THE WIMWIAN

 

– Madan Mohanka (PGP 1967)

 

Dear friends,

  • We know that a ship with full sail but without a direction would drift and may not reach its destination. The captain of the ship provides direction to guide the ship to its destination. A leader, likewise, has to give a sense of purpose, galvanize and energize people towards achieving their goal. This purpose has to be meaningful. These have to be created in a way that it is owned by each and every one in the organization. So this requires conviction and passion on the part of the leader. Leadership is the capacity to transform vision to reality.
  • Leader must work in a way that generates and sustains trust. Leadership should not be confused with power. Hitler Attiler Stelin may also have been leaders. But the leaders we seek are those who have the ability to get along with the other and walk beside them by empowering them. Integrity therefore is most essential.
  • A leader has to be an epitome of hope. If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
  • A good leader must also have the capacity to follow. You cannot ask other people to follow unless you know how to follow too. He does not claim or behave as if he knows everything a capacity to keep learning from everybody, acknowledge his mistakes honestly.

 

With this back ground on leadership, I shall share with you the leadership role I cherished and my experience in a leadership role in a company that I established in the last 41 years.

 

For the first day at IIMA, we were assigned three cases for discussion.  One of the cases was a casein Accounting. My roommate was B.Sc. in Statistics andI was a graduate engineer. We both did not have any knowledge in Accounting. We found the case in Accounting very difficult. After a few accounting classes, we met Dr. Mote, then PGP Chairman, and requested him for arranging a tuition for us in accounting. He told us, “We don’t ask you whether or not you know swimming.  We throw you in the sea. We think you will learn to float and swim. We want you to struggle and learn accounting. We think you will learn through the process we have set for you. If you don’t, probably you do not deserve to be in the program.” He asked us to leave. Dr. Mote was very firm not to accede to our unjust request. He also made us realize that we could learn on our own.We struggled and started learning. Within 15 days we found that we were among the top 10 in Accounting.  I learnt, how as a leader or not, I could be firm and at the same time give strength to people to exploit their potential.  The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroics.

 

We had a steno secretary, Swapan Dey, 27 years old.  He was found to have cancer. He asked for help for treatment. My personnel dept. told me that he was not eligible for medical help as he was in the organization only for five months and yet to be confirmed. An unconfirmed employee was not entitled to any medical benefit. We still sent him to a good hospital for treatment.  The doctors had no hope and told his family members that he would live for another seven days. His brothers came and met me at my house.  They told me that they would take him home and requested me for the money that we might spend for his treatment at the hospital till he was alive because they would need money when he would not be there.  Can you give up hope? My wife and I discussed and we decided us to keep him in the hospital where he died.

 

Swapan had a three-year-old daughter.  The question arose, “Could we do something for the daughter and wife of an unconfirmed employee? The rule did not permit. I, however, instructed my HR Manager to rehabilitate his wife. His immediate response was, “if we do it for one, we will have to do it for everybody.  Are you ready for it?  I do not recommend that we should do this.”  He told me,” Sir, don’t be emotional and follow the rules.” Would you not break the rules at times?”  I was in a dilemma.  I broke the rule. We decided to pay for her getting trained in Singer sewing machine and gave her initial funding to open a tailoring shop.We also decided to support his daughter’s education till she completed her graduation.

 

As a leader you would create rules and sometimes you may have to break them for the benefit of your people.

 

Another instance when I broke my own rules: A young boy called Chatterjee worked in our store. He requested us for an urgent loan of Rs.40000.00 to buy a pacemaker for his father.  The process of getting approval for such a loan was cumbersome.  It required the recommendation of the departmental head and a special approval.I was out of town. When I was told about it, I sanctioned it over the phone and instructed that the money should be released to him immediately.  His father was saved.  He returned the money in the next three years.  All the paperwork was done later on. A few others applied for loans in a similar fashion. In one case when I received a request from an employee for a loan for buying a pacemaker for his father, I instructed somebody from the office to go and meet his father.  We found that is father was hale and hearty and he did not require any pacemaker.  We sacked the employee.

 

We had an employee who was a very good Electrical Foreman and also a member of a Naxalite group and was also a hardcore Union member.  He left the job and came back after 15 years for re-employment.  I realized that he came back to make a new life. We gave him a job at our Delhi Branch. Ten years back he required a pacemaker himself. He family members joined him. He was admitted to a hospital.   The average cost of pace a maker was about Rs.80000.00.  His family members persuaded the hospital to give him the best possible treatment and the bill came to Rs.3.5 lacs.  I did not know what to do.  We, however, paid the bill, debiting the amount as an advance to him.  He realized the mistake that his family members had made.  I forgave him.  We gave him the job to help our technical school to train the workers.  He did a fantastic job.  He ran the school for 10 years and trained more than 100 illiterate persons to become diploma-holders in 3 years.  He taught them Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Engineering Drawing, Computer and English.

 

Leadership requires capacity to see the true worth of people and follow it up with faith and confidence to carry it through. If you have faith in people, they come upto expectation.

 

We chose Kalyani as the location for our plant. This is an area where refugees from Bangladesh were rehabilitated after independence.  Within a year after the plant was commissioned, an employee union wasformed and it became strong and virtually did not allow us to work. They followed unfair practices. Once the union came up with an very unreasonable demand. We did not agree. The union declared strike andwe closed the plant for one year when under pressure from various quarters I agreed to open the plant and sit for negotiation. During the closure of the plant, the workers lost a lot. They did not have the job, no money to eat, and they were broken down with one long year of strike. The union became very weak. We could have bargained with them anything. When the plant opened we were more than fair to them.  During the next renewal, the employees abandoned the Union.They discussed with us directly without the Union.  Such things were unheard of in Bengal. During communist regime Since then we have a wage agreement which is directly negotiated with the workers.  We really had a hard time in the first 10 years.  We did not succumb to any unreasonable demand of the Union.  The workers realized that we were fair to them and they had much more trust in us than the trust created by the Union members in the workers.  We had no problem.  If you are fair, you will gain trust of your people. To lead people, walk beside them. As for the best leader’s work is done, the people say. We did it ourselves! We could not have achieved this, if we had bargained hard with them when we reopened the plant.

 

My first son Manish was born at 6 AM, it was a cesarean case.  At 11.00 AM, I got a call from Bokaro Steel for an immediate visit. We had installed a Blast Furnace liner there and it was not functioning well  I got a call from them to visit Bokaro on the same day. I informed the concerned person of the situation that I was in and told him that I would send some on else to respond to the problem.He did not agree.  He insisted that I went; otherwise Tega would be black listed by Bokaro Steel.  I went there. I left a letter for my wife.  When she got up at 4 O’clock, she did not see me.  She has not forgiven me for this till today.  At times we have to make a choice between duty and personal issues and take a call.  For me my duty was prime and accordingly I took the call.  Many a times a leader had to make difficult choice. Like Ganghiji sacrifice his life for the benefit of society and public at large. He sent Suharvardi for higher education of Oxford and not his own son. I have gone through similar experiences many a times in my life. In such a situation one must do what is beneficial for this organization & security and leave personal feeling aside / personal game.

 

In the early stage because of development of market the company went almost bankrupt.  We never gave up.  We used to travel 25 to 27 days a month for development of market.  We had run out of money.  We could not pay for the hotel and we used to sleep in the retiring room.I sold my wife’s jewelry, my car, my LIC policy to see that people were paid in time. We paid salaries of our people on the 30th of every month irrespective ofthe company’s condition. We earned employee’s trust.  I had two IIM and, four from IIT graduates with me.  None of them left the company.   We really put employee first, we did not just say so, we did it.  We were the first company in 1980 to start the Provident Fund contribution of 12% when the rule was to pay only 6%.

 

We believe that you need to take of your people first before you take care of yourself.

 

When I decided to set up Tega, I did not realize what I was going in for.  We did a market survey for the product.  The report was very positive.  Every potential customer said if I made it, it would sell like hot cakes.  When I made the product, it did not sell at all. We had to struggle hard to develop the market. It is only my confidence in the product and my passion for it kept me going and Tega got established.

 

The normal life of a Company in India is about 18 years and that of USA is in 25 years. We have lived 45 years. We have invested large amount of money in training and development of people. Created a pipe-line of leaders. We have posted a large number of people may be more than 100 in the last 40 years and most of them have become President, CEOs, VP in other companies. My wife always complains to me that I should stop investing in people because after training they will leave. It is wastage of money. Jokingly she almost says my parents made mistake by keeping my name Madan. They should shorten it. I have never stopped training people. We invest more amount of money and we feel proud when we see people are going out of TEGA and growing. What is left with us is enough for us for a long-term sustainability?

 

People invariably congratulate me for establishing Tega, but when I look back I wonder whether it’s worth.  My Children knew only their mother and not the father because I could not spend time with them in the early days of their life and I regret that.

 

Every act requires time and time requires sacrifice. It depends on you upto what extent you want to sacrifice.

 

In the early 80s when we used Calculators in our office, the office people often leave those calculators on their table every day evening while leaving office.  Large numbers of calculators were getting stolen by the sweepers who used to clean the office toilets. One day the office people caught the sweeper red-handed while stealing the calculators and we parted with him.  All the Sweepers in the building decided not to clean our toilets and they will not allow any outside sweeper to enter office as well. 3-4 days passed like this and I could not even ask my office colleague to clean the toilet.  Then my wife and I decided to take up the job and we picked up the broom and a bucket and started cleaning the office toilets. On seeing this other office colleagues have joined us and started cleaning the toilets. After a couple of days, the strike broke and the sweeper had resumed the duty of cleaning the toilets.

 

The other incident when our Late Prime Minister, Mrs.Indira Gandhi was shot dead i.e. on 31.10.1984 , I was sitting with Mr.D.P. Kharia, Dy. Managing Director of TATA Steel in my office, I had requested him to mentor me. I got phone call from the school at 10 am that I should come and collect my children safe to home due to the riots on the streets, when I entered the school premises the Principal, Father Goerge asked me to take another 6 more boys with me in my car and drop them at their home, as  he could not contact their parents. After dropping those children when I was about to reach my home around 4.30 pm, I saw, very close to my house a Sikh was surrounded by a crowd of more than 200 people, who wanted to snatch his motorbike and kill him. I immediately got down from my car and somehow managed to stop beating the Sikh and took him along with his motor bike to my home.

 

2 Hours later a huge crowd surrounded my house and they wanted me to release the Sikh, I did not release the man and informed the police accordingly.  The Police came and took him in their van to the police station, However, they were stopped on their way and the police again brought the man to my home. Later I informed his family and the police took him to his house around 4 am in the dawn. The Sikh, named Jasbeer Singh  took that day as his new birthday and every year on that day he and his wife and daughter used to come me with sweets. After 12/13 years he left the state and took the job somewhere in the northern parts of the country.

 

My friends and other members however were very annoyed for taking the man with me as it would have turned disastrous and even my life could have been in danger.  But my conscience could allow me to think otherwise, how can I leave a man to die in front me by a furious mob, when I could do something to save his life,

 

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