As a boss, Durante was very aggressive, bossy, impatient. No one could tell him: that something cannot be done. He would easily lose his cool and be extremely blunt, which was not easy to deal with. In the initial days of reporting to him — I think it was 1998 — we were in a meeting with five others and he said something like, “Have you left your brains at home?” As soon as the meeting ended, I went up to his cabin and told him that he could say anything to me in private, but could not ridicule me in public. He never did that again.
Durante could get people on his side despite his aggression only because he himself was so committed. When the Scorpio prototype was ready, he drove it himself from Mumbai to Goa to get a first-hand feel of what the product was like. The day he came back he called three of us —Jayanta Deb, Ravi Deshmukh and me — home that very evening. He was curt. The car was not handling well. We had to go back to the drawing board and fix a few things — only those “few” things were actually a long list. It would be an understatement to say he drove us hard. On the other hand, but for him, we would have overlooked quite some flaws, thinking it would be acceptable.
In June 2003, Anand announced I would take over as COO, with the intention of making me CEO when Durante retired two years later. It’s rare for an R&D person to get into the general management role, especially in India but Durante made the transition remarkably smooth — he made the entire team report to me, except international operations and HR. Transition usually brings two problems — you leave your comfort zone and have to deal with something new; and you are suddenly lonely because you no longer have your peers around. Neither of those became issues for me because Durante was there to see me through the entire exercise.
Parthasarathy had prepared me for R&D and Durante coached me to be a well-rounded business leader. He took it upon himself to mentor me and make me a better leader. He was a very effective leader himself, yet he had the wisdom to tell me: each one has his own style of working and what worked for him may not wor