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:
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)
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!
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!
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