White is right: Ullas Kamath of Jyothy Laboratories explains why he wears white
Kamath is of the opinion that when you start wearing white, you give a lot of importance to what you wear.
After watching the movie, the Facebook CEO said the only thing they got right in the movie was his wardrobe. Zuckerberg, in real life, finds it a waste of time in the mornings to pick a different outfit every day.
Sometimes, the image of a CEO transcends beyond his company's image. Steve Jobs, co- founder of Apple, was famous for his black turtle neck t-shirts which was inspired from Sony's official uniform designer Issey Miyake.
For Ullas Kamath, inspiration to wear only white comes from Jyothy Laboratories' chairman and managing director M P Ramachandran. He has been famous for his full white avatar for decades now.
Kamath says Ramachandran's father used to wear only white and he got influenced right from his childhood days. "Other than on his wedding day, I don't think he hasn't worn white for on any other day," says Kamath. That was a major factor for the birth of Ujala, the fabric whitener, because Ramachandran wasn't satisfied with the whitening powders available in the market at that time. Now, Jyothy Laboratories is an FMCG biggie with a Rs 5600 crore market cap.
It was December 1990, when Kamath met Ramachandran for the first time. "He was wearing an absolutely perfect white shirt and a white dhoti," remembers Kamath. He seemed like a "karmayogi" to Kamath.
That's when Kamath was inspired to wear white shirts to work. Kamath says this decision has changed his life in many ways than one. "Historically, white is known for purity and honesty, and the poorest of the poor wear white. It is the symbol of a common man," says Kamath.
Speaking of honesty and transparency, Kamath has special rules not only with what he wears but also how he works, especially in the case of hiring and firing. When Kamath wants to hire someone, he would readily give the candidate an appointment order just after the meeting. "Because you never know when he might get a better offer," says Kamath and he doesn't want to miss out on good talent. On the other hand, when he wants to terminate someone, he would sleep over it. He takes a day in between the decision of firing someone and executing it. He wants to be sure if he is making the right decision.
Kamath is of the opinion that when you start wearing white, you give a lot of importance to what you wear. "A dull white shirt can make you seem unwell, where as a bright white shirt will make your productivity go higher," says Kamath. Just like a uniformed army personnel or a doctor in uniform, Kamath feels that, you feel that you are on duty and that you are in the business of white.
He says when someone wears white, he has to be extra careful about what he wears and where he sits. "You want to appear spotless, because if you get a stain at 10 in the morning your whole day is gone." When asked he clarifies that he doesn't take extra clothes to work. He keeps his car extremely clean and his office very organised and neat without an iota of dirt or dust.
For Kamath, this is also a conversation starter many a times. People, at meetings and on flights, ask him what white is this and what detergent he uses and so on. "It is often a conversation starter."
Kamath says if you wear white for consecutively 30 odd days, you will never wear another colour. "People will look at you with a different outlook." He also realised that white is just not as simple as it seems. As he went on experimenting, he realised that there is bright white, blue white, off white, snow white and so on. "Bright white with a violet tinge is my favourite," says Kamath.
Most of the senior people in management at Ujala wear white to meetings. But Kamath clarifies that it is not a company dress code "even though many follow it." "It is easy to identify me anywhere," says Kamath, "even though at railway stations people confuse me with the ticket examiner (laughs)."
The habit of wearing white, Kamath says, keeps him disciplined. "I enjoy that pursuit of perfection."