Friday, September 19, 2008


APSO was just formed. Body language of DGM suggested I was not welcome. Later I came to know he wanted one of his clan in my place. I continued to receive non-person treatment. He was far from competent to set up a new office. I had met him several times at Chennai before this posting. He visited Lube Plant for meetings on blending schedules. All the meetings were held in my cabin. There I found him very meticulously tabulating the Lube indents of various locations, which his assistants had to do as a feedback for the meetings.

He enjoyed the position of Divisional head so much that he was almost not willing to be a state head. Personally I thought he should have remained in Gr.B. Educational qualification alone does not make a man suitable for a higher position. Anyway he was enjoying the attention that went with the post.

As the APSO was just formed there was considerable work in my department. All the files from region were brought which had to be sorted out. Transport contracts were finalized by region but work orders were to be issued by us. EMD refunds were to be effected, SD of previous contracts were to be effected, as the existing barge contract period was coming to an end, fresh contract had to be initiated in addition to the day to day monitoring of working of depots and terminal and replies to various queries from operations managers of DOs, monitoring stock loss. In addition preparing presentation material for frequent review meets. My DH and I were the only officers with a grade six officer for clerical work. My DH had little experience of operations and was on tour 2 to 3 days a week. When in town, if the state head was on tour he would just leave the office whenever he pleased.

I continued to receive non-person treatment. There were three departmental heads, who were highly sectarian and got along with one another greatly. Of the three, two availed VR and the third resigned. Whenever night duty was required to be done in connection with price change the trio suggested my name, which was readily agreed to by DGM, knowing fully well my health condition. I had suffered MI and was on medication.

DGM was fond of safari suits. He always wore un-ironed clothes and his jacket lengthwise just touched his waist where he wore his trousers. There was a woman officer who called it a blouse.

There were frequent review meets—by regional heads almost once in two months and by director marketing. All the meetings were held in 5 star hotels. And our DGM insisted all officers attend. Entire day of the review meet all officers remained in hotel.
We all enjoyed delicious lunch and teatime snacks. No one normally knew when the reviewing dignitary would arrive. Sometimes it used to be late in the afternoon. Reviews were more of leg pulling nature. All officers were witness to discomfiture of our state head. Our DGM invited leg pulling. On one occasion when regional head was analyzing the presentation of state sales head, he repeatedly questioned the officer to clarify certain points and to this a very irritated dignitary reprimanded him saying such questioning should have been done as a part of his duty, and that he was showing his lack of knowledge of what was going on in his state which he was heading.

On another occasion when he failed to give satisfactory explanation to Director marketing on certain queries, director marketing asked him to start packing for transfer, as he was unfit to be a state head.

He was unceremoniously removed and in his place AKS was installed. He was similarly, unceremoniously shifted from Patna because of his ill treatment of officers. He had spent a few years in the army serving as an emergency commissioned officer. Even though he was discharge from the army years ago, he continued to behave as an army man. He never tolerated any argument let alone dissent.

The trio I mentioned above again managed to put me on night duty for monitoring price revision. I had to be in the office from 1100 am on a Saturday till 8 am next day. Of the 21 hrs 18 hrs were in waiting for price revision messages to come from region. I fell sick and had to be on leave next couple of days. Within less than a month of this experience, one evening my dept head told me I had to stay that night for another revision. I told him my health did not permit to stay back particularly after having worked the whole day in the office. When he insisted I told him even if it meat a charge sheet I would not continue. By then AKS had left office. He managed to keep someone else that night and told me I could go home. Because there was some error in monitoring AKS summoned my head to his cabin. He quoted me verbatim. I was summoned. He repeated what was reported to him by PVR. I accepted what I had said. I told him I was fit to work during the office hrs but not fit to continue working beyond till early hrs. He told me to give in writing. I refused. He issued a letter and I gave a fitting reply. For months he refused to talk to me. When such things happen I feel I am not the loser. It is the organization, which is deprived of a thinking individual’s contribution.

There was a big hype on millennium change over, several posters were displayed and a number of communications were sent to all locations requiring individual attention of the location in charge and also his presence in the work place at midnight to report smooth change over. Everything was done as seriously as Mr. Kalam would do before launching of a satellite. AKS reached office before midnight to personally monitor and talk to each location head. Mr. Rmanamurthy, who was Sr.DM at cuddapah, saw through the change over at midnight and went home and AKS called Cuddapah a little after he left. AKS was convinced Mr. Murthy did not attend office. His ego was hurt. No explanation could satisfy him. On the request of Murthy, who I knew to be a conscientious officer, I went to AKS to apprise him of what had happened. I was told categorically that he was not prepared to except any explanation. Whatever good opinion he had of Murthy was washed out as he found him to be irresponsible.

AKS was very meticulous about organizing any functions. It was republic day and after unfurling of the national tri-colour refreshments were arranged. Snacks were laid out, tea and coffee was ready for serving. After the sancks some one asked for water, which was not there. That was the only item escaped the attention of Somshekhara, who was AM(Admn.). AKS reprimanded him right there and not satisfied with that asked him to see him in his cabin. Next day I heard Mr. Somshekhara was missing. He did not go to his house and his family alerted he did not reach home even after midnight. Search parties were sent and after a long search he was found sitting alone near a temple on the banks of Husain sagar. Mr. Sen was always unreasonable if he did not have his way. Mr. Somshekhar took leave for the next two months and thereafter availed VR.

A review was scheduled at Chennai of operations heads of states on 10.03.2000. PVR asked MTS and me to prepare presentation for the review. We prepared the material and got it transformed into power point and submitted the printouts. He made certain corrections and asked Chandrashekhar to incorporate the changes that he had made into the power point presentation. It was late in the evening. He took the floppy and got the briefing on all those points in the presentation.

Even before he came back I got the feed back from my friends in Chennai that ED, Mr.Basu was highly critical of his lack of knowledge and expressed his displeasure. The HO formats for presentation did not include locations with stock gains. However PVR was asked to explain the erosion of gains in Vizag during the year vis-à-vis previous year. Had he known he would have explained! PVR returned and told us that the presentation was not up to the mark and that ED was not happy. He also said ED wanted to know who was assisting him in his work. When he mentioned my name ED told him that he had worked with me and rated me very high. That evening AKS received call from GM (MO) to say that PVR had miserably failed in his presentation. PVR was summoned. He returned after an hour to tell MTS and me that AKS wanted to see us. Knowing PVR well I guessed what was to come. In the evening after office hrs PVR led us to AKS’s cabin. Even before we sat down he started hurling accusations against MTS and me that we had let State office down. He said PVR trusted us and took the presentation material without going through it. MTS kept mum because he was obliged to AKS for having him transferred to Hyderabad. I protested and wanted to explain to him the truth. He was furious and shivering with rage. I told him that he has to hear my side of the story before coming to any conclusion. He refused to hear what I had to say because he had already delivered judgment. Whenever there was dissent between two officers, he always believed the senior of the two. I told him very firmly that I had the right to be heard. I also told him that power point gives only the basis on which the presenting officer has to elaborate and convince and might be PVR failed there. I also told him that without involvement and basic knowledge presenting officer couldn’t successfully present. At this both PVR and AKS got wild and asked me to go. Before going out I told AKS that shouting and refusing to listen to arguments did not suit the chair he was occupying. I also told him that the next day was conference of depot managers and that I would make the same presentation and convince him on all the points. To make myself heard I did speak the above sentences loudly and went out of his cabin. What surprised me was that MTS who talks so much otherwise did not speak a word.

Next day I made the presentation and also explained the erosion of gain in Vizag during the year 99-2000. In 98-99 terminal received most of the parcels by tankers whereas in 99-2000 it was through the pipeline from the next door HPCL. In fact HO earlier were asking for investigation for the enormous gains in 98-99. AKS looked pleased and gave me an impression that he realized his judgment on the previous day was wrong.
Next day I was in my car to start for the office, when AKS came out of the lift and while going to his car saw me. I refused to look at him. He came up to my car and tapped the window glass. When I lowered the glass he smiled and said” are you still angry”.

PVR could not take this. When I reached office, Madhavi handed me a letter from PVR asking for my explanation and giving show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against me. Obviously when AKS refused to oblige him he wrote this letter in consultation with his close friend Santan Krishnan, who was ops head in region. When my reply did not reach him on the cut off date, he gave a reminder. I replied point by point and also attacked him on his weaknesses. The curtain was drawn.

To dispel the doubts of the skeptics, I have with me copies of presentation slides with corrections in PVR's hand writing and letters exchanged between PVR, and me, which can be checked.

When our office was in Gurumurthy lane, servo towers was just two km away, so I used to go home for lunch everyday. This became a big talking point. Some raised their eyebrows and said “he goes home for lunch in his car, his is the most expensive lunch” while some others talked about my not returning within half an hour and yet going home on time at the end of the day. Those who talked this way were latecomers to office, who never reached before 10 am. They went out for lunch to nearby eateries and took nearly an hr to come back. They were the people who mattered and their verdict prevailed. One day PVR told me that it was DGM’s instruction that I should not go home for lunch but I could go out to any eatery nearby if I did not wish to carry my food. There after I started bringing my lunch. After my daughter went to States, my wife was not keeping well—she was on sedatives. My going home for lunch was to just to keep her happy. PVR never ever said any time any thing on his own behalf even if it were his own. He was like the gantry supervisor who would tell the workers, “ do this because the terminal manager wants it, other wise I am with you”.

I have always been against sitting late in the office. After the day’s work efficiency declines and one tends to make mistakes. People thought my argument was just to avoid sitting late. Apart from decline of efficiency one has many roles to play in life. Now that Ramamurthy of Infosis has written on this subject some thinking is given to the subject. I consider myself far ahead of my time. Many times the ideas that I give are rejected and even laughed at. But the same ideas get implemented after 5 to 6 years. For instance when the State Offices were formed I suggested that the depots should report to SOM instead of to DOs. I was rather ridiculed for such a suggestion. The then DGM and SOM said reporting of Depots to DMs was in the best interest of sales. This was implemented after 4 years. I am sure even now the best interests are served.

AKS was a different man away from work field. He was an extrovert and out-going. Picnics organized during his period remain memorable. He was meticulous in arrangements. He was lively and mixed with everyone.

Servo towers was transformed—with gardening, facilities for children. Every occasion was celebrated in style—deepawali, dassera, republic and independent days. There was life in servo towers in his days.

He had a weakness for shaking hands with particularly women officers and members of staff. With some he held on to the hand. Age was on his side.

He was an excellent host. Any party with him was lively. He enjoyed cracking jokes and listening to others’ as well.

I was shifted to LPG. SSDG succeeded AKS. And BVK joined as LPG head. This turned out to be the best period of my tenure in APSO. In fact I rate it as one of the best periods in my career and the best periods can be counted on the fingers of a single hand.

Mr. Dasgupta was efficient, hardworking and dedicated. He was polite but impersonal. For him it was work and nothing beyond. I could not, however much I tried, understand why he resigned. He did get his promotions on time. The reason he gave in his farewell speech was that he did not find personal time as the job demanded all his time. As a state head he did not have to visit each and every distributor and dealer. He toured even on Saturdays.

With his departure the grace and dignity that he brought to the chair diminished. He endeared himself to almost everyone.

With the change of state head, style of functioning changed.

SMC meetings, which I happened to attend in the absence of BVK, I found nothing much was discussed. Merely dates were changed for action points and a couple of new points added.

I attended my last SMC meeting on 28.10.2002 at 1330 hrs. Without any discussion GM announced that the SMC was over and the minutes of SMC held on 8.10.2002 would be the minutes of this SMC. Someone suggested at least few changes in target dates to make it more authentic.

Time is a major input on par with raw materials, human resource and finance. Efficiency is capability translated into action within time frame. Efficiency cannot be measured independent of time. We in Indian Oil have brilliant, well-informed, highly qualified and very capable human resource. But time has always been a casualty. This is noticeable in every meeting and SMC is no exception. You will appreciate what I am saying if you go through the minutes of SMC meetings.

CSM made a presentation on state performance on retail. In one of the slides he projected income for IOC from other sources. In this category were rentals from ATMs of ICICI bank, which have counters in many of our ROs. The income shown was between Rs.6000/- and 10000/-, Rs.10000/- was for ATM at Begampet. My question in the meeting was--whom this ATM benefits? I pointed out that it was only to the advantage of the bank. If the bank has to open an ATM in Begampet, they cannot hope to get any premises of such place utility at Rs.10000/-. Rental value at important places for commercial purposes is given in The Times of India every week. This scheme does not fit the concept of allied selling because it is observed that those who use ATM do not fill gas. A survey done by any professional body will reveal that. A lot of people walk in to the ATM. Others come on vehicles and park them near the ATM and use the facility without taking MS. Apart from the low rental; there is congestion as well. The entire scheme is one sided and definitely not in the interest of IOC. GM was apparently unhappy with the point that I made and told me very curtly " bangi let us not debate on this". I got the impression that there is no commercial consideration in our decisions. Would any businessman ever consider such a proposal?

The concept of vigilance in management is being vigilant be it the management of finance, raw material, human resource, machinery and most important time. If this concept is accepted, vigilance is one important component of a manager. A manager without this component is no manager. If function of a manager were compared to human anatomy, which organ would you think would be vigilance? I leave this question unanswered.

Managers, who strictly observe vigilance in the commonly understood sense of the word, tend to violate the same, which the non-discerning eye does not notice. To give a commonplace example, touring. It is commonplace to see managers touring where touring is not really needed. We have examples of managers visiting each and every distributor, dealer all over the state, which is primarily a function of a field officer. To top it they complain they have no time for their family. This is where the vigilant time management is lacking. No one can manage time; one has to manage oneself within the time frame. Vigilance in time management (misnomer) requires one to audit one's time spent. Making a time chart can do this exercise. One has to keep an account of time spent against the time scheduled. This done for a week or so will give an insight into one's time management. The next step is to budget one's time. Please remember time is as important as finance. We all have seen how a schedule is observed more in breach. Call to mind any programme that you attended. There is always an agenda, earmarking time. To begin with the programme does not begin on time. Every one of us knows all rest. I go back in time to my college days. Sociology was one of my subjects of study and conflict of roles was an important topic. That was the time when a film by name Anuradha, with Balraj Sahni and Leela Naidu in the cast was released. This film dealt with the same subject of conflict of roles. A Doctor engrossed in his medical practice totally forgets his role as a husband. Of course as it happens in films the Doctor realizes his mismanagement of time which resulted in his wife's frustrations. We have several roles to play. A successful man is one who budgets his time for each role and keeps auditing it. Think of a man who rises to the top of the ladder of one role and is on the lowest rung in rest of the roles. That is lop-sided.

We have today quite a few products of management schools. Good. We need them. But all that they are used for is statistics. Statistics is a base for any decision-making. It is not an end in itself. So much of statistical analysis is churned out. Various permutations and combinations are used. Looked at from all available angles. It remains a monument. The products of management schools should be used for achievements and not just for super power point presentations before dignitaries whose visits are quite common. Path is important but the function of the path is to lead to destination.

We Indians are very receptive to new ideas. We accept all modern management principles as long as we are in classrooms. Away from classrooms, in real work situations we do exactly opposite of what we appreciate in classrooms. If at least 10% of what is so laboriously learnt in management schools is put to practice it will make a difference.

In order to accept and practice modern concepts unlearning is the first step. And unlearning has to be at the top as well as the bottom levels of management hierarchy. Faster the top unlearns lesser is the need for lower levels to unlearn.

Mr Vasanth Kumar accepted me as a friend. He trusted me and I did not disappoint him. It was an experience to see him write the CRs. He was absolutely unbiased. I enjoyed working with him. I will always remember my association with Venkat Rao, Janakinath, Shankar Rao. They enlivened the atmosphere whenever we got together over a drink.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Mr. Bangi,
You do not know me, I joined Indian Oil as an Officer Trainee in 1983 March and was confirmed in Grade A on 29 March 1984. I was initially posted at Ranchi AFS and in 1985 was transferred to Bagdogra AFS. I read about your stint at Siliguri Terminal. I left Indian Oil in 1985 for further studies at IIFT, Delhi. Presently I am living in Canada. I am still in contact with 3-4 of my batchmates in IOC who are in GM/DGM/Chief Manager position.
You have brought out the life in Indian Oil in an excellent and absorbing manner. Look forward to reading more of your experiences. Regards,

Manas Mukhopadhyay (IOC employee number: 20400)