What killed Ranjan Das and Lessons for Corporate India
A month ago, many of us heard about the sad demise of Ranjan Das from
Bandra, Mumbai. Ranjan, just 42 years of age, was the CEO of SAP-Indian
Subcontinent, the youngest CEO of an MNC in India. He was very active in
sports, was a fitness freak and a marathon runner. It was common to see him
run on Bandra's Carter Road. Just after Diwali, on 21st Oct, he returned
home from his gym after a workout, collapsed with a massive heart attack
and died. He is survived by his wife and two very young kids.
It was certainly a wake-up call for corporate India. However, it was even
more disastrous for runners amongst us. Since Ranjan was an avid marathoner
(in Feb 09, he ran Chennai Marathon at the same time some of us were
running Pondicherry Marathon 180 km away), the question came as to why an
exceptionally active, athletic person succumb to heart attack at 42 years
Was it the stress?
A couple of you called me asking about the reasons. While Ranjan had
mentioned that he faced a lot of stress, that is a common element in most
of our lives. We used to think that by being fit, one can conquer the bad
. So I doubted if the cause was stress.
The Real Reason
However, everyone missed out a small line in the reports that Ranjan used
to make do with 4-5 hours of sleep. This is an earlier interview of Ranjan
on NDTV in the program 'Boss' Day Out':
http://connect. in.com/ranjan- das/play- video-boss- day-out-ranjan- das-of-sap- india-229111- 807ecfcf1ad96603 6c289b3ba6c376f2 530d7484. html
Here he himself admits that he would love to get more sleep (and that he
was not proud of his ability to manage without sleep, contrary to what
Last week, I was working with a well-known cardiologist on the subject of
‘Heart Disease caused by ’. While I cannot share the video nor
the slides because of confidentiality reasons, I have distilled the key
points below in the hope it will save some of our lives.
· Short sleep duration (<5 class="yshortcuts" id="lw_1258625012_6">Interleukin- 6 (IL-6), Tumour Necrosis Factor-Alpha (TNF-alpha)
and (cRP). They increase risks of many medical
conditions, including cancer, arthritis and heart disease. Paper published
· Sleeping for <=5 hours per night leads to 39% increase in heart
disease. Sleeping for <=6 hours per night leads to 18% increase in heart disease. Paper published in 2006. Ideal Sleep For lack of space, I cannot explain here the ideal sleep architecture. But in brief, sleep is composed of two stages: REM ( ) and
non-REM. The former helps in mental consolidation while the latter helps in
physical repair and rebuilding. During the night, you alternate between REM
and non-REM stages 4-5 times.
The earlier part of sleep is mostly non-REM. During that period, your
pituitary gland releases growth hormones that repair your body. The latter
part of sleep is more and more REM type.
For you to be mentally alert during the day, the latter part of sleep is
more important. No wonder when you wake up with an alarm clock after 5-6
hours of sleep, you are mentally irritable throughout the day (lack of REM
sleep). And if you have slept for less than 5 hours, your body is in a
complete physical mess (lack of non-REM sleep), you are tired throughout
the day, moving like a zombie and your immunity is way down (I’ve been
there, done that L)
Finally, as long-distance runners, you need an hour of extra sleep to
repair the running related damage.
If you want to know if you are getting adequate sleep, take Epworth
Sleepiness Test below.
Interpretation: Score of 0-9 is considered normal while 10 and above
abnormal. Many a times, I have clocked 21 out the maximum possible 24, the
only saving grace being the last situation, since I don’t like to drive
(maybe, I should ask my driver to answer that line J)
Barring stress control, Ranjan Das did everything right: eating proper
food, exercising (marathoning! ), maintaining proper weight. But he missed
getting proper and adequate sleep, minimum 7 hours. In my opinion, that
If you are not getting enough sleep (7 hours), you are playing with fire,
even if you have low stress.
I always took pride in my ability to work 50 hours at a stretch whenever
the situation warranted. But I was so spooked after seeing the scientific
evidence last week that since Saturday night, I ensure I do not even set
the alarm clock under 7 hours. Now, that is a nice excuse to get some more
Unfortunately, Ranjan Das is not alone when it comes to missing sleep. Many
of us are doing exactly the same, perhaps out of ignorance. Please forward
this mail to as many of your colleagues as possible, especially those who
might be short-changing their sleep. If we can save even one young life
because of this email, I would be the happiest person on earth.
ps: Incidentally, just as human beings need 7 hours of sleep, you should
know that cats need 15 hours of sleep and horses need 3 hours of it. So are
you planning to be a cool cat or a dumb horse?
............S S V