HR czar, corporate innovator, now a Tamil Nadu MLA

K Pandia Rajan, 50, can easily be the face that India Inc may want to lock-in for promoting 'affirmative action' – the inclusiveness agenda of corporate sector aimed at providing more jobs to the disadvantaged sections. The only difference between him and many others from such background who built big businesses right from scratch, is his views on politics and business, given his rooted understanding of both.

Pandia Rajan is a classic example of how access to opportunities, and of course, hard work, can shape the future of an individual. Born in a backward community, he was hardly a few months when his father passed away and his mother brought him up with support from village folk. "So, I know, one has to give back," he says. An engineer with a management degree from XLRI, Jamshedput, he set out on his own on August 15, 1992. His human resources consulting firm Ma Foi Randstad has a topline of Rs 965 crore, itself employing 1,500, and 'temping' (temporary staffing – HR on its rolls, but on deputation at client locations) another 55,000.

For his party chief Vijayakant of Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), Pandia Rajan is a 'management guru' and indeed a good catch. After dabbling in politics – he joined the BJP in 2004 – for a couple of years, he joined DMDK in September 2007. And in the recent state elections, Pandia Rajan won the Virudhunagar assembly seat.

Of course, the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu meant a lot to the state's SCs and STs. "There is no greater icon like Periyar. But unlike Tamil Nadu, movements from the Bimaru belt have taken on specific caste connotations," he points out. Affirmative action may be finding political traction now in 'Rest of India', but Pandia Rajan's strong views distinguish him from others who have made it big, especially in the services sector, where the big boys rule the game.

"Affirmative action does not mean reservation in the private sector. India cannot afford to lose its competitive edge. In fact, it may turn out to be a disaster for foreign direct investment (FDI)," he says. "If people are employable, then the corporate sector does not have any prejudices."

In a few more months, Pandia Rajan would have distanced himself completely from Ma Foi Randstad, in terms of having sold his own shareholding in the firm. Randstad may then choose to drop the Ma Foi brand from its Indian venture, though retain the founder at the helm as the company's non-executive chairman. Pandia Rajan has plans to set up a business school and a management consulting firm under the brand Ma Foi (my word or my faith, in French) in the near future.

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