Enter a force multiplier

On 26 May, 1978 I married Deepa. A more wonderful wife no one could ever ask for.The Ramachandran’s are a terrific family.My father in law , now sadly no more, was one of the finest gentlemen you would ever come across. Deepa was supremely understanding and accommodating all through our married life and was a great force multiplier for me in the pursuit of my career.She took charge of running the house besides taking care of the needs of all of us — me and the kids.She hardly ever thought of herself or her needs. I was a poor father and  home maker.Work-life balance was something I never thought  about or considered all through my career. I always carried my work related tensions back home and often just wanted to be by myself or watch TV or listen to music or what not .. I never learnt to relax by being with the kids and playing or doing things with them.If I lead my life again,this is something I would definitely correct.
Marriage changed many things for me.For one I was no longer plagued by a sense of loneliness.Our early days at Hyderabad where Deepa’s sister,Asha,Aunt & Uncle and their kids were a great source of company. Deepa ,therefore ,had the support of near relatives  ,which helped her settle into her new role.We also had great company from Cheenu & Pushpa who lived across the road.They were also a newly wed couple and we had a lot in common.Life was so comfortable that when I got requests to shift to Delhi for a lucrative assignment I refused it,much to the consternation of the Chairman.
When we did shift to Delhi it was when our first child was expected.We moved into Deepa’s parents house and there perhaps lies the reason for my poor engagement as a father or family man.Deepa had more than enough support from her parents and I was not forced into the supporting role or mandatory duties of taking care of our baby.
We have two wonderful children,Seema & Shirish who grew up to be wonderful adults and thankfully with out any problems of health or maladjustment.Both are leading wonderful lives of their own.Ours is a model and happy family for which I remain ever indebted to the Almighty.

Quiet consolidation

Post IIMB was a consolidation phase in ETTDC(Electronics Trade&Technology Development Corp.)a public sector company that wanted to be different and recruited several people from IIMC,&B and a good mix of young talent and experience.The Chairman RM Nair wanted to make this a very different PSU. For as long as Prof MGK Menon was Secretary of The Department of Electronics and RM Nair was the Chairman,ETTDC was an independent corporation,well intentioned and trying to achieve break throughs for the country in the field of electronics. In the period post Prof Menon,the influence (or interference) of the Department on the Corporation grew rapidly and post RM Nair the company slid down hill until it finally wound up as a sick corporation ??!!
This should have been a time for consolidation and a great launch pad for bigger things to come. Quiet consolidation it was but the 8 years I spent here wasn’t the best of launch pads professionally. I grew as an individual but in retrospect this was time lost.
On arrival I had a few shocks awaiting me as I was assigned to the material management function, with the prime responsibility of clearing goods from Customs ???!!! It was almost as if all the good achieved at IIMB was reduced to nothing.For some time I harboured thoughts of quitting quickly but then I hung on and decided to take it as it comes for a while.My immediate boss  was TM Subramanian, a self made man who started off as an office boy,ran away from home,grew up in a hard knocks school, did most of his education all the way up to MA and Law through evening classes & distance learning, and built a career for himself. He was a trusted right hand man for RM Nair and a source of advise on almost all aspects of the business.Being well looked upon by him meant you could go far in ETTDC. He saw some good in me, must have been honesty , sincerity, the desire to do well and the willingness to listen;and at the first opportunity  recommended me for a position in Hyderabad under KNR Shastry, another old timer and close confident of RM Nair.As I was well accepted by these gentlemen I was soon in the inner circle of RM Nair.
I was assigned the role of Executive Assistant to the Chairman and designated Assistant Manager (Planning).This was a job people told me would mean I could never leave ETTDC as I wouldn’t be touched with a barge pole by any other right thinking organisation.As it turned out I was one of the first to leave and break out into a much more dynamic and successful organisations and make a mark for myself.What ever may have been the fears of others this stint turned out to be a remarkable learning phase comparable in good measure to the learning in IIMB.It was learning in the arena of real life where I understOOd how organisations really worked and the thought process and compulsions that went into decision making behind the scene.I was present all the time with the Chairman at meetings of senior managers and also when his inner circle discussed and decided on the right course of action to take under various circumstances.I had very little to do, just to listen and learn and soak it all in.
With the departure of Prof MGK Menon,political foes attacked RM Nair for his unbending and uncompromising attitude and he,true to himself, battled it out all the way to court until he was finally dismissed from service. So too TM Subramanian who was his close adviser.I was under a cloud but escaped the axe only because I was considered an innocent bystander who did not in any way cause harm to any one.
So what where the positives if any that I picked up from ETTDC??The learning phase as an Ex Assistant to the Chairman would certainly stand out.There were also several assignments and opportunities to perform that came my way and as I worked with sincerity and the desire to succeed ,I performed to the satisfaction of my immediate managers. A event that I cherished was successfully managing the Medical Electronics Seminar under the Asian Electronics Union banner.This seminar had all the leading lights from this field in India including several eminent doctors,and a large participation from other Asian countries particularly Japan.The entire event was a great success and even the Japanese had a word of praise for the efficient way in which the event and arrangements had been managed. The small team headed by me included inexperienced resources such as RM Singhal and Gayatri,a young lady from the library. Humble teams often come up with remarkable results.
Another well conducted assignment was a Consultancy Project jointly worked on by HN Agarwal and myself in Kenya for Studying the Electronics Industry in that country and recommending strategic actions to develope and grow that industry.The learning value and experience was immense. The terrific sight seeking and wild like safaris was an added bonus. We where in Kenya and neighbouring countries for a period of one month and had ample opportunity to experience the country besides besides doing our best to understand the state of development of the electronics industry and what opportunities lay ahead for them.
On the fun side of the assignment,we had a great experience at the Kilimanjaro Game sanctuary considered one of the best in the world.It was at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro,where you see the rare sight of snow clad peaks in a tropical land. The game sanctuary and was an extension of the Serengeti plains across the border with Tanzania.We saw the most amazing sights including a pride of lions , a lioness in search for her cubs and a pair of lions hunting for prey. We saw large herds of elephants, the usual wilde beasts and zebras and several stately giraffes, the tallest I have ever seen.It was an un-forgetable experience.We learnt quite a bit about Kenya,Nairobi in particular,and I still cherish a book I bought about the Masai’s.In addition to Kenya we travelled to Salisbury in Rhodesia, now Harare in Zimbabwe.This was one of the most beautiful cities I visited and at a historic time as the white regime was just on the verge of relinquishing power to the coloured people who were the original inhabitants.My passport,travel documents,all my travellers cheques were stolen from the hotel I stayed in ??!!!! The white owners helped me recover most of it baring the travellers cheques  with the help of private detectives.(They had no faith in the police,now black who were expected to side with the gang that was running a stolen travellers cheque racket at the hotel).I got the cheques re-issued by American Express and was none the worse for the experience finally.We made a brief visit to Lagos and returned via Khartoum.Khartoum was also an unforgettable experience straight out of the Arabian Nights. I have vivid memories of narrow lanes and the smell of burning essence and beautiful ladies with veiled faces and tall stately men.It was what I imagined was the setting of the Arabian Nights.We had a terrible time getting back as our flight was cancelled and we had to wait endlessly at the airport. Some of that time was outside the airport with a sand storm brewing,and nothing to eat or drink other than a bottle of wine we picked up from the airport. We got back in reasonable shape,tired but full of outstanding memories.
As sheer experience I had the opportunity to serve as the Presiding Officer in two cases involving active union members.At that time there was a major battle on between the employees union sponsored by some of the Directors of the company against RM Nair and the Management.These cases were precursors to disciplinary action against these office bearers of the union and were extremely sensitive and conducted in the most legalistic way.Both sides,the Union and the Management consulted legal advisers at every step. The experience I received can well be imagined.Both the cases dragged on due to legal wrangling and finally got shelved as punitive actions were being taken against RM Nair and he was stripped of his powers as Chairman of the Board of Directors.The out come of any serious disciplinary action against these office bearers of the union would have led to industrial unrest.
 An achievement I am proud off was rebuilding the stock and sale programme of imported test & measuring instruments after RM Nair’s departure. It was acknowledged as a great success and allowed me to leave ETTDC on a high.This business line that was languishing and when I took charge of it was a triving business when I left ETTDC. Much credit for this must be given to a very good friend and then Manager Mylar Rao. In the dark days just post RM Nair’s departure I had no work to do and also had had my seat taken away and hence had neither table nor chair to work from.I was luck to be assigned to Mylar, maybe he asked for me of the new powers that be, and he in turn gave me a free hand and a supporting arm.I buried my self in the new assignment unmindful of any developments taking place around me. We had a gold mine in our hands as we had licences to stock and sell imported electronics instruments which could be sold to R&D establishments, educational institutions, and qualifying Export houses. This was an era of licencing were imports where severely restricted.It was a gold mine. When I took over,the licence was about to expire and we had stocks lying in the warehouse for months together.Due to sheer neglect orders on hand lay unfulfilled and advance cheques lay un-banked.I took the mess of papers, sorted and segregated them, quickly had the cheques banked and with the help of any free secretary got letters typed to the customers.The secretary to the Finance Director, R Naryanan helped a great deal but so did many other secretaries across the company.Many just said they did not feel like saying no to me and helped as much as they could. Soon the mess was cleared and goods dispatched.We got suppliers to give us extended warranties for time lost in the warehouse and we were back on the rails. With Mylar’s help we got the licence extended and commenced fresh rounds of importing.In those days we used the most primitive of tools such as Bradma addressing machines and cyclostyling machines to prepare letters to potential customers informing them of the fresh arrivals. Our efforts paid off and we began to sell all stocks before their arrival in our warehouses. Simple advertisements in the newspapers announcing the WORLD’S BEST Electronics Equipment available against rupee payment increased the sales funnel and soon we were confident of any sales targets given the right value of licences.I was back on a high and then determined to leave ETTDC and join a hard driving sales & marketing company in the Private sector.With struggle,based on cold determination, I was selected by HCL in the reprographics arm of the company called HRL and a new and rewarding phase of my career began.I left ETTDC as I said on a high .

The heady days at IIMB

My two year stint at IIMB will 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 more at home with the curicullam. I never was cut out for hard core engineering.Being in the very first batch meant academic freedom for the faculty to fashion courses in very innovative ways.For instance we had sessions conducted by Prof Valecha every Thursday night post dinner at the hostel. Topics covered  included Ann Rynd’s philosophy,based on her books; yoga discourses from the guru’s in our batch,Amarnath Bhatt & T Vishwanathan among others;mob psychology … fun don’t you think !!!We had the economics courses covered most innovatively by Vinod Vyasulu and Bharat Jhunjunwala,they made economics come alive. And so on .. The faculty got us thinking;got us to see the ideological biases in newspapers,magazines and books.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 batch mates .They were a mature lot all with engineering backgrounds and at least 2 to 5 years of experience.The experience profile was also largely from Public Sector Undertakings such as IPCL,HPCL,IISCO,HMT,ITI etc.This batch was not expected to join the classical MBA recruiting organisations such as the foreign banks, HLL ,Procter & Gamble , Coke and Pepsi.Our curriculum was likewise not heavily weighted in favour of marketing,advertising,quantitative methods and finance. We had heavy doses of economics, organisation psychology, Industrial Engineering besides courses in marketing, finance and quantitative methods. The curriculum was weighted in favour of preparing us for socially conscious jobs in the public sector.Our batch was therefore more down to earth and in certain ways less flamboyant and less snobbish than what one would have expected to see in traditional management schools of that era. This suited me.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 liked the experience very much. I 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 are some who readily come to mind. There was a lot of bonhomie within the group and we had good times no matter which group we were in.
There were 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 remember the group that went included Mike Manohar, Surya Rao ,Amarnath Bhat,Ramanan, Chitty from the Library and self. Ramanan and I had a great experience staying together at Prof Vyasulu’s house when we went away for 3 months on an assignment. We had a rip roaring time. On one occasion SK Ray cooked what I thought was the best chicken we ever had for dinner. I can go on but I’ve made the point.
An event I can’t forget was when I was thrust into the role of a compere for a cultural evening. It was event that brought together the first two batches. To my own surprise and possibly several others I did a fairly good job.I fortify myself with a couple of stiff pegs of brandy before the event and this worked !!!!
Several of our batch mates 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 responsible positions in the Private sector,Abhishek Mukerjee was the MD of Compaq in India, Anil Nayar was on the Board of the 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 joined 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 was the Director of NRSA and a renowned Oceanographer and part of the Prime Ministers Committee on the Tsunami disaster. Later he was appointed the Chairman of ISRO. He was the most accomplished in the batch. The list goes on …We as a batch did reasonably well and fulfilled the basic purpose for which the Institute set out to achieve.

From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success

I recovered over the years slowly but surely. My lowest moment was 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.All but two were given forms to fill in post the preliminary interview and would take the Services Selection Board selection process. 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 didn’t 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.
I choose as prayers “Lead Kindly Light” and ” Abide with me” and I recited these universal prayers each day for the next 20 years or so. Later I was introduced to Buddhist prayers fifteen years ago which I adopted and continue to practice.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 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 detailing 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 41 years, in 1991.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, in 1974-76.I had left my secure and stress free job at ITI B’lore to jump into an area of high promise.I had a wonderful time at ITI; I was a member of the Officer’s cricket team,was well thought off and had a good circle of friends. I had a comfortable PG accommodation with the Thomases .. all seemed well.But I had no meaningful work to do .. and a boss Sachdeva,the then Chief Engineer,Transmition R&D, who didn’t think well of me at all.In my entire career he was just one of two bosses I had an unacceptable working relationship with.I think he completely miss read me and left me with a great feeling of insecurity .When I 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 tried to get me to accept a site survey assignment for a microwave link in UP before I left for IIMB. I was 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.All 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 I was relieved without having to go on the site survey to UP.Such was the man he was that he would will fully try to damage the career of one so young. I never got to hear of him again so I don’t know what became of him.It was this experience that led me to always seek a mentor relationship with my bosses.This I as fortunate to receive through out my career.
IIMB was the first time I stayed at a Hostel!!!It turned out to be a great 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 a neighbour had got into bad ways at the hostel ???!!!Not staying in the hostel put an enormous 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 I lost an opportunity for faster self development.My buddies at Guindy were my old school mates from St Mary’s, KC Srinivas & Cedric Surrao. They were constant companions 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 swimming pool at HAL Hyderabad. Srini dedicated his entire life to the Atomic Energy Commission and currently works at the Atomic Energy Establishment in Kalpakkam while Cedric has migrate to Melbourne,Australia.I met him and his wife Sheryl last October.
While my tenure in IIMB was one of the best phases of my life, my days in Guindy and the time just before and just after was a forgettable period of my life.This was a time I regressed as an individual rather than progress.This is too harsh an assessment ,I certainly progressed .. but as several astrologers 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!!! It was a period when I accumulated a great deal of self doubt and anxiety on what was to become of me. I lost confidence in myself .The rot( if I was to harshly 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 athlete. But I grew unsure of myself and completely lost a sense of timing and rhythm. From being a promising long jumper I just couldn’t get my run up and take off correct.I just kept missing the take off board stumbling and losing momentum.The same happened at hurdles were I was made to demonstrate hurdling style to others. Now I just couldn’t get it right just couldn’t get into the 3 or 5 step rhythm .I fell seriously ill with mumps and in less than a month a relapse that nearly killed me.I survived.More illnesses later in the year made the whole year a wash out from competitive sports and when I got back to the sports field I was too weak and in a higher division and my performance dropped. The reason I just brush past this phase is that I don’t 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 indiginisation,the run away success of Xerox who built an 80% market share and the increasing impatience of the HCL Senior management of which HRL was an integral part,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, and PSV was no longer in charge. The old management team was disbanded.I,as head of Reprographics customer service 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 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 were given the go by and haphazard decisions at the whims and fancy of certain sales managers or Wingco became the order of the day.From the systematic and structured way we had built the service team this was difficult to accept for me as well as our team mates .
What was I to do?Perhaps the best thing would have been to sit down and talk to Wingco and arrive at an agreement on how we could work 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 were so different however I didn’t give it a serious shot. I came to the conclusion that that was no possibility for an understanding on how we could work together. 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 solution with Wingco. He even asked Wingco to take me out for a drink and sort it out. The drink happened but nothing much got sorted out; the differences in approach was too wide to reconcile.
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 German 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 were the lessons I didn’t 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 changes in my style and functioning
–Increase assertiveness and dominance
— Position my self as an industry all rounder with ability to effectively lead a sales team
— Stay connected with the sales effort and make positive contributions  in all important forums
—Gain acceptance of sales managers across the country and pave the way for decentralisation
—Position my self as ahead of sales managers in terms of industry knowledge
—Reach  out more to important stake holders 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.I didn’t make this change in Xerox  as I concentrated on settling in,absorbing the new environment and learning the ways of an MNC. The organisation culture in Xerox was completely different from HCL and it took me some time to adjust to it. I liked the environment and over time established myself in the new company.

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 dramatically 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 everyone 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 similarities 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 rans 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 were company loyalists.In the troubled times post my resignation and departure to Xerox all these individuals were 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 went on to make a mark for himself in PCL and is 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 haven’t been in touch with OTS and don’t 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 instrumental in removing them also met with a similar fate when he was asked to leave in the most embarrassing 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 opportunity to learn for me here which I missed as I left to join Xerox.It was much later that the lessons I should have learnt came home to me. No narrative would be complete with out an assessment of that period.
Through out my stay in HRL, I was fortunate to have wonderfully efficient 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 were efficient 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 don’t have a secretary.The 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 liked the role and soon got seen as a customer service professional rather than a sales professional. Be that as it may I liked the role,found it very challenging and maybe was better cut out to be a customer service person than a sales person.This has always 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 characteristics of salesmen and people could be forgiven if they didn’t consider me for the role of a sales head.
What really where the factors that lead to my success in his role? Firstly I think I was able to see the bigger picture and fashion the service vision based on the requirements of the senior management team.Secondly I brought a holistic approach to developing the policies and programmes for the service team which my B school had trained me to do.It was unusual for a person of my background to be in customer service and I was  surely way above most others in terms of strategic thinking and the ability to align 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 may not have found the going so easy in terms of leadership in a sales and marketing fraternity.Not rotating and getting into sales & marketing positions earlier enough in my career may have stunted my growth as a professional.
I was always a people oriented manager and  this helped me win the support of the customer service team including the senior team members.I was a good role model for them and always tried to get 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 through my career this was a big requirement for me in any assignment.
One principle I always adhered to in my career was to align 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 managers to do. In my professional days I was tied down to the office and I got little time for the family.My wife Deepa gave me all the emotional support I needed and took full responsibility for the family leaving me free to immerse my self in work.Was this good or bad ?? I can’t 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,CR Ramesh among others was perhaps the finest team I had the good fortune to work with.This was a great team of like minded professionals who worked together in a synergistic way to achieve the goals of the company.I cannot emphasise how important it was to me that all these individuals gave me the environment and support to grow and establish myself as a leader.
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