Is it possible to Fall in Love with a Company?

Is it possible to fall in love with a company?

Not the kind where you are loyal to a company or brand or product line and refuse to buy anything else.But truly revere a company because of their values.

A few weeks ago, I was at the Indian Hotels company to meet a senior gentleman there. Unlike other companies, where either an assistant or the receptionist or some peon might walk you to a meeting room, this person came to the lobby to receive me.

I’m not particularly good with small talk, and almost always jump right to the point. However, I started this meeting differently. I told this person about a story a close friend’s son had shared recently. It went like this.

Many years ago, when my friend’s son was in school, the school bus would drop him off at Kemps Corner. They lived up Altamount Road, quite a steep walk up. Especially for this stocky boy with a big schoolbag, huffing his way up the road. And every once in a way, a Mercedes car would pull up, an old gentleman sitting in the back, would offer to drop him to his building. This boy would sit in front, next to the driver.

The old gentleman would ask some questions about how he liked school, etc. One evening, this boy decided to mention to his family at dinner, that he had been occasionally getting dropped home by a complete stranger. As he narrated the story and described the old gentleman, his granny smiled and said, “that man is J. R. D. Tata!”

For the uninitiated, Mr. J. R. D. Tata is arguably one of the greatest Indian businesspersons.

What’s more, when this boy grew up and shared this story on social media, it turned out that other people who lived in the area had similar stories of their own. It seemed that success didn’t create a divide between Mr. Tata and others, but rather, Mr. Tata chose to use his success to help those around in whichever way he could.

This gentleman at the Taj Group was thrilled to hear this story, but not completely surprised. I guess the values infused into the group are so strong, it’s not something they would struggle to believe.

Rewinding a bit to a little before this meeting of mine…. I reached the Indian Hotels office a little early. Restless as always, I was walking around, admiring the picturesque view of Bombay from the window beside the reception area. I then noticed pillar-like structures just behind where the receptionists stood. There were seven on one side, six on the other. And each one had a name and number etched in. I had a faint idea about what they were. But just to confirm, I walked up and asked the receptionist about them.

And indeed, they were in memory of their brave employees they lost during the 2008 terrorist attack. The last pillar on the right just had a name on it. ‘Lucy’, and no date. Turned out it was a pet of theirs, which was always outside the hotel.

The two stories were truly humbling. Even just a few more companies with the kind of humility, respect and values that the Tata Group of companies has, could truly transform the business ecosystem.

Perhaps it therefore comes as no surprise that the brave Taj employees did not try to escape during the attack. On the contrary, many of them displayed superhuman courage and presence of mind to do the unimaginable. The kitchen staff formed human shields as their guests tried to get out.

No amount of rules, threats, salary packages or incentives can get someone to do that. It is something much more. And has to come from within, but only when the ecosystem is right. It’s something very human. Something the world needs more of.

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If you own, manage or work at a company, and are grappling with a complex challenge or are in need of innovation for growth, get in touch. More here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon & Flipkart.

To Adopt or Not to Adopt

State Home Minister R R Patil came up with a brainwave idea to curb crimes against the elderly in the city. His idea is, that every policeman must ‘adopt’ (take responsibility) of a senior citizen.

What do some people have for breakfast?

Policemen in our city, and across the country are underpaid, overworked, and hardly find time to even spend with their own family. And looking at the scale of religious celebrations that go on here, one can only admire the effort and great job the policemen are doing at keeping normal functioning smooth and minimizing chaos.

And yet, our great Ministers feel that despite doing so much, the cops still need to add the responsibility of ‘adopting an elderly’ to their To-do list?

I would understand something like, having teams of social workers go to each elderly persons’ home and providing them direct contact details of a cop at the nearest police station. I could understand impressing upon elderly and their families the need for things like friend circles,  so that each one can check up on the other regularly. Or politicians could even have good ideas or suggestions created into the form of small skits and screen them on tv, showing how the elderly can be kept safe and protected.

If adoption is his solution to it, I got a better idea. Why don’t ministers adopt entire cities of the elderly. I mean, after all the scams that have robbed the country, it would still be but a tiny outgo from their overflowing treasuries towards adopting even cities as a whole. Thought about that?

If politicians cannot meet their responsibilities, let them at least ‘adopt’ part of those responsibilities.

Some shameful facts:

  • Around 1800 FIRs (First Information Reports) have been withdrawn by the state police over the last 6 years on orders from the home ministry.
  • At a Press Conference in the aftermath of the Nov. 2008 attack at Mumbai, R R Patil had commented “It is not like that. In big cities like this, small incidents do happen. It’s not a total failure.”

The reason I raked up that old 2008 comment is, because on those fateful days, a lot more than lives were lost in Bombay. A spirit was attacked. To many politicians, Bombay is perhaps only an ATM for them. But to its residents, it is a lot more. So for a responsible minister to have attempted to underplay the result of such an attack at a press conference; words to describe it should have been chosen more wisely.

Anyway, back to the topic. If politicians adopting cities or the elderly makes you choke on your late morning tea, I got a simpler idea. How about all politicians (public servants, supposedly) re-assign all their security (bodyguards, etc.) towards adopting or checking on the elderly in their respective cities. Are you brave enough to do that, sir?