03 July, 2013

values & the (gentle)man...and training wheels!

in 2004-05, i renamed gadgil electronic technologies private limited to indoglobal holdings and formed the indoglobal group...we did well initially, then faltered a bit, then did very well, before flaming out by 2010...this blog post is not about the story of indoglobal

this post is an extract from a mail (titled: our shot at immortality) i wrote to every indoglobalite some time into the crisis...it was a long mail, and a lot of it is irrelevant today...trawling through my mailbox today, i ran into this though, which i think is timeless...maybe you will like it, maybe you won't, but for what it is worth, here it is:

"...there is no such thing as a permanent strategy. there can only be permanent values...

...this brings me to the 'values'. the 'vision statement' that you see on your cards, hanging on boards in your office and on your websites is not just a string of words. it is as much a string of words as is a mathematical formula explaining, say, the dirac equation. it is made up of words, but it is full of meaning. it is flawed, but it is sufficient for us to understand the world around us. it is challengeable but that is the beauty of the vision. from different frames of reference, it looks different, means different, but in its manifestation and in its actions, it brings about the same positive state of affairs that are the final goals of the group: to touch as many lives positively as possible. it is simple in the way it opens itself to action. it is precise enough to follow without confusion and profound enough to stimulate those who desire to read more into it. it is not something that came about yesterday. it reflects the very principles by which i live my life. it echoes my desire, my dream and my ambition for the indoglobal group of companies. it is my shot at immortality. it is through this that i wish to be remembered.

"The IndoGlobal Group shall be the best people to BUY from, SELL to, WORK with and BET on". beautiful words! but what do they mean? what does the vision statement mean to all of us?
it means that we shall strive to be fair. it means that we shall strive to be honest. it means we shall strive to be gentle. and it means that we shall be consistent in our treatment of people, and not just consistent, but consistently humane, honest and fair. it means that we shall be gentlemen (here, this means men AND women. it is just that i know of no equivalent word in english for the ladies and i have to perforce use this word. please consider it to mean both genders). what does being a gentleman mean? my father defined this creature in the most succinct fashion anyone could: a gentleman, he said, is that person who is still a gentleman when naked and alone! i couldn't agree more. it means that when no one is looking, when no one is judging, when no one has to know, would you be as humane, honest and fair as if you are on live television watched by 6 billion people? if the answer is yes, you have met the criterion. you are a true indoglobalite. an indoglobalite does not need any witness to act conscientiously, to act in fairness, to act with integrity and to act humanely. an indoglobalite can be relied upon. an indoglobalite's word is as good as a written, signed, witnessed and registered contract on stamp paper. it is a blank cheque.

i admit i am not perfect. no human is, otherwise what does one strive for in life? however, i must also admit that i believe that i diligently and honestly practice being a gentleman in my dealings with everyone: be it my parents, my friends, my neighbours, my co-passenger, my golfing partner, my customer, my vendor, my ceo, my business unit head, my creative artist, my accountant, my lawyer, my office boy, my driver or my dog, not in any order. they are all equally worthy of an even-handed, gentle, humane, honest, fair and consistent treatment. they are all opportunities present right here besides me to practice my morals and my way of life. they are the people who are not deserving of my patronising condescension but who, by right, should be treated justly so. of course, as i said, i am not perfect. and i do not expect you all to be too. all i expect is that you study the vision, internalise it, understand its depth and true meaning and try and see how much of it you can put into practice. you need not even be an indoglobalite to do this. all gentlemen are not indoglobalites, but all indoglobalites MUST be gentlemen. i hope you see what i am showing you..."

i will leave you with the concluding paragraphs of the mail...interpret it as you like:

"...so, you would ask, and rightly so, if all is going so well at indoglobal, why am i writing to you? what is the pressing need for me to communicate my thoughts to everyone, to every indoglobalite, old or new, junior or senior, in every group company? what is this? is it a 'feel good' mail? or am i going to drop the hammer now that i have all of you warmed up and ready? what is it that is waiting round the corner to hit us? well, let me answer that question with an parable: when i was young, my father bought me a bicycle. he put training wheels on it and held the seat as i learnt to ride it. i used to feel a bit wobbly but i knew he was holding on to it and concentrated on peddling and moving forward, not bothering about balance or the fear of falling and hurting myself. one day, i saw him removing the training wheels and i asked him why he was doing it. he said i did not need them anymore. that was a shock to me! i thought he does not care. i told him i'd fall. i cried, i threw tantrums and i did everything in my power to stop him from taking away my safety net. but he was cruel. he did not listen. i thought i would have a bad fall and carry that scar physically and mentally for my entire life. i would then hate my father forever. i refused to ride. he ignored my requests and told me that if i wanted to ride, i'd have to do without the training wheels since i did not need them anymore. "who was he to decide?" i thought. i shall fall and break my bones, hurt myself and cry, and then he will come to his senses. instead, what happened was this - nothing! i got on the cycle and rode comfortably. yes, i did wobble. yes, i also fell a couple of times...almost. but i never needed the training wheels again and today, i feel foolish thinking about the temper tantrums i threw about this simple act of me growing up and my father letting go. the same has happened to a lot of you in your own childhood. or it has happened to you in a pool where you first learnt to swim. or the first day at school when you left your mother's finger and had to be pulled into the class, crying and bawling about losing your safety net. but in the end, it was for your own good. you survived, without scars...like all of us do, like all of us have to do. such is life. it is beautiful!

so, here is the conclusion of this long mail: i think you have had training wheels for long enough now. i think you have had my safety net for quite some time. "kag would provide money"; "kag would provide guidance"; "i will not take a decision without kag's recommendation"; "i do not know what to do"; "kag will come back and set things right"; "this is kag's company". kag, kag, kag. it is time to stop! it is time to grow up. in fact, you already have grown up. you just don't know it. it is time to look yourself in the mirror and recognise that you have grown up. it is time to reconcile that you have to look after yourself from now on. there is no kag. there is no one coming from dubai to save you. that is not because i have suddenly become powerless to save you, but because you do not need saving! you are perfectly capable of looking after yourself, of generating wealth, of creating value, of moving in the direction defined by our common vision and goals. you are capable of fending for yourself AND giving back to me what i have invested in you. there is no looking back. the worst thing you can do is to look back or down to check if you are riding or swimming well, because that would take your eyes off the real target, you will lose concentration and you will fall or drown. don't look back, don't look down, don't even THINK of anything but the future. it is bright, i assure you. you are all fantastic people and there is no one in the world who can match you in your drive, your ambition, your passion and your firm faith in the values that i have tried to inculcate in you towards the group and your professional life.

however, before i conclude, i want to talk of one very big obstacle in your way. this person shall pull you down. this person shall tell you what is NOT possible rather than explore that which IS. this person shall be the devil's advocate. this pessimistic being, this evil demon, this crying baby, this negative person is YOU. i did say you are CAPABLE. but that is the end of what your education, experience, training and a bit of the values you learnt at indoglobal can do. what i, or anyone on earth, cannot do is to make you WILLING. you have to do that task yourself. you have to challenge yourself. you have to dare yourself. you have to drive yourself. you have to absolutely, totally and completely PUSH yourself into making this happen. you have everything you need to create this entity called indoglobal which shall be the best people to buy from, sell to, work with and bet on. you just need the willpower. that is a fight i cannot fight for you. you have to do it yourself. all i can do is wish you the best and watch proudly from the sidelines. there is no kag now. there is only you..."

as for the billion dollar question: did it help? did indoglobal take off like a rocket? is it now a global force to reckon with? unfortunately, the answer must be a no...whatever it was that i did, or thought i was doing, did not work...maybe i was wrong, maybe others were, maybe it was a combination of a bad general with a bad army...it is all irrelevant now...i do not blame anyone else for the debacle...if it had been a rocking success, i would have enjoyed the dividends...since it is not, i have no room to complain...however, there still are some words that echo in my head, some good things out of all the mess, some diamonds from an abandoned & unproductive mine, and i have tried to extract and present them in this blog post