Monday, April 16, 2012

Looking Back - Episode – 6

Often I used to wonder how BGR could develop such leadership qualities. I have found him a well organised man who is capable of getting things done - at the right time invariably. He also has a special skill to identify the right people for different types of work. He invariably gets the things done and knows the art of extracting work from persons who are capable. To be precise, he is a taskmaster! I have even seen some officers trying to escape his attention! They knew quite well that he will not only assign work, but also gets it done!
As I proceed with writing his initial working days in the bank I may perhaps be revealing some of the secrets of his leadership qualities! Certain situations did help him to develop such quality. The first such occasion was bidding farewell to his first mentor Somnath Narayan - hardly within a fortnight of his joining duties.
Somnath saw to it that BGR learnt the typing work in a systematic way. He had a smiling face, never would get angry and was a master in making people working with him feel at home. He had developed an art of making newcomers comfortable without getting upset under any circumstances. He left a lasting impression on BGR in his initial days in the bank.
Hardly after a week of BGR’s joining the bank, M V Bhat, the Accountant, called BGR and Somnath and told Somnath that the bank had decided to consider his request for a transfer to Madras. He was asked to train and guide BGR fully including typing of Board Notes. BGR was also told to pick up work fast and get all the necessary guidance from Somnath. So that was it! Somnath was relieved after a week. BGR bid him farewell with tears in his eyes.
Within a short time the other two typists were also transferred and some new recruits were posted in their place. The process was on an on-going basis and only persons who had proficiency were retained and others were sent away. It was now the turn of BGR to train the new recruits!
BGR utilized the opportunity to his full advantage. He used to type letters drafted by clerks to top executives. He remembers about a superintendent called R K Ghotgolkar who used to handle industrial relations and was an authority on Desai & Sastri Awards. This gentleman would sit with BGR and dictate letters for hours together. One day he dictated an enquiry proceedings from 10 am to 1 pm continuously. BGR went on typing simultaneously and completed the 16 pages report error-free! He used to keep the Oxford English dictionary with him and used it extensively to know the correct spelling. He could improve his written and spoken English tremendously even as a matriculate. That stood him well in his career as he could draft and type out letters independently. It was quite in contrast to the other new recruits who were sent to the branches.
Bombay Calling!
BGR’s working capacity was fully tested on a special occasion. The Lions Club District Conference was held in Town Hall in the year 1961. The DGM BV Bhandary called him and introduced him to two Lions Club officials and asked him to type their letters exclusively for about three days. The two were businessmen from Bombay. They would visit the bank three-four times a day and BGR attended their work promptly. The two gentlemen were so impressed with his work that they offered him an appointment in Bombay with accommodation! BGR declined their offer politely. They left their visiting cards with him telling him that their doors were always open for him! If only BGR had accepted the offer, the contents of this biography and the author would have been different!
The CAIIB Challenge!
There was no promotion policy in the bank in those days. The CAIIB examination was being held only once in a year. One or two clerks at the all India level would pass the exam in a year and the bank used to promote them on an ad-hoc basis. It was the year 1961.  BGR had fully settled down in his job. He, along with some of his colleagues – B R Udupa, Vasanth Rai and I S Bhat – decided to take the examination. BGR was the first person to fill up the application form and he went to the superintendent K Anantha Kamath for his counter signature. Kamath simply laughed at BGR. He told him in a loud voice that even the directly recruited officers (graduates with ranks) were finding it difficult to pass the examination in three attempts as required. According to him when that was the case - where was the question of a matriculate like BGR passing the examination? He felt BGR was getting too ambitious!
But Kamath’s efforts to dissuade BGR from taking the examination failed. BGR told him that he knew it was a challenge and he was fine with that. Kamath grudgingly signed the form. BGR told the other three persons about Kamath’s attitude and asked them to get their application signed. All of them got the same treatment from Kamath. But he had in fact done them a favour! All the four took it as a challenge. They completed the part I in two attempts and proved that Kamath had underestimated their capabilities! All the four also completed the Part II by 1965.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
16th April 2012

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