Innovation and Consistency are Power – Ram Thalayasingham

Ram Thalayasingham – Regional Manager for Indian Sub-Continent at Red Bull

“Never judge a book by its cover” is a quote that fits Ramasuthan Thalaysingham well, for behind the calm exterior is a man who has worked his utmost to get to his current position as Red Bull’s Regional Manager for the Indian Sub-Continent. 

Beginning with his early years as a Radio Journalist, Ram narrated how starting from the bottom, he built himself and his career into what it is today.

“It all started in my teens. Back then, I didn’t really know that I would have even had a career as a journalist, but I did know that I had a passion for speech and drama back in school. From afternoons spent with the drama club to giving great monologues at home to my family, I found myself leaning further into this art. However, not much as a struggling actor, but as a teenager out of school, when money and finding a job took to the forefront. The late 90’s in Sri Lanka, was a melting pot of opportunities, especially in the Media and Entertainment industry, and with a passion for speaking, I wandered into the realm of radio journalism.

This passion for the news and journalism lasted for 2 years at the station, as by that time my aspirations had grown and were moving towards the world of business. This pushed me in the direction of obtaining a Degree in Business and Accounting in the UK at the University of East London. My time in the UK was definitely more than an eye-opener. It shaped who I am and what I do today. My parents, never being the over-indulgent type, were able to support me only in the initial stages of university life. For me to pay for the college fees, accommodation and more, I was required to work, and at any stage during my time in the UK, I had a minimum of 3 jobs. From supermarket shelving, working at garages and petrol stations, and cleaning offices my eyes were opened to a new trade – the retail business. The need to understand this business, to compare its inner workings as to how it all came together in Sri Lanka and in the UK was becoming a burning necessity.  My personality and this strong need to learn pushed me to realize the potential this business had back in Sri Lanka. I can now safely say that starting from the bottom of it all, shelving to sweeping, really made me appreciate every step I took in this business. This is one of the training, which helped me to follow a servant leadership style at any organization I worked for, and to work with all levels whenever necessary.”

Health plays an important role in Ram’s life, as he explained,

“If I don’t look after myself, I don’t enjoy myself. It’s as simple as that, so yes, my health and well-being are my topmost priorities. I find exercise the most natural and effective mood booster. After all, we only have one body and one shot at looking after it, so the older I get the more important it is for both my mind and body to be at optimum levels.”

He went on to add, “My dad was a workaholic and my mother was a housewife, with the penchant for making sure everything was and looked perfect. She also made sure that my siblings and I were smothered with love, and had everything we needed. But this meant that neither my mother nor father took their health very seriously. I wouldn’t say that I was always the healthiest when I was younger, but with the untimely passing of my mother when I was very young, it made me realise how not taking care of yourself can affect the people around you, sometimes even more than yourself. Therefore, I make sure I find at least 10 hours a week to focus on my health, as I never want to end up ill and be a burden at work or to my family. When I am healthy, I am far more productive at work and my mind is calm, it helps me stay on top of my busy schedule without getting stressed. It’s important to set your priorities and to make sure your health is one of them. The reality is that there is nothing more important than looking after yourself.”

Expressing his views on inspiration and motivation, Ram said, “For me, inspiration and motivation are two different things, but they are equally important in keeping me striving towards my goals. For me, inspiration comes from my father. My father instilled in me a few core principles that have guided me well. He told me that life is a gift, and to aim to live my life based on these values; be responsible, be reasonable, be reliable and most importantly, be accountable for what you do. I take these early life lessons with me into every business venture I enter. Another source of inspiration came from my previous and current mentors. I have been very fortunate that over the years, my mentors have coached and influenced me not just to be a person who delivers targets but have also given me the confidence to try new things and ultimately be a leader who can inspire his team. On the other hand, for me, motivation comes from innovation, and is what allows me to embrace each day with enthusiasm, curiosity and energy. Constantly seeing new ideas come to life is my motivation and for me, surrounding myself with highly motivated people keeps this flame alive. As far as I am concerned, a team that constantly delivers innovative ideas is a highly motivated team. My current role at Red Bull as the Regional Manager for the Indian Sub-Continent, has given me an opportunity to motivate a high performing team. In order for me to ensure that my team is constantly delivering innovation and performing at its peak, the coaching, guidance and positive atmosphere I provide, are needed to keep both my team and myself motivated. Learning from people from all walks of life is also another form of motivation. Another piece of advice that was passed down from my father and has always stayed true, is that skills can be acquired from anyone, therefore meeting people, and learning about their lives and experiences have helped me become the person I am today.” 

“Innovation is shaped by courage, and I do believe that Red Bull has got to be the defining moment in my career. Often, companies limit an individual’s success by pigeonholing a person into specific roles. Unfortunately, this was the outcome of all my previous jobs. Thus, my full potential was not utilised for the growth of their business.  When I joined Red Bull, they created an opportunity for me to experience something that I would have otherwise never experienced. I was required and given the responsibility to build a three-year plan for the country. This task pushed me in the pursuit of improvement and innovation. Red Bull is a global brand and is at the forefront of innovation, be it in marketing or sales. I consider its innovation to be its key source of success, not only for the company, but for its employees as well. Whilst creating this three-year plan, I drew on my experience while in the UK. It helped me take international best practises and put them into a local context. My need to keep innovating prevented me from creating a plan that just added to a cluttered market, but instead reinvented the game with innovative strategies. For me, this was a defining moment, as I had managed to localise a global brand, whilst leaving the ethos of Red Bull intact and maintaining its premium position in the country. By not limiting myself to what I know or what I was told to be true, my plan helped the brand grow to new heights and thus, grew the overall business in Sri Lanka”, noted Ram on the most innovative moment in his career. 

On the best methods to one upping the competition, Ram stated, “No matter what business you are in, you always have to keep a close eye on your competitors. Yet, building an innovative culture requires that you strike a balance, learning from your competitors’ mistakes, while pushing ahead with ideas of your own.

So, I feel that the three best methods would be the following:

  • Situational awareness is key, learn as much as you can about the sector you are in. Do your market research, focusing on how your product or service will be different from other brands’ offerings. After all, if you aren’t going to provide something better, what’s the point?
  • Be focused and act first. Not only will you need to overcome obstacles at every turn, there will be constant new entrants to a market that are eager to imitate.
  • Maintain your brand identity and premium-ness.  Competitors can always copy a product, but what they can’t imitate is your brand.”  

When asked what career advice he would like to share with professionals about following their passions, Ram replied, “This is a very interesting question. The advice I would like to share is based on my personal experiences, and I hope that these words will help inspire and motivate someone else. Firstly, I would like to impart some knowledge that my father passed on to me – Be reasonable. Be reliable. Be accountable for your actions and have zero tolerance for naysayers. Be able to find a solution for any problem that you face and finally, get the job done.

Nobody gets everything right the first time, but it is how we learn from our mistakes that define us, and with that, there is a quote that I have used for the past twenty years of my career and is one that I feel those reading this should understand if they are following their passion. “Use your eyes and ears to see and listen. Use your mouth to ask the right questions only, and let the result speak for itself.””

“In this current role, I am still acquiring so much knowledge and information, that I am constantly stepping out of my comfort zone to face unique challenges. Every moment that goes by at Red Bull is an opportunity to do things better, to improve a process or to take a step towards a bigger objective, so with all that being said, I cannot see myself in any other industry than where I am now”, responded Ram to the question of whether he could see himself being a part of any other industry.  

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