Sunday, September 30, 2012

Looking Back - Episode – 33

The one thing that BGR missed out at the Tamarind Lane branch in Mumbai was that he had a very limited to role to play as a mentor to his juniors. That was because the clerks working at the branch were mostly not interested in promotions as they were not prepared to go out of Mumbai on promotion. But the picture in Indore was quite different as he soon discovered.

Navlakha branch had three senior clerks when BGR arrived on the scene. Ramesh C. Sharma (RCS), Manohar Sharma and S W Jog were the senior clerks transferred to the new branch from other local branches. All of them had put in over 10 years of service and were quite knowledgeable and capable. However, BGR could make out that they had some sort of discontentment even though they were putting in good work. BGR took them into confidence and asked them the reasons for their lack of enthusiasm. All the three told BGR that the clerks in Madhya Pradesh were not able to secure promotion because the bank was conducting the test in English! According to them, they were unable to complete their CAIIB examination for the same reason.

BGR told them that the bank does not expect a high standard of English and it was enough if answers for the test questions were given in simple English. He also told them that he would guide them in the matter. He motivated RCS who had an MA to his credit to complete his CAIIB Part I by appearing for the remaining two subjects (He had already completed three subjects). Under his guidance Sharma completed the Part I in the very next examination. Thereafter, BGR asked him to get ready for the promotion test in April 1983. He was asked to go through the manuals, circulars and question papers for the previous years. BGR guided him to write answers to the point in simple English. He assured him that the marks will be awarded on the basis of points covered.

With BGR’s encouragement and guidance, RCS wrote the test with confidence and Lo! - he came out successful in his very first attempt! Now it was a question of facing the interview in Bhopal. RCS was a soft-spoken impressive personality. BGR was looking at guiding him for the occasion when he received a phone call from the Divisional Office Bhopal. On the line was BGR’s Senior Manager in Shimoga – B Gopinatha Rao (BGR-II)! He had come to Bhopal from Head Office Bangalore to conduct the interview! He asked BGR whether there was any candidate from his branch. BGR immediately told him about RCS. He also highlighted the fact that RCS had an excellent track record and would be an asset to the bank as an officer. When the results were out finally it was celebration time for RCS and BGR as well!

Now it was the time for the other two clerks to follow the footsteps of RCS. And indeed they did! While Manohar Sharma got his promotion in 1984, S W Jog got his promotion in 1985. This gave immense satisfaction to BGR. What was more – he had proved the notion that only clerks from South were getting promotion as utterly wrong! Having seen the promotion of clerks in BGR’s branch, clerks from other local branches started approaching him for guidance! BGR conducted several mock tests and interviews for all such aspirants.

A M Lad, the Accountant, was transferred back to Goa in 1984. He had put up an excellent performance in keeping the branch internal work up-to-date. He was replaced by S L Taori from the Siyaganj branch. Taori was not only excellent in the internal work; he was also an excellent PRO man. In addition to keeping the internal work up-to-date, he was maintaining excellent customer service. Having worked in Indore for long, he had built up a very good reputation with locals. The posting of a senior Special Assistant called Manoj Tiwari, further strengthened the hands of BGR. He was again a PRO man who was of much help to bring in new clients/business. The branch was also provided with a typist called Vijayalakshmi. With her posting, BGR was unburdened the job of typing out important letters and credit proposals.

The Locker (Proposal) in Cold Storage!
BGR was now able to focus on business development. He started visiting the clients personally at their places. The business of the branch grew fast and the branch could achieve the targets for both 1984 and 1985 comfortably. The installation of locker facility became an additional attraction to the customers. But BGR had to face the typical bureaucratic attitude of the Circle Office (CO) in Mumbai. His proposal for installation was forwarded by the Bhopal DO to CO in Mumbai. But CO sat on the papers even after BGR replied to all their queries.

BGR had an occasion to visit Mumbai when he called on the DGM R S Pai at the Circle Office. The DGM straightaway asked him whether he had any pending matters with the CO. BGR then told him about his locker proposal pending with the Premises Section. The DGM immediately called for the papers and asked the Manager-in-charge to explain the reasons for placing the locker (proposal) in the cold storage! While he was trying to offer some vague excuses, the DGM ordered him to prepare the sanction letter and place it for his signature by 3 PM. He asked BGR to collect the sanction personally at 3 PM! So that was it! The Navlakha branch started offering the locker facility within a short time thereafter.

The Technology Risk!
One day a gentleman called B L Jain walked into the cabin of BGR. He was the owner of a photo studio called Raj Photolika and was in the business since 20 years. He was also the Vice-President of M P Photographers Association. He was running the process of developing and printing manually at that time. He had desired to install a photographic machine at an estimated cost of Rs2 lakh. He was holding a quotation from a Mumbai firm and was in need of a term-loan of Rs1.50 lakh for the purpose.

BGR asked him who was his present banker and whether he had approached them for the purpose. He told BGR that Central Bank of India located opposite his studio was his banker and he had already submitted his proposal to them. According to him, his proposal was pending with them since 8 months! The apparent reason for holding the proposal being the bank was not sure of the high-tech machine’s capability. Being a traditional bank it did not want to take a technology risk! At the same time, it could not reject a proposal from its age-old customer. Hence it had taken the best possible decision under the circumstances – to keep the proposal in cold storage!

BL Jain also told BGR that he had heard that the manager of the new branch of Canara Bank at Navlakha may help him as it had built an excellent reputation for customer service. BGR had a detailed discussion with the party and asked him to submit the relevant papers to him. After going through the papers including income tax assessment orders on the next day, BGR asked the party to open an account with the branch as he was fully convinced of the genuineness of the proposal. The party also agreed to open NND account (Pigmy account) with daily remittance of Rs100.

BGR visited the studio and found that Mr.Jain was running a fairly good business. He was also engaged in philanthropic activities. He was training young men at the studio and encouraging them to open their own studios in different parts of MP. He had also engaged certain blind persons in the process activities. BGR handed him the loan application and asked him to submit all the papers. On submission of papers BGR assured him that he could expect a sanction from the DO within three weeks. But to his surprise the DO sent the sanction within 10 days!

When the sanction was conveyed to the party he could not believe! So that was it! Mr. Jain went to Mumbai with the DD personally and installed the machine within a week. So the first automatic photographic machine had arrived in Indore - thanks to Canara Bank, which dared to take the technology risk! Needless to say that Mr. Jain became the showpiece customer of the branch. He attended the next customer meet at the branch, where the executives from the CO/DO were also present. He took a number of photographs and presented an album to the branch.

Supported by a very good team, BGR could achieve several Landmarks at the Navlakha branch. There was excellent support from both Do and CO. Several circulars were issued by them highlighting the achievements of the branch. On the basis of the performance in the 2nd year, the branch was provided with a Sub-Manager. The branch also became eligible for a car on the basis of the performance in the 3rd year. BGR went to a driving school in Indore and secured the driving license at bank cost.

The bank posted Dalbir Singh, a gentleman belonging to the Sikh community, as the Sub-Manager at the branch. He was a good natured, vegetarian and deeply religious person. He was married and had two young sons. He strengthened the hands of BGR in taking the branch to great heights. But BGR had not bargained for the anti-Sikh riots that shook North India in the aftermath of the assassination of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 31st October 1984. Indore with a good population of Sikh community was no exception!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
30th September 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Looking Back - Episode – 32

Now that BGR was in a position to offer excellent services at the new and spacious premises, he went on a business drive. He had already visited a number of prospective clients personally and his efforts started yielding fruits. Words started spreading that the branch was offering excellent services. While all other banks were issuing demand drafts (DDs) only on the next day, BGR’s branch was issuing the DDs within 15 minutes. What was more – the branch was issuing passbook and chequebooks for the newly opened accounts immediately. The clients were surprised at this level of service. The branch business grew fast with new clients flocking in.

By early 1983, the branch got the new telephone connection which strengthened the hands of BGR in extending better services and securing new accounts. As the branch was located in Transportnagar, the main business was obviously the truck finance. In those days, the trucks (both Tata and Ashok Leyland) used to cost around Rs2 lakh. The bank used to sanction a loan of Rs1.50 lakh – Rs1.20 lakh for chassis and Rs.30,000 for bodybuilding. The borrowers used to keep a term deposit of Rs50,000 that would serve as collateral security. The proposals were to be sent to the Divisional Office (DO) at Bhopal. Due to postal delays, the normal time for getting the sanctions used to be around three weeks.

The authorities at DO had made it a practice to sanction all the proposals without raising any unnecessary queries. Thus BGR could keep up the commitment of sanction of a new proposal within the deadline of three weeks. The number of proposals grew rapidly and BGR sanctioned nearly 120 truck loans during a period of three years. What was more – the repayments were regular with very few defaults. The deposit base of the branch also improved simultaneously.

The Hatho Hatho Me DD - Batho Batho Me Gaali (curse) Incident!
It was not as if BGR never had a bad client at the branch. He did have an occasion to face a tough guy (TG). Incidentally BGR had improved his Hindi speaking capacity by that time. This particular person had opened a new account at the branch and invested in a term deposit for Rs50,000. He then submitted his proposal for the truck loan. He appeared to be a man in a hurry. Two days later he appeared in the branch all of a sudden. The following was the dialogue:
TG: Where is my DD?
BGR: What DD you are talking about?
TG: I am talking about my Truck loan. I want my loan to be disbursed immediately.
BGR: We don’t have the practice of granting loans offhand. The processing and sanction takes time.
TG: How come? All other banks sanction loans on the spot and handover the DD immediately (Doosra sub banks hatho hatho mein DD they theythe hain). What is your problem?
BGR: Hum bhi hatho hatho mein DD they thethe hain. Magar loan DD aisa hotha nahin (We also hand over DDS on the spot. But not for truck loans that require sanction).
TG: Oh! My goodness! I will come back again. Keep the DD ready (leaves the branch in a huff)!
(Meanwhile BGR could collect confidential opinion that TG had overdues with many other banks. He decides to reject the proposal). Two days later he receives a telephone from the guy.
TG: I am coming to the bank now. Keep the DD ready!
BGR: You need not take the trouble. I am rejecting your loan proposal.
TG : How come?
BGR: I guess you sure know the reasons. If necessary you may enquire with your ‘hatho hatho mein’ banks!
TG: (Raises his voice) Let me see how to make you sanction my loan! Remember you have come from the South. If you want to survive here you will have to sanction my loan!
BGR: I am categorically rejecting your loan. Do you understand?
TG: What time you are coming out of the branch?
BGR: After completing the day’s work of course!
TG: Let me warn you! My goondas will be waiting for you outside! You may have to repent!
BGR: I may be from South. But I am not afraid of your goondas! I am prepared to meet you even at the dead of night! You tell me where I should meet you. Let the matter be decided today only! (TG hangs up the phone)
(The very next day BGR met the local Inspector of Police and narrated his experience with the tough guy. The Inspector collected the name and address of the person and assured BGR full security and told him not to worry. Three days later the Tough Guy arrives at the branch again. He walks into the cabin of BGR straightaway.
BGR: Now What?
TG: You are giving loans to all others. How can you reject my loan? I may have to lodge complaint against you!
BGR: My decision is final.
TG: What about my fixed deposit of Rs50,000?
BGR: You can withdraw it anytime!
TG: (Raises his voice). I am not leaving the cabin unless you give me my DD! How dare you reject my loan?
(At this stage another gentleman enters the cabin. He is actually the Police Inspector without his uniform. He had followed the tough guy and was observing the scenario silently from outside the cabin)
Inspector: Stop your nonsense and get out of the cabin!
TG: Who are you?
Inspector: I am the Inspector of Police at the Local Station.
TG: Sir. The Manager is not sanctioning my genuine loan!
Inspector: I know the whole story. In case you appear here again I may have to book a case against you for creating nuisance inside the Bank Manager’s cabin. Do you understand?
(TG coolly goes out. Two days later he comes to the branch and encashes the deposit and goes away without even looking at the cabin. That was the last time BGR saw him. Thereafter there was no such trouble with any other client/public).
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
25th September 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Looking Back -Episode – 31

The city of Indore was once upon a time ruled by the famous Maratha dynasty of Holkars. Located in the Central India, the city has been a trading and transportation centre since ages. The typical Malwa climate (cool nights even in peak summer) is one of the attractions of the city. The Malwa region is also known for its very good quality wheat. A visitor to the city could relish the best quality of food at ‘Chappan Dukan’ (56 shops) where all types of North-Indian eatables are available on the roadside. The city is also famous for its Namkins. The city had many textile mills once and even today is famous for its Chanderi and Maheshwari silks.

The Navlakha area in the city is said to have derived its name from the nine lakh green trees it had once upon a time. However, now it is just a name of the locality though! The branch had been opened in December 1981 in a hurry in a stopgap 500-square feet premises. Other than the Manager, it had three clerical employees and a peon. There was absolutely no danger of overcrowding at the branch counter. It had accommodation for only two customers at a time! BGR’s first task was cut out – he had to fix the new premises on priority! Believe it or not! The branch had no telephone connection. BGR was told that it would take nearly two years to get the new connection!

The Bombay-Bangalore Target for a 500-sq ft Fledgling Branch!
BGR was officially the first branch manager as the previous person was again a stopgap arrangement from the Main branch. The branch had mobilised about Rs10 lakh deposit in its first six months of existence. It appeared that the Divisional Office at Bhopal had a very high expectation from the branch. It had conveniently fixed a year-end (December) deposit target of Rs150 lakh and an average target of Rs120 lakh to the fledgling branch! However, BGR came to know that that the M G Road branch that was opened 12 years ago (the first branch in MP), had a deposit of only Rs165 lakh at that time! When BGR confronted these figures with the DM, A V Sharma, he was told that being a man from Bangalore and Bombay he was definitely capable of achieving the figures! Even though the DM did not officially admit it, it was a fact that the gap in the Division target (after allocating to all other branches) had been dumped on the hapless new branch!

Mrs.BGR settles down in Her Job!
BGR managed to fix his quarters within 15 days and brought his family from Mumbai. Even though it was a small accommodation, it was located excellently between MG Road and Malwa Market. Besides, BGR got two very good neighbours – a Marketing Manager in SAIL and a Sub-Registrar of Indore University. Even as BGR was trying to settle down in his new assignment, he found his beloved wife settling down in her new job as a teacher! What was more – she could manage the schooling of two kids along with her job!

It happened like this: BGR wanted to admit his two sons at the famous St.Paul’s Convent. However, the authorities told him that the admissions had already been closed. He then came to know about another school called “South Indian Cultural Association School” managed by a Professor of English in the Government College called Viswanathan. The 8-year old school had earned a good name in the city. The school management agreed to admit both the boys. It was located at distance of 5 kms from BGR’s residence and the boys had to travel by auto rickshaw.

The next day BGR’s wife went to the school along with the boys to collect books and stationery. She found a notice on the notice board calling for applications for teacher’s post. She submitted a handwritten application on the spot. The next morning a peon from the school was at the house delivering an interview call! The interview was conducted by Viswanathan. He was pleased to see the name of Professor Gajendragad on the B.Sc, degree certificate of Arundhathi madam issued by the Bombay University. So that was it. From the next morning it was a combined to & fro journey for the mother and the two sons to the school!

It was now the time for BGR to focus on the new premises for the branch. The building identified was a corner building located at the junction of four major roads connecting the M G Road Branch, Siyaganj Branch, the Government College and the upcoming Transportnagar. Indore was a major transport centre with over 50 percent of the business owned by the Sikh community. The new office building was also owned by a Sardarji.

BGR had no occasion to deal with Sardarji customers till he arrived in Indore. On his very first day of office he had the occasion to handle a Sardarji customer at the branch. A heavily built gentleman with huge moustache and thick beard arrived at the branch and sat down in front of BGR. BGR folded his hands and wished him while the customer S Karnail Singh reciprocated to him with “Sat Shri Akal”! The gentleman weighed over 100 kg and appeared to be a dominating personality. BGR was searching for suitable Hindi words to continue his dialogue with the huge personality. However, the gentleman made his job easy by telling him that he was there to help the new manager if he had any difficulties! The gentleman owned a few trucks and had excellent relations with the bankers. BGR soon found himself at home in dealing with the gentle Sardarjis.

BGR was able to get all the work at the new branch premises and the date of shifting was fixed for November 1982. By then a newly promoted Officer from Goa called A M Lad arrived to strengthen his hands. BGR had some difficulty in arranging a welcome speech on the inauguration day. He found himself lacking with his broken Bombay Hindi. However, the senior clerk R C Sharma helped him out with his excellent speech in chaste Hindi. Having occupied the spacious new premises, BGR was ready with his team for garnering new business.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
20th September 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Looking Back - Episode – 30

BGR’s forte has been his ability to streamline the systems and procedures wherever he was posted. It was always a question of time for him to take off. BGR made a study of the public issue department at the Tamarind Lane branch and broadly divided the aspects as follows:
  1. Issuing the consent letter by the Circle Office to handle the public issue after negotiations with the company officials
  2. Attending the Press Conference arranged by the company
  3. Collection of stationery including share applications
  4. Receiving the share applications from the applicants from the date of opening up to the date of closure (3-5 days)
  5. Counting the number of applications and the number of shares applied for and conveying the information to the company/managers to the issue on daily basis
  6. Receiving the information from other collecting centres over phone/telegram and adding the same to the collection made at the branch on day-to-day basis
  7. Listing out the applications and sending the cheques for clearance and crediting the proceeds to the newly opened public issue account
  8. In case of dishonour of cheques, returning the same to the applicants along with the applications.
  9. After the closure of issue, collecting the applications from all the designated branches and pooling them with branch figures and sending all the applications to the company/Registrar along with a list and the final certificate
  10. After the allotment, paying the refund orders and sending them to the company along with a list.
While BGR could streamline the department for smooth working, he also witnessed the boom in launch of public issues at that time. Those were the times when Reliance used to come out with frequent rights/public issues of convertible bonds. Many a time there used to overlapping of several issues. The bank counter used to see heavy rush of investors. The queues used to sometimes spread outside the branch premises into the roads. The company officials would come with cameras to take photographs of investors overcrowding the bank counters.

The normal team of BGR could not manage such unusual rush at the counter. However, BGR was fortunate to get the necessary cooperation from other colleagues in handling the situation. His other colleagues including the Chief Manager and Senior Manager used to help him out. But it was sometimes a colossal work at the end of the day to sort out and arrive at the number of applications and shares applied for - to be conveyed to the companies concerned. The work would go on up to 9-10 pm in the night. Again the work of sending all the cheques for clearance was another Herculean task. BGR remembers the names of K D Nayak, B S Pai, Kannan and Thomas for extending the maximum support to him in handling the situation.

The overlapping issues did create an unpleasant situation for BGR on one occasion. After the closure of one particular issue, some of the investors who had tendered the applications at the branch complained that the cheques issued by them had not been presented to their bankers even after more than two weeks. That evening BGR made a thorough search at the branch. To his shock and surprise, he found a bunch of applications along with cheques lying inside the table drawers of one officer who had also received the applications during the rush hour. He had forgotten to hand over the same to BGR at the end of the day!

When BGR contacted the company officials, he was told that the company had already finalized the allotment and there was no way the applications could be considered at that stage! However, as a special case they agreed to issue refund orders to all the applicants! The poor investors got the refunds; but they never realised that their applications had not at all participated in the lucky allotment scheme! Fortunately the issue was oversubscribed and there was no firm allotment!

Even though the branch was handling public issues regularly, there was no system of keeping the records of the number of issues handled and the benefits derived by the bank. BGR culled out the statistical information on the entire issue management as on 31 Mar 1982. In addition to the volume of business handled, he also arrived at the cost-benefit to the bank through zero-cost deposits of the issue proceeds in current accounts. The Chief Manager forwarded the same to the Circle office highlighting the leadership of BGR. The Circle Office came out with a detailed circular appreciating the efforts of BGR. It may be mentioned here that shortly thereafter, the bank thought it fit to open a separate Merchant Banking Division in Mumbai. The public issue business was handed over to the division under the leadership of a Divisional Manager.

BGR had an opportunity to have a personal meeting with the legendary J R D Tata, the Chairman of the Tata Group, along with his Chief Manager G A Shenoy. The meeting took place at the Bombay House located next to the branch. Both of them were at the building at 11.20 am. The PA to Tata asked them the purpose and duration of the meeting sought for. When told by Shenoy that they may need 5-7 minutes, the PA assigned them the time slot of 11.28 am! 

Exactly at 11.28 am, the two were ushered inside the tastily decorated chambers of the great man. The two wished him with folded hands and he greeted them and asked them to take seats in front of him. Shenoy straightaway spoke to him about the subject involved. After seeking certain clarifications, J R D ordered his PA to ensure that the request of the bank was considered expeditiously. As the two were coming out, BGR was wondering as to how the great man was able to single-handedly manage a vast business empire spread over India and abroad. He felt lucky to meet the legendary personality personally.

BGR’s Bombay posting almost came to a sudden end when he was posted to Navlakha, Indore branch in April 1982. As he had completed only two years, he met R S Pai, the AGM in the matter. He was told that he was being given a challenging assignment as independent Manager at the Hindi-belt considering his abilities. In view of the limited communication facilities available at that time, the branch heads in the State of Madhya Pradesh had to take several decisions on their own. The bank felt that BGR was capable of such decisions.

BGR’s main constraint at that time was the education of his children. But his wife having studied Hindi assured him that she could take care of the education part. So in the second week of May 1982 BGR got into a flight to Indore, the commercial Capital of Madhya Pradesh.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
16th September 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Don’t Know, Son! - 53

The Possible Retirement Date for Tendulkar!
Son: While Tendulkar has denied having any retirement plans in the short-term, his supporters are said to be thinking of one possible date for him to retire, dad.
Father: Interesting. Go on, son.
Son: The New Zealand seamer Dough Bracewell had clean bowled Tendulkar during India’s first innings on the second day of the second test recently, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: Bracewell’s uncle John had also dismissed Tendulkar in a test match exactly 22 and half years ago, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: Tendulkar may now wait until a (third generation) nephew of Dough Bracewell, gets an opportunity to dismiss him in a test, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!

The Colgate v/s the Coalgate!
Son: The new generation kids appear to have become too smart for their parents, dad.
Father: How come? Go on, Son.
Son: One young school-going kid is said to have asked his dad what was the difference between Colgate and Coalgate, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: While the perplexed father was scratching his head, the child is said to have told him that he knew the correct answer, dad!
Father: Wonderful. Go on, son.
Son: The kid told him that Colgate is the famous tooth paste brand used to brush our teeth daily, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The kid added that the Coalgate is a scandal the present UPA Government is unable to brush aside easily, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!

The Retrospective Effect!
Son: Now that Pranab Mukherjee has moved out of the Finance Ministry and P Chidambaram (PC) has taken charge, the infamous proposal for retrospective amendment of Income Tax Act, has started haunting those who were the brain behind the scheme, dad.
Father: True, go on son.
Son: A certain section of the Ministry had vociferously drafted the amendment to subvert the decision of the Supreme court in the Vodafone tax case, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: This section is said to be afraid of PC who has decided to keep the amendment in cold storage, dad.
Father: Afraid of what? Go on, son.
Son: They are afraid that PC may transfer them out of the ministry with retrospective effect, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!

Not Interested Anymore!
Son: BJP leader Advani had issued a statement saying that the next Prime Minister of India will be neither from BJP nor from Congress, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: It is reported that the media men in Bangalore had approached H D Deve Gowda for his comments in the matter, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The former PM is said to have told them that he is no more interested in the post, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: Finding the journalists in a shocked condition, the former PM is said to have told them that he, however, does not mind his son Kumaraswami entering the ring, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!

A V Krishnamurthy
11th September 2012

Looking Back - Episode – 29

G A Shenoy, the Chief manager of the branch, had come on transfer from Kalbadevi branch where he had secured ‘A’ gradation in inspection continuously. He was much worried about the persisting difference in the current account balancing at his new branch. He assigned the job to BGR and told him to take it up on priority.  He aimed at sending a NIL statement for balancing differences (PR-18).

BGR looked at forming a taskforce for the purpose. But his options were limited. The branch had three Sub-Managers including BGR. However, Satish Kini, one of the Sub-Managers, was visiting the branch only in the morning to sign the attendance! He was the treasurer of the Officers’ Association and would pack off immediately to handle matters connected with the Association! The other Sub-Manager B S Pai was not capable of doing any quality work. He would often keep his hand on his left chest and say that he was a heart patient. That was his way of avoiding any additional responsibility/work! The current accounts (including overdraft accounts) were under the supervision of a gentleman called Menon who was a staunch Staff Union leader and office bearer. He would leave the office immediately after the official time of 6 pm to attend the union work!

BGR had by now gathered a fairly good idea about the internal work position of the branch. He went through the current account ledgers and the balancing for two days. He found that the differences started from November 1979 and varied from month to month. He spoke to Menon who told him that the work load was very heavy and he was not in a position to devote his time to locate the differences. BGR could make out that Menon was a clever guy. The balancing was being taken weekly. Whenever the difference amounted to lakhs, Menon would immediately devote his time to bring them down to within thousands. He knew he would be in problem if there were huge overdrawings. But he was cool about the differences if they were in thousands!

BGR finally identified a clerk called Joshi who was an allrounder. Joshi told BGR that he could definitely assist but some people may raise objections as the location of differences was not supposed to be a clerical job! But he said he had the capacity to locate differences and would assist BGR in retotalling, comparing etc. BGR also found another helping hand in K D Nayak who was in charge of advances. He told BGR that even though he was busy with his own work, he would sit late and offer his assistance. B S Pai (the heart patient) also assured BGR that he would sit late to give him company.

But the job was not so easy. The branch had huge daily transactions. It had separate legers for public issues, refund orders, dividend payments and inoperative accounts in addition to a number of operative ledgers. Once taking up the work, BGR decided that they should locate at least one week’s difference by the weekend. The team took up the job every day after office hours. Joshi was indeed well versed in the job as he had worked in the department for some time. That Saturday evening a mistake pointed out by him brought down the difference to less than a rupee.  By 7 pm, the team had tallied the first week balancing. The success was quite satisfying.

The team continued the good work with enthusiasm thereafter and some of them even worked on 2-3 holidays. Seeing its success, some more staff joined them. Finally by October 1980, the balancing was tallied up-to-date. When BGR reported the good news to the Chief Manager Shenoy, he was extremely pleased. He wrote a letter to the Circle Office along with a NIL PR-18 statement highlighting the initiative and leadership role played by BGR. The Circle Office came out with a circular to the branches mentioning the name of BGR.  Thereafter BGR ensured that there were no balancing differences under any of the heads in the branch till he was transferred from the branch.

Another major area of improvement brought out by BGR was tallying the security items (chequebooks, demand drafts, deposit receipts, etc) with the security register and arranging them in a systematic manner inside the strong room. The previous manager-in-charge had allowed the dumping of the items haphazardly without any control on the items. The situation was quite serious with scope for frauds. It was indeed a Herculean job, which BGR almost singlehandedly managed with the assistance of a daily wager called Rokde.

There were some positive developments in the meanwhile. The posting of an efficient officer called Soman Thomas strengthened the advance department. The Circle Office also felt the necessity of an efficient manager to handle corporate accounts. It posted K Kannan as a Manager for the purpose. Kannan was reputed as a master in advances - trained under stalwarts like K P G Rao. Meanwhile the number of public issues was also increasing day by day. Hence BGR was asked to handle the public issues portfolio exclusively. It was a new area for BGR and a challenging one. He accepted the job with full spirits.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
10th September 2012

Monday, September 3, 2012

Looking Back -Episode – 28

BGR reported at the Tamarind Lane branch in the first week of June 1980. The branch was located in the Fort area of Mumbai at almost equal distance from the VT Station (Central Railways) and Churchgate Station (Western Railways). The branch had been opened to handle corporate accounts and public issues of shares and to lessen the burden on the Fort branch, which is located not far from the branch. The major corporate accounts included L&T Ltd and Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB).

The branch was headed by GA Shenoy as Chief Manager and PDVS Mani as Joint Manager. After the routine introduction to about 60 staff members, BGR was asked to occupy the Sub-Manager’s seat and handle public issues and routine matters connected with advances department. BGR had almost no exposure to corporate advances and public issues till then. Both the areas were quite new to him.

Just as BGR was settling down in his seat, a senior clerk Lalithamurthy came to him with two bank guarantees for his signature. The guarantees were for Rs68 lakh and Rs27 lakh to be issued on behalf of L&T Ltd. BGR had not handled such huge transactions till then. He asked Murthy to give him the credit file of the company and the sanction letter. But he was told that the company’s representative was coming to collect the guarantees within 15 minutes and the understanding was that the guarantees will be handed over within an hour of the request of the company. BGR then consulted the joint manager Mani who told him to sign the papers and go through the sanction and the file later. BGR then signed the guarantees after verifying the limit, liability, amount in the guarantee bond and the protective clause.

BGR visited the Circle Office in the afternoon to collect keys for his quarters and met K R Acharya, the DM. He had been told that the allotted quarters were at Versova. But to his surprise he found Acharya talking about everything else other than quarters! BGR found that fishy. Finally the cat was out of the bag. The quarters earmarked for BGR had been allotted to somebody else. Acharya told BGR that it was done without his knowledge!

All of a sudden BGR found himself in an unenviable position. He knew he could not stay at his brother-in law’s flat indefinitely with his full family. Besides, unless the quarters were allotted the school admission of his sons could not be pursued. To add to his misery, the consignment of his household articles also arrived through lorry in Mumbai on the next day.  On the basis of confirmed allotment of quarters, BGR had asked the lorry company to deliver the same immediately on his arrival in Mumbai. The situation appeared to be quite chaotic with BGR at the receiving end!

To cut the long story short, BGR was ultimately allotted a flat at Mahim in Western suburbs after 20 days of his arrival in Mumbai. Once BGR collected the keys and visited the flat he was back to his full spirits! The reasons were many. The Mahim flat was close to the Mahim Railway Station on the Western Railway. The train journey to the Tamarind Lane branch from Mahim was very short by Mumbai standards. The two-room flat was quite spacious overlooking Sea-Rock Hotel in Bandra. It was also close to Shivaji Park in Dadar – a landmark in Mumbai. Suddenly things started falling into place. BGR managed admission of both his sons at the prestigious Saraswat Mandir School in Mahim. The lorry company delivered the household articles at the flat without any demurrage charges for 20 days in a Mumbai godown!

Having settled down in Mumbai with his family, BGR now looked at focusing on his new assignment in the Tamarind Lane branch. The branch was located at Calcot House in the Fort area next to the prestigious Bombay House of Tatas. The legendary J R D Tata, the Chairman of the Tata Group, used to sit in his office in the Bombay House in those days. On the other side of the corner was the prestigious spacious Vimal Showroom of Reliance. The Bombay Stock Exchange, the headquarters of Reserve Bank of India, the Government of India Mint, posh offices of several corporates and banks were all situated in the area. The offices in the Fort area used to open by 10-11 am. The office goers from different parts of Mumbai would pour into the area by that time through the VT and Churchgate Stations. The commercial and financial activities would go on till 6 pm. The reverse traffic via VT and Churchgate would start then. By 8 pm almost all the offices would close down and the area looked deserted.

BGR soon learnt that the internal work position of the branch was not rosy at all. There were balancing differences under current accounts sine more than six months. The public issues department was functioning in an adhoc manner with no regular set up. The corporate accounts were being handled in a haphazard manner with no streamlined pre-sanction and post sanction set up. Yes! BGR definitely had challenging days ahead!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
3rd September 2012