He earlier served as the Additional Chief Secretary to Government of Tamil Nadu before his retirement on 30th September, 2015. His academic qualifications are B. Com. MBA and B.L.
He has also done Master of Social Science in Development Administration from the University of Birmingham (U.K.) in 1994. He was awarded Ph.D. in Business Administration for his thesis on Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) in 2000 by Madurai Kamaraj University. He has also done his M.A. (History) from the Madurai Kamaraj University in 2007.
Before joining Government of Tamil Nadu, he started as a Probationary Officer in Bank of Baroda and then in State Bank of India. He is an All India Rank Holder in Public Finance and Fiscal Policy in CAIIB (1980). He served for four years in State Bank of India in various capacities such as Field Officer in charge of financing of agriculture and Small Industries, both then pioneering activities.
He had the unique honour of conducting the 151st Anniversary Celebrations of Chennai Egmore Museum as the Commissioner of Museum and Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu and the function was presided by the then President of India Thiru. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and he generously praised his work in his speech.
Dr. R. Kannan was Secretary of several sensitive departments in the Government including Agriculture, Higher Education, Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments. He has turned around Public Sector Units and Cooperatives like Incoserve (Tea Producers), TANSI (multi product producer), etc., within a year of assuming charge as the CEO. He was Commissioner of Agriculture handling the drought of the century in 2002-2004 and also Registrar of Cooperative Societies. He has authored more than 32 books, prepared 8 brochures, produced 6 videos and written several articles in several national and international journals on Agriculture, Management, Cooperation, Participatory Rural Appraisal, History, Indology, Astrology – Astronomy, Archaeology and Museology etc.