Happiness is Infectious!

Sharing a chat with  maxi background,  that I had with an ex-colleague on #LinkedIn, on how I managed to handle a stressful job of get a BIFR company into a Going Concern. This called for retrenchment of “Humans” many who were with this Organisation for years more than my age at that time

Background
There was this Company which went sick and referred to BIFR. With Manufacturing unit for Electronic Version of the product (let me call it EB for Electronic Box) in #Bengaluru (which was a 2 year old unit) and a much larger and older unit for Mechanical version unit (let me call it MB for Mechanical Box) in Chennai (40 year old Unit).

With technological advances and end process deficiencies MB was slowly but surely on the way out but for some weird reason the Management resting on the then Market Domination (<65% Market share) never saw the writing on the wall. Market was moving, albeit with a lot of resistance from the end-consumers and immediate customer, towards more accurate and precise, process efficient EB.

Buoyed by this resistance, they hoped against hope that it was a temporary and the market would revert back to MB (to be fair, there were some business in the replacement market, less than 1% of FG inventory per month)

EB units tenders increased in numbers and Organisation was forced to start a unit in Bengaluru to design and manufacture of EB. To the credit of this organisation, they were also the first one to have a significant installed base of the Electronic version in the market.

However, despite almost zero demand for the MB, it never resized their production, nor redesigned the lines for EBs. Production continued with same strength and to the designed capacity. FG inventories piled up. With no shipment, it was stressing the Cash Flow as also increasing the Creditors. Labour Unions did not agree for scaling down production.

Servicing the Bank loan/advances, Payment to Vendors were taking a hit. Old habits die hard – Unions never gave any leeway for the management to reconsider any aspect of production – Double wages for Over-time (yes production of MBs working Over time, that only piled up in the FG Stores)

The Bengaluru unit (headed by yours truly at that time) by itself was Profitable EB unit, with rationalised process, optimal personnel, was being bled by the MB unit, which was a White Elephant. EB Unit Capacities were no where near the requirement to handle the entire organisation. This continued for 2 years and the inevitable happened.

MB unit (which for 5 years was a drain on the organisation with zero contribution to top line) began pulling down EB unit and started sinking. Despite good order book, it became extremely difficult for EB unit to continue and the vendor support shrank due to non-payments, and employees in this unit began idling due to lack of raw materials.

Finally, the Organisation was referred to BIFR and upon their enquiry, declared it a sick unit. Accepted a proposal for revival. With two bankers as primary operating agency and with me as Chief of Operations, a revival package was worked out.

Barring a couple of executives the entire management was changed by the operating agencies. Then began the painful process of revival. The first task for to retrench Humans (I don’t want to reduce them to a pair of hands), who worked for this organisation for more than 35 years (which was my age then).

The chat with my then colleague yesterday was about how at that age I managed the entire process (with grace of God and my Guru, very successfully) and the psychological impact it had on me (who was one of the resource, I insisted continue with me during the revival process). Let us call him Mr K, then an young but brave lad with two years of experience

First step was to shift the entire manufacturing to Chennai, from Bengaluru (where we operated out of a rented premise). We explained the situation to the staff here, and made an open offer to all the employees to join us there on same terms (with an assurance that if things go as planned, it can be reviewed upwards).

Most of the production staff being ladies had difficulties moving and they were given a 3 months buffer with full pay, to look for alternate. Some of them (around 30 out of 80+) decided to continue and move to Chennai. Rest of them found alternate employments within the buffer period.

As always, financial institutions wanted me to revive the unit with no resources 🙂 And were pressurising me to let go of everyone here too. It was then (so many years back) that I coined what still remains my favourite phrase – these are not head counts for me, but heart counts (recently I saw some motivational speaker using this in a TED talk).

To make it a going concern, we need those who are passionate and who believe that it can be done. We also need people with knowledge and Skill to work. There was no way we could find any resource from the MB unit in Chennai (Incidentally, they went on a strike at the unit). Finally I was allowed to have 22 (out of 80+ from this unit) and 8 of them had to be left behind.

With Vendors breathing down our neck, resisting this shift, it was the first major challenge to be overcome. Threats, blackmails were an everyday affair, heavy doses of which I had to live with. We then had a meeting with operating agencies and all affected parties, explained the situation and got their buy in for the only way forward. To reduce cost, do some businesses, work out some formula and time period for pay-outs.

Finally, in 2 months time (and one month ahead of target) the entire unit was shifted to Chennai. Next was the challenge to move the EB manufacturing facility into the MB unit. With the employees their on strike, they resisted this tooth and nail and we had to move the line in, with heavy security. A part of the line was set up in another facility to begin production pending settlements.

We know had the biggest challenge of all on hand. To convince the promoter/erstwhile management to infuse funds for two purposes, one to negotiate a golden handshake and second to restart the production. Lesser said the better on how this challenge was overcome. But overcome we did.

The most challenging part of the whole process began. Inviting the representatives of the Labour force for a negotiated settlement. Political arms of Labour unions got involved and things were only messed up even more by them. It was then that my HR head directly talked to the employees.

I explained that at this point of time, I have some funds which can be the settlement amount and if there is any delay, even this position will become precarious. Also acknowledged that this business owes it to them for the successes till 5 years back but today they have no contribution to make in the changed business scenario.

I also offered them a re-employment provided they acquired the skills and at par with existing employees (not their existing scale). Finally, I just made it a situation of – either we all sink together with nothing or take something and let those who deserve float and begin sailing.

The deadlock continued and despite their request for another settlement offer, I was clear I had nothing extra to offer and in fact the funds available towards this head is reducing with every passing day. Exactly 62 days later, about 200 of them signed a petition and accepted the offer and it was immediately accepted and settled. It was just a matter of time for remaining to accept and move on.

Vendors accepted a revised proportional payment settlement. Some of them continued to support us in the revival process and some of them we lost forever.

Bankers were convinced to reschedule the loans, interest components to be waived. Government was approached to provide a temporary tax exemption.

Customer confidence was won, purely based on the quality & ruggedness of our designs and clear intent shown. In 33 months, from the time I took over this became a going concern.

Now K’s doubt was, Sir! How did you even manage! We were dealing with Humans in the entire process. Suddenly one fine day, bidding them goodbye and not to come for work. Looking back (though the thoughts were not like this), I only had the interest of organisation and larger number of affected person in mind

To protect interest of 350 people and their families, I had to otherwise sacrifice more than 400 employees and their families who were contributing to the revival, then comes Vendors and their employees and their families.

So decision was clear! It was only about alleviating the pain of 350 people, which I did sincerely by negotiating the best possible settlement under the circumstances (it was a hard bargain which the world never knew) – they wanted to settle for nothing.

Though I spent sleepless nights, remembering the sad and tearful faces of affected people, in the end, it turned out to be successful. This business was then sold to another corporate and is currently doing extremely well.

Recently attended the naming ceremony of the grand daughter of one person who was retrenched. When I apologised for the past, he said nothing to apologise – YOU DID GREAT. My BLESSINGS! We knew we were to get nothing. But you heard our abuses patiently, fought for us and got us amount which was princely sum those days.

Lesson for K:

If you are focused on the task sincerely, all other factors are redundant. Whatever it takes to fulfil the task becomes the guiding factor.

37 year irrelevant experience meant nothing that day for us, 2 year’s relevant experience like his helped us settle even those much experienced employees.

All along, even thereafter, I had to manage workforce or peers and colleagues who are aged much more than me. But if we are clear on the objectives of why we are in an organisation, does age or experience of the other person matter?

As long as there is no malafide, or biases, or preferences or even aversions, if we stick to being professional, we will be talking only business and not emotions or sentiments. There is a different place and time for that.

In my previous employment, the guy who hired me had to report to me within a year. He was totally uncomfortable. Tried to convince him that his job and he as a person still has all my respects, just like I have for anyone else. We are here for a task and generally as a rule, I don’t lead. I only facilitate people to do their jobs. Unfortunately he did not think alike. He opted not to have his contract renewed and retired.

What worked for me in my work, is never to treat a person as a pair of hands (or a piece of brain in IT industry). Respect him or her as a whole person, then they enjoy working with you. They look forward to come to work and not look for excuses to take holidays.

It is in a manager’s interest to keep everyone around happy. Else even manager looks for excuse to take a holiday. A lively bubbling workplace is something everyone enjoys being in. And I have a selfish motive to keep my workplace a happening and happy place.

Because happiness and enthusiasm is infectious  🙂 It rubs off on me too.

IT WORKS. Try!

PS:

1) Though I had many opportunities to work for reviving Sick Businesses, I never accepted any offers to do it again. Today with increased awareness in me, I know it is pain that I may not be upto. Those days, I never even realised but simply did the job. In the process, for quite some time it resulted in poverty thinking and mental stinginess in me. This took a lot of effort to overcome.

2) The same management killed another group company (automobile industry), which had 80% market share for the product, because they refused to work on Electronic product of the same. Today’s vehicle do not have mechanical version at all.

Ghati Subramanya Temple – 600+ years of Glory

After a blissful Shata Chandi Homa and Rishi Homa in the Art of Living Ashram conducted by Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, amidst the Navratri/Dasara Season, it was a snap decision by the family to visit Sri Ghati Subramanya Swami Temple on Saturday 4th October 2014. As always, with a road that is largely great to drive on, we preferred driving down to this Temple town and got there after about a 1.5 hours drive by 3:45 pm, only to be welcomed by a bustling crowd of devotees. The atmosphere was truly scintillating as also festive.

After I shared some pictures on the Social Media, it was surprising to know that not many knew the Stala Purana and the Kshetra Mahime of this Legendary and Powerful Deity of this Historic temple. That is how idea for this piece came about. This is a Maxi-Post (a long one, since I decided to write down Legend associated to Lord Subramanya to make the context complete)

I acknowledge the Purohits who explained the details during various visits, as also inputs I derived from the Kannada Booklet on the Kshetra Mahatme, authored by Sri CS Rajagopal.

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Utsava Murthy – Sri Ghati Subramanya

Legend of Lord Subramanya :

As Lord Krishna said

Whenever and wherever there is a decline in Dharma (righteousness), O descendant of Bharata, and a dominance of Adharma, I manifest Myself, In order to protect the pious and to annihilate the wicked, as also to reestablish the principles of Dharma, I reappear repeatedly in ages (yuga).

Tarakasura by power of his penance received a boon that he shall not be slain by anyone else other than an offspring of  Lord Shiva, knowing well that Shiva being an ascetic would not marry or have children. They also sought that such an Offspring shall be worshipped in all the three Lokas, should be Brahmachari (Bachelor) as well as Gruhasta (Married). Having achieved such an invincibility, he began tormenting all Devas and Humans on the earth. Lord Shiva finally married Goddess Parvati. Since Parvati couldn’t conceive due to a curse,She meditate along with Shiva wherein a ball of fire emerged out of their cosmic energies. Agni or the God of fire attempted to get hold of this ball of fire, who could not bear the heat of the energy of Shiva and Parvati. Goddess Ganga was then handed over this ball of fire and when she failed to bear it deposited the fire ball into a lake in a forest of reeds. Parvati took the form of  water body as she alone could bear the energy of Shiva and Shakti. Finally the fire ball took the form of 6 babies which were taken care of by six women who represented the Kritikas and hence the Lord was also known as Karthikeya, son of Kritikas. Parvati was then told that the babies were in the hands of Kritikas, she comes and grabs all of the Six babies in one go and embraces them whereupon they become single bodied baby with six faces, reason why Subramanya is also called Shankmukha (One with Six Faces). As he grows up, He kills Tarakasura and becomes the commander-in-chief of the Gods. Subramanya  is generally depicted with a spear (Shakti) in His hand. His Vahana (vehicle) is a peacock and symbolizes power and strength. You can read more & a small variant of this story here

Once, during his travels, Lord Subramanya comes across 4-headed Brahma and seeks introduction from him. Brahma replies that he is the Creator of the world, and Personification of “Om”. Brahma scoffs when Subramanya’s asks him to explain what is meaning of Pranava (Primordial). A livid Subramanya then stops Brahma and holds him in captivity. The entire process of creation comes to standstill and world order goes haywire. Sage Narada approaches Lord Shiva and explains the predicament. Shiva summons Subramanya and seeks reason for holding Brahma in captivity. Subramanya explains that it was his strong urge to understand the meaning of “Pranava” that forced him to do that and the thirst to know it was still not quenched and has only become stronger. Brahma then gives Subramanya the Primordial knowledge or knowledge of Pranava (Om). This pure knowledge awakens and triggers a sense of remorse in Subramanya, who curses himself to become a Serpent and seeks blessings of a grieving Shiva, Parvati and Ganapathi (his elder brother) and Brahma and proceeds south of Vindhyas. A natural question here is Why form of Serpent? In order to kill powerful demons like Tarakasura, it is very tough and time consuming to assume control of all the faculties and function of the human body. It required years of powerful penance, hold bodily functions to a  standstill. Whereas it is believed that a serpent can live for 1000 years on air alone. It was also time for Subramanya to assume his original form (as a result of Parvati’s Shashti Vrata). In the meanwhile, other serpents led by Takshaka, Vasuki etc approached him for protection from sworn enemy Garuda (Eagle), the Vahana of Lord Vishnu. Subramanya then pleads with Lord Vishnu to protect his fraternity before he redeemed himself from the self imposed curse. Lord Vishnu advises Garuda accordingly and assures Subramanya that he would be with him in the form of Lakshmi Narayana to protect the serpents from Garuda.

Having achieved his objective, Lord Subramanya assumes his original form and before setting out to his abode he realizes that demon Ghatikasura was tormenting the Rishis and sages. He decides to stay back here for some more time before returning. During this stay he slays the demon Ghatikasura and assures the sages that he will stay around this place (current Ghati Subramanya) for some time along with Lakshmi Narayana.

 

Ghati Subramanya Temple: The Stala Purana and Kshetra Mahime

Ghati Subramanya Temple is situated in Doddaballapura Taluk, Bengaluru Rural District, around 60km from Bengaluru. Presiding deity of this temple is Lord Subramanya & another main Deity is Lord Lakshmi Narayana. An unique feature of the idol is both the Deities are carved onto the same Idol. Lord Subramanya as Seven Hooded Serpent, facing towards the Mahadwara (East) is directly visible as we enter the main temple area.  Lord Lakshmi Narayana facing west is on the opposite side of the Idol and Darshan of the Lord is through a Mirror placed inside the sanctum sanctorum. The head priest of the temple, SN Subba Shastrigalu in one of visits said that the temple is more than 600 years old. We were lucky enough during that visit to hear from him the legend associated to this temple (it was one of those rare less crowded days).

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It was during the reign of Ghorpade clan of Sandur that the temple is believed to have been constructed and consecrated. The Ghorpades were very devout, and rulers of great virtues. Their family Deity was Lord Subramanya and the Sandur Kingdom was prosperous and the citizens were rich and happy.

A Betel Leaf trader during his travels from town to town peddling his wares used to regularly stop over in this place where he used to have his bath in Kumaratheertha (now Pushkarni, or the temple pond) have his food along the bank of this pond and used to rest on an idol witha tree above serving as shade for him. He used to hear a voice saying “rise, o rise, you are resting heavily on me” which he dismissed it away since it never appeared in his dream and passed it off as mischief of wind. One of the days the Lord appeared in his dream and tells him that he lives in about 20 Gajas (1 Gaja = 1 yard) and that his devotees live in Sandur. Tomorrow you will meet a learned Scholar, with whom you shall go and inform the king about my presence here. He will them come here and build a Temple and facilitate regular Puja rituals. Saying this the lord vanished away. He wakes up and finds the sun had already risen and goes to Kumaratheertha and after his ablutions, finds a Brahmin Scholar. He approaches him and tells him about the dream. Together they set out to Sandur to inform the king.

They appear before the king and introduces themselves as those coming from Ksheerasagara pura. They also inform him that around 2 miles into the forest from where they hail, Lord Kumaraswamy (Subramanya) has manifested who appeared in the dreams to pass on the message to the King to build a temple and arrange for regular worship. They requested the King to accompany them to this place and do the needful. The King thought that this was too small a task for him to leave all royal duties and travel to a place so far. He promises them enough monetary and other support and asks them to carry out the task themselves whereupon the Trader and Brahmin declines them saying, if we have to achieve this goal, we also have the wherewithal for it and not depend on you for support. Saying thus, they immediately leave the palace and begin their journey back to Ksheerasagarapura. Tired that they were, they decided to stay in a Brahmin house for the night and resume journey the next day.

The Lord then appears in the King’s dream in a Ugra roopa (fiery form) and curses that for dishonoring the instructions, the entire kingdom will now undergo tremendous hardships. The king immediately wakes up, begs pardon and early next morning sends out his guards in search of the trader and the Brahmin. The royal family then accompanies them to Ksheerasagarapura. They reach by around noon and begin searching for the idol in the temple. Specialty of this temple is that every rock and stone appears in the form of snake. After a long unsuccessful search they return back to the camp. The cooks then bring two big and two small rocks to create a stove for cooking. (The big rock now is part of the Main Idol of Lord Subramanya). After a while when the cook opens the lid to check if the ingredients have been cooked, he discovers to his horror that everything inside the container appeared bloodied. He was mortified with fear and rushes to the King to inform him about the same. On closer observation they also find openings of Anthills inside it and It was then decided that this indeed was the abode of Lord Subramanya.

The same evening, they also found amongst the cattle that was herded across this village, a particular cow on its return to its village, used to stand across this anthill and  automatically the udder started releasing milk into the anthill. Until this day, everyone in the village used to suspect the cowherd of having milked the cow and drinking all the milk. It was the same evening when elders of the village also came to test the boy and found this miraculous sight.

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After the entourage retired for the night, the Lord appears in the King’s dreams and asks him to remove the anthill which would reveal the Lord along with Lakshmi Narayana. The next morning, they discover Lord Subramanya along with Lakshmi Narayana in the form of an idol. All the families assembled there together donates land and wealth and appoints the Brahmin as the main priest of the temple. Till this date, the main priest is form the same family.

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The Raja Gopura
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Raja Gopura – Side View
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Kshetra Mahadwara (Main Entrance)

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Under Karnataka Muzrai Department, says this board

It is believed that devotees who worship here sincerely are never troubled by Serpents/Snakes. Those who take bath in Kumaratheertha, the temple pond will be relieved of all pains and ailments like lunacy, leprosy, back/stomach ailments, heart problems and also infertility. Those devotees who have their wishes fulfilled ritualistically install an idol of the Serpent God as mark of gratefulness. Check pictures below

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A Friend of ours – Expressing their Gratitude

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Major Events

The temple celebrates its annual car festival (Brahma Rathotsava) Pushya Shuddha Shashti (6th day of Pushya month). This year it is on 27th December 2014. As part of this celebrations – Anukurarpane (Sowing 9 types of Seeds in Earthern containers), Dwajarohana (Flag Hoisting) and other such rituals are performed. Renowned Cattle Fair is also held during this period.

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Brahma Rathotsava: Picture: Courtesy: Owner (unknown)

 

The other festival celebrated in big way in this temple is Narasimha Jayanthi.

Other Common Sight here

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The Sparrow. Rare sight in Bengaluru City these days
The Sparrow. Rare sight in Bengaluru City these days
A sight to behold. He stripped the corn Professionally
A sight to behold. He stripped the corn Professionally

How to reach:

By Road: Personally I suggest you to personally drive down to the temple from Bengaluru. The roads are good throughout (on the day we drove, a stretch of about 1 km was under construction). Maximum of 90 min drive. Worst case 120 min, But worth the drive – See pictures below. You can stop over for a photo session too 😉 I am sure you wouldn’t want to miss this scenic drive.

1km Stretch - Road Under Construction.
1km Stretch – Road Under Construction.

 

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And another advantage of driving is a stop over to pick up some for farm fresh vegetables, sold directly by the farmers who grow them and virtually throw-away prices (actually this are the prices they sell it to Middlemen/Agents who make a loot by the time it is sold to us in the city).

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A Harmonious Eco-System.
A Harmonious Eco-System.
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Every Part of creation Co-Exist peacefully

 

By rail: on Bengaluru-Guntakal Section, alight at Makalidurga and take an auto to the temple – it is less than 5 kms.

Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation and KSRTC runs regular service to Ghati from Bengaluru, Doddaballapur, Gauribidanur and other major centre