Shantanu's Blog

Corporate Consultant

June 06, 2001

 
Businessworld - May 28, 2001

Man of the Week
Clarence Chandran
Overcoming Odds
Some guys don’t know when to slow down. It appears Nortel Networks’ COO till last week, Clarence J. Chandran, 52 did not. The suave Banglorean, who has been in the news since he was elevated to the No. 2 spot last June, had been working overtime to take the 105 years old Canadian firm to the top of the rung. He had global responsibility for Nortel’s Net and enterprise customers including sales, marketing, R&D and customer care. He was also responsible for the integration of acquisitions, apart from HR and information systems organizations. With so much on his plate it was understandable that even a murderous assault was not allowed to keep him from his work for too long.
In June 1997 Chandran was stabbed repeatedly by three burglars while sleeping in a friend’s house in Singapore. It was a grievous attack that called for a four hour operation and many days in the ICU before he was declared out of danger. But the healing was slow and he was forced to undergo fresh surgery owing to complications. That was to be expected, given Chandran’s tough schedule as the guy in the hot seat at Nortel, a global Net and communications leader with revenues of $30.3 billion last year. But now mounting pressure on Nortel, whose stock has slumped and is not expected to meet its slashed growth target of 15% this year, has forced Chandran, 52, to call it a day after spending 28 years at Nortel.
Starting out as a salesman with Bell Canada, Chandran has worked his way up the ladder the hard way. It also sharpened his business acumen and gave him the grit to push through tough acquisitions. Inspired by management guru Peter Drucker, Chandran’s motto is: “Strategy is a commodity, execution is an art.” The Net remains Chandran’s great mission. “Let’s imagine for a minute that you have a million people with cable modems – a not too outlandish thought – a million people that have one megabit DSL and 100,000 people who have access to Ethernet in their hotel rooms. If you shake up this cocktail mix and you project, say, to the year 2003 to 2004, you’d find that you have a billion Net users, probably a billion wireline users, and several hundred million wireless users, with some of these double counted.” Even if the Nortel stint has ended, Chandran is bound to bounce back. As he said in a recent interview: “The great thing is never to give up.” That may have come from his fondness for fishing. Like all good fishermen he knows you need infinite patience to get the big bite. With stock options worth $39.5 million at the last count, Chandran can wait – for quite a while.

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