Sunil Ranjhan: The man of many languages

Having spent many years in different parts of India and abroad, he learned different languages, including Japanese


Sunil Ranjhan did not initially start his career in HR. After passing out from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani — where he studied sales and marketing — he joined Wipro as an executive. He realised he was keen to pursue a career in HR when he saw an opportunity with the National Practice — a government organisation under the Ministry of Heavy Industries — that was seeking HR professionals. He applied for the position, which involved attending a two-year HR training programme while receiving a full salary. Thus began his journey in HR.

After completing the HR programme with the National Practice Council, his first HR role was during a time of rapid changes in India. During this time, he was involved in transformational roles that required him to work closely with CXOs in large corporations and government ministries. “We were focused on implementing Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s vision of a new, vibrant India. This involved introducing Japanese management techniques, HR technology and other innovative approaches to increase productivity.”

The process of implementing these new techniques proved to be a valuable learning experience for Ranjhan, as it taught him to implement change processes and overcome resistance from rigid cultures. Of the many lessons he learnt in this role, the first was the importance of mastering the subject, HR. He also discovered that managing people’s emotions and insecurities is a critical aspect of any HR process. Furthermore, he learned that HR must constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of the business and that HR processes must be both relevant and effective.

“Keep learning, keep growing, and find enjoyment in your work, while also taking care of your physical, mental and emotional health. It’s important to remember that while working hard is essential, it’s equally important to prioritise your overall well-being in order to achieve long-term success.”

Sunil Ranjhan, Sr. VP & director, HR & MS, LG Electronics

Ranjhan comes from a modest background, with his father working as a workman in the public sector. Despite various financial struggles, his parents prioritised the education of their children. Having seen adversity up close, he was determined to excel in academics. The family moved frequently due to his father’s job, even spending time in remote areas. Overall, his childhood experiences taught him to persevere and strive for success, despite obstacles.

During his formative years, he attended schools managed by Christian missionaries. Although he was an average student in his early years, he developed a keen interest in science and engineering, which he pursued diligently, along with drawing. He performed well and was the school topper in his board exams. Alongside his studies, he actively participated in theatre and sports, which provided him with a wellrounded personality.

The missionary schools he attended emphasised discipline and were cost effective, and instilled in him the importance of respect, loyalty and positive social interaction. These schools also focused on building spirituality and promoting honesty and grounded living, with a strong emphasis on learning the language and on all-round development, further enriching his educational experience.

At BITS Pilani, he initialy opted for civil engineering. However, he later discovered an integrated programme in management and engineering that could be completed in the same four years, leading to a master’s degree. So, he switched to that programme, where the first two years were dedicated to engineering and the remaining to management. During this time, he received his first job offer from Wipro through campus placement.

Ranjhan has had various mentors who guided him through the different stages of his career and life. His parents, who come from a humble background, always showed him different options and supported him. One of his friends’ father also helped him explore various career paths. Additionally, he had mentors in his different jobs. However, the
founder and director of Honda, NK Goila, played a significant role in shaping him as a professional and a successful manager. As a very senior leader, who was on the board of many companies, Goila was an invaluable influence on Ranjhan’s career development.

Having achieved success and gained experience in diverse industries, including automobiles (Honda Motors), Ranjhan had the opportunity to work outside India, in Japan and Thailand as well. In Japan, he worked as an expert with multiple companies, focusing on quality
control and managing multicultural workforces. He even managed to learn the local language and became fluent in reading and writing Japanese. Similarly, whenever he worked in different parts of India, he made an effort to learn the regional languages
and cultures, such as Bengali or Punjabi, to better understand the local community. Throughout his career, he has mostly been involved in setting up new projects and taking on leadership roles.

Ranjhan has been working in his current role at LG Electronics for a considerable time and has achieved a great deal of success as a senior HR leader. At this point in his career, his complete focus has shifted to passing on his knowledge and expertise to the team members who will take over his responsibilities when he retires. His primary
aspiration is to create a strong and capable second-tier team to carry forward the legacy that he hopes to leave behind. He wishes for this team to continue to drive LG Electronics
forward, in terms of staying number one in the consumer durables industry, even in his absence.

In addition to being a successful professional, Ranjhan is also a published author, with one of his books, No Right Answers, making it to the bestsellers’ list in 2011. Currently, he is writing a book titled Kokoro.

He is also an avid golfer who believes in maintaining a daily fitness routine, which includes a 10-kilometre run in the mornings, followed by other exercise routines. Another area
that interests him is 3D geometrical drawing, a hobby he has continued from his engineering days. When asked about a defining moment in his career, he recalled an experience in the year 2000, when he had just joined Honda.

He received an unexpected call from his Japanese MD asking him to come to Japan immediately. Although he had no idea why he was being summoned, or how long his presence would be required there, he just agreed without hesitation.

Later, he learned that he had been chosen to be the global HR manager for a project that
required his expertise. The original candidate from the Philippines had dropped out, and he was given the opportunity to step in and make a difference. Without thinking twice, he grabbed the opportunity.

The experience taught him to embrace challenges and trust his instincts. “This defining moment in my career taught me to be flexible, adaptable and openminded in new and challenging situations. It prepared me for future international experiences and helped me shed stereotypes and preconceived notions.”

He learned to be more accepting of new cultures, cuisines and ideas. Needless to say, this shift in his thinking and career trajectory opened up new opportunities for him. The message that he would like to pass on to young HR professionals is — “Keep learning, keep growing, and find enjoyment in your work, while also taking care of your physical, mental and emotional health. It’s important to remember that while working hard is essential, it’s equally important to prioritise your overall well-being in order to achieve long-term success.”

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