Way to the Top of the Corporate Pyramid Part I – A guide to Executive Success

Way to the Top of the Corporate Pyramid –

Part I – A guide to Executive Success

Sankara Ramnath

Sankara Ramnath

The way to the top of the corporate pyramid is to cross the three levels of management namely the junior level, the middle level and the top level of management, to reach the ultimate pinnacle, the position of the CEO.

On the way to the top, executives need to effectively manage three main things or areas:

1. Functions – covering functional expertise like production, selling and marketing, administration, finance, accounting and other functions for operations of the company.

2. Resources – namely human resources and physical resources like machinery, materials, money and other assets required for operations.

3. Growth – including Long term Business Planning, Strategies and Policies, and other macro issues relating to the Company.

At each level of management, executives are required to engage themselves in more than one of the above areas namely functions, resources and growth. However the content, scope and importance of the respective areas are different at each level.

The following matrix gives a snapshot of the levels of management and the respective areas they manage.


F – Function; R – Resource; G – Growth

At the junior level of management, executives would be required to spend most of their time in managing their respective Functions. At this level they need to be experts in their functions, having the necessary knowledge, experience and skill, to carry out their roles effectively. Their area of operation is limited and so are the resources at their disposal. However they would be required to manage those limited resources. They are not required to manage growth at the macro level for the company, which is the role of the top management.

At the top level of management, executives would be spending their time in managing Growth. They would be involved with the vision and mission for the Company. They would be responsible for business plan, strategies and policies having long term implications. While all the resources would be at their command, they would be required to plan and allocate resources, rather than manage them on a day to day basis. They would rarely be required to use their functional expertise. In fact, top management executives often complain, jocularly, that they have forgotten their basic functional knowledge learnt when they were in college.

At the middle level management, executives would be involved in managing all the three areas namely Functions, Resources and Growth. They are also the bridge between the junior level and top level management. They are involved in giving inputs and analysis to the top management for the long term plans, and once the business plans are made, get the same executed through the junior level management. In that context, they are sandwiched between the top and the junior levels. Also at this stage, generally they are at an age, where their family is expanding and their family responsibilities are also on the rise. At this level, time management is a major challenge.

The ability and willingness required in managing functions, resources and growth, is different at each level of management.  The content, type and extent of knowledge, experience, and skill, vary at different points in the corporate career.

Most Executives do not realise this important aspect of career planning. This is one of the main reasons why executives flounder on the way to the top. As Marshall Goldsmith says “What got you here, Won’t get you there”.

So, how do you plan your way to the top of the Corporate Pyramid?

You can do this by setting SMART goals, preparing an action plan and upgrading yourself to meet the challenges, ahead of each level.

So, what are you waiting for?

Prepare to Rise and Surge in your career.

Sankara Ramnath

Why Financial Modelling is important for Start-Ups

Why Financial Modelling is important for Start-Ups

Sankara Ramnath

Sankara Ramnath

For most early stage entrepreneurs, a financial model a standard spread sheet template that helps them prepare the financials slide of their Investment Pitch Deck. Start-ups find it difficult to simplify a complex business into a template spread sheet and end up with inconsistent numbers across the Deck and other documents. They fear that if don’t show a rosy picture, they may not get funds for business and hence the financials end up in the investment pitch deck, with cooked up figures and “hockey stick” projection, to show that the business can be a great success. The pity is that, more often than not, for the same reason an entrepreneurial idea gets rejected, because the financial model is not in sync with the business model. Many feel that the financial model is a work of fiction.

Result: Nobody believes the financial model.

So, do we throw out the financial model?

On the contrary. Throw out the standard template spread sheet if you must.

What is a Financial Model?

A Financial Model is the story of your business in financial currency. It is a mathematical representation of your business model that can be used to understand your business. It has a set of inputs and outputs. Inputs are the assumptions that go into the financial model and the outputs show the projected performance of the company, based on the assumptions.

The input assumptions are based on metrics that drive your business and consequently the model. Since every business is different, the assumptions and the metrics could be different.

Some common inputs.

  • Burn Rate and fixed cost per month
  • Per unit or per transaction cost
  • The marketing funnel including the market potential, the customer acquisition cost, sign ups,
  • User economics – churns, average order size,
  •  Monthly Recurring Revenue
  • Business milestones

The outputs are the outcome as a result of the play of input metrics and their related assumptions. They are the projected performance of the company in financial terms or the currency of the land and represented by Income Statement or Profit & Loss Account, Balance Sheet and Cash flow statement.

Since the input assumptions can be different, one financial model can produce multiple set of projections. The input metrics and assumptions act as levers to produce different possible business results. The financial model, thus, shows how the company will perform going forward, under various scenarios.

Why do Start-ups need Financial Modelling?

1.    Funding: Early stage entrepreneurs generally start preparing the financial model when they need to borrow funds from investors for their seed money. A good FM lets your potential investors know why you are asking for funds, when do you need it and what’s in it for them.

On the face of it, a financial model might seem as a tool purely intended for obtaining funds from investors However that’s not the only purpose. On the contrary, investors realise that forecasting for a new business is difficult and that your actual results can be different from your projections. At the seed stage especially, they bet on your business idea and on YOU.

2.    Core information system: The investors and other stakeholders expect that you understand how your business operates and you will be able to kickstart it. A good financial model will help you do that. It’s an opportunity to show with numbers the very potential of your business and your capability to proactively manage growth. It is a reflection that you clearly understand your business and the levers that drive it. A good well implemented financial model can be the core information system to drive your business.

3.    Understand and Manage Cash Flows: The biggest purpose of the financial model is to help the entrepreneur understand his cash. For most start-ups cash outflow precedes cash inflow A good FM helps you match you cashflows and understand when and how much tomorrow. You should be aware of your burn rate and know how long your money is going to last. It will help you understand the real economics of the business. This can be frightening sometimes, but it can tell you how deep is the well before you plunge into it. Once you are in, it is an indispensable cash management tool. Tracing the flow of cash within the company will help you to identify where money is locked up and improve efficiencies.

4.    Performance Management System: A good FM is built bottoms up and therefore it forces you to think through all the variables that affect the operations and give insight into your business model. It helps you dig deeper into operational metrics.

It can be used to identify measurable key result areas (KRA’s) and Key Performance Indicators(KPI), which can be used as the basis for a Performance Management System. It helps you understand how sensitive your business is to the assumption levers and accordingly do a risk assessment to take proactive steps.

5.    Create Benchmarks: A financial Model is not a one-time exercise. As you grow in business, the financial model will track history as it is written with the projections made earlier. It will give a financial trail – where you were and where are you now. It will help you create benchmarks and baselines for the future.

Start-ups need a rolling forecast that serves as a decision-making tool for a dynamic business in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment. The financial model should be able to do that. When any of the underlying assumptions of the input metrics change, the model must be able to change the forecasts.

6.    Decision Making Tool: A financial model can help to understand how certain decisions might affect the future health of their company. It can thus be used to make smart decisions by playing with the variables to leverage for better performance.

The financial model helps in various decisions

  •      Arriving at the Break-even point which is how many units you have to sell or customers you have to get, to pay for your fixed costs
  •      Make or buy
  •      Product mix
  •      Pricing Strategies
  •      Understanding your cost structure
  •      Find out how effective are your marketing strategies.

7.    Big Picture: Your financial model is much more than a mere accounting exercise. It is forecasting as well. A good Financial model provides the big picture. You take the various components- income and costs statements, cash flow summaries and the Balance sheet and piece them together to get a consolidated and comprehensive financial picture.

I have been building financial models with a lot of early stage entrepreneurs and seen them reap enormous benefit when it is built bottoms up, as it complements the business model and gives valuable information to improve profitability.

In my next instalments of Financial Modelling, I will cover “HOW to build a good financial model for Start-ups”

The Success Journey from Unknown to Known (U2K) for Business Leaders

The Success Journey from Unknown to Known (U2K) for Business Leaders

Sankara Ramnath

Sankara Ramnath

I was intrigued by the title of the American documentary film “The Unknown Known” directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker, Errol Morris, on the former U.S. Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. At the beginning of the documentary, Rumsfeld argues that a major purpose of the Department of Defence is to evaluate “unknown knowns,” or “the things you think you know, that it turns out – you did not.”

 This is so true for business as well.

We think our business is doing well since we are earning profits, but it turns out that they are just book profits and we are actually in cash losses. We think our sales are growing, but the quality of sales is actually going down, resulting in increased ageing of debtors. These are things which we understand, but are not aware of its implications and only realise it later, sometimes too late.

Talking of Unknowns and Knowns, we can therefore have a Rumsfeld Matrix for Business comprising of 4 Quadrants or situations.

Let us look at each of these Quadrants in the matrix in relation to your business and the relevant strategy, that need to be employed, in each of these situations.

Quadrant 1 – KNOWN KNOWNS

These are things you know and are aware of them. You also have the full facts and understand what you know. For example, you know your company, your products, your people, your territory. You also know your present competitors, your market share, your product mix, profitability and all the other measures, and their respective risks. Since there is certainty of information, there is a feeling of comfort and confidence. Hence this is the ideal quadrant to be in, always The strategy in this quadrant is therefore to exploit the situation you are in and play on your strengths, through your current competitive advantage.


These are things which you know and are aware that they are important for your business, but find it difficult to predict its impact. For example, these could be the future health of the economy or interest rates. It would also be the demand curves especially in a cyclical industry and pricing in a competitive environment. These are things you know, which could affect your business, but it is difficult to understand and foresee their implication on your business. These could be tricky; since it involves predicting the future. The strategy in this quadrant is therefore to exercise Caution and explore possibilities and options. There could be a lot of Learning and Development requirements. However if the learning is complete and the prediction of the future implications are accurate, it could be a smart competitive advantage for you.


These could be information that you have, but is based on wrong facts or assumptions and hence could be a Pandora’s box. This is what Mr. Donald Rumsfeld referred to. In Business, the “unknown known” could be wrong metrics or assumptions on the basis of which decisions are being taken today, which are actually detrimental to the company. These could also be competitors, technologies, services and trends, which are out there in the world, today, but you have not discovered or given adequate attention to them. These could affect your business significantly. The strategy in this quadrant is to carefully dig deeper, to expose the wrong assumptions. It is also necessary to do environment scanning and data analytics, to cull out information out there and then take necessary corrective action.


These are the real Unknowns. These are unpredictable events, which happen and end up disrupting everything. They come out of the blue, unexpected. For example, a terrorist attack, the irrational behavior of a competitor or an unexpected new law or new government, departure or fraud by key people, or natural calamities like floods, earthquake or a tsunami.

The unknown unknown is something, which you do not have control over and hence there is this feeling of Fear of the Unknown. The strategy in this quadrant is to do a Risk Analysis and prepare for Disaster Management. And in case disaster happens, you need to be quick thinking, and innovate to turn problems into opportunities to enhance business. There is a need to be flexible and nimble in this quadrant.


All Unknown therefore present the following challenges,

  1. Dealing with uncertainties and unforeseen circumstances

  2. Managing interpersonal relations among the different stakeholders

  3. Taking advantage of opportunities, as they come.

 The key to Success is tackling these challenges and undertaking the journey from the Unknown to the Known, by closing this gap. A successful organization is one which accepts that there will always be “unknowns” and is able and willing , to respond accordingly.

 For a Successful Business, it is therefore about transforming and converting

  • Unknown Audience into a Known Customer base,
  • Unmanaged Risk to Planned Strategies
  • Hard Challenges to Huge Opportunities
  • Wastage to Savings
  • Unknown Losses to Known Profit.

So, what are you waiting for?

Prepare to Rise and Surge in your business.

Sankara Ramnath

How do I get my money back?

How do I get my money back?

Sankara Ramnath

Sankara Ramnath

In my earlier article I mentioned about the huge sum of money amounting to more than Rs. 1,50,000 crores lying unclaimed as Bank Deposits, Insurance Claims, Dividends and Shares, Mutual funds and Provident Funds. (LINK)

If you’re one of those, whose money is a part of that unclaimed amount, but do not know how to get it back, read on to know.

There can be many reasons why money is left unclaimed. I have listed down the 2 most important ones.

  1. You have lost track of your own investments. You have not updated your records for change of address, or bank account or KYC or any other procedural lapse.  
  2. You have inherited these investments from your parents, relatives and well-wishers, but you are not aware about these investments.

In spite of this, all is not lost. The good news is, this treasure can be claimed, provided you can prove that it is yours. 

So, how do you go about claiming your money? How do you get back what is yours?

Step 1. Get the details.

I can’t stress enough on this one.

In case of your own investments, think about your first paycheck, or your first income. Go down memory lane. Spend some time thinking about all the investments you have made. Look up your old correspondence, bank pass books, physical shares, insurance policies, your provident fund statements. 

Look for every bit of paper relating to money. Once you have all these, put them all in a file. Prepare Your Personal Net Worth Statement. Ensure that you have made a Nomination in all your investments wherever possible. Also, prepare your Will. 

It is possible that you may have inherited some money as a legal heir. A legal heir is any person who is entitled to the property of a deceased person, either as per a will or succession laws.  In either case, you need to get the same data that you would need for any of your other investments.

Get as much details and leads as possible. If you can’t remember, ask others. They can be your family members or friends with whom you may have shared some information. The smallest of information is enough to start the process. Remember, these are forgotten and unclaimed treasures, which is rightfully yours. 

In case of inheritance as a legal heir, you also need to prove your identity. This process is called Probate. Probate is basically ‘proving of Will’ or ‘establishing validity of the Will’. You need to get a copy of the will. If the will specifies you are the beneficiary, or if you are the sole legal heir, then then you are the sole owner of that investment. 

In case a will is not available; your inheritance will depend on the succession laws of the country. Succession of the person dying without leaving a valid and enforceable Will, is called Intestate Succession. In India, Laws of Intestate succession are different for Hindu, Muslims and Christians. Every country has its own Succession Laws.

If you are a legal heir, then you need to get details of the nominations and the investment and assets of the deceased person need to be pooled.  The pooled wealth will then get distributed as per the succession laws. Remember Nominees are trustees of the assets and not necessarily legal heirs. Legal heirs are determined by a sound Will or by the Succession Laws, in case there is no Will. 

In case both, the will and the details of the nominations are not available, you need to look up the correspondence and follow step 1 and prepare the personal net worth statement of the deceased person from whom the inheritance is taking place. The distribution will then take place as per the succession laws. 

Step 2. Claim the money. 

In order to claim the money, you need to have the details of the investment, a copy of the Will, or the nomination, and your personal identification proof. In applicable cases, you would need a copy of the probate. In case there is no Will, then Succession Certificates.

I have enumerated some of the categories of unclaimed deposits and how to get your money from those.

  • Unclaimed Bank Deposits (over 10 years) Rs. 25747 crores

These unclaimed deposits mainly include non-operated savings/current accounts for 10 years, fixed/ term deposits/cumulative/recurring deposits/other deposits in any form, not claimed for 10 years from the maturity dates.

Banks are supposed to display the list of unclaimed deposits with the name of the account holder on their websites.  For non-individuals, the name of the authorised person is also provided. The account number, deposit type and the name of the branch etc, are not disclosed. 

So, if you have the relevant details of the unclaimed accounts of yours or those you have inherited, you can initiate action for refund. Not just the amount, you are also entitled to interest on the unclaimed amount. 

Unclaimed Insurance (over 10 years) Rs. 15167 crores

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has asked life insurance companies to provide a search facility on their websites to enable policyholders or beneficiaries or dependents to find out whether any unclaimed amounts due to them are lying with these companies.

Policyholders/beneficiaries are required to enter the details like policy number, PAN of the policyholder, name of the policyholder, date of birth, or Aadhaar number, in a window provided on the website of the insurer to find out the unclaimed amount.  The insurers have to update information regarding unclaimed amounts on their websites on a half-yearly basis.


You can approach the Insurance Companies with the relevant documentation for the refund. 

  • Unclaimed Dividend and Shares (over 7 years): Rs. 17600 Crores

As per Section 125 of The Companies Act, 2013, all unclaimed and unpaid dividends and shares are required to be transferred by the company to the Investor Education and Protection fund (IEPF) established by the central government. Companies transfer those shares to IEPF, for which dividend has not been claimed for the past seven years or more.

The refund in respect of unclaimed dividends, matured deposits, matured debentures, the application money due for refund and interest thereon can be claimed from IEPF. 

Once you have the basic details like the name of the company, you can go to the IEPF website, do a search, confirm the investment, fill in the necessary forms to get your unclaimed amounts.

In case the shares are available in physical form, the same has to be dematerialised. You will need to follow the dematerialisation process through any of the Broking Houses like Zerodha, ICICI Securities, HDFC Securities etc.  In case you have inherited the shares as the legal heir, then you will also have to transfer the shares in your name for receiving the dividend or to sell the shares in future. 

  • Unclaimed Mutual fund – Rs 44000 crores

When an investor fails to encash a redemption or dividend cheque before it becomes invalid, the amount is categorised as unclaimed. 

SEBI has made it mandatory for the Asset Management Companies to provide the details of unclaimed investment on their websites. An investor can check the unclaimed sum, if any, by simply putting his folio number on the AMC’s website.

If the investor does not remember his folio number, he may go to the website of the registrar –CAMS or Karvy — to check the unclaimed money status by inserting details like PAN number and email id or mobile number or bank account details.

You can claim the unclaimed money by completing the formalities with the AMC.  

  • Unclaimed Provident Fund and other Retirals from Employers – Rs. 40865 crores 

Generally, you are entitled to retiral benefits from employers like Provident Fund, Employees’ Pension fund, Gratuity, in case you have worked in eligible establishments as per the respective Acts like the Provident fund Act and the Payment of Gratuity act. Generally, in the case the respective Retiral funds are managed by the Company, then you will have no problems since your employer will handle all the pay-outs. 

However, if your employer has outsourced the retirals fund management to the Regional Provident fund or to some insurance companies like the LIC, then your company will generally help you with all the retrial details, so that you receive all the dues from the outsourced institution. Also, you might be eligible for other benefits like superannuation pension or medical insurance from some insurance companies.  Ensure that on retirement, you get all the details with respect to your retirals.  

You need to complete your KYC, update your residence and contact details with the respective institutions. In case of pension, you need to file your existence or life certificate (Jeevan Pramaan) every year or at periodic intervals. 

There are various pension options like single or joint life, with or without return of capital. You can exercise the option of the type of pension only once. 

Where you have opted for return of capital on your death, ensure that you have made proper nominations. 

You can also view and operate your pension funds online with the respective institutions. In the case of Regional Provident Fund and Pension funds, the government has also come up with an APP called Umang, where you can get all details and update your details including the Life certificate or Jeevan Pramaan online. 



Your hard-earned money is yours. At the same time, the money left behind by your parents and others, as per their Will to you, is yours. 

Why leave it ? You can get your Unclaimed Money Back

3 Questions you must ask Yourself about your Personal Finance Net Worth

3 Questions you must ask Yourself about your Personal Finance Net Worth

Sankara Ramnath

Sankara Ramnath

It is estimated that Rs.1,50,000 crores are lying unclaimed in India. 

Some of it could be yours. 


Well, if there is ever an ‘investment’ or a ‘saving’ that you made years ago and forgot, it’s a part of that whopping amount that I just mentioned. 

Or it could be part of the money that your near and dear ones have left behind for you, which you are not aware of. 

All of this money is lying unclaimed with Financial Institutions and Regulators in the form of Dormant Bank Accounts, Unclaimed Dividends, Shares, Mutual funds, Unclaimed Insurance, Unclaimed Provident Funds and Pension

Why are we seeing such a large unclaimed amount of money in India? 

It boils down to 2 simple reasons.

Reason 1

Many people fail to keep a record and track all their investments. 

Most people fail to do so in the hustle bustle of life and in pursuit of their ambitions. 

Some forget their investments as they change jobs or move to multiple cities. They have multiple bank accounts, insurance policies, mutual fund investments made at various points in their life, which are not tracked, and, in the process, forgotten. 

The money may be held up because of KYC not being completed. In yet other cases Investments had been made in physical form, and not digitised. For example, physical shares not being converted into their dematerialised counterparts.  Existence Certificate not submitted to Pension and superannuation funds. All this may lead to a lot of money being stuck with Financial Institutions.

The Company/financial institution might have failed to locate Investors for dividends and other pay-outs as contact numbers and bank details may have changed over the years but the investor forgot to update them with the company.

Reason 2. 

Not Sharing Financial Data with Family members, heirs, nominees.

It often happens that people don’t share even the basic financial details with their family members, due to various reasons, trust being the foremost. Therefore, in case of any untoward incident or death, the family members find it difficult to claim the amounts from the financial institutions. The money, thus, remains with the Financial institution.

Even nominees and legal heirs may fail to stake a claim if they are not aware of such assets.

This is often the case if one dies without making a will and/or not making a proper nomination.

I had recently initiated a survey on Personal Financial Management and the results were not surprising.

More than 40% of the respondents did not have a written record of their personal investments, 87% had not made their will and more than 80% stated that their family members were not aware of all of their investments. 

If you relate to any of the above reasons and claims then take some time out and answer the following questions. As you will get a conclusion to the above brief. write down your answers, you will know what went wrong, or right, and it will make you more aware about your financial health.

  • Is your money lying unclaimed? Some of your Treasure may be hidden. 
  • Have you prepared a Personal Net Worth Statement, which is a statement of what YOU OWN (Your Assets and Investments) and what YOU OWE (Your Loans and Liabilities? 
  • Have you made your Will and/or are your family members, heirs, nominees aware of your finances, so that in case of any untoward incident, your family is not left in the lurch? 

Comment down your conclusions below in the comments sections