2 bosses, 2 gurus [ 1996 – 2004]
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One way I find myself to be extremely fortunate. I had eight years of employee-career and in this period, I got two bosses and both were extra-ordinary. I would have continued as an employee but Providence had other plans and I retired as an employee at a ripe old age of 29 years. This is detailed in my book Wordsmith Book of Business.
Both of them were not mere bosses but were “guru” for me. I use the word “guru” in the Eastern sense but with an etymological clarification. The Sanskrit word “guru” means “heavy” and both of my bosses were very heavy with professional, life and human experience. I also learnt few things from them that decisively helped me run my life as a freelancer’s freelancer for last 11 years.
Mr. A.S Menon, [ year of contact – 1996 – 2002, Cochin International Telecom/Internet Gateway and Submarine Cable Station, VSNL /Tata Communications ]
Mr. Menon was my first boss. He was already a veteran and founding members of India’s foray in satellite communication infrastructure in 1970s. I was a “johhine engineer” when I became his sub-ordinate in Cochin International Telecom Gateway Project. When I joined, VSNL was India’s international and internet service monopoly and Internet as a commercial service was more than a year old in India (launched on 15th August 1995 by VSNL)
It will need a mini professional autobiography to mention all the lessons I learnt. I shall mention only one lesson. He told me that all communication must be answered and there should not be any file left on the table before you leave office. I asked, “Sir, I do not know what to write as reply in many cases, what shall I do ?”
He replied and I now realize that the instruction should be bound in gold : ” In that case, you reply that you currently do not know but you shall get information and will reply once you have all the necessary information. But you must keep your promise”
When I was working to build Wordsmith Communication , this lesson proved to be the greatest blessing. My most-important clients (the first ten) appreciated my honesty and many remained with us for last eleven years because we have made it a point to remain honest and quick in telling them what we know and what we are doing.
Mr. Menon is a true guru because he practiced what he preached and with a conviction which is rare and hence so immensely valuable.
Mr. A.K Sikdar [ Year of Contact 2003 – end 2004, VSNL / Tata Communications Calcutta Centre )
I worked under Mr. Sikdar for little more than a year. He was a already a towering figure in Telecom Affairs in Calcutta and East of India. Soft-spoken, mild and humble, he was a master of persuasion. At that time, I was not acutely aware of the importance in building human relationship with clients. One of the reasons was being predominantly working in monopoly. But Mr. Sikdar taught me, again,not by power-point or by accented English or by some second hand MBA-speak, but through practice. I used to see how calmly and in a masterly manner he used to deal with irate customers and very delicate situations. He knew most of the customers in-person and was genuinely interested in the growth of their business. You cannot fake truth. Truth is truth and people feel whether one is simply posing or there is genuine emotion behind the action or speech.
Another remarkable and very rare ability was his “concentrated listening.”. He could disarm you simply by listening. You cannot have this listening ability simply by practice. You must be genuinely interested in people. Your soul must be the listener. People – all people – customers, employees, vendors, vendor’s people – all constitute the whole called Business. Business is simply not some monies and services changing hands.
Again, while I started building Wordsmith, I tried to listen with my soul. I used to tell my clients – “I am the Call Centre and the CEO.. You need not restrain yourself. It is my duty to listen to you and since I believe this to be my foremost duty, I am your Call Centre.”
Our clients liked the humour and the truism in the assertion.
Mr. Sikdar is a true guru because he practiced what he radiated and many of the fortunate souls caught the invaluable radiation that immunizes one from the lethal ego trip of not listening to one’s customer under the pretext of other “priority” and “important” works.
What work can be more urgent and priority in business than listening to one’s customer ?