Perhaps, it happened hardly a few days after my joining the first company in my service career.
The newly inducted management trainees were called to the company’s club in the evening for an introductory session with four corporate managers including one of the vice-presidents.
Naturally, a little bit of fear was gripping me having known that all of them were top-notch professionals. However, nothing much was asked in the session: all of them reposed faith on us as future prospects of the company.
They also expressed their expectation from us reminding us that for the performers, in that company, the sky was the limit. Their immense confidence on us was a great and growing encouragement for me.
Hari Gupta, who has proved his worth in the corporate managements in the country was also there for sharing his expertise.
Not only that, in respect of professional qualifications, experience and expertise they were so well off that I was very much sure that my activities in the company would be under their very strict surveillance, and performance would be duly evaluated with always available guidance from them.
I was too sure that except for the vice-president JML Suri, a doyen in the arena of professional management, none of them at that point of time was more than 45 years of age. So young they were.
On the heel of their that visit, Sunil Duggal, who is at present an acclaimed great genius in corporate management in India with spreading global reputation, who was then in the management of our company, visited and shared his expertise with the management trainees and that enthused me more towards proving my value to the company.
I did not require any direct expression from them that unless I performed, they would want me to leave the company without waiting for an unceremonious exit.
In the industrial arena, great transitional changes are taking place rapidly. Today belongs to the performing professionals overwhelmingly – so fierce is the competition in the corporate world nowadays! Rapidly, in the industrial world also, the concept of survival of the fittest is gaining ground.
This has been proved beyond any doubt by the industrialists like Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, Deepak Parekh, and Kumar Mangalam Birla etc. because, they being holders of lions’ shares of their owners’ capitals, have prime interest in their companies and therefore, quite obviously while picking their executives, the most considerable factor is professional competence inclusive of relevant professional qualifications.
Of course, in return, those professionals are adequately satisfied – both in respect of pay packages and elevations.
To me, in the days to come, much more dominance of private sector in India will be absolutely inevitable. Today, there is hardly any area of manufacturing, wherein presence of the industrial tycoons is not there. From iron bars, luxury motor cars to salt, we find presence of the Tatas.
From dominant presence in cigarette production, ITC has explored into production of wheat (atta), biscuits, noodles, pastas and powder milk, etc.
Reliance Industries from its dominant role in refined petroleum products and petrochemicals including basic chemicals, etc. has started dealing in vegetables, not to speak of the grocery items, cosmetics, apparels, and even plastic items – an entry into the Reliance outlet at Jayanagar, Guwahati will be the greatest substantiation of their such dynamism.
My narrative is relevant in the context of the Assam government’s expressed enthusiasm for industrialization drive in Assam which must include the state PSUs also.
As such, in such efforts, if the government forgets the presence of those big companies with top-notch professionals, I am not having any reason to foresee a bright future of such government efforts.
To me, the ground realities must be brought to conspicuous notice as, how much we have noticed till now in the state, does not require any elaboration.
Modern management, to thrive, must objectivize nothing other than achievement of the desired results. Due recognition of performance together with ever progressive outlook has made the modern management ever challenging for the young professionals.
One very simple yet relevantly mentionable incident happened in my service life.
Early in my career as a manager having completed the tenure as a management trainee, I felt necessity of counselling with some workmen who were really efficient but were missing from their jobs for minimum 20 days at a stretch while having taken earned leave for hardly 7 days initially with the practice thereafter, of extending it for a fortnight or so as sick leave, each time they went to their native places in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (mainly during cultivation season and harvesting season).
I appreciated them when they expressed that their families stayed there and they had to ensure their harvest as much as possible not only sufficiently for their families but also to earn as much revenue as possible by selling the produce.
Rather, they suggested me to arrange orientation programmes for all the workers inside the shop floor so that nobody was indispensable in any particular department in the production process and with great flexibility they were quite competent for inter departmental transferability without incurring any exorbitant overtime.
Out of that exercise, I noticed that some of the workers became more efficient in some other departments in the production process than the departments they were originally assigned to.
That finding immediately prompted me to discuss with the shop floor managers to arrange for upward revision of production standards which we eventually did and that immensely helped both the management as well as the efficient workers.
The Regional Controller- Finance was busy for most of the times on line with the marketing people so that the areas of credit growth and constant endeavour for realization of sale proceeds were never going out of their sight.
Those in marketing management, were invariably found aiming at market expansion- their that attitude was prompting an increase in the levels of sales thus very often putting pressure on the shop floor managers.
The shop floor managers were reminding the responsibility of controlling absenteeism, overtime and devising appropriate strategies for increasing productivities of the workers to the HR department; thus making the master budget tilt towards the company’s further strengthening of financial soundness.
Competition in the market is growing in a very challenging way every day and in fact, in the days to come how tough that will be that can be easily guessed. Big industrial houses are trying to expand their markets for different commodities adopting different strategies.
They are in no mood for leaving any of their markets to the competitors and are rather searching for opportunities for further expansion of market.
Most of those in the MSME sector are struggling for their survival in such acute competition trying at the same time not to let loose any of their markets and rather to gain new territories. Now one can easily guess what is the position for the newly established ones.
One needs to keep in mind that a very great advantage for big companies is that any loss sustained by any product, which is very often observed in case of a promotional sale as a business strategy, can be compensated by profit earned by another product, which, an industrial unit of MSME sector generally cannot afford to do.
Efforts for industrial progress in Assam, whether it is for production of goods and services or promoting tourism, must also be ready to face such professional challenges keeping the realities in mind. There must be proper strategies for execution of what is planned.
The domain starting from planning till achievement of results conforming to the desired ones, must entertain only professionally competent persons.
Here the state PSUs are in a very great disadvantageous position because in case of the private sector companies, salaries are decided out of bargaining and promotions are determined by contribution to the company. Seniority does not have anything to do with promotion in those professionally managed companies.
Moreover, those professionally competent executives are very ambitious for career augmentation and they are always in search of better opportunities- both in respect of positions as well as salary packages.
Being a person experienced in the managements of private sector companies only, in so many of my already published articles, I have already pointed out that those companies do not entertain any extra hand so that costs on account of both direct and indirect workers can be put within most reasonable limits and they are always in pursuit of proper orientation to the employees as and when required.
Of course, those companies keep all areas under their watchful eyes so that no undue expenditure is incurred but efficiency increase is also not tinkered with.
Therefore, the challenge of industrialization for the government of Assam is not that easy. In every front, the government is required to move very efficiently, because, whereas profit will contribute to the economy, loss will aggravate the economic condition of the state and our experience says that the later one is rampantly prevalent in Assam.
Challenges that the government will face in revamping ASTC, ATC, Ashok Paper Mill and the companies made out of ASEB etc. to name a few only as examples also not allowing the paper mills at Jagiroad and Cachar to come under the hammer, will be the real test of the government’s capability, let alone any new ventures if at all, that the government may come out with in near future.
Even though in the prevailing context it is not likely to get a welcome, but unless professional persons are retained with lucrative financial packages and prospect of performance based elevation, such efforts with initial infusion of heavy capital expenditure may face serious setback.
Moreover, the professionals can work only with superiors with professional competence, regarding which a state PSU is most likely not a paradise for them. Professional activities being the results of professional expertise and exposure, run far ahead of bookish knowledge because those professionals in the managements design their strategies according to situations and apply them accordingly.
My oft-quoted examples establish relevance of such strategies. They know that unless they contribute, there is no justification of their presence and better they should quit. But vis-à-vis that, a performer is greatly coveted by the professional companies being ready to offer better position and more lucrative salary and other facilities.
Those being realities as I have experienced, my very humble desire is to see Assam industrially affluent. To bring about a positive change to the state’s economy, all those must be kept in mind. In this era of growingly acute competition in both national and international markets, frankly speaking, before us, the only solution is to accept the challenges.
But the million-dollar question is, will the government of Assam be successful in putting all those required for economic progress of the state, into practice? Because, if the government’s endeavours yield positive results then this will be a success story, but a failure to achieve the objective is likely to entail further financial burden to the state.
At the same time, I am afraid, failure to link government’s effort for creating vistas for employment with furtherance of industrialization, may not augur good for the state’s economy in the long run. To me, therefore, the Government must look into all the nooks and corners before taking a call in that direction.
There is not much problem in understanding how and why a number of industrial concerns fail to perform.
Having heard that the state government is interested in furtherance of industrialization in the state and in view of heavy capital expenses already made in most of the state PSUs, I am of the opinion that the government of Assam should start with the ailing state government PSUs with identification of their problems in all the departments of their functioning.
But frankly speaking, unless the government knows the challenges and acts accordingly, I am quite convinced that no positive change in the state’s industrialization is forthcoming.
(The author, Satyajit Kumar Sharmah Thakur, a Guwahati-based advocate, can be reached at [email protected])