Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Looking Back – 41

BGR – The Man with a ‘Difference!’
With the advent of computerization and implementation of core banking solution in the banking industry, the location of balancing differences in the branches of banks has become a thing of the past and is only history now. The expertise in locating the differences in the balancing books was a rare commodity in those days. Only very few people were gifted in this art. Our BGR was among those few. He had a knack of striking at the very root of the problem (difference). While most of the employees were searching for the differences in the most improbable places, BGR would straightaway go to the most probable location and announce his success! That was the kind of skill he had developed over a period of time in this rare art!
The Operation of locating the balancing differences at the Langford Town branch soon started under the leadership of BGR. The first difference to be attacked was under CDB. Believe it or not! This head was tallied in one single day! But the tallying of SB accounts was the hardnut. The team first focused on tallying the control register with the daybook that was pending for over three months. It took nearly a week to tally the control register. Thereafter the individual ledgers were taken up.
BGR made it a point to devote maximum time after business hours for locating the differences to give a lead. B Shashikanth, Accountant, joined him by devoting his major time. Vijayashankar, the fastest adding machine operator, helped the team by checking all the totals. Some other employees also started extending their helping hands. BGR, Shashikanth and Sub-Manger B V Shenoy used to sit up to 8 pm daily after office hours (4 pm) along with a daily wager. They came to the office on Sundays and holidays also. Through concerted efforts, the branch could manage to submit a ‘NIL’ PR-18 return for January 1990. The efforts were very much appreciated by CO/DO. Thus BGR had put forward his first step in his mission. The employees were also fully enthused to take the branch forward.
BGR in the Crossfire of Father-Son Tussle!
Whoever has worked in the advances department of a bank is aware of the importance of obtention of an Acknowledgement of Debt (AOD) before the date of limitation. For most of the loans the limitation period is three years. Bank expects the Manager to take the AOD immediately after two years to avoid complications in the last minute. Otherwise, a suit is to be filed in the court for recovery before the limitation sets in.
There were a god number of loans at the Langford Town branch for which the limitation date was fast approaching. BGR managed to take them in most of the cases. However, he was stuck in one particular case. The branch had granted a loan of Rs50,000 to the son of the Manager of St. Martha’s Hospital. The bank had also taken the co-obligation of the father for the loan. While BGR could secure the AOD from the son, his father flatly refused to sign. He told BGR that his son was irresponsible and the bank could proceed with doing whatever it deemed fit! BGR explained to him that he would also be dragged to court unnecessarily. The gentleman told BGR that if his son wanted him to appear in court he was fine with it!
As the limitation was setting in two days, BGR contacted the Circle Office who advised him to handover the papers to the advocate immediately for filing the suit on the next day. Accordingly, he handed over all the papers to the advocate requesting him to file the suit on the next day. However, as a last attempt he met the father again in the evening at his residence and pleaded with him to sign the AOD so that he and his son would get time to sort out the matter with the bank and avoid the legal expenses. Impressed with BGR’s persuasive tactics, the gentleman signed the AOD at the last minute. BGR then telephoned the advocate asking him not to file the case. Needless to say the advocate was not quite impressed with the last minute withdrawal of the case!
BGR gets Lucky with the Arrival of Guruvaiah
BGR was unlucky when he got a fishy Accountant in place of the messy Accountant. He was unable to get any productive work done by the new Accountant because of his attitude. BGR entrusted the next important task of renewal of expired credit limits to B Shashikanth, by relieving him for half-a-day from the routine work. He did a fantastic job and within about two months most of the expired limits could be renewed. Seeing the progress at the branch, the CO took a decision to replace the fishy Accountant by another officer called Guruvaiah.
This time BGR was quite lucky. Guruvaiah turned out to be a humble, obedient and dedicated Officer with eagerness to accept challenges. BGR asked him to focus on LPD accounts. Guruvaiah told him that he could handle every aspect except drafting letters. BGR told him to furnish him all details to help him out. Guruvaiah was able to streamline the entire department over a period of three months. He collected all the pending AODs, kept the loan papers in order, visited the places of the borrowers and made substantial recoveries even in those accounts where the previous Accountant had remarked - “the borrower is not traceable”. A soft-spoken man, Guruvaiah was able to even convince the hardcore defaulters to repay!
BGR in a Detective Role!
The branch had a poultry advance under loans past due (LPD) category with an outstanding of Rs11.50 lakh. The loan had been disbursed 8 years ago. The original loan was for Rs10 lakh and the borrower had repaid Rs5 lakh.  But thereafter he made no repayments and with the accumulation of interest the dues mounted to Rs11.50 lakh. The previous Accountant (Messy) had told BGR that the borrower was not traceable. He also told him that when he visited his residence the security guard had refused to allow him inside. The earlier Manager and Accountant had not even bothered to collect the telephone number of the borrower.
BGR could not understand how an account with such large dues could be treated under ‘borrower not traceable category’! He came to know that the poultry farm was located in Jalahalli near the Farm house of Feroz Khan, the famous Bollywood actor. One Saturday evening he took the messy Accountant with him in his car and reached the place via Peenya.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
30th October 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Looking Back – 40

BGR met the AGM K P G Rao at Circle Office (CO) to know the reasons for his abrupt transfer within 18 months from Girinagar. The AGM told him that the Langford Town branch had been graded ‘C’ during inspection. They had posted one Mr. Kamath from inspection department to the branch in June 1989 thinking that he would be able to rectify the situation. But Mr. Kamath could not cope up and begged for a retransfer to inspection department. It seems he told them he would rather point out the irregularities than get entangled in the challenging job of rectifying them! Believe it or not! The management was quite pleased to re-accommodate him in the inspection department! They had now chosen BGR for the challenging job! KPG assured BGR that he would be given full support to ensure that he succeeded in his mission.
BGR reported at Langford Town in November 1989. He had to take charge from the Sub-Manager, as Mr. Kamath had packed off the moment he got his transfer orders back to inspection department. The branch had deposits of around Rs4 crore and advances of Rs2.5 crore. BGR met the AGM M P Nayak at the Regional Office (RO) and sought his guidance. Nayak asked him to assess the situation, chalk out a plan and proceed in his own way. He wished him all the best.
BGR made a thorough assessment of the deficiencies at the branch for a couple of days and listed out the following for his immediate action:
  1. Out of the 30 renewable credit limits, 28 had expired – some of them overdue for over 10 months.
  2. PR-18 (the monthly statement of balancing differences) was showing differences for over 6 months under different accounts, mainly under Savings Bank accounts with even control register not tallying with daybook.
  3. Despite only having only four parties with CDB (cheque discounting) limits and a small turnover, the branch had ‘managed’ to have persisting differences under this head!
  4. Locker rents were in arrears for long periods.
  5. There was absolutely no follow up of loans past due (LPD) accounts marked for recovery.
  6. Acknowledgements of debt (AODs) were overdue in many accounts with limitation dates fast approaching.
  7. Despite having efficient clerical staff, there was no co-ordination among officers; Sub-Manager was too polite to be effective!
BGR reported the above position to CO/DO and assured them that he would focus on setting right the things.
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The Langford Town branch had been opened some ten years ago.  It was situated in a very good location.  The branch building was quite unique.  It had a triangular shape.  On the shorter end, the Manager’s Cabin was located with an attached toilet.  While sitting in the cabin Manager could see the entire Office which was quite wide at the other end including the strong room.  The interior was also very decent.  There was lot of car parking space.  Moreover, roadside trees had grown very tall with the whole area covered with greenery.  Even in summer, compared to other areas in Bangalore, the branch used to be cooler.  Baldwin Girls High School was just behind the branch. The accounts of the school and staff were maintained with the branch.
BGR had to quickly chalk out a strategy to bring the things under control. He had a team of one Sub-Manger, two Accountants, two Special Assistants and 10 clerks. He found the team strength quite adequate. However, he was told that one of the Accountants had created the mess in the SB department when he was in-charge. He was replaced by a Special Assistant who could manage the counter quite well. But he was unable to clear the mess (balancing differences) created by the Accountant. Meanwhile, the Accountant who was shifted to advances department had created another mess there! BGR tried to guide him to rectify the things. But the Accountant while being very obedient was only adding up his mistakes!
BGR managed to get the messy Accountant replaced by another Accountant. But he found the replacement worse.  Indeed his behavior was very fishy! He was not knowledgeable and was very casual in handling his duties with no focus whatever. Whenever BGR entrusted some duties to him in the morning he would tell him not to disturb his mood in the morning!
On the positive side, BGR found the other Accountant B Shashikanth quite efficient, capable and knowledgeable. He was systematic in working including in the handling of advances. The other Special Assistant Devadas Shenoy was also quite good in his area. He was handling current and overdraft accounts quite efficiently. Among clerks, BGR found Mrs. Marjorie Lobo and Mrs.Lorona Jacob quite efficient - taking active interest in handling their work. Vijayashankar was another clerk-cum-typist who was very knowledgeable and was the fastest operator of adding machine.
BGR held a staff meeting. He sought the cooperation of all of them in removing the stigma of ‘C’ gradation of the branch. He told them the initial focus would be on location of the balancing differences and sending a ‘NIL’ PR-18 report. All the staff assured him their full cooperation.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
28th October 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

I Don’t Know, Son! - 54

The Low-Tech Robbery in the High-Tech City!
Son: Last week there was an attempted robbery at HDFC Bank in Bangalore, the high-tech city of India, dad.
Father: True, go on son.
Son: The robbery failed miserably with the security guard locking the door when the robber tried to leave after mopping up cash of Rs13 lakh, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The robber had threatened the staff that he had tied a bomb around his waist, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: But the police found that it was only a hardboard box with batteries and wires, dad!
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The robber has said that he was working with a major software multinational and was badly in need of money, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The said multinational company is said to be totally upset with its employee, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: The company is said to be ashamed that its employee committed such a hash job based on low-technology, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
The Last Line of Defence!
Son: The bankers of Kingfisher Airlines have absolutely no clue on how they would be able to recover their dues, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: They are aware that Kingfisher has huge overdues to Airport Authority, petroleum companies, Delhi and Mumbai airports and the Income Tax department also, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: Mallya has not even bothered to attend a meeting called by the bankers in Mumbai, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: One of the bankers is said to have told in the meeting that Mallya is now left with only his last line of defence, dad.
Father: Like what? Go on, son.
Son: The fight to finish - with his legendary ‘Sword of Tippu Sultan’, dad!
The Ariel View of Grand Prix Formula 1!
Son: The King of Good times Vijay Mallya had flown abroad on his private jet leaving the employees of King Fisher Airlines, the bankers, creditors and tax officials in a lurch, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: Now Mallya is said to be desperately trying to attend the Grand Prix Formula 1 races in Buddh International Circuit in Noida, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: But if Mallya uses his private jet, there is a possibility that it would be impounded by the Airport Authority in view of large airport dues, dad.
Father: Go on, son.
Son: To avoid the risk of forfeiting the jet, Mallya is said to be thinking of only having an aerial view of the race, dad!
Father: Go on, Son.
Son: He would either make Sri Lanka or Mauritius as the base for his daily flight to Noida for the aerial view, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
The Positive Side!
Son: Vitthalbhai Radadiya, the Congress MP from Gujarat, who had pulled out a large rifle at a toll booth plaza, has flatly refused to apologise, dad.
Father: True. Go on, son.
Son: But the journalists who asked him whether he was tendering an apology are said to be still happy with him, dad.
Father: How come? Go on, son.
Son: They say at least he has not pulled out the large rifle to threaten them for expecting his apology, dad!
Father: I don’t know, son!
A V Krishnamurthy
26th October 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Looking Back – 39

The influential person (IP) who helped BGR in securing the building for the bank in a single day was in fact the promoter of the society that developed the prestigious Girinagar extension from scratch. He was an employee in Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) and hailed from Puttur in the district of South Kanara. He resigned from ITI in the sixties and founded the Housing Society that developed I, II and III phases of Girinagar in an excellent manner. He was like a one man army that built good roads with footpaths, asphalted the roads and planted trees. He dug up four borewells, laid pipelines and pumped water to the households as a regular arrangement.  He also developed parks, built four temples, one marriage hall, one school, a good playground and a Mutt for Dattatreya Swamiji of Mysore. Naturally he carried the immense goodwill of the residents of the extension.
Right at that time B Ratnakar’s term had ended in Canara Bank and N D Prabhu (NDP) had taken charge as CMD. It was decided by CO/DO that NDP would inaugurate the new branch. The work at the new premises was going on a war footing and everything was in place by 6th July 1988. Once the telephone lines were installed, BGR found it convenient to invite the important personalities over phone. Besides, he visited the residences of several of them including the retired executives of our bank.
BGR’s team did an excellent job by visiting each and every household in the locality soliciting opening of new accounts. The local residents were quite enthusiastic as Canara Bank was the first commercial bank to open its branch in the locality. As the branch was not having a strong room, the cash had to be kept in the only safe provided. The officials in the DO wanted to know on the previous day, whether BGR could secure deposits of around Rs10 lakhs to Rs15 lakhs on the opening day. BGR simply told them that he aimed at much more.
On the evening of 6th July, BGR was asked by DO to extend an invitation to the retired CMD Ratnakar. BGR decided to visit him on the way back home. Ratnakar had not yet vacated the quarters at Canbank House in Basavanagudi near M N Krishna Rao Park. BGR entered the bungalow at 8.30 PM. But it seems the two ferocious pet dogs of Ratnakar were not quite happy with the new visitor! They pounced on him the moment he opened the gates! But fortunately Ratnakar came out immediately and rescued BGR from the ferocious pair. BGR was lucky to come out unwounded after extending invitation to Ratnakar!
7th July 1988 was a red letter day in the career of BGR. The bank’s safe was almost overflowing with the cash collections! BGR had requested the Currency Chest to lift the cash on the opening day itself. He had also contacted K Kannan, his colleague in Tamarind Lane branch who had moved to Canfina by then. He had assured a sizable term deposit. BGR could also secure Rs3 lakh term deposit of Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) through Madhavanagar branch. He was also assured support from Chamrajpet branch by way of deputation of three clerks and an officer to handle new customers on the opening day.
The branch had been beautifully decorated for the ‘D’ Day. The inauguration time had been fixed at 9 AM. For ND Prabhu, the new CMD, it was the first function after he took charge. He arrived well in time. The local residents had started arriving by 8.30 AM itself. All the executives and some local managers including K P Kamath had arrived by 8.45 AM. The inauguration took place exactly at 9 AM and ND Prabhu spent 15 minutes thereafter speaking to customers and other dignitaries. Capt. Raman, the DM, was quite happy. He asked BGR whether he could reach Rs20 lakh deposits for which BGR replied that he had already mobilised Rs60 lakh! Both DM/DGM and CMD were quite surprised and asked him whether he was aiming at Rs1 crore to create a record of sorts. When BGR replied in the affirmative, they found it difficult to believe.
Even though BGR’s team had already opened several accounts of the residents, many more came on the opening day and opened their accounts. The staff including those deputed from Chamrajpet gave them excellent service. At about 11.30 AM BGR received a call from the Accounts Section telling him that a term deposit of Rs50 lakh had been arranged by Kannan from Mumbai for the new branch and the funds have been received by them. A R Madhavan, the Accountant , took the necessary details to open the term deposit in the books of the branch. The deposits of the new branch at the end of the day stood at Rs1.16 crore. When BGR conveyed the same to DO/CO, they told him that it was unbelievable and congratulated him profusely. The very next day both DO and CO came out with circulars hailing the performance of the new branch under the leadership of BGR. Indeed BGR had set a new landmark in the history of Canara Bank in Bangalore. It became a big news in the city. For BGR it was one of the best moments of his life and he cherished it all through.
The account opening spree continued from the next day onwards. BGR made it a point to interact with all the customers eliciting information about potential customers. He could also secure some NRE accounts in the next two months. He could mobilise some deposits from a leading criminal lawyer (who had worked for a short time as Probationary Officer in our bank). Meanwhile, Capt. Raman, the DM, wanted BGR to maintain the deposits at Rs1-crore level even after the short-term deposit from Mumbai was withdrawn. Fortunately for BGR, the deposit growth had gained momentum by then and the deposits stood at Rs80 lakh even after the Mumbai deposit was withdrawn. Within a month thereafter, the deposits figure touched Rs1 crore again and the DM was quite happy. Bulletins after bulletins were issued by the DO highlighting the performance of the branch as the deposits kept pouring in at Girinagar! The branch showed tremendous progress under the leadership of BGR.
The residents of Girinagar mostly belonged to the educated class - respectable and decent. BGR made it a point to visit most of the households to explore deposits. He would also collect the addresses of the persons who were building houses in and around Girinagar. He would send them letters informing about the opening of the branch and to avail the services. He would ask them to open the accounts even before they occupied their houses so that they could issue cheques through the branch account. He also secured a list of persons who were allotted sites in Girinagar but had not built the houses through the Housing Society and addressed them letters to visit the branch. There was not less than 25% response to his efforts with a good number of people opening their accounts with sizable balances in the accounts. Overall, the business of the branch grew fast.
The branch achieved both the year end (YET) and average deposit target (ADT) for 1988 with a very good margin. The branch also celebrated its first birth anniversary on 7th July 1989 by reaching the figure of Rs1 crore under term deposits. The regular inspection of the branch was taken up in August 1989. The branch was able to set right over 90% of the observations during the course of inspection. The first reply to the inspection report was submitted on the day of completion of inspection itself. The branch was awarded ‘A’ grade in inspection and that was one more feather on the cap of the branch and BGR.
A. R. Madhavan, the Accountant, played a very good role in the development of the branch.  He was very good at customer service and in securing new accounts.  He kept the internal work up-to-date.  Loan papers  were checked properly before keeping  in the double lock.  Follow up was also very good. He personally handled the year-end work with his beautiful handwriting.
N. S. Nagendra, Clerk, who came along with BGR from Chamarajpet branch was very loyal, intelligent and an able hand.  Whether opening the SB account, or issuing a term deposit receipt or preparing  loan papers, he would attend carefully to ensure perfection.  He was always ready to attend any pending work and supported the internal work very ably.
BGR was 49 by then. He had a flair for driving right from his younger days. Even though his branch in Indore had become eligible for a car, he had left the place by the time the car arrived at the branch. A posting in Bangalore to a branch provided with a car was very much uncertain. BGR decided to have his own car and purchased a second hand Premier Padmini car in July 1989 for Rs68,000. The vehicle was quite good. He enjoyed driving the four-wheeler and handed over his scooter to his children for their use.
Having achieved quite a good number of milestones, BGR was well settled in Girinagar branch. He was thoroughly enjoying his posting and had chalked out a development programme for the branch for the next three years. But one fine morning in November 1989 (not during general transfer) he found a transfer order in the tappal from the Circle Office. It was his own transfer order posting him as Senior Manager at Langford Town branch in Bangalore! So that was the typical Canara Bank management for you! It always carried a surprise packet up on its sleeves!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
24th October 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Looking Back – 38

BGR as a person has always looked for challenges in life. Needless to say the assignment of opening a new branch of a bank is invariably a challenge. It is also a fact that very few persons get such opportunities. At Navlakha Indore BGR had taken the charge of a new branch that had already been opened. Of course he had to set up the new premises there also as the branch had been opened in a make-shift building temporarily. But in Girinagar, Bangalore he had to start from scratch.
Immediately after BGR received his transfer orders to the proposed Girinagar branch in the month of June 1988, he was told by CO/DO to look out for a suitable building. He was also asked to take the help of S R Vasantha Kamath (SRV), the Senior Manager of Hanumanthanagar Branch. BGR contacted him immediately and met him personally. SRV told him that both DO and CO had been trying to fix the premises since over three months. But no headway had been made so far. He also mentioned about an influential person in the area who only could help in the matter. However, according to him it was very difficult to get an appointment and meet him. BGR told SRV that he would somehow get an appointment for next Saturday and requested him to accompany him.
Girinagar was an upcoming and fast developing extension in Bangalore and the full credit went to the influential person (IP) referred to by SRV. BGR started ringing up the gentleman without any further delay. But to get him on the line was no easy job. But BGR didn’t give up. Ultimately he managed to speak to him and got his appointment at 5 PM on the Saturday. Both BGR and SRV were at his house at the exact time. But IP was not at home.  BGR requested SRV to take him to the buildings, which the bank had identified earlier. But even after waiting for over one hour IP did not turn up. In the absence of mobile in those days, communication was a major problem. BGR and SRV had to leave the place disappointed.
But BGR was not the person to give up so easily. He kept trying to contact IP over phone and finally got him online at 9 pm. When BGR expressed his disappointment over missing the appointment, IP told him that he could meet him even at 10 PM. He also told him that he had a building suitable to the bank owned by his friend. Being a man in a hurry, BGR drove his scooter immediately from Jayanagar to Girinagar to be at the residence of IP. This time he was glad to find IP physically at his home! IP took him to the 1,300-square feet house owned and let out by IP’s friend who stayed in HAL 2nd Stage. BGR found the building on the main road much better than the one identified by SRV/CO/DO earlier. IP told him that he could get the house vacated if the bank took a favourable decision.
When BGR asked about meeting the owner, IP offered to take him there right then in his Standard car! It was past 10.30 PM when the two reached the owner’s house in HAL 2nd Stage. In fact the owner was in deep sleep when IP rang up his door bell! The late night negotiations were indeed tough with the owner insisting for a monthly rent of not less than Rs2,500! But the bank had already fixed an upper limit of Rs2,000 per month! After a lot of hard bargaining and persuasion, the owner brought down his expectation to Rs2,200 per month - at 11.30 PM!
BGR was in a fix at this stage. He knew the building was much better than the other buildings identified earlier. He did not want to let go the opportunity and took a calculated risk thinking that he would be able to convince the authorities in CO/DO. He had carried a ‘letter of offer’ of the building by the owner to the bank. He got it signed by the owner on the spot. BGR and IP were back at Girinagar by 12.00 PM. BGR left the place for Jayanagar after thanking IP profusely. So that was it!  BGR had managed to fix a suitable premises for the new branch in one day (night!), which the CO/DO had failed to fix for over three months!
The very next day BGR contacted DO and sought their approval for fixing the rent at Rs200 more than the upper limit. The DO was initially very reluctant to consider. But BGR told them that the building was located in the main road and compared to the previous offers was much better. He also highlighted the fact that the bank could  not finalise a building even after being in search for over three months. Ultimately he was successful in convincing them to recommend the proposal to CO.
BGR contacted IP immediately and requested him to get the house vacated. To his surprise IP managed to handover vacant possession to the bank within three days. DO immediately asked the Premises Section (CO) to visit the building and take up the work of necessary alterations, additions, painting, counter work, sign boards, etc. Things moved fast and the opening ceremony was fixed for 7th July 1988.
Now it came to the next important requirement of securing a telephone connection. BGR was told by CO that they had already booked a connection. But they also told him that there was a long waiting list and the bank had to wait for a minimum of 6 months. They told him to pursue the matter even though they had no hopes.
BGR remembered how he had suffered at Indore for want of a telephone connection. He collected the papers and went to meet the authorities. To his good luck, he found a known person working there. The gentleman told BGR that he would try to help him ‘out of the way’. Believe it or not! The new connection was installed at the building one week prior to the opening of the branch! When BGR rang up CO and DO and gave them the branch telephone number, they found it difficult to believe!
BGR was relieved from Chamrajpet 15 days prior to the inauguration of the branch to enable him to handle preliminary work. Responding to the speed in which BGR started his preliminary work, bank posted A R Madhavan, Accountant, who had worked with him in Shimoga. The bank also posted Nagendra who was working with him in Chamrajpet branch. Another clerk H Ramesh also joined on transfer from Hanumanthanagar branch who was resident of Girinagar. The team chalked out a programme to secure maximum number of new accounts and sizable deposits on the opening day. It was decided to make door-to-door visits in the area. Meanwhile, the civil/carpentry work at the building was going on at a fast phase.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
22nd October 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Looking Back – 37

The Chamrajpet branch performed exceedingly well during Gurpur’s regime. The business doubled in three years with the targets achieved for all the years.  The branch was also able to set right all the observations of the inspection team during the inspection period itself. The result – the branch secured the coveted gradation of ‘A’ for the first time since its inception in 1961. Gurpur gave full credit to his team and recorded the same in the employees’ appraisal reports.
Gurpur was a man devoted to literature. He had personal contacts with several Kannada writers of the period. In fact the well known Kannada poet Gopal Krishna Adiga was very close to him. Adiga would visit the branch often. Gurpur would entertain him by ordering dishes from Prakash Café. Gurpur also granted an agriculture loan to Adiga’s son. He even guided him in the matter of growing cash crops. Seshadri Gawai was another artist whom he used to invite and spend some time. Gurpur also sanctioned a loan to Gawai.
Gurpur had invested in a number of good shares. He had a huge collection of first day stamps having invested over Rs50,000 on them. He was nearing 50 years when he arrived in Chamarajpet branch. He was a high BP and diabetic patient. He used to lose his temper even for small things. Despite his ailments, he never controlled his eating habits. He would often visit Prakash Café and relish his choicest items in total disregard of medical advice. He had a late marriage with a lady who was a manager in Syndicate Bank, Gandhinagar branch. The couple had a son who had imbibed all the qualities of his gifted father. He is reported to be doing well in his chosen field. Gurpur had built a house at Hanumanthanagar as a bachelor. Later he sold it and moved to Malleswaram 18th cross, where he built a house suited to his special taste.
Once DGM Kamala was promoted as GM and moved to Head Office, Gurpur lost his support at the Circle Office (CO). After he completed three years in Chamrajpet, he was transferred to Lucknow. As he was over 50 years of age, he was not expecting a transfer out of State. He was totally upset. His health was deteriorating. He was even hospitalized for a few weeks. His limited well wishers advised him to submit a representation to retain him in Bangalore. But he was unwilling as he felt that the management was quite aware of his ill health. According to him, it had issued the unhealthy transfer order deliberately!
Gurpur did not join duty after recovery and he went on leave for about two months. Meanwhile, his well wishers finally persuaded him to submit a representation for retaining him in Bangalore. Gurpur wrote out a detailed two page letter covering his journey in the bank highlighting the treatment meted out to him vis-a-vis others. He ended the letter saying having served the bank for over 32 years, he expected the management to at least provide a 5’x5’ space somewhere in a corner of the Head Office/Inspection Department! But with more adversaries than well wishers at the top, Gurpur’s request was declined on the grounds that he had not worked in North-India. Eventually he resigned the services in the bank. His long and distinguished career in the bank had come to an unfortunate end.
Gurpur spent his retired life by engaging himself in literary activities. He started reviewing TV programmes in Kannada daily Prajavani under the title ‘TV Loka’ with the pen name ‘RP’. BGR had an occasion to meet him at his residence in Malleswaram. He personally prepared tea for BGR and served the same with eatables. He told BGR that he was an expert in cooking. While he was critical of some top people in the bank, he told BGR that he was quite happy to lead the life as a free bird reading and writing at his convenience and pleasure. He also told him about his future plans to write more on various topics. But his health deteriorated fast due to severe diabetes. Eventually he died three years after resigning from the bank. A rare personality and a treasure of knowledge had ended his journey early. Gurpur’s colleagues/friends remember him till today for his extraordinary personality.
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The Lopsided Promotion Policy of Canara Bank
Shortly after BGR joined the Chamrajpet branch, the promotion results for Scale-III were announced and his name was missing. It was a huge disappointment for him after such a wonderful performance at the Navlakha branch in Indore. Gurpur was also expecting the promotion of BGR. He asked BGR for the reason. BGR told him that he could not tell any specific reason except that he had missed the target for 1983. He also told him that when he was promoted to Scale-II, he was told by HO that it has been decided to transfer all the promotees out of State. However, after coming back to Bangalore having worked as Sub-Manager in Mumbai for two years and as in-charge Manager in Indore for three years, he had found to his surprise that many of his juniors had been retained in Bangalore as Sub-Managers! What was more shocking – some of them had been promoted to Scale-III, even though they never handled any branches independently as Managers! This skewed promotion and transfer policy had upset him no end.
Gurpur asked BGR to make an appeal for review, which was submitted by BGR. Gurpur forwarded it with his well-worded strong recommendation. However, the same was not considered. Meanwhile M N Shenoy who was the DM at Bhopal was transferred to Davanagere DO and he visited BGR at his house. He asked BGR how was his name missing in the promotion list. BGR told him that he only should be able to explain. MNS felt very sorry that with all the good work done, BGR’s name did not find a place in the list.
By that time, R S Pai who was the DGM at Mumbai had been promoted as GM and posted to Personnel Wing in HO Bangalore. When BGR had an occasion to meet him he also expressed his surprise and assured him that he would ask the department to find out the reasons. A month later, he told BGR that his assistants had made an analysis and found that three other Managers also had missed their promotion in spite of excellent performance. The obvious reason was missing the target for one year. In BGR’s case it was courtesy A V Sharma, DM, who had fixed the most unreasonable and unbelievable target for 1983. BGR then told him it would have been better for him to continue as Sub-Manager instead of accepting the challenge of moving to Indore as branch-in-charge. R S Pai agreed that there were loopholes in the promotion policy and he was helpless!
BGR’s Colleagues at Chamrajpet
Mohandas Pushpanadan the other Sub-Manager at the branch was a cool guy. Having worked previously with Gurpur he was well accustomed to his erratic behavior. He would not be unduly bothered and would go on with his job methodically. He was a jolly and cheerful personality who would mix with all his colleagues freely.
K Suresh Rao, Accountant, was a very pleasing personality and was very good at customer service. Under Gurpur’s guidance he became an expert in correspondence with NRI customers. The deposits saw an excellent growth under his charge. Eventually he moved to Canfin Homes and retired as an AGM. DL Ajanta Kumar was another Accountant who handled the advances portfolio excellently. He won the confidence of Gurpur. He got his promotions and retired as AGM.
K S Naik was another Accountant who gained the confidence of Gurpur through his pleasing personality, good personal relationship, good knowledge of all the departments and cool attitude. He handled the advance department competently and won appreciation of Gurpur. Naik retired as Senior Manager at Town Hall Branch. He created a sort of records by working at the prestigious branch for 5 &1/2 years under four different AGMs/DGMs! The total business of the branch had touched Rs6,000 crore when he bid adieu to Canara Bank in 2011.
BGR also remembers Dayananda Rao, Accountant, another knowledgeable person who retired as Senior Manager. Meenakshi Naganna, Special Assistant, was another excellent hand who managed the SB counter efficiently.
BGR missed his promotion in 1985 and unfortunately there was no promotion process in 1986. He got his promotion eventually in 1987. After a few months Gurpur wrote a letter to the DGM recommending his posting as in-charge Senior  Manager as he had enough experience and capability to head a branch. He highlighted the role of BGR in the overall development of Chamrajpet branch. He specifically wrote – “BGR is not only the first person to arrive at the branch but also the last person to leave after all the loose ends are tied up”.
BGR was posted as designated Senior Manager for the proposed new branch at Girinagar during the first week of June 1988. By that time he was in-charge Senior Manager at Chamrajpet as Gurpur had already been relieved. He handed over the charge to M I S Iyengar, the new Senior Manager, in the third week of June to take up preliminary work for the new Girinagar branch. A new chapter in BGR’s eventful career had opened up!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
17th October 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Looking Back – 36

Gurpur managed the Mylapore branch and later the Royapeth branch in Chennai quite well. In fact both the branches secured ‘A’ grade in inspection during his time. He had the knack to keep his branches spick and span. But he had to face frequent staff problems due to his adamant attitude on different matters. Chennai being the art and cultural centre, Gurpur got acquainted with many leading artists of the time. In fact he became a family friend of the legendary musician Bharat Ratna M S Subbulakshmi. He would visit her house often.
At the Chamrajpet branch Gurpur had an excellent rapport with the then DGM of Bangalore Circle Office Madam Kamala. Gurpur used this to his advantage by getting rid of certain unproductive (read: deadwood) employees and replacing them with very good hands. He also got his chambers refurbished to suit his taste. Thereafter he started calling each staff to his chambers to give them a bit of his mind. The one-sided session used to last from half-an-hour to one hour.
A meeting of the Officers was the next in agenda. Gurpur spoke about his experiences in other branches, about certain incidents, personalities, the books he had read and about the circulars and memos from the Head Office, which according to him were below standard! It was a solo performance and one-way traffic with none of the officers getting any opportunity to speak. To put it in a nutshell, he wanted to change the entire working set up at the branch. He had visualized a particular mode of working and he implemented it with a vengeance!
Gurpur’s plan ultimately boiled out to offering excellent service at the SB counters to garner more deposits and disciplining the borrowers to make them meet their financial commitments and to submit their papers in time. He succeeded in both. But the programme of disciplining the borrowers turned out to be a painful process. The majority of borrowers had been accustomed to submission of stock statements and financial papers at their convenience – thanks to the leniency shown by the previous set up. They were also in the habit of overdrawing their accounts frequently. But Gurpur was able to discipline them ruthlessly like a Field Marshall in the battleground! He could also streamline the process of sanctioning loans by fixing the responsibility at every stage from the processing clerk to the Sub-Managerial level.
The Art of Displeasing:
Gurpur had his own way of dealing with certain situations. He never bothered about the consequences or about the persons involved! Mind you he did not spare even the CMD of the bank! The following situations illustrate his special nature:
Situation I:
The branch was having only two telephone lines – one exclusively for the Senior Manager (SM) and the other being the general number. As most of the time the general number used to be engaged, the officials from DO/CO would be forced to ring up the SM’s number on many occasions. The following used to be the usual dialogue:
The Official from CO/DO: Hello! Is it Chamrajpet Branch? I am from CO.
SM: Yes! I am the Senior Manager here and this is my personal number. Why the hell you are troubling me? What is your problem?
Official: Sir. We have not received your statement on …..The matter is urgent.
SM: That is the look out of the Sub-Manager. You ring up the general number and speak to him. (Bangs the receiver down)
(The official is under pressure as the statement is to be submitted to HO. He is trying the general number continuously. But the line is engaged throughout. Being helpless he takes the risk of calling the SM’s number once again)
SM: Who is this?
Official: Sir, I am from the CO …..Regarding the statement….
SM: Have I not already told you to ring up the general number and talk to the concerned Sub-Manager?
Official: True. But the line is continuously engaged sir.
SM: So what? Even your numbers are continuously engaged many times! I myself was unable to reach you people on several occasions!
Official: Sir. But the statement………
SM: Keep trying. Perseverance pays!
(Keeps the receiver down)
Situation II
Gurpur had a policy not to allow anybody to enter his cabin without prior information. If he is already engaged with someone, he would ask the person to wait. He made no exception to even his Divisional Manager (DM)! The DM had come on a surprise visit to the branch. But to his horror he had to wait for his appointment with Gurpur! That was the surprise treatment meted out to him by Gurpur!
The DM came and sat in front of BGR as there was already a client inside the cabin having discussions with Gurpur. He expected Gurpur to come out and take him to the cabin on seeing him. Gurpur had seen him entering the branch. But he just ignored him! BGR told Gurpur about the arrival of the DM over the intercom. But Gurpur went on talking to his client for over 20 minutes. He asked BGR to bring him in only afterwards. He told the DM that he was discussing some important matter with the client! It was his way of telling the DM that he should have given prior intimation of his visit!
Situation III
Gurpur would never visit the DO/CO. He would also avoid attending the annual Branch Managers’ Conferences. He deputed BGR for two conferences and attended only one conference in 1987 when Kamala was the DGM. Gurpur then spent half the time putting several questions to the executives. At that time K P Kamath (KPK), the Senior Manager of Seshadripuram branch, was in the news for having introduced several new ideas and for the excellent performance of the branch. So much so that he had become the ‘Blue-Eyed Boy’ of the management!
Gurpur was not happy with the way the management was creating a ‘Super Man’ image of KPK by over-highlighting his achievements in different forums. But he found almost each and every executive praising KPK for his extraordinary achievements during the conference! Every time as KPK’s name came up, Gurpur would shout “Taaliyaa” (clap, clap), sarcastically! The management was quite happy when Gurpur absented himself for two conferences!
Situation IV
When the bank launched the Gold Card Scheme, Gurpur wanted to create a record by issuing 51 cards on a single day. He organised the event in a grand manner at the branch and all the officers were on their toes. The DGM Kamala invited the then highly popular and dynamic Chairman of the bank Ratnakar. On his arrival the DGM took him to the cabin of Gurpur. The flowing was the conversation:
Ratnakar: It is extremely hot here. How come your cabin is not air-conditioned?
Gurpur: Why are you asking me? You should put that question to the DGM (Kamala)!
(It was a highly embarrassing situation for the DGM. But she knew Gurpur could be blunt even with the CMD. She kept quiet)
The function was conducted in an excellent manner with Gurpur stealing the entire show. Ratnakar was happy even though he was totally sidelined!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
13th October 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Looking Back – 35

BGR reported at the Chamrajpet branch, Bangalore in June 1985. He had been told that he could not be posted as a branch-head as there were no such posts available for Scale-II Managers in Bangalore.  He had submitted his appraisal for Scale-III and the results were awaited. He had no alternative than to work as a Sub-Manager and bide his time for his future opportunities. The new Senior Manager of the branch R P Gurpur had joined the branch on transfer from Royapeth, Madras, just a week ago. BGR and Gurpur knew each other quite well.
The Chamrajpet branch had been opened in 1961 in a new building - built to the specifications of the bank. It was quite spacious with a big locker room. The first floor had a well furnished hall, where the bank used to conduct board meetings before the Landmark JC Road building came up. The first Manager was P D Nayak (PDN) - a well built (huge) and popular personality. It appears PDN had a great personal attachment for the first floor hall. So much so that he used to go up and sleep in the hall for one-two hours daily! The Accountant had his strict instructions – not to disturb his sleep under any circumstances!
Another Sub-Manager Mohandas Pushpanadan also joined the branch a few days after BGR. For BGR, the charm of heading a branch in Indore was missing at Bangalore. He was expecting that he would be asked to be in-charge of advances. But Gurpur told him that as a matter policy he expected him to handle staff and general matters as the senior-most Sub-Manager. BGR soon settled down in his new assignment. He was the first person to arrive at the office and the last person to leave as he was holding all the keys.
BGR found the routine work at the branch a smooth-going affair. But it was quite an experience to work under an extraordinary personality like R P Gurpur, the Senior Manager. In fact the story of BGR at Chamrajpet is also the story of this remarkable personality called Gurpur! Indeed it is a challenge to sketch the personality of this great character! But let me make an attempt (thanks to the detailed inputs provided by BGR).  
For all those Canara Bank employees who were in the services of the bank in the seventies, Gurpur is known as the founding editor of the house-magazine called Shreyas. He had joined the bank at Head Office as a matriculate in 1957 as a clerk. He was a voracious reader of both Kannada and English literature. He was also deeply interested in arts including music and painting. He had a good collection of books and paintings. Perhaps none in the Head Office was as well-read as Gurpur at that point of time. What was more – he had developed a mastery over the English language.
Gurpur had a handsome personality and used to dress well. He will invariably wear a tie while at office. He had an excellent voice and could speak with an excellent command over the language and with clarity. He was posted to advance department under the leadership of the DGM C G Kini - a stalwart in credit matters.
A simple and straight forward person, C G Kini was an authority in handling large advances. He would follow the RBI guidelines meticulously. Gurpur was trained under him and he used the opportunity to pick up all the nuances. He became an expert in drafting letters. But he had a problem. Even though he was working under an Accountant and a Superintendent, he would not accept any changes made by them in the letters drafted by him! He believed he was always right! Whenever, any changes were made in the letters drafted by him, he would refuse to put his initials! He would say he is not ready to accept the changes made by them. The management somehow tolerated his attitude considering his extraordinary ability to handle correspondence.  
Gurpur was promoted as an Accountant and worked in a local branch for some time when he was re-transferred to the Head Office. When the bank thought of launching a house-magazine in the early seventies, it chose Gurpur as the first editor. He was also promoted in due course as the Manager/Senior Manager in the same section. He did an excellent job as the editor and Shreyas received several awards under his editorship. He had the opportunity to work with top executives. He was provided with two stenographers (only executives were provided with stenos at that time). His flow of thought was excellent and no one else in the Head Office had the capacity to give dictation as fast as he could.
Gurpur had all the qualities to become a top executive in the bank. He had also been given the right platform by way of editorship of the house-magazine. But his one particular quality spoiled his career. He would always under-estimate his colleagues! While he could manage to under-estimate his juniors and could still survive, his under-estimation of even the top executives did him in. While he had the support of some executives, he had created an equal number of enemies on account of his attitude. One fine day he was shunted out of Head Office as the Senior Manager of Mylapore, Chennai branch. He had spoiled his golden opportunity!
It is worth mentioning here that Prakash Mallya, who succeeded Gurpur, used the platform of editorship of Shreyas to his best advantage. He got fast-track promotions as DM, AGM, DGM and GM. He retired as the Chairman and Managing Director of Vijaya Bank. But Gurpur’s story was to end in quite an unfortunate manner.
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
10th October 2012


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Looking Back - 34

For Arundhathi Rao (wife of BGR) the teaching experience at the South Indian Cultural Association School was highly satisfying and memorable. Most of the teachers at the school were the qualified wives of officials of different companies, banks and insurance companies who had come on transfer to Indore from different parts of the country. It was in fact a congregation of women from States like West Bengal, UP, Delhi, J&K, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The school earned a very high reputation in teaching and expanded fast. Both the sons of BGR picked up excellent Hindi and they continue to speak fluently in the language even today. The BGR family had an occasion to visit Indore after a gap of ten years. They found the school having shifted to a new building with lot of open space. It had grown up to become an excellent institution in the city. In fact it was difficult to secure a seat in the highly popular school!
The Nightmare of Anti-Sikh Riots
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) had announced the killing of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the early morning of 31st October 1984. However, Doordarshan took its own time to make the official announcement. But the news had already spread fast and the entire nation was in a shocked state of affairs. In Indore all the schools were closed and the children were sent home. The bank staff also went home early and a holiday was announced for the next day.
A new clerk called Jayashree Chakravarthi from Delhi had joined BGR’s branch just in the previous week. Her husband was working in Bank of Baroda. She had attended the office for 2-3 days when her daughter was reported to have fallen sick and admitted to a nursing home. The BGR couple decided to visit the nursing home as the day was declared a holiday. The two left behind their sons Adarsh (12 years) and Anil (10 years) and went on a scooter to the nursing home at 10 am. It was located at about 3 kms from BGR’s office.
As BGR couple was entering the nursing home they found Chakravarthi coming out with her daughter and husband. The daughter had fully recovered and had been discharged. Chakravarthi insisted on their visit to her residence for having a cup of tea. The two visited her house and spent about half an hour and left the place thereafter. BGR passed his branch on the way and was driving his scooter further towards his home when his vehicle was stopped by one of his clients. He asked BGR where he was going and BGR told him that he was returning home.
The client pointed towards the western side about 100 meters away. BGR saw smoke and huge flames rising up to 30 feet height. The client told BGR that there were riots everywhere in the locality and several people from the Sikh community had been killed and their properties destroyed. BGR then realised that the streets were totally empty. He told the client that he had to somehow reach home as his two young sons were alone at home.
BGR drove fast for another km, when another person stopped him and advised him not to proceed further. He told it was extremely dangerous to go further. Nevertheless BGR drove the scooter fast in his anxiety to find his sons safe. On the way he found several vehicles burnt, shops looted and roads blocked. But BGR managed to sneak through with his two-wheeler, when some more persons stopped him and told him not proceed further. At this stage BGR’s wife was totally frightened and became nervous. But BGR convinced her that they had to reach home somehow and drove fast for another 4 kms to reach Yeshwant Nivas Road. It was a wide road and found to be peaceful.
It was a question of driving another 1 km for BGR now. However, he had to take a turn at the end of the road. As he took the turn, he found smoke everywhere and huge flames rising to the skies. But he managed to reach home safely. To the couple’s huge relief the two sons were found safe at home. They had also heard about the riots and were worried about the safety of their parents.  The Landlord of the house Mr. Sancheti took them to the terrace from where they could see smoke and huge flames engulfing almost the entire city.
BGR came to know that the riots had started in the early morning and the rioters targeted the houses/offices/properties of the Sikh community. The moment the community came to know about the riots many of them left the city. Some of them even moved towards Punjab. But many of the people left behind were killed and their properties looted/burnt. As the telephones went totally dead, no one could contact their relatives/friends/colleagues/police. There was absolutely no police action and the rioters had a field day moving around freely. Only at the end of the day night-curfew was imposed in the city.
BGR was much worried about his Sub-Manager Dalbir Singh and his family. He was also worried about his branch premises as it was owned by a Sikh gentleman. However, he could not get any information till the third day when the curfew was lifted and the telephone lines were restored. The Section 144 was still in place. BGR immediately contacted a gentleman called Prof.Tripathi who was staying next to the branch building. He told BGR that many buildings owned by the Sikh community were burnt down in the locality including Syndicate Bank, Oriental Insurance Company, Mephil Hotel, etc.  In fact Syndicate Bank had lost everything as all the records and ledgers had been burnt down. However, to the great relief of BGR, Canara Bank building remained untouched even though it also belonged to a Sikh gentleman.
BGR also collected the information that in certain areas the Sikh community grouped together in large buildings and took care of themselves by guarding the building 24 hours holding guns. Dalbir Singh, Sub-Manager of BGR’s branch, had stayed in one such building and his family remained safe. BGR was totally relieved on hearing this good news.
BGR received transfer orders in May 1985 posting him as Sub-Manager in Chamarajpet Bangalore branch. He had already submitted his appraisal for promotion to Scale-III. He was told by the DM at Bhopal that considering his excellent performance at the branch, a strong case had been made out for his promotion. The family flew back to Bangalore after completion of five-year assignment outside Karnataka. The Navlakha branch had witnessed tremendous progress under the stewardship of BGR. The branch crossed the targets in both 1984 and 1985 and it became eligible for a Sub-Manager on the performance for the second year. Finally it became eligible for a car on the basis of performance in the 3rd year. But by the time the new car arrived at the branch, BGR had already bid adieu to Indore and landed in Bangalore!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
2nd October 2012