Zero tolerance

After getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering, the son of the Proprietor of a medium-scale automotive parts manufacturing company expressed a desire to work in his father’s factory.

The Proprietor asked his son whether he was prepared to join as a GET (Graduate Engineering Trainee). He would be treated like any other GET and be subject to the same rules and regulations as all other GETs. The son agreed.

The Proprietor’s son reported late for work on 7 days during the second month. Since the Factory Manager expressed reluctance to do so, the Proprietor issued a Warning Letter to his son, stating that if he reported late for work on more than 3 days during a month, his services would be terminated with immediate effect!

On the 23rd day of the third month, the Proprietor’s son reported late for work for the 4th time during that month. The Proprietor decided that, as per the terms of the Warning Letter, his son’s services would be terminated with immediate effect. When the Factory Manager requested the Proprietor to give the young man another chance, the Proprietor replied, “He was given his first and last chance along with the Warning Letter. Now he cannot be given another chance. Repeated latecoming is an act of indiscipline, and, as you are aware, we have a policy of zero tolerance to indiscipline. Today, if we relax that policy for my son, we will be sending a wrong signal to the other employees that we are willing to compromise on our zero tolerance to indiscipline. But, if we take proper action against my son’s indiscipline, the other employees will know that we will never tolerate indiscipline from anybody else.”

Indiscipline in any organisation can be prevented, or reduced to a very substantial extent, only if the organisation is known to have ZERO tolerance towards indiscipline, irrespective of the identity of the employee. The same is true of corruption and social ills in any society.

Yes We Can!

(This post was a part of my post Can we overcome? Yes We Can! originally published on September 28, 2013)

Some years back, I met a person who is a source of inspiration to all who know him. A few years after he joined a large company as a GET (Graduate Engineer Trainee), he lost vision in both eyes. After discussions with his employers, he decided that his best option would be to start a factory supplying parts to his employers. It was not easy, but he succeeded with full support from his family, ex-employers, bankers and all business associates. He had bought machines from the company I worked with. When I first met him, he had been running his business for about 7 years. He and I interacted quite a bit, both personally and telephonically, over the next 9 years. In those 9 years, he never ever complained or spoke bitterly about his blindness. In fact, he was always quick to see the funny side of any situation and laughed much more than most ‘normal’ people. More importantly, he never asked for any special treatment on account of his blindness.

There are many such persons who try to overcome severe handicaps and/or setbacks by sheer hard work. Plastic surgeon Dr Sharad Kumar Dicksheet, oncologist Dr. Suresh Advani, Chartered Accountancy examination national topper Prema Jayakumar and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking are some wonderful examples of people who inspired themselves to overcome their apparently huge handicaps and/or setbacks and achieve success far greater than that achieved by people who enjoy many advantages. I’m sure each one of us personally knows at least a couple of persons who overcame huge obstacles instead of allowing the obstacles to overcome them.

At this moment, India is gripped by a large number of seemingly insurmountable problems: corruption, crime, discrimination, poverty, illiteracy, etc., etc.. Can we overcome all these problems and make our country a much better place to live in? Let’s not sit back in our armchairs and say it’s impossible. Let us all draw inspiration from Dr Sharad Kumar Dicksheet, Dr. Suresh Advani, Prema Jayakumar, Stephen Hawking and many others like them and say, “Yes We Can!” Let’s inspire ourselves to individually and jointly put in the effort needed to come to the day when we can declare from the bottom of our hearts that Mera Bharat Mahaan!

X Factor

Hsin Yi and her husband Yuan Peng migrated from China to India in their early twenties. After working with a ‘Chinese Shoe Maker’ for a few years, they set up a shoe-making shop in our city. Business was good for about twenty years, but declined badly after many well-known international brands had entered India.

The writing on the wall was clear: they would have to shut down their shop. However, they postponed the decision because Hsin Yi, Yuan Peng and their only son knew nothing other than the shoe-making business. To add to their worries, their son had not studied further after completing his school education. Their future looked very bleak.

One day, a gentleman entered their shop. He showed no interest in buying shoes, but asked Yuan Peng how well the three of them knew the Chinese language, and whether they knew any other languages. Yuan Peng replied that they all could speak, read and write Chinese and English, and could speak Hindi very fluently.

The gentleman then told them that he ran a company that provided interpreter services. He asked if they would be interested to work as freelance Chinese interpreters. They would be paid Rs. 3,000 per working day, plus conveyance, food, overtime and generous travelling allowances for any work in any other city. Each of them would probably get around 15 days’ work every month. Needless to say, they confirmed their interest.

Within a few months, Hsin Yi, Yuan Peng and their son were flooded with work as Chinese interpreters for visiting Chinese businessmen and technicians. They also got some assignments to accompany Indian businessmen visiting China. In a short time, they started earning much more than they had while running their business.

They had not realized it earlier, but now they knew that their fluency in Chinese, English and Hindi was their X factor!

This true story was told to me by Hsin Yi (name changed) when I engaged her services as an interpreter during the visit of a Chinese engineer to my client’s factory.

Every person has an X Factor. Have you found yours?


Many people sincerely try to bring about social change by fighting against discrimination. Some of them are full-time activists, while the rest engage in activism in the course of their daily lives.

I admire all such people, but I have noticed that many, maybe most of them focus only on those forms of discrimination where they are victims themselves. They do not seem to be bothered about those forms of discrimination where they have the upper hand.

For example, men belonging to ‘lower caste’ families may fight against caste discrimination, but may condone or perhaps practise gender discrimination against the women in their families.

Or women belonging to ‘upper caste’ families may fight against gender discrimination, but may condone or perhaps practise caste discrimination against other women and men.

Do we all genuinely try to behave and speak respectfully with people who are economically weaker than us, such as domestic help, watchman, liftman, driver, etc.?

Don’t many of us look down on people whose knowledge of English is not as good as ours, and admire people whose knowledge of English is better than ours?

Why can’t those of us who fight against those forms of discrimination where we are victims, also fight against all those forms of discrimination where we have the upper hand?

Why can’t we practise Humanism?

(Humanism is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as: A rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.

Inspired by the definition of Feminism (The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes), I would like to add my own definition:
Humanism: The advocacy of the rights of all human beings on the ground that they are equal.)

Win – Win (An unbelievable, but true story!)

The union leader promised the workers that he would ensure that they were given a 20% salary increase during the Annual Wage Agreement later that month. “If the management does not agree, we will go on strike,” he declared. The workers cheered!

3 days later, he sent the company’s Chairman a letter demanding 20% salary increase for all employees as part of the Annual Wage Agreement.

2 hours after receiving the letter, the Chairman telephoned the union leader and invited him for a meeting the next afternoon to discuss the Annual Wage Agreement. “I’ll certainly attend the meeting, but there’s nothing to discuss. We will not accept anything less than 20%,” the union leader said.

The next afternoon, the Chairman asked the union leader, “You said you’ll not accept anything less than 20%, but can I offer 35%?” The union leader was too stunned to reply!

The Chairman continued, “Our workers can get 35% higher salary, but only if they help the company generate the additional money to pay them that 35%. I’m offering 10% salary increase, 10% Attendance Incentive, 10% Productivity Incentive, plus a 5% Turnover Incentive. Of course, they will continue to get 8.33% Bonus, Leave Encashment and other existing benefits. Please discuss my offer with the workers and let me know the response. All details are here in this file.” The union leader took the file and left the Chairman’s office.

Two days later, the union leader told the workers that this was the first time in the last 22 years that any management had offered more than the union had demanded. He explained the details of the Chairman’s offer and explained why he was convinced that it was a genuine offer with no hidden surprises. The workers agreed that the union should accept the Chairman’s offer.

The Annual Wage Agreement was signed by the Chairman and the union leader two days later.

The company’s turnover increased by 50% the next year without any increase in the number of workers, all due to near-zero absenteeism and a substantial increase in efficiency and productivity. As agreed, the workers also earned 35% higher salary than the previous year.