Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Days West - Episode-12

I used to think sometime as to which branch in Bombay would be the most convenient and comfortable one for me to inspect. I would conclude that Santacruz East branch could be the most comfortable one. It was hardly at a 5-minute distance from my quarters. I was also maintaining my personal accounts with the said branch. Believe it or not! I was assigned the same branch after Kandivli!

The branch was then headed by a highly reputed and a stalwart Senior Manager Mr. B D Shenoy. I had met him earlier in connection with transfer of my accounts from Shimoga. He had treated me well and had personally received the papers from me even though he could have sent me to the concerned Manager. He was highly knowledgeable and was in total control of the branch. The branch had a very good name in the locality and had the prestigious account of BSES (Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Co. Ltd) as its major corporate client. BSES was then distributing electricity to the suburbs north of Bandra by sourcing power from Tata Companies. The distribution of power in South Bombay was by BEST, a Bombay Municipal undertaking. BSES was subsequently taken over by Reliance Group and is presently run under the name Reliance Infra, an R-ADAG company. Currently it has a captive power unit in Dahanu, but still sources power from Tatas.

Mr.Shenoy was very particular that his branch should be rated ‘A’ by the inspection team. He treated the inspecting officers well. But he was very sensitive to the inspection observations. As such it was a tough balancing act for the inspecting officers. The inspectors generally find two types of Managers difficult to handle. The first is – the category which cares very little for inspection and is least bothered about what you write. The second is – the category which is very sensitive on what the inspectors write and disputes even minor observations. The inspectors prefer the category mid-way between these two.

The Santacruz East branch had achieved almost all the parameters for A-gradation. I was assigned the inspection of advances against the pledge of inventory. As it was difficult to own storage space in Bombay, most of the borrowers used to store stock with clearing agents in their godowns on rent basis. The bank used to finance such stocks against storage receipts issued by the approved clearing agents. I had already inspected such advances in A R Street branch. I was aware that as per the manual of instructions such stock should be periodically inspected by the branch officials. But Santacruz branch had overlooked this aspect.

When my observation was brought to the notice of Mr.Shenoy, he told me that it was not necessary as the clearing agents were approved by the bank. He was also not prepared to believe that the Manual of Instructions contained such an instruction. He took out the Manual and asked me to show the same. I could show it to him within no time. Once he read it, he asked his officers to immediately comply with.

The branch was ultimately rated ‘A’ by our team. Shenoy was subsequently transferred to Fort Market branch and was promoted as divisional manger within a short time. He always treated me well and did remember me. Years later he came as DGM of Bangalore Circle. He was responsible for my posting as Senior Manager to the Trinity Circle branch with car facility. He retired as General Manager at the Bangalore circle office.

My wife was in the family-way and I availed the LFC facility for the first time to visit Mangalore on the way to Puttur. We were eligible for first class train fare by the shortest route. The shortest train route from Bombay to Mangalore in those days was through Kerala. The charge was in fact marginally higher than the airfare (Rs285). As such, for the first time in my life I could travel by air with my family. In those days very few people used to travel by air whether on official or private visits.

My next assignment was at Vikhroli, a suburb on the Central Railway. The name Vikhroli is identified with the Godrej Group. In fact the Railway station was reportedly built in 1947 to cater to the needs of the sprawling Godrej complex in the vicinity. The Godrej group owns vast tracts of lands on both sides of the Railway lines as can be observed while traveling on the local trains. The branch had the prestigious corporate account of Godrej Soaps. Branch was located very close to the Railway Station on the western side.

Initially I started the inspection along with another officer Hegde who was with me in my first branch inspection at Girgaum. Hegde had worked in Bangalore and was a knowledgeable officer. He had developed some talent in the matter of stock inspection. He had also made it a point to quote some circular from our Head Office to browbeat the branch staff for all sundry matters. He was highly dominating in nature and always wanted due importance to be given to him even at the cost of insult to his other fellow team members.
Hegde was given some undue importance by some Managers in the inspection department and it went to his head and made him headstrong. As a result it became very difficult for the other fellow officers to bear with him.

The branch was headed by Mr. K R Shenoy whom I had already met in Andheri West branch. Based on his excellent performance he had been posted to this branch to handle the prestigious corporate account. Shenoy had appreciated my work in the Andheri branch and was very positive on my observations. As he had just taken charge of the branch, he requested me to bring all important observations to his notice to enable him to personally handle. In the process he did not give due importance to Hegde. Hegde tried to attract his attention in his usual style. But Shenoy evinced no interest. Hegde turned miserable and his problems ended only with the closure of the inspection.

I remember the branch for two important reasons. It had a young officer by name Narasimhan in charge of advances. He was a south Indian, born and brought up in Bombay. He could speak Gujarati very fluently. It stood him well in handling Gujarati businessmen who formed a major chunk of branch clients. He was a very balanced person and had a maturity beyond his age. He would not get upset even in trying circumstances. His telephonic conversations with clients were a revelation of his personality. If recorded, the dialogues would have served as a model for the officer community. He kept himself upto date in all the matters connected with his department. Most of the information used to be on his fingertips. Narasimhan was later transferred to Ahmedabad, probably knowing his versatility in Gujarati and I had no occasion to meet him again. This is my tribute to the exceptional officer and gentleman.

The second reason is because of Shenoy only. Shenoy’s reputation as a capable Senior Manager saw him in better postings. He was also promoted as a Divisional Manager in due course. In that capacity he was posted to the Mandvi branch in Bombay. It was a tough assignment for him in view of the various problems faced by the branch at that juncture. The branch had huge advances against commodities including exports and import business. Besides, there were staff problems which put him under great stress. He was too hard working and his body could not cope up with the pressure of work. He collapsed in the office itself and died while on duty. He remains as an example for sacrificing the life for the institution. I had no chance to meet him after my Vikhroli assignment. May his soul rest in peace!
By the time we completed the Vikhroli assignment, another outstation programme was waiting for me. This time I was prepared without any reservation as I had sent the family away to Puttur. The assignment was our Sitabuldi branch in Nagpur. I was traveling towards the Vindhyas for the second time!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
8th July 2009

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