Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Oh Kolkata! - Episode No.18

The DGM N M Kamath was transferred after sometime and Mr.Annappa Pai (P A Pai), AGM, was elevated to the post. Nayak was close to both the AGM K S Rao and the DGM P A Pai. His close rapport with the top two in the Circle Office helped the branch immensely. The handling of advances also became a smooth affair over a period of time. Nayak was extremely proud of us and he used to challenge the Officers and the Managers at the circle office to find fault with our branch in handling the credit portfolio. He would visit the Circle Office often and get the sanctions for our branch-proposals expeditiously.

With the new management team in place, the employee-related problems at the branch became a thing of the past. Nayak had a reputation for carrying the entire team with him wherever he was posted. He would never let down the people working under him. He would rather go out of his way to protect them and help them in case of necessity. I was one of the beneficiaries of his goodness.

In my first year (1984) of working at the branch I was not in a position to visit the famous Durga pooja pendals in Kolkata during the Pooja time. I was totally tied up with the problems in the branch. However, our family could visit all the major pendals in Kolkata during 1985. Nayak had ordered his driver to take us to all the pendals during the night! It was a great pleasure to see different types of pooja idols in the beautifully decorated and illuminated pendals. The Bengalis are known for the celebration of the Pooja festival with all its gaiety. People from all walks of life enjoy the festival by purchasing new cloth, preparing sweets and worshipping the Durga. The festival lasts almost for a week and at the end of the holidays, people report back at the offices with great reluctance!

Nayak’s kind gesture of sending his car to enable me and my family to visit the pooja pendals was only one among such gestures. There was another gesture by him, which I will not be able to forget in my lifetime.

I have mentioned earlier that my Senior Manager Guinn was kind enough to pick me up daily while going to the office. One particular day Guinn informed Nayak that he was going on a week’s leave. I was present in the cabin of Nayak when Guinn told him about his leave. Immediately on hearing his request, Nayak called his driver to his cabin. He ordered him to see that I was picked up and dropped everyday till Guinn reported back! Nayak’s gesture did not end here. On another such occasion, Nayak himself had to take leave simultaneously. Believe it or not! Nayak then made an arrangement for me with his friend Mr. Kamath, DM of our Brabourne Road branch!

Nayak’s comfort with the top executives at the Circle Office received a setback after some time.  There was a sudden new development much to the dislike of the entire set up in Kolkata. The DGMs in Kolkata had till then enjoyed an independent status. The fact that Kolkata was far away from the Head Office (HO) in Bangalore was indeed a privilege. While the customers could not approach the HO to bring pressure on the DGM to take decisions in their favour, the top executives including the CMD were not interfering in the day-to-day affairs of the Circle. However, all this changed with the opening of a General Manager’s Office in Kolkata.

The first GM to be posted was called Bhoja (name changed), who had earlier worked in Mumbai branches and New Delhi. He started showing his true colours almost immediately on his arrival at Kolkata. Our branch had the account of a major export-oriented company owned by a Marwari family. In view of the huge valuable foreign exchange business turnover passed on by the company, it was always dictating terms to the bank. In other words, it was a sensitive account for the branch to be handled with utmost caution and care.

A week after the arrival of the new GM in Kolkata, one of the representatives of the company told us that the company had been asked by the GM to place a car at his exclusive disposal! We were unable to understand the requirement, as the GM was provided with an exclusive official car by the bank. However, the company was indeed pleased to oblige. The representative told us that the GM required the car for the private use of his family, which was very much understandable! He did not hide the fact that the company’s clout with the bank had gone up considerably on account of this special arrangement with the GM!

There was more to come. After some more time, Nayak was called one day to the office of the GM. There he was handed over two proposals from a particular Group in Kolkata for taking over their existing limits with another public sector bank. Nayak could not understand the reasons for the Group to approach the GM directly. In the normal course, the proposal should have originated from the branch. The GM simply asked him to recommend the proposals to the Circle Office. Nayak collected the proposals and came back to the branch.

A close scrutiny of the two proposals and the relative financial papers, revealed a very unhealthy status of the two companies. Nayak immediately went and personally met the officials (of the other bank) who had the privilege to handle the accounts till then! The officials could not hide their eagerness to hand over the two ‘unhealthy babies’ to our bank with all their belongings! They had absolutely no objections to our adoption of the two sick babies!

It was indeed a test of sorts for Nayak. He could not disobey the orders of the GM who was in-charge of the Circle. But if he were to recommend the two proposals, he was sure to face an investigation sooner or later. He knew that the sanction from the Circle was only a formality, as the GM had already agreed-in-principle and the proposal had originated from him only, even though unofficially!
------- (To be continued)
A V Krishnamurthy
29th November 2010

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