The other day my friend was telling me about a retired professor who got an offer from his close friend to work in his office as a consultant. Actually the professor wanted to lead a peaceful retired life without official assignments of any sort. But he was persuaded by his close friend who was a successful industrialist to take up the assignment. The professor had to yield to his friend’s request even though quite reluctantly.
Initially the professor found the job quite satisfying. He had a good team and the area of work was also to his liking. But soon he found something amiss. While his friend was quite receptive to his creative suggestions, he appeared to be unenthusiastic and hesitant the moment he found that the issue involved some cost to the company. The professor was a creative person and was quite new to the culture of a business organization. He could not understand why his close friend was not receptive to some of his suggestions. His spirits started ebbing away soon.
After about six months, the professor thought he could not fit into the scheme of things. He told his friend that he had some personal commitments and that he would like to resign. He requested his friend to relieve him on the last day of the month. The industrialist friend did not react to his request immediately. Naturally the professor thought that he was reluctant to accept his resignation. He was about to beg his forgiveness. But his friend told him to wait till he got back to him. He was not made to wait for long. He soon received an e-mail from his friend and boss asking him to submit his resignation immediately so that he could be relieved on the same day!
The professor came to know later that his friend was only following the spirits of a diligent businessman. He had been hired from a business perspective of the company. By relieving him on the same day, the boss had saved a good amount to the company! It had little to do with his friendship with the professor. When it came to business, the friendship and sentiments made little sense! Of course the professor learnt it the hard way.
My elder brother had published a story collection called ‘Commerce Stories’ way back in the late sixties when he was studying B.Com at the MES College in Bangalore. In those days it was not fashionable to go for a B.Com degree as there were hardly any jobs for a commerce graduate. My brother chose the course due to his own reasons; but he soon came to know that the world of business covered in the B.Com syllabus was totally different from the sentimental stuff he was accustomed to as a typical, simple Malnad boy. Unlike a BA student, there was no literature or poetry for him to study. Oh! It was a different cup of tea altogether! He had already written certain short stories in Kannada based on his Malnad life. Now it was time for him to write the ‘Commerce Stories’. One of them went like this:
Radha was a simple young college student who developed friendship with her college mate Krishna. The friendship soon turned into a love affair. Radha started dreaming about the romantic moments with her friend on the lines of several Kannada novels she had read - written by the well known Kannada authors of those days. But she had ignored one particular difference between the heroes of those novels and her own hero. Of course the heroes of all those stories were mostly college students. Quite interestingly almost all of them were BA students with a few exceptions being B.Sc. students. However, none of them was a B.Com student! And Krishna was a B.Com student!
Radha came to know that Krishna’s birthday was falling due on a particular day. She wanted to present him a memorable gift on the occasion. She chose a costly Parker pen as the right gift for him. She had no doubt that her beloved Krishna would be thrilled with her presentation. When the two met at the Cubbon Park on the day, Radha handed over the pen to Krishna wishing him a happy birthday. Krishna appeared to be quite impressed with his lover’s presentation. He opened the gift pack and took out the beautiful and much coveted pen of those days. Radha was naturally expecting some romantic expression from her beloved. But there was no such expression from Krishna. Rather the first question he put to her was how much she had paid for the pen!
Needless to say the romantic feelings of Radha evaporated the moment Krishna asked the price of the pen. But Krishna was bent upon knowing it. Radha reluctantly told him that she had paid Rs10 for the same. It was quite a big amount for a student of those days. But being a B.Com student, what Krishna wanted to analyse was whether she had paid the right price for the item she had purchased! He concluded on the spot that she had overpaid for the article! According to him the normal price of the pen could not have been more than Rs7! He chided Radha for her ignorance in the matter. One can only guess what happened to the romantic dream of Radha thereafter! So that was one of the typical Commerce Story for you!
The Inborn Entrepreneurship!
The city of Mumbai is known as the commercial capital of India. The city indeed means business. Nobody here has the spare time for others. Of course that was what I had thought when I arrived in Mumbai in the year 1977. After some time I almost thought that my presumption was perfect. But soon I had to change my opinion partially because of one person. He was actually the cousin of my wife and was running a private business. We used to visit his house often at Andheri West. His name was Mohan Tholpadi. Incidentally his wife’s name was Mohini. The Mohan-Mohini couple used to entertain guests in a very hospitable manner. It was always a pleasure to be their guests.
Mohan had a flourishing business of maintenance of swimming pools of a major number of Five-Star hotels in Mumbai. He was not even a graduate. But he had developed a unique business enterprise in a city like Mumbai without any support of any kind from either his family or anybody else. But inspite of being such a successful entrepreneur, he was a very simple and humble man. He would engage himself in several social activities without any publicity whatsoever. I was curious to know how he could develop such entrepreneur skills hailing from a small town like Puttur in South Kanara with minimum education. Mohan narrated an episode from his childhood days to prove that he had developed the spirits of an astute businessman even as a child. He also told me that his mother was the first person to discover his business-minded nature early!
Mohan’s father had died early and his mother had the onerous task of bringing up the young children. While she was struggling to take care of her young ones, the young lot was least concerned of the difficulties of their beloved mother. They were enjoying their childhood by engaging themselves with all sorts of activities at home to create maximum nuisance to their mother. Fed up with their activities, one day their mother called them together and told them that she had decided to end her life! What she was perhaps expecting was all of them would start weeping - begging her not to die.
But to her surprise none of the children seemed perturbed by her decision to end her life. All of them started back their nuisance activities as if the departure of their mother would mean nothing to them! But there was one son who seemed to be quite perturbed. He sat there in front of his mother looking totally worried. The son was our Mohan. His mother thought at least she had one son who could not bear the loss of his beloved mother. She started cuddling him and affectionately asked him why he was so much worried.
Mohan told her that he was really worried. He asked her to extend him only one favour. He pointed out a tin box on the top of the kitchen platform, in which she had stored sweets and toffees. He asked her to take it out and hand it over to him before she left him for good!
A V Krishnamurthy
29th December 2012