Busy moving around HTC’s Vive hub with a white virtual reality headset covering half of his face, Ramit Harisinghani could pass off for any geeky teenager with a passion for playing cutting edge futuristic games. ‘You must try it,’ suggests the vice-president and head of Middle East and Africa for HTC Vive, extending a VR set to me in Dubai’s Future Accelerator headquarters at Emirates Towers. Animatedly discussing his pet subject technology and the future, he is convinced the latter is here.
‘Without any doubt I can say with a lot of confidence that Dubai is super aligned when it comes to technology,’ says the Indian expat, who arrived here in 2007 after doing a business management programme from Singapore and decided to stay back after ‘I found Singapore and Dubai shared a lot of similarities when it came to technological progress.’
The emirate was buzzing with ideas and activities aligned to the future, he says. The fact that the authorities place so much importance on technology with their eyes firmly on the future excites Ramit. ‘When you look at the UAE Centennial Plan, you realise that the country has clearcut plans to becoming the world’s leading nation by 2071.’
As the regional head of consumer electronics giant HTC, Ramit, whose passions are virtual reality and artificial intelligence, is expecting major changes to sweep the technological landscape in the near future.
Ramit should know. With over 10 years’ experience in the field he is poised to take the company forward. ‘For me what’s really interesting is the new technology that we are working on,’ he says. ‘Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, virtual reality are more my areas and as a business we are also investing in all these different sectors.
‘And what’s interesting is that while many companies talk about one area over the other, we believe that they are all going to converge. We call it Vive reality where all these different technologies converge into one powered by 5G. It’s going to be completely unique.’
Dressed in a white shirt and a bespoke Ascots & Chapels suit, Ramit elaborates on his job ‘that involves more than just managing a team. It includes enabling people and ensuring that everyone around you is doing their job properly. At the same time if I’m meeting a customer or a partner I’m ensuring that everyone’s stake is in the right place. If, for example, we are doing a project with the government here, I try to make it clear what HTC can and will do.’
A regular work day for Ramit starts early because ‘I need to be conversing with my colleagues in Taiwan which is four hours ahead’. That done, he heads off to his office in Dubai Internet City — ‘if I am not travelling’ — where he attends a series of meetings with various teams.
He prefers conducting stand up meetings ‘because it makes sense to have 360degrees of freedom when using a headset and demonstrating and talking about tech-related stuff such as VR’.
Meetings involving the sales team and negotiations-related discussions are, however, held in regular boardrooms where the format is more formal and structured.
So, what lessons in people management has he picked up?
‘I must say it’s a task I’m constantly learning but one key takeaway for me is understanding that everyone is unique and that everyone has a different style of working,’ says Ramit.
During the early days in his job, he tried to get everyone to work in the same style that he did. ‘Some did and some did not,’ he says, ‘and in the latter case, I’d feel a certain level of frustration wondering why this was happening.’
It took him a couple of years to realise ‘that by identifying each person’s strength and enabling that further was giving me a better result than by me telling them what to do’.
One tip he can offer managers is to ‘identify the strengths of his/her team members, then build on those strengths versus just setting an agenda’.
The yoga enthusiast remembers how he used to be a micromanager during the initial days in his job. ‘But I quickly realised two things: you cannot do that for long, and it’s not productive when you start micromanaging everything. You have to allow people to do their job.’
Does that mean the role of the recruiter is crucial?
‘Absolutely,’ says the HTC vice-president, swivelling in his high chair. ‘Recruitment is everything — you have to find the right fit. To me, recruitment is not just finding the best-qualified people on paper but finding someone who is the right fit for the brand.’
He recalls a recent instance when his company was hiring for a particular position. ‘After going through several CVs, we finally hired a person who [academically] was not the highest qualified among the applicants. But he was a person whose [attitude] fit our brand perfectly — he was hardworking, smart and aware of the industry. A perfect fit for the brand’s DNA.’
So, would he vote for attitude over skill?
‘Obviously, there has to be a base minimum of skill sets you require for the job. But after that it’s all about attitude.’
The Dubai resident cannot overemphasise the importance of having the right attitude. ‘Good attitude shows flexibility and you can do more with such team workers.’
Another factor he keeps in mind when recruiting staff is to choose people with ‘a positive energy, an optimistic attitude. Someone who sees the silver lining is surely an asset for a company; they can deal with pressure situations well. To them, identifying problems is easier than finding solutions, so yes, I’d like someone who finds solutions than someone who keeps finding and discussing problems.’
Ramit offers yet another pointer for managers: ‘Hire smart people for them to tell you what to do. Don’t hire smart people and then tell them what to do,’ he says, adjusting his bright pocket square and buttoning his jacket.
So, how important is being personable in his job?
‘Style varies,’ he says. ‘If, for instance, I’m in a serious negotiation meeting, I’d wear a formal suit like this bespoke Ascots & Chapels one. In fact, I had a great experience being measured and I learnt a lot about my body when I went to get my suit tailored at Ascots & Chapels. It was a fantastic experience.
‘However, when discussing VR with a group of tech people, I’d rather be in a nice branded tee and jeans. But then again, dressing down doesn’t mean looking shabby. You have to be casual but stylish. That’s my take on style.’