Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back - Gratitude

It happens rarely. In January of 2012, I started jotting my recollections since I joined the Bank for the benefit of my family members. In the month of March, AVK expressed his desire to write my biography relating to my career. Never, in my wildest dreams did I imagine that someone would write my biography. Yet it all came together very well. What was even more surprising is that the “Looking Back” series went on to have a 55 episode run. 
I am sure that every career has its share of interesting experiences.  I had my own unique experiences.  In this biographical series, AVK has highlighted that I was a mentor to many. My view is a bit different. I feel that I just did my job, which was expected of me as a senior.  I firmly believe that encouraging youngsters to acquire more knowledge and qualifications to shoulder higher responsibility is one of the duties of seniors. This is also a hidden strength of any institution. During those days when I was encouraging youngsters, a few would take it in right spirit.  I was happy that in Shimoga and Indore, many persons responded well and prospered.  AVK was one of the first to respond to such stimulus and bloom into having a career studded with achievements. I am not sure how appropriate the word ‘mentor’ is to my role, but I firmly believe that I did my duty as an Officer. However, I am very much happy and delighted and will be forever indebted that AVK covered my biography so succinctly and engagingly.
I learnt that the readership for the ‘Looking Back’ series was increasing with every passing month. I express my gratitude to all readers and also for their good feedback and reactions. 

I would like to add a quote from Guruji Rabindranath Tagore –
I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted – and behold, service was joy.

B. G.  Rao

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Business-Minded

The other day my friend was telling me about a retired professor who got an offer from his close friend to work in his office as a consultant. Actually the professor wanted to lead a peaceful retired life without official assignments of any sort. But he was persuaded by his close friend who was a successful industrialist to take up the assignment. The professor had to yield to his friend’s request even though quite reluctantly.
Initially the professor found the job quite satisfying. He had a good team and the area of work was also to his liking. But soon he found something amiss. While his friend was quite receptive to his creative suggestions, he appeared to be unenthusiastic and hesitant the moment he found that the issue involved some cost to the company. The professor was a creative person and was quite new to the culture of a business organization. He could not understand why his close friend was not receptive to some of his suggestions. His spirits started ebbing away soon.
After about six months, the professor thought he could not fit into the scheme of things. He told his friend that he had some personal commitments and that he would like to resign.  He requested his friend to relieve him on the last day of the month. The industrialist friend did not react to his request immediately. Naturally the professor thought that he was reluctant to accept his resignation. He was about to beg his forgiveness. But his friend told him to wait till he got back to him. He was not made to wait for long. He soon received an e-mail from his friend and boss asking him to submit his resignation immediately so that he could be relieved on the same day!
The professor came to know later that his friend was only following the spirits of a diligent businessman. He had been hired from a business perspective of the company. By relieving him on the same day, the boss had saved a good amount to the company! It had little to do with his friendship with the professor. When it came to business, the friendship and sentiments made little sense! Of course the professor learnt it the hard way.
Commerce Stories
My elder brother had published a story collection called ‘Commerce Stories’ way back in the late sixties when he was studying B.Com at the MES College in Bangalore. In those days it was not fashionable to go for a B.Com degree as there were hardly any jobs for a commerce graduate. My brother chose the course due to his own reasons; but he soon came to know that the world of business covered in the B.Com syllabus was totally different from the sentimental stuff he was accustomed to as a typical, simple Malnad boy. Unlike a BA student, there was no literature or poetry for him to study. Oh! It was a different cup of tea altogether! He had already written certain short stories in Kannada based on his Malnad life. Now it was time for him to write the ‘Commerce Stories’. One of them went like this:
Radha was a simple young college student who developed friendship with her college mate Krishna. The friendship soon turned into a love affair.  Radha started dreaming about the romantic moments with her friend on the lines of several Kannada novels she had read - written by the well known Kannada authors of those days. But she had ignored one particular difference between the heroes of those novels and her own hero. Of course the heroes of all those stories were mostly college students. Quite interestingly almost all of them were BA students with a few exceptions being B.Sc. students. However, none of them was a B.Com student! And Krishna was a B.Com student!
Radha came to know that Krishna’s birthday was falling due on a particular day. She wanted to present him a memorable gift on the occasion. She chose a costly Parker pen as the right gift for him. She had no doubt that her beloved Krishna would be thrilled with her presentation. When the two met at the Cubbon Park on the day, Radha handed over the pen to Krishna wishing him a happy birthday. Krishna appeared to be quite impressed with his lover’s presentation. He opened the gift pack and took out the beautiful and much coveted pen of those days. Radha was naturally expecting some romantic expression from her beloved. But there was no such expression from Krishna. Rather the first question he put to her was how much she had paid for the pen!
Needless to say the romantic feelings of Radha evaporated the moment Krishna asked the price of the pen. But Krishna was bent upon knowing it. Radha reluctantly told him that she had paid Rs10 for the same. It was quite a big amount for a student of those days. But being a B.Com student, what Krishna wanted to analyse was whether she had paid the right price for the item she had purchased! He concluded on the spot that she had overpaid for the article! According to him the normal price of the pen could not have been more than Rs7!  He chided Radha for her ignorance in the matter. One can only guess what happened to the romantic dream of Radha thereafter! So that was one of the typical Commerce Story for you!
The Inborn Entrepreneurship!
The city of Mumbai is known as the commercial capital of India. The city indeed means business. Nobody here has the spare time for others. Of course that was what I had thought when I arrived in Mumbai in the year 1977. After some time I almost thought that my presumption was perfect. But soon I had to change my opinion partially because of one person. He was actually the cousin of my wife and was running a private business. We used to visit his house often at Andheri West. His name was Mohan Tholpadi. Incidentally his wife’s name was Mohini. The Mohan-Mohini couple used to entertain guests in a very hospitable manner. It was always a pleasure to be their guests.
Mohan had a flourishing business of maintenance of swimming pools of a major number of Five-Star hotels in Mumbai. He was not even a graduate. But he had developed a unique business enterprise in a city like Mumbai without any support of any kind from either his family or anybody else. But inspite of being such a successful entrepreneur, he was a very simple and humble man. He would engage himself in several social activities without any publicity whatsoever.  I was curious to know how he could develop such entrepreneur skills hailing from a small town like Puttur in South Kanara with minimum education. Mohan narrated an episode from his childhood days to prove that he had developed the spirits of an astute businessman even as a child. He also told me that his mother was the first person to discover his business-minded nature early!
Mohan’s father had died early and his mother had the onerous task of bringing up the young children. While she was struggling to take care of her young ones, the young lot was least concerned of the difficulties of their beloved mother. They were enjoying their childhood by engaging themselves with all sorts of activities at home to create maximum nuisance to their mother. Fed up with their activities, one day their mother called them together and told them that she had decided to end her life! What she was perhaps expecting was all of them would start weeping - begging her not to die.
But to her surprise none of the children seemed perturbed by her decision to end her life. All of them started back their nuisance activities as if the departure of their mother would mean nothing to them! But there was one son who seemed to be quite perturbed. He sat there in front of his mother looking totally worried. The son was our Mohan. His mother thought at least she had one son who could not bear the loss of his beloved mother. She started cuddling him and affectionately asked him why he was so much worried.
Mohan told her that he was really worried. He asked her to extend him only one favour. He pointed out a tin box on the top of the kitchen platform, in which she had stored sweets and toffees.  He asked her to take it out and hand it over to him before she left him for good!
A V Krishnamurthy
29th December 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

I Don’t Know, Son! - 56

(The Kingfisher Saga)
The Good Beginning!
Son: The beleaguered Kingfisher Airlines is once again in the limelight, dad.
Father: What is the good news? Go on, son.
Son: Vijay Mallya the owner of the airline appears to have made a very good beginning, dad.
Father: Like what? Go on, son.
Son: He has offered 3 kg of gold to the Lord of Tirupati, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: His son Siddhartha is also said to be ready to join hands with his beloved father, dad.
Father: How? Go on, son.
Son: He is said to have assured his dad that he would ensure the release of the famous Kingfisher Calendar for 2013 early, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
Mallya to Infuse Rs425 crore!
Son: According to State Bank of India, Vijaya Mallya is ready to infuse Rs425 crore into the airline, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: One of the bankers is said to have reacted that it is good that Mallya has exceeded the figure of Rs420 crore (though marginally), dad!
Father: What for? Go on, son.
Son: The banks are said to be averse to the figure 420 for their own reasons, dad.
Father: Like what? Go on, son.
Son: The banks had previously converted a portion of their loan to equity at Rs65 per share and the market price of the share stands at Rs15 per share as on date, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The share conversion was done under a debt-restructure scheme in 2010 and the bankers are reminded about their huge loss the moment they hear the number 420, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
A Minor Problem!
Son: The airline is said to be facing a minor problem, however, dad.
Father: Like what? Go on, son.
Son: A majority of aircrafts of the airline are said to be either seized by the aircraft leasing companies for non-payment of lease rentals, or by the Tax Authorities for non-payment of service tax or by the Airports Authority of India for non-payment of airport charges, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: However, one particular aircraft is said to encumbrance free, dad.
Father: Which one is it? Go on, son.
Son: That is the personal aircraft of Vijaya Mallya, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
The May (may or may not) Salary!
Son: There is yet no word on the salary dues of the hapless employees of the airline so far by Vijaya Mallya or the officials of the airline, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son:  The salary for the month of May onwards is said to be still in arrears, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: On a query from journalists, one of the officials is said to have told that the airline may or may not pay the salary for May, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
The Innovative Financial Accountancy!
Son: The Kingfisher Airline can take the credit for redefining the financial accounting terminology in the cash-flow statement, dad!
Father: How come? Go on, son.
Son: All items connected with income tax and service tax (other than refunds) are considered as cash outflows in the financial accounting, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: But Kingfisher Airline has created a record of sorts by treating income tax and service tax as cash inflows, dad!
Father: How come? Go on, son.
Son: The airline has held back and diverted the service tax collected from passengers and tax deducted from the salaries of employees, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: In other words, the tax items have become a sort of cash-flow for the airline, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
A V Krishnamurthy
21st December 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Looking Back – 55

The BGR couple with the writer and his wife

The Life after Retirement
 For the first four months after retirement, BGR utilised his time to get his house renovated/painted.   In the month of June 2001, some of the residents in the locality wanted to start “LIC/CANARA BANK COLONY/HANUMANTHAPPA LAYOUT RESIDENTS’ WELFARE ASSOCIATION” covering three colonies having about 500 houses and wanted BGR to be a promoter.  BGR thought it a good idea and gave his consent.  The Association was registered in June 2001 and the initial work started with right earnestness.  Through the Association, the residents could take up many of their grievances with the respective departments and solve them.  The Association also took up a number of issues for improvement of civic amenities like park, library, roads and footpaths, play ground, replacing drinking water pipes, sewage pipes and others.  The Association, apart from celebrating Independence and Republic days, also conducts sports competition for all age groups, drawing and Rangoli competitions.  Various Cultural Programmes are also arranged for which a very good stage has been built in the park. At the persuasion of the Association a new bus stand "Byrasandra" has been built which is close to LIC/Canara Bank colonies. All the requirements of the Association were executed with the best co-operation from the Corporator Shri N Nagaraju and the MLA Shri B N Vijaya Kumar. 
The Managing Committee members and the Office-bearers worked as a team and the functioning of the Association was excellent.  Since inception in 2001, the Managing Committee met regularly on Mondays of every month without fail at 6 PM and discussed and decided collectively. All the eleven Annual General Body Meetings were held promptly and the Association worked like a model.  BGR was throughout associated with the functioning as the Managing Committee member.  He also worked as President and Vice-President.  This year, considering his age and also the need to handover the responsibilities of the Association to younger members, he did not give nomination and retired after actively working for 12 years.  BGR says that working voluntarily for a common cause has its own charm and satisfaction and he fully enjoyed the social work. 
The Computer Education – It is never too late!
BGR was a computer illiterate at the time of his retirement. He joined NIIT to know the basics of computer operation in 2001.   His sons provided him an exclusive computer and printer.  He could pick up quickly. The R V Institute of Management at 4th T Block in Jayanagar conducted a 6-week course “Computer Fundamentals and Internet” exclusively for Senior Citizens during 2003.  BGR attended the course along with other three friends.  Professor Reddy who taught them took lot of pains and made all the participants to gain perfect knowledge which helped BGR to further improve his knowledge of computer.  Since then, he has been using the computer for writing letters, sending greetings, etc. apart from writing his thoughts and storing.  He could also prepare a book “Family Tree” of his Bailakare family easily and got it printed.  He could also browse the Internet and understand and explore many new areas of knowledge. But for his computer knowledge, perhaps, this biography would never have materialized.
The BGR Family
BGR has two sons and he got them married during his retired life.  His elder son Adarsh Rao passed his CA in 1997 and is a practicing Chartered Accountant.  His wife S R Jaya is an Architect and an Approved Valuer.  They own office at Brigade Business Suites near Ashoka Pillar, Jayanagar and both of them are practicing professionals. They have a five-year old son Abhinav.  His other son Anil Rao is an Electronics Engineer and is working for a Private IT Company for the last 13 years and is presently working as Director Applications and Global Sourcing at Chandigarh.  His wife Savita did her M C A from NIT Suratkal. She was also a Gold Medalist in her B.Sc.   They have a three-year old son Aarav. 
The Hobbies
BGR has been a member of the “Jayanagar Study Centre” which conducts lectures followed by discussions twice in a week. Eminent speakers on different subjects are being invited. He also attends books release functions, if held in Jayanagar/Basavanagudi areas. He is very passionate about gardening. BGR has been always concerned about the persons in difficulties and continues to help the needy. He likes to hear good speakers. Apart from newspapers and magazines, BGR also purchases some good books now-a-days for reading.  His four recent readings were:  a) ADADATHA AYUSHYA” in Kannada - an autobiography written by Girish Karnad.  It covered his life only up to 40 years.  But within 40 years, what he learnt, what positions he occupied and his contribution to Drama and Cinema were unparalleled.  The writing was brilliant.  b) An Autobiography by Vinod Mehta, again a literary masterpiece c) “If God were to be a Banker” by Ravi Subramaniam which depicts the notorious role of so called “Successful Bankers” studied at IIMs and d) Chasing the Monsoon by Alexander Frater.
The Friendly Neighbourhood
BGR has good neighbours, many of whom are retired Canbankmen.  He has a group of good friends with whom he would have dialogues periodically.  Many old colleagues have also retired and now and then they meet during social/family functions.  Jayanagar-Shopping Complex is just one KM away from BGR’s residence, which serves as a meeting place of old colleagues as also a good shopping place. A well maintained park is nearby so also a Library.  The area is well maintained and the life is comfortable.
BGR says that he was fortunate to associate with people who were having knowledge and experience more than him. He has a group of friends who are well experienced and upright.  Whatever knowledge he acquired, he used to share with others particularly with his juniors.  He always thought it was his duty to make his subordinates more knowledgeable as knowledge is a powerful asset and when that is acquired by more and more staff that reflects on the collective strength of the Bank.   He also believed that voluntary social work gives inner and rare satisfaction.
Managing the Health Issues
BGR is a diabetic and BP patient since two decades but both are under control – thanks to Dr. Ganapathy – his family doctor. He underwent prostate operation during 2005, cataract operation of both the eyes during 2006-07, Ulcer operation during 2009 and retina operations of both eyes during 2011.  He has lost 50% of his teeth.  Still BGR thinks he has got a long way to go.  According to him what he knows now is very little!  His hunger for acquiring new areas of knowledge is unlimited.  At this stage of his life, he thinks the Almighty has provided him everything and WHY HE SHOULD NOT BE HAPPY?”
------- (Concluded) --------
The Epilogue
It was in the month of March 2012 that I approached BGR expressing my intention to write a small biography of him. To be frank I had very little idea as to how I should proceed in narrating his story. Initially I had thought that I would finish the story in about 5-6 episodes basing on the material I already possessed during my association with him at Shimoga branch and by conducting a short interview of him. But BGR then told me that he had already started writing about the events from the period he attained majority. That was exactly when he left Udupi for securing an appointment at Canara Bank in Bangalore. He also told me that he would write only about his career and make me available his writings to enable me to convert it into a story. That was how I decided that I would also restrict my writing to BGR’s career.
At that stage neither BGR nor I had any clue as to the length of the story or the number of episodes that it would run. But then BGR could remember and write down in detail about his entire 42 years of service in Canara Bank. My work became simpler as I had to only convert his writings into a story format by improving its readability and making it as much interesting as possible. While I have written the Shimoga-part of the story mostly on my own, the rest of the story is purely based on BGR’s writings. The readers may note that it was more like a joint venture between BGR and me. I made it a point to get a review done by BGR for each episode before I uploaded it to my blog. But I should admit here that I had never thought that the project would take as long as nine months. Actually the story would have run for nearly 60 episodes had I included the write-ups on three important personalities – K G Bhaskar, H C Raja Rao (HCR) and NRG Prasad. I have excluded them as I have written their stories separately already.
There are events in everybody’s career worth writing about. But very few persons are capable of writing them down. The writings could also, however, turnout to be a boring stuff. But to make them interesting to the readers is the real challenge. From my writing experience so far I have realised that releasing the story in a serial form is one way of retaining the curiosity and interest in the story. That I have a committed set of readers to all my writings has been my greatest strength and fortune. The feedback received from them has always helped me in keeping the tempo.
Looking Back has received continuous and encouraging feedback from several readers - many of them being Canbankmen. I should specifically mention the name of my close friend and ex-colleague (at Canara Bank, HCL and Informatics) N Narayanan. He is presently in US. The readers of my blog might have observed that he has commented on most of the episodes. My ex-colleague (in HCL) Ashwini is another regular reader from US who has commented often. The other people who gave regular feedback directly to me include Dinesh Nayak, NRG Prasad, Rajgopal Tholpadi, Jaganathan, Meenakshi Sundaram, Daniel, KNV Murthy, Jayashree Naresh, Vasanthi Sridhar and Veena. In fact Meenakshi has suggested that we may come out with a printed version of the story particularly for the reading of Canbankmen. I am highly indebted to all of them.
It is also a matter of great satisfaction that the story attracted very high readership from US. It is interesting to mention here that the readership in US has in fact exceeded the readership from India.  I have been able to gather this information through Google statistics in my blog.
I had mentioned in my Prelude to the story that I had made it a mission to write the biography of BGR as my acknowledgement of his mentorship. I feel fully accomplished in my mission. Long live BGR! My best wishes are with you.
A V Krishnamurthy
12h December 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Looking Back – 54

The Woman behind the Successful BGR – Arundhathi Rao
Behind every successful man there is a woman. So goes the saying. Some people call it a cliché. But at least in case of BGR it turned out to be true. It was his life-partner Arundhathi Rao who stood for him through thick and thin. This writer feels that the biography of BGR will be incomplete without a sketch of her personality at least in brief. He is making this exception even though he had stated earlier that the write-up will be restricted to BGR’s career.
Arundhathi Rao hails from Ujre near Dharmasthala in the Dakshina Kannada district. In those days (sixties) there were no colleges in the area even though presently there is even a deemed University. After SSLC, she had to move to Mysore. She was a brilliant student throughout. She did her PUC at Mysore, Intermediate at Bombay and graduation (B.Sc.) in Goa. She had studied Hindi and Sanskrit as well. After graduation, she worked as a High School teacher in Dharmasthala for two years till her marriage to BGR in 1970.
Arundhathi madam is disciplined, well organised, focused, and clear in her thoughts and decisions. She had very few friends. By nature she is not a person to seek friendship. But quite interestingly many others sought her friendship on their own. At Bombay, the daughter of the Principal of her college became her only friend and she had the privilege of taking lunch along with the Principal and her daughter.  She never indulged in show-offs. Apart from being a mother, she was a good teacher for the two sons and brought them up very well.  She has led a systematic and orderly life.  She is a good house maker.  She does all her work without reminding. She is a great cook and is an expert in preparing South Kanara delicacies including Pathrode and Mangalore Bajji.  Reading has been her main hobby from younger days including reading of good English novels. She was always supportive of BGR.  Even during the difficult days of Emergency when BGR faced two charges sheets, she used to console him and tell him that if he had not done anything wrong, he need not worry and he was sure to get justice later.
Arundhathi madam again got an opportunity to teach at Indore when BGR was posted there. She enjoyed the teaching job, which gave her lot of confidence and enhanced her dignity further. The BGR couple maintained good neighbourly relations wherever they lived. They are also very good hosts. This writer can vouch for that as he and his wife have been the beneficiaries since long. As a part of BGR’s biography, this writer also conducted an interview of the madam. He found her quite outspoken and straight forward in her answers – a reflection of her attitude and personality.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Q: The Bank Officer’s post was a coveted job in the seventies and in fact banking industry was referred to as a high-wage island in those days. What was your reaction when your marriage proposal with BGR came up?  Did you feel lucky?
A: I did not have any knowledge of banking industry.  But my father knew that Canara Bank has expansion plans and the career in the bank is good.  Besides, my father acknowledged the fact that BGR has come up by his own hard work and was a self made man.
Q: Did BGR tell you that he was a staunch Unionist even after his promotion as an Officer? Did you expect any problems in his career as a consequence?
A: After marriage he did tell me that he skipped his promotion test the previous year.  
After six months of our marriage he was promoted and transferred to Shimoga.  I didn’t foresee any problem.
Q: BGR has been a workaholic. As a bank Officer/Manager/Senior Manager he had huge responsibilities. He was always under work pressure. How did it affect his family responsibilities! Did you feel over burdened at home?
A: Though he was workaholic, when he was at home he was always pleasant and helpful.  Even the neighbours praised him as a very good person.
Q: BGR faced tough time during the emergency period. He was served two charge sheets. His promotion was held up. His juniors moved ahead of him. You firmly stood by him in those days. What was your state of mind in those days? Can you look back?
A: During those days he was a bit depressed.  I felt things would not remain the same and it will pass. He had the goodwill and best wishes of his dear friends.  His juniors moving ahead was not the concern as he stood for some trade union rights and principles.
Q: I know BGR was never cash surplus. He helped many deserving people financially. But he also lived a good life. He built a very good house in the prestigious Jayanagar locality. What do you say about his financial planning?
A: Somehow he felt when the need for finance came up; it would take care on its own.  He didn’t care much for the savings.  The good house, we own, is really a great satisfaction -   the precious reward to live after retirement, after, rather a strenuous working life of 42 years.
Q: BGR has been a restless person and hard working. It affected his health particularly when he was SM at Shopping Complex Branch. How did you manage the situation?
A: The authorities would never take care of you and you have to take care of yourself.  It was a period of concern as his health was affected.  His friends suggested he should not take the branch’s burden on himself.  He could not take it so easy.
Q: BGR mentored a whole lot of youngsters particularly in Shimoga branch. What do you say about this quality of his?
A: I am very happy the youngsters he mentored in Shimoga branch have all come up very well and glad that they all remember him and acknowledge his qualities as a mentor.
Q: You always had guests at home (BGR’s relatives, friends, colleagues and others). How could you handle them?
A: Whenever we had guests, he would bring 2-3 bags full of vegetables and fruits and never bothered about other things.
Q: BGR could have retired at least as a Scale-IV Executive. He fully deserved the promotion. But circumstances were otherwise. What do you say in the matter?
A: I don’t really understand this thing about promotions.  It is the quality of life that matters to me.
Q: In banking service, transfer from one place to another is unavoidable.  As a house-wife, how did you feel living in different places?
A: Travelling to different places is an experience in itself.  You get to know the different cultures of different places.  We had good neigbourhood in Shimoga, Bombay, Indore and also Bangalore.
Q: BGR had planned post retirement perfectly. Unlike many others he never wanted to work gainfully. He chose to engage in social service. Did you support it wholeheartedly?
A: I have never been contradictory in his decisions.  I enjoyed simple pleasures like gardening, reading a good book, a morning walk and a useful conversation in day to day life.
Q: Both of your sons are well settled with their families. How much credit you want to give to BGR?
A: We are happy and contented that our two sons have settled well.  Both Adarsh and Anil consider their father as their hero and role-model. I am thankful to you for having recorded the eventful career of BGR.  I am sure the next generation will know the banking system of pre-computerization era - if they happen to go through it.
This was the first time the writer was attempting an interview playing the role of a journalist. He felt satisfied that he did a fairly good job in eliciting interesting answers from an intellectual lady. However, it is for the readers to judge. But he is 100 percent sure of one thing. BGR is lucky!
----- (To be continued) ------
A V Krishnamurthy
5th December 2012
The final episode (No.55) will appear on BGR’s 72nd birthday on 12th December 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Looking Back – 53

During 1998 the AGM of RI was entrusted with the investigation of a large cash credit account that had gone bad at one of the branches in Kolkata. BGR was asked by the AGM to accompany and assist him. It was a delicate and confidential job of fixing the responsibility on the officials who were responsible for the account to go bad. It was a new exposure for BGR. The investigation took nearly one week.
The Concurrent Audit of Cantonment Branch – The Final Frontier for BGR
BGR had completed five years as Section-Head in RI. He was posted to work in Cantonment branch as a full-time concurrent auditor in June 1999. Actually the Cantonment branch on the MG Road was just two buildings away from the Spencer Building. The branch was headed by an AGM assisted by a Senior Manager, three Managers, six Accountants and around 20 clerks. By then transition from Manual to ALPM had already taken place. The branch had many Corporate Accounts. There was enough work and BGR had to submit monthly reports. It took much time for him to verify all the mortgage papers. Certain papers were found missing but could ultimately be traced. There were more than 30 open cash credit accounts and submission of monthly stock statements was found to be irregular in some cases.
Some of the corporate borrowers had consortium finance earlier. Subsequently Multiple Bank Finance concept was introduced.  One Corporate Account which started with a small cash credit limit of Rs.5,000/- some 40 years ago, made fantastic progress and  enjoyed limit of over Rs.100 crores under different heads including imports during 2000.  This company also switched over to Multiple Bank Finance and borrowed from about a dozen banks, which included nationalised, private and foreign Banks.  Despite BGR’s repeated observations in his reports it was not possible to find out what was the total borrowing of the Company on any particular date except what was shown in the annual balance sheet of the Company. Incidentally this account became sticky at a later stage.
There was a large amount of income leakage at the branch. BGR could detect short collection of interest and commission to the tune of Rs1.5 crore during his stay of 18 months at the branch. He received a special appreciation letter from the General Manager.
The branch had the salary accounts of employees of Wipro Ltd. The employees used to maintain fat balances in their SB accounts. With the credit of monthly salaries the SB deposits of the branch grew fast. The branch also had a large number of NRI accounts with huge remittances to their credit. The branch also maintained the accounts of a leading local newspaper (Kannada and English) with large transactions. Cash transactions were huge as ATMs had not yet become popular.
While BGR was conducting the concurrent audit, the regular inspection of the branch was taken up. As BGR had comprehensively covered all the required areas, the team could complete the regular inspection in four weeks.
Shri Gururaja Murthy was the Senior Manager of the branch at that time.  He was managing the branch very well. With his all-round knowledge, he was able to handle any situation.  He had very good credit knowledge.  He had a pleasant personality and had the ability to maintain good rapport with CO/HO.  He was motivating Managers and Officers  very well.  Staff members also used to like him. Because of his ability, he got quick promotions and ultimately retired  as GM of Chandigarh Circle in 2011.  Another Officer whom BGR admired was Shri M E Prakash.  He was hard working and was giving fullest co-operation to SM/AGM.  He was very good at customer service.  He was handling Advances other than Corporate Credit with lot of work on his shoulders.  He used to plan and meticulously work to keep his area of operation in good shape.  Currently he is working at Corporate Credit Section in Credit Wing HO as Manager.
The Retirement
The Cantonment branch turned out to be the last work station for Bailakare Govinda Rao. The countdown had already begun. Eventually he was relieved on 31 December 2000 and his journey in Canara Bank came to an end. BGR remembered on the occasion the late Shri M R Pai who recommended his name to the Bank for employment, late Shri Somanath Narayan who welcomed him warmly on the date of joining the Bank and all those who guided and trained him to shoulder higher responsibilities.  The journey had started way back on 6th February 1959 and he had come a long way. What an eventful journey it had been! Actually BGR was unable to believe that he had completed almost 42 years service in the prestigious nationalised bank (including 10 years when it was in private Sector). But true it was! He had the immense satisfaction of having served the great institution to the best of his ability.
-----(To be continued)------
A V Krishnamurthy
2nd December 2012
(Next Episode: The woman Behind the Successful Man (BGR) – Arundhathi Rao

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Looking Back – 52

The Regional Inspectorate (RI) was functioning from the 3rd floor of Spencer Building on M G Road. During 1995 it was asked to shift to Church Street where the Corporate Cell of Cantonment branch was functioning earlier. The shifting could have caused a lot of inconvenience to RI. Right from part-time employee, daily wager when needed, canteen facility and above all proximity to Inspection Wing/Circle office which used to be a plus point in day to day functioning would have been lost.  BGR told the AGM about the difficulties and his preference to stay back. Fortunately, the matter came to the notice of the Inspection Wing Executives. RI was then provided space on the 5th floor where the Inspection Wing was located - by making some rearrangements. This helped the RI to function still better.
The IC&I Section and Shri Dinesh Nayak – The Professional Manager
The inspection reports of the branches were followed up for rectification by the IC&I Section at Circle Office after the same were received from RI. The rapport between RI and IC&I Section was very much essential for mutual discussion and clarification on many matters. The IC& I Section was headed by a Senior Manager. However, for dealing with Special & Confidential reports, there was a separate Manager who was functioning independently till all such reports were closed. He was Shri Dinesh Nayak.  BGR had occasion to meet him when he was working earlier at Yediyur and Jayanagar T Block branches.  BGR was pleased with some of his excellent qualities during his first meeting with him in his Section.  He had an excellent and clear voice and spoke very good English.  He had in-depth knowledge. His analytical ability was excellent.  He had clear cut views in the area of his working as also on many of the general matters. 
Some of the Managers used to send Special Reports where confidential reports were required to be sent and vice versa.  Moreover, some of the reports were incomplete/unclear. Dinesh Nayak used to point out in a clear cut manner the deficiencies in the report. His processing of the reports was excellent. It was a pleasure for BGR to meet him and discuss matters frequently.  Since then, BGR has been keeping contact with him till date. The two used to discuss many general topics and BGR feels that the discussions with him have enhanced his knowledge.  Dinesh Nayak took VRS in May 2000 (before SVRS) and is now leading a happy retired life after getting his two daughters married.  He reads a lot.  He presently owns an iPad, which he regularly operates and updates himself. For Dinesh Nayak, operating an iPad is a pleasurable job. He is a meticulous reader and observer. The writer of this biography also had the opportunity to meet him and found him extremely knowledgeable and unassuming. He has been giving valuable feedback on this write up very frequently.
The Composition of RI
There were 75 Field Inspecting Officers.  Average age group was about 52.  Most of them had worked as in-charge of branches.  Some had joined Inspection willingly, some reluctantly and some unavoidably.  Some were prepared to work anywhere i.e. locally and outstation.  Some had reservation to go out of station due to domestic reasons.  Some had ailing parents.  Some would come and inform that their son/daughter’s marriage has been fixed to be held shortly.  Some had their own health problems.  BGR used to interact with the field Inspectors when they personally came to the Section or wherever he used to receive phone calls from them.  Some were capable of taking up any category of branch Inspection i.e. VLBs, ELBs, SSI branches and Foreign Department. Some were not eager/competent to take up such Inspections.  So within about 6 months of joining BGR could assess and give them programmes suited to them.   If he came to know that an Inspecting Officer needed to stay locally for some time, he used to ensure that programme was given locally without their asking. 
At that time Concurrent Audit of ELBs/VLBs every month was in vogue.  So such of the Inspecting Officers who were finding it difficult to go outstation, were allotted 2-3 Concurrent Audit branches.  Another set of Inspectors who were always ready to go outstation, were given mostly regular inspection of outstation branches.   Sometimes, if Inspection of branches of our RI was up-to-date, Inspection Wing would ask RI whether it could depute Inspectors to other RIs.  To go to out of State, there were about half a dozen Inspectors always ready.  RI had deputed them to Calcutta, Patna, Delhi, Bombay and Hyderabad branches during different years.  Thus BGR could fairly balance the programmes so that the Inspectors willingly took up the work.  There were competent Inspectors who were capable of conducting “In-depth studies”.  There were several excellent Inspectors like K S Somayaji, Umesh V Prabhu (who is also a writer in Kannada language), K V S Raju, S R V Kamath, J P Prabhu, K Bhoja, R S D B Gowda and L M Pai.
Outsourcing of Regular Inspection – A Failed Initiative!
During 1996, Inspection Wing, HO decided to outsource the regular inspection of some branches to Chartered Accountants and in Bangalore RI 10 branches were outsourced.  They were given the guidelines booklets as also relevant latest circulars.  RI had apprehensions about the quality of inspection as the Audit firms were not experts in the audit of day-to-day functioning of the branches even though they were conducting Statutory Audit of yearly Balance Sheets.  Only two auditors did fairly good job (subsequently RI came to that they had engaged some retired Bank Managers to do the job).  RI could process and grade them by obtaining some information not covered by them from the branches. For the remaining eight branches, RI had to depute the Inspecting Officers to do supplementary Inspection to cover the left out areas/statistics. 
One classic example was the inspection of the biggest branch in Bangalore, Cantonment-Bangalore. This was entrusted to a large audit firm having headquarters in North India.  When RI received the file containing over 200 printed pages, except mentioning “Yes” or “No” there were no other comments.  The statistics provided were incomplete/wrong.   RI was unable to proceed further.  Then AGM suggested sending a team of Inspectors to conduct supplementary inspection and prepare a fresh report.   At the end of the year, the Inspection Wing, HO asked for feed-back about the Inspection conducted by External Auditors and RI gave all the deficiencies and from the very next year the outsourcing was discontinued.  
The Skewed Bank Promotion Policy!
During 1997, BGR submitted appraisal for promotion to Scale IV as his AGM was very eager that he should get it on the basis of his excellent performance and he would push up his case.  During May BGR went to his native place to attend a marriage and some other work.  While he was there, he received a message that his eldest brother, who had retired from RBI as GM, had a heart attack at his sister’s house at Indapur (Pune District) and was hospitalized.  Immediately, BGR went there and stayed there for some days till he recovered.  At that time, the promotion announcement was due.  BGR telephoned to Shri Damle in RI and asked him about the result.  He told BGR that the results would be announced by 3 PM.  He also told that one of the Executives from Inspection Wing told him that his name was on the top of the list.  He told it on the basis of the information that Personnel Wing had asked Inspection Wing to suggest one name as only one SM would be promoted from Inspection and BGR’s name was recommended. 
But when the list was out, BGR’s name was missing.  It was a shock to his colleagues in Inspection including his AGM.  When BGR returned to the Section, one Executive jocularly told him that  he had worked hard throughout the year, but the person who got the promotion applied for 3 days Casual Leave and worked hard to get promotion by pursuing with the right Executives! So that was the scenario in the bank!
BGR had thought that if his name was considered for promotion, he could have worked in a higher capacity in his balance three years of service in the bank. He could have contributed at a different level. But that was not to be. And that was the life and the reality in the banking service. Thereafter BGR did not submit his appraisal for promotion. He carried on with his devoted service as hitherto.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
29th November 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Looking Back – 51

BGR reported at the Regional Inspectorate (RI) during the fourth week of May 1994. He took charge of the Section from Raghavendra Rao who was under transfer to Madurai on promotion to Scale-IV. He explained the working of the Section and advised BGR to assess the branches carefully and objectively while recommending for gradation as there was a provision for appeal by branches/Circle Office. The next day he was relieved and BGR took charge.  The Section had an Officer, three Managers for processing, two typists, one clerk and a peon.  All of them had put in 2-3 years of experience in the Section.  RI was headed by Shri N R Suvarna as AGM after the reorganization of Inspection Department was done as an independent entity.  It was located on the 3rd floor of Spencer Towers on M G Road where the Bangalore Circle office was functioning.  All the branches of Bangalore Circle Office numbering about 230 as also Currency Chests and Foreign Department were to be covered.   There were totally 75 field Inspectors and most of them were Senior Managers.  Apart from Bangalore, Inspectors were stationed at Mysore, Davanagere and Gulbarga.
The functions of the Section included the following:
  1. Giving Programmes to the Inspectors and follow up of their movements
  2. Processing the Inspection Reports received and grading 
  3. If any deficiencies were found in the Inspection Reports , guiding and addressing Inspectors with suitable letters as also issuing appreciation letters wherever large scale income erosion is detected and recovered 
  4. Sending periodical returns/reports to the Inspection Wing 
  5. Guiding the newly joined Inspectors 
  6. Conducting a week’s training programme for the newly inducted Inspectors during the last week of September and a General Training Programme during the last week of March every year
  7. Attending annual RIs Conference called by Inspection Wing, HO  and other meetings
The staff in the Section was efficient and experienced.  Shyam Sunder, Accountant, was doing a very good job in preparing programmes and other connected matters of Inspectors.  Umanath Damle, Manager, too doing an excellent job in inwarding Inspection files and handling them till the same are graded and then sent to Circle Office.  He was also properly interpreting new guidelines issued by the Inspection Wing, HO, and used to issue Circular letters to the Inspecting Officers, wherever necessary. He was assisting BGR in preparing training programmes and the required materials/files for conducting Training Programme for inspectors. The other two Managers were fully engaged in processing of files for the purpose of gradation.  
All the three lady clerks were also very good at work. While Rajni Gopal was looking after all the clerical work, Gayathri and Rajni Prakash were excellent in typing and computer operations.  Peon Ramaiah (who is no more now) was short and weak but knew his work well.  He had a good handwriting and in all the new files, he used to beautifully write the names in coloured ink. AGM Suvarna trusted BGR and gave him a free hand and used to permit the implementation of suggestions and ideas.  Thus for BGR managing the section was a pleasure. There used to be frequent Phone calls from the field inspectors– either seeking clarification or reporting some problems.  The AGM of the Inspection Wing used to call whenever some new guidelines were received from RBI/HO for discussion before implementing them.
Launching of a Revised Training Programme for Inspectors 
BGR’s innovativeness came to the fore as in-charge of RI. During the last week of September 1994 the Training Programme for the newly inducted Inspectors had to be organized. Normally, STC faculty members used to draw the time-table and conduct the training by themselves earmarking one or two periods to RI.  BGR suggested to the AGM that there was a case for revision of topics.  BGR also suggested to him that he would take 5-6 classes.  He also told AGM that there were some excellent Field Inspectors who also could be drawn for covering specific areas of Inspection where they had excelled.  The AGM readily agreed.  BGR sat with the Faculty member of STC who was asked to organize.  He suggested some changes in the topics and the STC member readily agreed.  STC was also happy that RI had come forward to take more responsibility in training.  So the revised time-table was drawn and Inspectors were identified.  It was decided that out of the 21 classes RI would take 10 classes. BGR himself decided to take five classes out of the 10 classes.
After the introductory address by the AGM, BGR took up the topic “Approach to Field Inspection”. He told the Inspectors that some of them had willingly joined Inspection whereas some would have joined reluctantly.  But he suggested that everybody should willingly accept one term in Inspection.  As most of the trainees were earlier in-charge of the branches, BGR told them that naturally they would feel like “A KING WITHOUT KINGDOM”.  Yet he wished them that after the term of Inspection all of them would get a good Kingdom and they would be more equipped to lead.  BGR also advised them to accept Inspection as an opportunity to observe the working of many branches, see many places, observe secret of success of some Managers as also why some Managers fail to manage the branch.  He also told them to start the Inspection with an open mind and without any pre-conceived notions and “Be a friend, philosopher and guide” to the branches. 
He told them that the reception for Inspection would be different as some branches would welcome, some feel as it would be inconvenience and some would be concerned.  But the inspectors have to create an impression that attending to Inspectors and Inspection observations is part of the duties of the branches for the improvement of the working of the branch as also making the Bank’s working more efficient.    He also cautioned them that “Excessive hospitality by the Manager/or any other staff in the branch could be a sign of weakness”.
For the topic “Special & Confidential Report” an able Inspector Umesh V Prabhu was asked to take up classes.   For “Income Erosion” S R V Kamath who was expert in locating short collection of interest/commission was entrusted.  R S D B. Gowda, a direct recruit and young and successful Manager who had worked as AEO was asked to take up the topic “Inspection of Agricultural Finance”.  He later took VRS (before SRVS) and started his own venture.  BGR gathered that with his technical knowledge and skill and ability to manage, he succeeded and earned a good fortune. The training programme with changed topics went off quite well and was appreciated by the participating Inspectors and the STC team as well.
Once in six months the training exercise had to be conducted and during BGR’s five-year term in RI, he could improve the basic approach for better and objective understanding.  Umanath Damle, Manager in the Section did a marvelous job in preparing the file containing Inspection guidelines, latest changes, relevant circular numbers and also some write ups. The RI team made continuous improvement in the programme to achieve better quality of training. 
As usual the training for newly inducted Inspecting Officers was held during Sept 1996.  As there were only four newly inducted Inspecting Officers at Bombay RI, they were posted to the Bangalore Course. M D Kamath, Senior Manager, who had successfully worked in STC at Bombay as faculty, was posted to Inspection there and he was one amongst the four.  When the training was in progress, Kamath met BGR and told that only the STC people used to conduct this training in Bombay whereas here in Bangalore RI was taking lot of interest as also asking some successful Inspectors to conduct classes which were really good and interesting.  He had all the praise for the file prepared by Bangalore RI and given to all the new Inspectors.  He also told BGR that he was very much impressed by the way he and other Inspectors used to conduct classes on a very practical basis.
Kamath who also spoke on the valedictory day stated that the method of conducting classes and giving inputs to the Inspectors was excellent which was not the case in Bombay.  This platform gave BGR immense satisfaction as sharing of knowledge and training juniors were practiced by him from his clerical days.  BGR was also used to be the guest speaker at STC on topics relating to Inspection during the other courses conducted by them between 1996 and 2000.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
28th November 2012