Friends & Fans

Sudha Ragunathan is the 'Numero Uno' Performer - Is it by Design or by Chance (luck)....An analysis

The avid Carnatic music lovers of Chennai, overwhelmingly, voted Sudha Ragunathan as the 'Numero Uno' performer during the 2007 music season and the difference in votes between her and the second performer (Bombay Jayashree), expressed as a percentage was about eight percent. That is generally considered significant. Since the results were not subjected to a 'statistical test of significance', it may be hard for some people, especially for those whose favorite artist is somebody else, to accept the survey results and the conclusion. It is also a fact that she was voted to be the 'Best Performer' in 2006 too. According to this author, being voted to be the 'Best' once could be a 'chance' event. However, getting voted twice, and that too in a row, cannot be a 'chance' event statistically. His conclusion, therefore, is that 'Sudha Ragunathan' being the Best Performer is not by 'CHANCE' but “BY DESIGN" only. Here are his reasons for this conclusion.

Jack Welsch, former CEO and Chairman of GE made the company to be the best profitable' company in the world, eight years in a row, a feat unparallel in the history of Corporate America, given that GE was not an Oil company. Before him and since his retirement, Exxon and Exxon-Mobil, respectively, have been the number one profitable companies.

Jack believed very, very strongly that the only way to capture the 'First Position' in terms of profitability was to adhere to the highest level of quality in every aspect, of the following three important areas of the company's operation, viz, The Customer Satisfaction, The Employee Satisfaction and Cash Flow areas. To meet these quality standards, he introduced the 'Six Sigma' concept throughout the company and adhered to it with passion - and he succeeded in his mission. (The essence of the Six Sigma concept in very simple terms is that you are allowed to make only three mistakes in ten lakh steps in all of your operations to achieve your mission). The readers at this stage may wonder what all these have to do with Sudha's singing. Here is the connection.

In this author's opinion, Sudha, knowingly or unknowingly is following the exact script like GE's Welsch, to remain the best performer of carnatic music.How do I know it. This is how....

Prior to 2004 , the year I took VRS from full time teaching, I was listening to her kutcheries and other artist's once in a while, either in US, Canada or India. Since then, I have been regularly listening to almost all the artists including the top-tier ones, during the season from 2004-2007 in Chennai and in the US and Canada. The last, I heard Sudha was in her concert at Manjakudi in Tanjore, in honor of Swamy Dhayanandaji, at a college named after him in March 2007 for his birthday, prior to leaving for the US.It was the 33rd concert of Sudha's in the last four years that I had heard. The other's concerts haven't reached 30 yet and any conclusion will not be valid, statistically speaking, as one needs 30 observation points as a minimum, to arrive at a valid conclusion to prove that some result is not by chance but by design only!

In all these 33 kutcheries, I observed Sudha meticulously following the steps she has carved out for herself as a performer, paying attention to the three areas mentioned afore and doing them with strict adherence to quality. Here is an example, in the customer satisfaction area, in the concert in Cleveland in 2005.

She had great back ache and could not sit. Yet, unmindful of her enormous pain, she still performed for full 3+ hours with utmost attention to every aspect of singing and followed it up with standing for some more time to sign autographs for her adoring fans. In another concert in Venus Colony, Chennai, when she performed for the Great Mridangam Maestro Vidwan Karaikudi Mani so that the proceeds could be donated to a senior vidwan of yester years, she painstakingly sang for a full two hours with the superb quality that is expected only from her. She had a concert to go to at NGS following this concert and yet she was talking with each and every one of her fans with extreme care, attention and I might add, with 'Anbu', as evidenced by her voice. I could listen to it as I was very close by. She repeated it every time, even in Thiruvaiyaru during the Thyagaraja Aradhana, with hundreds of her adoring fans. That shows that she clearly understands that 'customer satisfaction' is the key to her maintaining the 'first position', no matter what her personal situation is or may be.

With regard to the employee satisfaction dimension, if one were to label the Sponsors , Organizers and the Sabhaas to be them, Sudha makes sure that her interactions with the officials/representatives of these organizations, both in India and abroad, are always extremely cordial and professional . Consequently, these organization officials are pleased to arrange her concerts even at short notice as it happened recently in the Bay Area,California,USA.

It is not hard for anybody to conclude that when the product of a company has the highest quality standards and the management cares for the utmost satisfaction of both its employees and its customers, the result is positive 'cash flow' at all times. The same thing happens with Sudha's concerts, be it in Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai, SSVT in Wash. DC, Cleveland Aradhana festival or the Bharathi Kala Manram Kutcheri in Toronto, Canada. The organizers who arrange her concerts have told me that the crowd and consequently the revenues either matched their expectations or exceeded them, more often than not.

No wonder then, that the budding young lady artists, even if their guru is somebody different from Sudha, are emulating Sudha's style with the hope that they can also reach the 'Numero Uno' position as a performer, in the future. Best wishes to all of them from this writer who lives and breathes the 3Ms - Music, Management and Marketing.

Again, if these results were to happen only a few times sporadically, it may be possible to attribute it to the Random Phenomena of Success Concept. However, to make it possible to happen, by Sudha, at all times as per this writer’s personal observation, one has to conclude that it has to be 'BY DESIGN' only and not 'BY CHANCE' alone.

The performance of a "Kutcheri" is akin to providing a service like education, medical or airline service. All service providers know that they need to provide the ‘Six Sigma’ type of quality service in all the three phases - pre, during and post - service operations. Sudha is invariably on time, mostly before, with a beaming smile and a cheerful dynamic stage presence, having planned the songs for the concert with provisions for listener's request as part of the 'pre Kutcheri' component; during the concert she sings with meticulous care to provide the best rendition of the song, paying attention to, of course, the raga, the bhava, melody, diction, layam, sruthi and the Manodharmam. She plays the role of a good 'team leader' with her accompanying artists by providing them with inspiration,motivation, lavish praise for their good individual talent and by providing them, especially the violinist and the mrudangam vidwans/vidhushis with enough time for proving their excellence in performance. She generally tries her best to sing songs of different composers with most songs being that of the trinity; post kutcheri, she spends lots of time with her fans and organizers as mentioned before and has always expressed her gratefulness for the opportunity extended to her. The other artists also do all these phases, but Sudha seems to do it differently with the strictest adherence to quality to meet the 'Customer Satisfaction' dimension with 'Reliability', 'Validity' and 'Internal Consistency', measures needed for generalization of results 'Statistically' as per my observation. Hence the conclusion that she is the Numero Uno carnatic music performer by design only and not by chance alone.

May Almighty God bless Sudha and other artists with good health and talent so they all can continue to give good kutcheries now and in the future both in India and abroad paying complete attention to quality and customer satisfaction at all times. This should include, at least, singing two new songs in each kutcheri of any composer or a combination there of, by all artists alike. This is similar to companies introducing 'New products' at every possible opportunity while taking care of maintaining their market share in their existing product line to be 'Numero Uno' company at all times.

Good luck and best wishes to Sudha and all other artists for a good 'Season in 2008'
Prof. V. Sivakumar, Washington DC, USA

For all your comments, criticisms, if any, Prof. Sivakumar, can be reached via E-Mail at sivakumar647@hotmail.com or at vsivakumar@howardcc.edu

Or by phone at (001)-410-997-2893 from India or at (1)-410-997-2893.

The author is a Professor of Management and Business, Washington DC, USA, his key interests being the 3 Ms – Music, Marketing and Management. The links below are insights into his lecture on the same principles, at Chennai.

http://www.carnaticdarbar.com