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

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