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 .