Monday, July 05, 2010

Face of the Company

What is the first image that comes to your mind when you hear the name BSNL?
Is it the image of a dimpled Preity Zinta flashing her 1000W smile and swearing by BSNL, or that of a gorgeous Deepika Padukone doing her acrobatics or that of sharp shooter Abhinav Bindra competing against the fastest BSNL broadband plans?

The only one image which comes to my mind on hearing the name BSNL is that of a callous paan-chewing government servant who watches the regional news channel which is running at full volume in a paan-stewen 20th century office, while there is a queue of customers lined up at his desk.

The problem with companies which have large customer facing departments is that irrespective of the brand ambassadors they appoint to upsell their brand; it is the executive at first point of interaction with the customer, which leaves a lasting impression about the brand.
Impressions are made and broken at this first point of contact.

Across Industry sectors such as Banking, Telecom, Retail, Hospitality etc wherein their is very little to differentiate in terms of offerings; the executives at the first point of contact do act as the Differentiators.

Many Indian PSU banks, facing competition from home grown private sector banks have gone in for an image overhaul by increasing their ad spends, and positioning themselves as being ready to meet the customer demands by providing the latest technology interfaces, pan India core banking services but have actually forgotten to invest in training their first line of interface.

I was very happy to read recently of Japans SMBC investments in Kotak Mahindra Bank; as I have fond memories of SMBC bank.

During my brief stay in Japan, I was required to get my Travellers Cheque (TC) en-cashed; and SMBC bank being the closest to my workplace, I had first visited SMBC.

On one such occasion, I had reached the bank sometime before the scheduled opening time, and was waiting outside in the lobby. At precisely 5 minutes before the designated time, the shutter of the Bank opened, and the entire bank staff (receptionist + admin staff + cashiers + managers + everybody...) was there in their uniforms wishing the waiting customers a Very Good Morning.
Once within the bank premises, there was a lady who assisted in the filling up of the correct forms, and the lady at the cash counter, while checking out my TCs remarked "Sorry to keep you waiting while I get the equivalent currency".
The entire transaction was completed within a matter of 10 minutes.

Compare this with my experience with an Indian PSU bank, which has recently gone for a brand overhaul by changing its logo, and postions itself as Good People to Bank With.

I had reached the bank just before the scheduled opening time, hoping to be one of the fist customers, and getting done with my task the earliest.
The bank shutters opened 15 minutes past the scheduled opening time; when I handed over the Demand Draft (DD) requisition form, the lady executive, while sipping away her morning cuppa, with a stern look on her face said "Do ghante baad aao..." ("Come after 2 hours")

This actually got me wondering, and I started pondering on the lines of "Jo Dikhta Hai Woh Hota Nahin; Jo Hota Hai Woh Dikhta Nahin" (What is seen, is not always the truth; and What is the truth, is not always seen!)

I have reached a conclusion that it really does not make sense for companies which operate in customer facing sectors to have large advertising budgets; rather, they could invest the same amounts on educating the customer facing executives; as these would ultimately be the "Faces of the Company".


Monday, March 29, 2010


This was about the time I was three months into my first project at the workplace. I had found the work to be really boring; involving a lot of documentation, and very little fight from the technical perspective.

Skipping a couple of levels of hierarchy, I had barged into the cabin of the Vice President of the Business Unit I was part of, and had demanded an immediate release from the project, and the reason I had cited was "There is not much to learn in the current project...".

The VP had looked to me with a gentle smile, and had remarked calmly,
"This is the issue with many of the young graduates who join any firm. You all are young, ambitious, have fire in your bellies, and are out there to change the face of the world.
You get so involved with your work, that you forget that work is only one aspect of your life. Always remember to keep the two things - EARNing and LEARNing as separate.

You come here not to LEARN, but to EARN. You come here to do only a job. Do not necessarily depend on the company to provide you with any LEARNING. Learning is a very private aspect. Become a student of Life; learn from all things around you. Do not restrict your learnings to any one single place.

If you learn to keep these two things separate, you will go on to become a successful executive "

At that point in time, I had felt that the VP was just washing off his hands talking some high gibberish stuff;

But now, after 5 years in the Industry, across a couple of companies, and some white hair on my head, I have realised that whatever the VP had to say was spot ON.

Very often, what happens with young graduates who join corporates straight out of college, is that they are on the look out for challenges at the workplace to prove their worth, and when they are not adequately satisfied with the work, they go in a state of depression.For them, success at the workplace means everything; even if it means having less time to pursue their hobbies, to do the stuff they would otherwise have done.

They say, Maturity comes with experience; and I agree (atleast) wrt the above discussion...


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Leaders and Leadership - Post 1

I had been wanting to write this article for quite some time now;
So, here it goes:

Leaders and Leadership - Post 1

Classrooms across the world have a tradition of appointing someone as the monitor, or in the senior classes, a group of students are appointed as the Prefects who are in a way the representatives of their class/ school.
Most of the times the Monitors/ Prefects are selected (not elected) on the sole criteria of their academic performance; so generally, we have the student who scores the highest marks in the class appointed as a representative of the class.

Is this the best way of selecting our representatives?

Come to think of it, this may be one of the most weirdest ways of selecting the representatives of any society.

In this post, I have taken an example of three of Indias' (recent) greatest cricketing icons, their styles, and leadership patterns: Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly.

Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin has been rightly recognized the world over as one of the greatest batsman to have graced the cricket field. There is no surprise that, these days, with every innings he plays, some new record is broken. He is definitely a role model millions around the world.
It is no surprise then, that Sachin, during his glorious career had the opportunity of leading the country in both the forms of the game.
His captaincy record, both in Tests and ODIs, though is nothing short of disastrous,

What went wrong:
Individuals like Sachin have an aura about them. People tend to worship icons like him for their skill, temperament and commitment levels.
Sachin, during his period as captain also expected the same from his players - that they display the same level of skill, temperament and commitment.
What he perhaps forgot was to appreciate the latent individual capabilities, and limitations of his own players; so when he devised for one of his ace fast bowlers to bounce out the opposition; the plan failed miserably; not because of the lack of a try by the pacer; but, because the Sachin had not considered the limitation of the bowler in executing the plan.

Working in teams requires the leaders to appreciate the inherent talent/ skills in each of the team members, and at the same time to recognize the inherent limitations in the individual; and then come out with a winning strategy.

Justin Langer had this to say of his captain, Steve Waugh:
If Steve asks me to run through a brick wall, I will run as fast as possible because I know Steve will not ask of me a task he thinks I cannot do.

Leadership is all about inspiring faith in the team to outperform themselves.

Perhaps, if Sachin had asked the same of his team-mates, they would have thought, "Hey, we can barely run without tripping over, and he is asking us to run through a brick wall?"

Rahul Dravid
Rahul "Wall" Dravid, has earned the nickname "The Wall" for the solidity he displays in his batting, the utmost integrity he shows at all times, and for the Never Die Out attitude that he carries.
Dravid took over the leadership of the Indian cricket team during a tough time. Sourav Ganguly had lost favor with the selectors, and with Sachin declining captaincy, Dravid was the but obvious choice(again appointed in a similar manner to choosing a monitor of the class).
Dravid had been the Rock of Gibraltar of the Indian team, and had enjoyed the goodwill of all the team members.
Under his captaincy, India went on to record their most consecutive ODI wins.

What went wrong:
Things began to go wrong when Dravid started losing form with the bat.
Being the Professional he is, Dravid spent a lot of time and effort in gaining back his once splendid touch; but, in the process lost his decisiveness as a captain.

Leaders like Dravid like to lead by example - by knowing the way, by showing the way. They let their performances speak for them, and can only inspire others in the team through their own deeds. When the going gets tough for them on the personal front, seldom can they carry their team alongwith them.

Sourav Ganguly
Sourav "Dada" Ganguly took over the leadership of the Indian team in troubled times; the match fixing saga was threatening to ruin the state of cricket in India. Instead of being bogged down with the burden of the past deeds (or misdeeds) and added responsibilities of leading the team, Dada brought about a breath of fresh air, by being cocky with his mannerisms - be it making Steve Waugh wait for the toss, or having run-ins with the umpires all too often.

All his mannerisms displayed one thing for sure - that his team was not going to go down without a fight. He instilled a sense of belief in his teammates, particularly the younger ones, and the attitude that winning teams carry.

Sourav himself was a batsman of a limited capacities; but through his leadership skills developed a Brave New Indian team.

What went wrong:
There is a dialogue by Sharukh Khan in the movie ChakDe India, which goes by,
"हर टीम में एक गुंडा होता है. इस टीम का गुंडा मैं हूँ" which loosely translates to "Every team has one leader; and I am the leader of this team".

Sourav was passionate about leading the team, and one who would want full authority in running the show. What happened with the introduction of Greg Chappel as the coach of the team was that Souravs sole position as the de-facto leader of the pack was questioned. This lead to bad blood, and ultimately leading to the ouster of Sourav from the leadership position.

There is a concept of shared leadership evolving in corporate India; I am pretty certain that Sourav would not want to vouch for such a thing.

Leadership is often made out to be a very difficult subject to tread on; but the essence of leadership is very simple, as elaborated by the quote below:

A good leader inspires people to have confidence in their leader;

A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.

They say that Leaders are not made, they are born;
But, Leadership can be learnt.

So true.

More to follow...

Please bear in mind while reading this article, that I am no expert on the field of Leadership; this article is just about penning down my observations about a particular set of leaders


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ek - The power of ending in a 1

The festive season is here again, and there is a lot of excitement, and hope in the air that the gloomy days and the dreaded R (read Recessionary) days are behind us.

One of the earliest memories I have of celebrating Diwali and New Year is that of waking up early in the morning, dressing up in new clothes, and visiting friends and relatives to wish them love and luck for the upcoming year.
We children used to have a gala time, gorging over sweets and receiving gifts and cold cash; inevitably in strange denominations like Rs 11/-, Rs 21/-. Rs 51/- or Rs 151/- etc...

I always wondered what was the rationale behind giving cash in such odd denominations. I never received my pocket money in such strange denominations; it always used to be a round figure.

Only recently did I come to know the significance of giving gifts and donations ending in a 1.

As per our ancient scriptures, a cash gift received, which ends a 1 indicates that the giver wishes us love, luck and that the blessings of the giver are with us with this gift.

In times of tragedy also people do make donations.
Here too, there is a practice of ending a donation on a one, like donating Rs 101/-, Rs 1001/- etc/
Here, it signifies that the donor sympathies are with the victim, and the donor wishes to do all that he can to help; but, at this point of time this is the maximum contribution that he can provide for.

So, the next time you are making a donation, remember to end on a 1!

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

VOTEs' in a NAME ?

They say that
"Behind every successful man is a woman"
and Shakesphere has also remarked that
"Whats in a name?"

Combine the above two sayings, and you have "Whats in the name of a successful man, behind whom is a woman??".

My name has appeared in the daily national newspapers on two occasions (which I consider an achievement in itself), and on both of these occasions, the above (clubbed) saying has held forte.

The first occasion my name ever appeared in the newspaper was in the Times of Oman, immediately after the declaration of the Class X board results; I had top scored in one of the subjects then.

The second time my name appeared in the newspaper was recently during the 2009 national elections. Inspired by the JaagoRe campaign, and desperately wanting to exercise one of my rights as a citizen of a democratic India, I had spent many a weekend visiting my constituency to enquire about my Voter ID card; but never did receive it.

Then, on the D day (make it E day for Election Day) I was one of the first persons to queue up for registering my vote. Here, I had to scan through hundreds of sheets of paper to figure out if my name was in the list.

I was aghast to see that my name did appear on the list, but was spelt as Manisha. Gajjaria, and registered as a female. The voting booth officer didnt allow me to vote, as he reasoned that the statistics of the country would be hugely affected if I voted as a female; After a lot of running around, and sharing my disappointment with the Chief Officer @ the Polling station, I was finally allowed to vote.

After a couple of days of voting, there was a news snippet titled "Gender Blues" published in the Times Of India, Pune edition dated 27th April, 2009; which carried my story (as if it were):

There are the State Vidhan Sabha Elections today @ Maharashtra - 13th October, 2009, I am stepping out to VOTE; hopefully, previous mistakes should have been corrected this time round;

Will update @ Blog whether the 13th will prove lucky for me...Stay tuned;

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009


This is a lovely mail forward that I received today from my dear friend, Chill;


Friendship is not about “I m sorry “ its about “abbe teri galti hai “

Friendship is not about “I m there for u “ its about “kahan marr gaya saale “

Friendship is not about “I understand “ its about “sab teri wajah se hua manhus“

Friendship is not about “I care for u “ its about “kamino tumhe chhod ke kahan jaunga “

Friendship is not about “I m happy for ur success “its about “chal party de saale“

Friendship is not about “I love that girl“ its about “saalo izzat se dekho tumhari bhabhi hain “

Friendship is not about “R u coming for outing tomorrow “ its about “ nautanki nahi, hum kal bahar ja rahe hai “

Friendship is not about “Get well soon “ its about “ Itna piyega toh yehi hoga“

Friendship is not about “All the best for ur career“its about “bahut hua, abhi toh switch mar saale“

Cheers to our friendship!


Friday, October 02, 2009

16th November, 1989

This is one date that every Cricket lover across the world should care to remember.

On this very day, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, then all of 16 years stepped out onto the Test arena; and has since then conquered everything the world of cricket has had to offer, and much more.

I might have been around 6 years old at that time; but I do remember the time when Sachin played for India for the first time. I was in Muscat, Oman at that time, still learning the intricacies about the game.

This was before the Cable TV era; and people used to then follow the Cricket match updates on radio. I remember that day when Sachin made his debut; my father had come home excited and shared with us this news.

At that time, I had the following questions to ask my dad: How can somebody, who at that age should be in school, actually play for India?

In my mind, I had already framed some answers:
Maybe, Cricket is not so popular a sport in India, so hes' gotten a chance;
Another thought which had come up to my mind at that point was that the Indian team would have run short of players at the start of the match due to some players unwell; and they would have picked up somebody from the crowd to cover up; and this is how Sachin would have got picked in the side.

Then I used to dream of similar things happening to me :-)

Over these two decades, Sachin Tendulkar has become a role model for the young and old alike; for the gentlemanly manner with which he has gone about things, and carried and lived upto the expectations of the nation single handedly.

We are all too privileged to have lived in the Tendulkar Era.

PS: I am currently enjoying reading " Sachin Tendulkar: The Definitive Biography by Vaibhav Purandare"; and some of my doubts raised above have definitely got cleared; but I still do get similar dreams!

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Garden of Life

What's in a Garden that draws persons of all ages, and from all walks of life.

A simple Garden can be best described as having lush green grass, and a few Swings,Slides, Merry-Go-Rounds etc; where kids have a gala time; and adults can spend some quality time with their family and with nature.

The Grass represents natures attitude towards us; you may trample over the grass, shred the grass buds; but it refuses to die down; it just grows up the way it is destined to.
This is the Never Say Die attitude that nature wants us to imbibe.

The Swing is one of the first equipments that a child learns to play in the garden. It represents the starting point.
Given a slight Push, the child can then continue to be in motion, enjoying the periodic going up motion, and the shrill in the tummy while coming down.
We all require that little initial push to shake off our inertia.
Very few of us have an Auto Start button; we need to be Kick started into motion.

The Slide remains one of the favorites with kids. They love climbing onto the top of the Slide, and sliding down; and redoing the thing all over again.
This represents our daily grind. Climbing the Ladder to anywhere worth going is always tough, and takes time and effort. However, the Slide down is fast. Once down, we have to again aspire to reach the top.

However much we may proclaim that the The World is Flat; the fact remains that it is round. The Merry-Go-Round helps us realize that what goes around, is what comes around. Do good, and good will happen with you.

So, feeling a bit bored today; a bit dull? Take a walk through the nearby Garden; and appreciate the Garden Of Life.

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