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S Ranganathan: From Blueprint to Battlefield – Pioneering Excellence with L&T Defence

Mr S Ranganathan (Pilani, ‘83) is a distinguished professional serving as the Executive Vice President and Head - Weapon & Engineering Systems & Corporate Centre Defence IC at Larsen & Toubro Limited. He has completed a senior executive programme from the London Business School, and has rich experience working at Larsen & Toubro for over forty years. Embark on a captivating journey as you unlock a wealth of remarkable insights from a distinguished industry leader.

Looking back at your four decades of rich and varied experience, what are the events that you would consider the key turning points that shaped your career so far?

There are multiple turning points in my career spanning over four decades, indeed. Let me try and capture the major ones, each of which made me move away from the comfort zone I was in:

  • When I got projects as my first placement at L&T. Though, there was a senior from BITS, Pilani, in Design of another vertical at L&T, and I was being pushed to exercise that option.
  • Being entrusted with the role of ‘Site In Charge’ when I was just about nine months old in L&T.
  • Moving on from the responsibilities of Programme management of Cement Process plants to that of Hydrocarbon related – a new line at L&T Projects
  • Transformational change when I was selected for training at a foreign collaborator, mainly in the Hydraulics segment (I just knew the spelling of Oil!!!)
  • ‘System Through-life Support’ business at L&T Defence
  • Taking on the role of Business Head for a vertical at L&T Defence and growing the business by leveraging the technological strengths at L&T

How do you see the Indian Defence Sector growing in the next five years and contributing through various innovations to improve the lives of its citizens?

The policy by the successive governments to encourage self-sufficiency in the defence segment (similar to the approaches in the Nuclear Power and aerospace sectors) has provided a much-needed fillip to the Domestic Indian Industry, including those in the Private Sector. With an emphasis on the domestic industry – Aatmanirbharata’, and going by the last three years spent by the government, a 2.5 to 3.0 fold [compared to current levels] is expected. Spin-offs from the defence get translated to the civilian segment in a phased manner – given the associated technology elements. The growth in the domestic segment will be complemented by exports, given the performance of systems (growing trustworthiness) with considerable Indian content. The force-multiplier effect of the defence segment will also contribute to the further maturing of the Indian industry [Large, MSME].

What would be your advice to promote a strong collaboration between the industry and academia, especially in setting up joint research projects between BITS Pilani and L&T Defence?

L&T has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with many Institutes of National Importance to work on future technologies with practical applications. Through the Corporate HR of L&T, working with BITS Pilani is feasible.

What are your perspectives on the importance of diversity? How do you see diversity making a difference?

L&T has made special efforts in recruiting Women – be it at the entry level of trainees (Junior, Graduate, Post Graduate), middle management, or even at top management levels with merit as the focus. Diversity brings ideas that complement viewpoints which reflect perspectives in multiple planes.

How do you like to spend your time outside of work? 

A healthy & happy person contributes the best - at work or on the personal front. Reading, practising for the half-marathons (having completed around 28 of them), solving crosswords (wordle, quodrle being the latest), and reading books – fiction and those which capture the intrapreneurial spirit.