steel in 1939, was promoted to the position of Director of Personnel in 1953. Ramesh was referred to as a “gutsy fellow,” by Mody in a jocular vein. But it was the Dhanbad coal mines that shaped the entrepreneur’s roadmap.
He tells us, “I would go deep into the mines and that’s where my journey began,” recalls Ramesh, who describes this 6-year period as an exciting phase of his life. “This is when I learnt about Honesty in Relationship – the time when Personnel changed to HR,” he says, as he recalls the 4 Cs his career evolved into – coal, cars, consultancy and corporate.
He went on to gain an understanding of manufacturing when Indian firms started their quality drive. Soon, the wheels were in motion as big-ticket investments came from MNCs, which chose to flag their presence in Chennai. Ramesh was among the first employees at Hyundai, where his 12-years as Senior VP – HR at the Korean biggie exposed him to the nuts and bolts of HR operations. And the seeds of Layam were sown.
Filling a need:
Finding migratory workforce in abundance, he decided to nurture the suppressed talent by giving a makeover for the drop-outs or individuals scouting for employment opportunities. “We entered into two-year contracts with companies using the hire, train and deploy model and over time, we managed to win the confidence of our customers,” says Ramesh, as he takes pride in citing the instance of being part of the Tata’s ‘Marco Polo’ bus building project.
Layam subsequently took up ambitious projects including a mega tender of Bharat Petroleum involving 15,000 employees. This was followed by large-scale training projects at MRF and Muthoot Groups besides the Mahindra Research Valley. MRF’s Trichy plant has Layam-deployed workforce handling all the major manufacturing functions while the staff managing customer relations at Muthoot were supplied by the consultancy. Between 2009 and 2017, Layam grew as it expanded to Bengaluru, Pune and Gurugram.
Projects with Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland and Yazaki followed. Today, talent management, learning and development and consulting is done through the group’s Management Solutions company while contractual, flexi staffing and strategic outsourcing is done by its Flexi Solutions arm. The Group’s Exim wing provides back-end operations to the Kuwait-based Al Mulla group and offers free training to youngsters under its non-profit Talent Skill Foundation.