The heady days at IIMB


My two year stint at IIMB will surely rank as one of the great periods of my life.For one thing I enjoyed the academic environment a lot more than at Guindy besides I was a lot more at home with the curicullam.Never was really cut out for hard core engineering.Being in the very first batch ment a fair degree of academic freedom for the faculty to fashion courses in very innovative ways.To name just a few we had sessions conducted by Prof Valecha every Thursday night post dinner at the hostel .Topics covered  included Ann Rynd’s pilosophy , as emerging from her books; yoga discouses from self style guru’s in our batch ,Amarnath Bhatt & T Vishwanathan just to name a few;mob psychology etc … fun dont you think !!!We had the eco courses covered most innovatively by Vinod Vyasulu and Bharat Jhunjunwala , they made ecomomics come alive .And so on .. The faculty got us thinking ; got us to see the ideological biasis in newspapers , magazines etc .The ruling ideology of the day was left oriented which was in keeping with the focus on public sector for the first batch.
IIM was a place I found myself again and self belief in some measure returned.I liked our batchmates .They where a mature lot all with engineering backgrounds and atr least 2 to 5 years of experience.Experience profile was also largely from Public Sector Undertakings such as IPCL,HPCL,IISCO,HMT , ITI etc .This batch was note expected to join the classical MBA recruiting organisations such as the foreign banks, HLL ,Procter & Gamble , Coke,Pepsietc. Our curicullar was likewise not heavily weighted in favour of marketing ,advertising ,quantitative methods , finance etc .We had heavy doses of economics, organisation psychology, etc.All of us where required to take up jobs only in the public sector.Our batch was therefore more down to earth and in certain ways less flamboyant  and less snobish than what one would have expected to see in traditional management schools of that era .This suited me to the tie .I was happy to be in this batch and happy to be associated with an institution which attempted to be socially relevant .
The hostel as I said was a new experience for me and I like the experience very much .Had a great time with a great friends circle.Ramanan ,Arun Balakrishnan, Shekar, Swapan Ray, Radhakrishnan ,Abhishek Mukerjee,Bramachari R Srinivasan ( Chinu), Yeshwanth, TV ,N Srini where some who readily come to mind .. there was a lot of bonhommie within the group and we had good times no matter which group we where in .
There where great outings such as a 3 day stay at Aurobindo Ashram & Auroville at Pondicherry as guests of the Auroville Foundation .It was a great and moving experience .If I rember right the group that went  included Mike Manohar, Surya Rao ,Amarnath Bhat , Ramanan, Chitty from the Library and self.Ramanan and I had a great experince staying together at Prof Vyasulu’s house when we went away for 3 months on an assignment .We had a rip roaring time ,including a dinner where SK Ray cooked what I thought was the best chicken we ever had. I can go on but I guess I’ve made the point . One thing I can forget was I was trust into the role of a compere for a cultural eventfor the first two batches and as per everyones  reconning ( or most at least)did a fairly good job.I did fortify myself with a couple of stiff pgs of brandy before the event !!!!
Several of our batchmates went on to hit the top slots in public sector giants .. Zayed is currently the CMD of HMT International ,Arun Balakrishnan has just been appointed as CMD of HPCL.Some of us went on to take on fairly resonsible positions in the Private sector ,Abhishek Mukerjee became the MD of Compaq in India , Anil Nayar was on the Board of Bharati Group, Shekar was a Sn VP in the Citi Group , I was an Ex Director with Xerox and now Exec VP with HCL . Some like N Vishwanathan & Ramanan went abroad and joint academic institutions, some like Chinu established themselves very well in consultancy. Some like Surya Rao , Mike and Amarnath Bhat & TV  set up organisations /training establishments of their own.Radhakrishnan went on to become Director of NRSA and a renowned Oceanographer and part of the Prime Ministers Committee on the Tsunami disaster. The list goes on …I think in summary we as a batch did reasonably well and fullfilled the basic purpose for which the Institute set out to acheive through our batch .

From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success


I recovered over the years slowly but surely. If I was to nail down the lowest moment it would probably have been in the 4th year or early 5th year in Engg when a batch of 30 or 40 of us attended a briefing and preliminary interview for a position & scholarship for Naval Architecture.Every body but two were given forms to fill in post the preliminary interview and would go on to take the Services Selection Board selection processs.The two who were not even given forms to fill was a guy whose eye sight was way outside the prescribed limit and me … me because the Capt who was doing the initial screening just didnt feel I could make the grade ????
When I got back home that night I sank down on my knees in the privacy of my room and there,in conversation with God, said this must be the lowest point in my life .Things can only go better .And I pledged to work tirelessly to turn the situation around .I asked God to help me in my endeavours and to give me the strength and courage to succeed.
Not being schooled in any of the scriptures I choose as prayers "Lead Kindly Light" and " Abide with me" both where universal prayers and I recited  them each day for the next 20 years or so before I was introduced to more formal Buddhist prayers which I adopted and held firmly too ever since I was introduced to them over 15 years ago.Perhaps it was that early forlorn pledge and deep plea for support that brought for me protection and help all through my life . Years later a good astrologer & family friend who read my horoscope said to me that I had built my life brick by brick and at every stage God was beside me . That really would have been the way I would describe my struggles and growth in good fortune over the years.If I was to attempt to count all my blessings I would go on and on for eons and not finish the list.I have a big debt to repay to the Lord.
The climb up wards was really slow early in my career but every day was a day of learning and progress starting with breaking out on my own at B’lore.I reestablished a feeling of self belief and this got strengthened many many fold during my stint at IIM B’lore.In those years of training a great deal of personal development took place.The IIM training laid the platform for the way I would approach all future assignments and helped me understand professional life from a wholistic perspective.My structured approach to all assignments and strategic perspective were thanks to the training we received at IIM B.

A flash back


It’s time now I guess for a bit of a flash back before I move along to my experiences with Xerox and also importantly my experiences with the Soka Gakkai movement in India.At about the time I left HCL to join Xerox I was around 41 years .Much water had flown under the bridge as some would say .So what where the principle changes that took place deep within me , how did I progress as an individual ?
The most significant period of development was during the two years I spent at IIM B doing a full time PGDM .I had left my secure and stress free job at ITI B’lore to jump into an area of high promise.I had had a wonderful time at ITI ,was a member of the Officer’s cricket team , was well thought off and had a good friends circle ,had a comfortable PG accommadation with the Thomases .. all seemed well .But I had little or no meaningful work to do .. and a boss Sachdeva, the then Chief Engineer , Transmition R&D, who didnt seem to think well of me at all.In my entire career he was just one of two such bosses I had an unacceptable working relationship with .I think he completely miss read me but he did leave me with a great feeling of insecurity .When I had informed him of my decision to leave and take up a course at IIM B’lore , he had no words of advise on the other hand had contrived to get me to accept a site survey assignment for a microwave link in UP before I left for IIMB.I was however better advised by other senior managers ( part of the cricket playing fraternity) that I must put my intention to leave very definitely by a certain date in writing and that I would only accept the assignment on those terms.My seniors advised me that If I left for UP I may never get relieved in time as the Chief Engineer could insist that I remain till a replacement is found. Ipe Thomas also agreed with this assessment.They also felt I was being taken for a ride and did not understand why the Chief Engineer was doing this. My letter did the trick and was relieved without having to go on the site survey to UP.Such was the man he was or so I read him .Never got to hear of him again so I dont know what became of him.I guess it was this experience that lead me to always seek a mentor relationship with my bosses.This I got in very good measure through out my career.
IIMB was among other things the first time I stayed at a Hostel!!!It turned out to be agreat experience .I wish I had done the same during my Guindy Engg College days.My mom refused to let me stay in the Hostel as one of our neighbours had got into bad ways at the hostels ???!!!Not staying in the hostel put an anormous burden on me for travel ( I had a 3 stage journey — by bus from Royapuram to Beach Station ,an electric train from Beach to Saidapet ,then another bus from Saidapet to Guindy .. not to forget the more than one km walk from the bus stand to our class rooms ).This left me with no time at all for sports or any other extracurricular activities.Also I’m sure lost another opportunity for faster self development.My buddies at Guindy where my old school mates from St Mary’s KC Srinivas & Cedric Surrao.They where constant companions including travel as we travelled most of the time together and also study mates .I still remain in touch with both.We had another close buddy Aleem , who unfortunately died in a tragic way in the swiming pool of HAL Hyderabad.Srini went on to dedicate his entire life to the Atomic Energy Commission and currently service at the Atomic Energy Establishment in Kaplakkam while Cedric has migrate to Melbourne , Australia .I did manage to meet him and his wife Cheryl last October.
Even as I said the stay in IIMB was probably one of the best phases of my life , my days in Guindy and the time just before and just after was probably the worst period of my life.This was a time I think I regressed as an individual rather than progressed.This maybe too harsh an assessment , I must certainly have progressed .. but as several astrologers had said I was passing through an extremely bad period .. a 71/2 year phase that normally comes once a life time .Thank God for that!!!This was a period when I accumulated a great deal of self doubt and anxiety on what was to become of me .Dont know the root causes and cant really go back so far in time to meaningfully analyse the situation .I had just lost faith in myself .The rot ( if I was to harshy call it that) started in the later years of school and went on till just after my stint in Guindy.
At school I was a good and promising athelete .But at this stage I was so unsure of myself I completely lost a sense of timing and rythem.From being a promising long jumper I just couldnt get my run up and take off correct .I would just keep missing the take off board stumbling and losing momentum .The same happened at hurdles where my hurdling style used to be used for demonstration to others .Now I just couldnt get it right just couldnt get into the 3 or 5 step rhythem .Then I fell seriously ill first with mumps and then in less than a month a relapse that nearly killed me .I just about survived.More illnesses later in the year made the whole year a wash out from competitive sports and when I got back was too weak and in too high a division to make any impact .The reason I just brush past this phase is that I dont want to get into too much of introspection of a period long past .If I was living my life all over again I would do thinks differently and maybe would have come out of the rut much faster .In this life it took ages 71/2 years plus ???!!!!  
 

The lessons I didnt learn at HRL


HRL went through a very bad phase , product problems post indigenisation ,the run away success of Xerox who built an 80% market share and the increasing impatience of the HCL Senior management of which HRL became an integral part off ,lead to the sales team being over hauled , Mahesh Mahajan moved out to PCL and so did many of the sales team , Seetharaman moved to the Communication Division , PSV was no longer in charge the old management team was more or less disbanded .I as head of service now reported into PK Asija in a different division called Customer Service Division.Wing Commander Verma was made in charge of the Reprographics team of HCL.
The then HCL Senior management team was in many ways different from the HRL team .There was much less cohesion , more power centres and more tendency to shift blame around rather than take collective responsibility.The style and management culture was quite different from HRL and as HRL was seen to be loss making it was swamped by the new org culture prevailing in HCL.The service team under PK Asija  grew from strength to strength as a unified division and had the support of Mr Nadar .However many forces within the sales team took regular potshots at the service team and soon the Customer Service Division was disbanded and all of us returned to our respective divisions .Asija faced a big come down in stature and went through bad times.I returned to the Reprographics team under Wing Commander Verma and soon found myself completely at odds with his way of working .The stick that the Service Team had taken from Mr Nadar only encouraged the likes of Wingco to do as they pleased .Most systems and processes where given the go by and haphazard decisions at the whims and fancy of certain sales managers or Wingco became the order of the day.In the ordered and structured way we had built up the service team this was difficult to reconcile to for me as well as our team mates .
What was I to do?Perhaps the best thing to do would have been to sit down and talk to Wingco and arrive at an agreement on how we would have worked together .Maybe we could have found common ground and I could have gained his confidence over time. Maybe I would have failed because styles and value systems where so different however I didnt give it a serious shot.Maybe I had become too big for my own boots , may be I didnt display the humility I should have , maybe I had been too involved in the setting up of the service infrastructure and didnt see the time for change or wouldnt accept change.I was upset and emotional and even sought an interview with Mr Nadar , he heard me with patience but wanted me to find a working solutionwith Wingco .Inretrospect the right thing to do .He even asked Wingco to take me out for a drink and sort it out .The drink happened but nothing much got sorted out .. maybe I was not open enough to change .
At round this time my old classmate from IIMB ,R Shekar who was the Head of Quality in Xerox rang me up and asked if I wanted a change .This was followed up by meetings with Arvind Agarwal ,the HR Head ,Nanani the Sales Head and eventually Karl Kummer the Germain head of operations .I was enamoured by the process orientation and structured approach of Xerox and  being feed up with the un structured ways at HCL I accepted the Xerox offer to join as Service Head for the Special Business Division , a start up operation for Xerox.
So what where the lessons I didnt learn? These are best capture in the journal entry of a dairy I maintain around that time
In ’88 I should have made the following changesin my style and functioning
–Increase assertiveness and dominance
— Position my self as an industry all rounder with ability to effectively lrad a sales team
— Stay connected with the sales effort and make positive contributions  inall important   forums
—Gain acceptance of sales managers across the country and pave the way for decentraslisation
—Position my self as on par or ahead of sales managers in terms of industry knowledge
—Reach  out more to important stake holdersd of the company
In short the lessons of that time was to gradually move away from a predominant operational focus to a strategic senior management focus.Iwould continue to miss this in Xerox  as I concentrated on settling in,absorbing the new environmentand learning the ways of an MNC

The Highs at HRL


If I look back at the HRL Service stint and ask my self what where the high points , I cant find any really big programmes such as the SMWG Movement or the Service Outsource programme  as wehad in Xerox.it was more a time for building an organisation literally from scratch.Team building training ,setting up the MIS , et al.It was way back in ’86,’87,’88 when PC’s where not so freely available, no laptops or mobile phones you could say it was the stone age.HCL wasnt then going to make massive investments in infrastructure to support a customer first programme or quality management sysytem.Nevertheless we put together a rudimentary systems which ensured service performance data was compiled ,subsequently we had a fairly robost system for AMC tracking and consumables sales.The performance measurement systems helped put in place a system of incentive payments for the service team which was path breaking in those days although very small by current day standards.Mosty of this was made possible by Mita Mehrotra later Mita Das.
Training and development was heavily emphasised at all levels.All engineers where sent to the Hostel attached to our factory at Rampur and went through not just product training  Championed by Gopa but also first level management skills by Hemant Kumar and myself .I attend the last few days of all product training sessions living with the team in the hostel and on the final day as the teams got back to Delhi to leave for their respective stations they came over home for dinner.No wonder I got to know every one at the grass roots level and they got to know me as well.I think it was one of the major causes for the strong team bonding and espirit the corps we built up in the team.
Service policies where hand written ( in true manuscript form )and given to PSV for his views and buy in .I still have that manuscript with his comments as a legacy of the past.It had old fashioned and straid thinking from todays perspective but when one considers it was written over twenty years ago it was a quite a document.We conducted regular team meetings and developed a strong shared vision of what needed to be done and why. I’m not very sure if many service teams of that era had the kiind of outlook ouir team had .Since then most service teams in almost all industries have evolved and many of the principles we set up then are now common very day practices .
When I look back however I cant help asking myself at what cost did all this take place ??Little or no time for the family a hectic travel schedule that saw me travel between 15 to 20 days in a month and an almost continuous high level of stress and tension .I just didnt participate in the early years of my childrens growth and development , which was fully taken care of by Deepa.Work – life balance was something I just didnt bother about.Was it right ?? In retrospect I dont thing it was .I’m sure I could have workrd out a more balance life and not only spent more quality time with the family but also spend time on personal development , hobbies and other social pursuits.To late to cry over spilt milk though.Thanks to Deepa the children have grown up splendidly and we as a family are close knit and caring.

The Team at HRL


An absolute essential for me was to have a strong and effective Tech Support Manager; I was luck to have just the right people both at HRL and Xerox.At HRL it was Gopakumar ,who really flowered under my leadership and grew by leaps and bounds.He had a reputation of being a rebel and gave quite a bit of problems to his team leaders.However he took to my leadership and changed quite dramaticasly when I picked him to be my Tech Support Manager.Initially PSV ( PS Viswanathan ) was aghast when I said I was picking him and told me in was a bad decision and that he would not let him any where near the Corporate floor .However I insisted on my choice and Gopa took ever one by surprise. He played a great role in training and in the Plant CE Operations where he won the respect of the manufacturing team.His contributions to the day to day operations was also very high. There where a lot of simlarities between Gopa and Balaji ,the Tech Support Manager at Xerox.The Xerox quality training & other development training took Balaji way ahead of Gopa in their subsequent careers.Balaji is now a great quality guru and is close to being a Master Black Belt holder in Six Sigma at Xerox.Gopa ran into loads of trouble after I left HRL , ran away from the company for several months and now runs a company of his own providing franchise service support to other companies mainly BPL and also ran a retail outlet for BPL. 
The other senior managers who ran the field operations included  Vinod Kataria ,Senguttuvan, OT Sethumadhavan, Amrik Singh, Uttam Bardhan and PK Roychoudhry.All of them gave me tremendous support and where company loyalists.In the troubled times post my resignation and departure to Xerox all these individuals where hounded out of the company ( really by a bad egg called Wing Commander Verma , of whom I will make mention later).All of them went through some difficulties but picked up alternate assignments .Amrik continues to be associated with HCL as a sales & service outsource partner for Gurgaon , Kataria wenrt on to make a mark for himself in PCL and now with ACER, Senguttuvan formed a third party service operation of his own with a few ex HRL colleagues them found a niche for himself with ACEL ICIM ,  and Uttam is a service partner for IBM Global Service. Roychoudhry went from job to job and now is a partner with a Xerox Sales Promotion Agent.I havent been in touch with OTS and dont know what became of him.All these loyal soldiers of the company had been very badly treated for no fault of theirs.Wing Co Verma who was instumental in removing them also met with a similar fate when he was asked to leave in the most embarrasing circumstances .I understand in his tenure as head of the Office Automation Division he almost ruined the business and if rumours are right underhand dealings where rampant.There was learning value for me here which I missed as I had gone over to Xerox.It was much later that the lessons I should have learnt then came home to me.No narative would be complete with out an assement of soughts of that period which I will do but first a quick run through of the high point of my first stint in HCL.
Through out my stay in HRL I was fortunate to have wonderfully effecient secretaries.In those days when all communication was through postal service or the fixed line phones good secretaries where a must , I had Edna D’Mello in Mumbai ,Sabrina Smith in B’lore and then Gurpreet ( Dolly) Kaur .Of these Edna D’Mello was extremely dedicated to her work and made up for the lack of skills by sheer application .Sabrina and Gurpreet where effecient to the core . It would be tough to pick who would make the better secretary , each in her own way was outstanding .Today when I’m back in HCL I dont have a secretary .Times have changed and with mobile phones & laptops and connectivity there is little need for a secretary other than for the most routine of admin functions.

Making it big


It was at HRL as the Country Head of the Service Team that I first entered the big league .This was a team that grew to be greater than 250 strong and a job that required human relations skills , process orientation ,and all the related skills taught to us at the Management school.I did get to like the role and soon got identified as a Service Profile and not a sales profile.Be that as it may I liked the role , found it very challenging and maybe was better cut out to be a service person than a sales person .This is some thing that has alway been at the back of my mind , perhaps I wanted to be in the sales fraternity .I always said to my self that should the opportunity to lead a sales team come my way I would not be found wanting.However I was quiet and shy and did not have the usual charecteristics of salesmen and people could be forgiven if they didnt want to assign me the role of a sales head.
What realy where the factors that lead to my success in his role.Firstly I think I was able to see the bigger picture and could fashion the service vision based on the requirements of the senior management team.Secondly I was able to bring a holistic approach to developing the policies and programmes for the service team some thing my B school had trained me to do.It was unusual for a person of my background to be in service and I was  surely way above most others in terms of strategic thinking and alligning the team to company goals. I guess as a leader I was head and shoulders above the others in the service team and hence quickly got to a position of unquestioned leadership within the team.I maynot have found the going so easy in terms of aquiring leadership in a sales and marketing fraternity.Not rotating and getting into a sales & marketing position earlier enough in my career would surely have stunted my growth as a professional.
I was always a people orinted manager and  this helped me win the support of the service team including the senior team members .I was a good role model for them and and always sought ways of getting the best out of them.Having the full confidence of the MD and other senior managers helped get me the space to work freely.I loved the freedom I got and all my life this was a big requirement for me in any assignment.
One principle I always adhered to in my career was to allign personal goals to that of the company and to steer the teams goals in line with the broader company goals.This is something I always advise any manager to do .All my earlier professional days where tied down to the office and I got little or no time for the family.My wife Deepa gave me al the emotional support I needed and took ful responsibility for the family leaving me free to imerse my self in work.Was this good or bad ?? I can say but i’ve always found that there is really a thin line between what is good and not so good .How one conducts one self and gets the best out of any situation is the most important thing in life.I was really fortunate to have such an understanding and wonderful person as my wife.

The Launch Pad


A sudden move in Jan ’85,to Delhi as Country Head of Service for HRL was the launch pad for my journey into Senior Leadership positions.It is here that I grew to lead a team of over 200 spread all across the country . More importantly I moved into the inner circle of HRL and became a key critical resource and a major influencer of decision making .I was seen as a good, effective and successful senior manager in HRL. 
There where many people who helped me .PS Viswanathan ,the MD of HRL created an environment where I could put my thoughts and ideas into actions and gave me both the space and the confidence to play my part .The management team comprising of CR Sitaraman , Hemant Kumar , Mahesh Mahajan, M Raghunandan among others where perhaps the nicest team I have had the good fortune to work with .This was a great team of likeminded professionals who worked together in a synergestic way to achieve the goals of the company.I cannot emphasize how important it was to me that all these individuals gave me the environment and support to grow and establish myself as a leader.
 

The Steppes of Success


Successes , position ,perks , recognition et al would follow in a long hard driving career .When I look back there is much to feel proud about and much to be pleased & happy about.There are many people who have been instrumental in helping me grow and  they have been my mentors & shoten jengin in my career.It will be my endeavour to honour and offer thanks to all such individuals in this narative.There have  also been several opportunities , some fortunate and some by design ,to grow and develope which I will also cover but  may not be able to do full justice to each .Besides I dont intend this be a chronical of events .I will however try to place events & experiences in the perspective of  my growth and develpoment and give for each an assessment and analysis. 
The personal side of life and my spiritual journey have intertwined , or should I say run parallel with my professional life at every stage . I will attempt in a humble way to cover developments on all fronts be it professional ,personal or spiritual.I do know that my professional growth was driven in many ways by spiritual & personal development. 
Significant steppes or growth planks for me  have been my family & formative years , mentors and mentorship through my career, leadership & change agent opportunities,my wife and family and  the Soka Gakkai  experience .I will attempt to recount and analysis each of these steppes as I go along or as I stumble along .

More from the good ole diary


Here are some unedited snatches ;
Febuary 14th ,1973
On the day before I feft home for B’lore I saw the girl who had occupied most of my thoughts all these years.In ’57 when she left with out a word , she left in me a huge void.She did return years later but the norms of our family and my own acute shyness kept me away from her .This time I left without a word but I wont be leaving any voids behind.I take them all with me .So as Dr Christian Barnard said ,’ So you grow older and life was measured not by birthdays or successive new years .It was a string of good byes .It was a race from the garden of childhood , a leap towards the unknow.’
Feb 28th ,1973
Of my own choosing I’ve decided to be a loner .Basically I am not a loner and the day cant be far off when I bloom out gregariously .Slowly but surely I must build up my confidence , curb my hype sensitivity and learn to achieve just that balance of the extrovert and the introvert which is so fetching in the successful.
March 2nd,1973
I am lonely yet not gloomy.At home I was lonely too and time and again plunged into gloom.Who knows if gloom is round the corner?I always thought my blues where to a large extent because of my lonliness but now I’m begining to realise it was all due to my disappointment in myself.
March 27th 1973
I dream of greatness so much , yet I am in no way outstanding.I am just ordinary and I suppose not even my nearest friends would ever in the slightest measure see in me the greatness I wish to attain.I only wish I could bring forward the tenacity of purpose and industry needed to achieve any measure of success.
April21st,1973
At a movie ,Secret of Santa Vittoria, I saw a girl sitting a few rows ahead of me .I found myself getting very attracted to her and I just could not keep myself from loking at her .Once she did turn around and saw me but after that didnt take much notice of me.It really is a very long time since I felt the warm glow around me on thinking affectionately about a girl .I wanted to see her again when the movie was over but missed her in the crowd.I walked away with the disconcerting thought that I would never see her again.Yet there was around me that happy feeling & tenderness that only a girl can evoke in a man.Truely it must be marvelous to be really in love.