What a journey it has been, I remember the day ten years back, in the first workshop on values, we exchanged anecdotes.
I remember when my turn came I simply talked about my father and my grandmother as these are the two people from whom perhaps most of us imbibe the values. I talked about how my father, who could have left the large family of 12 brothers and sisters and eschew sharing of much of his success from the bigger family, but he chose to share his success with the larger family and thereby made an allowance for everyone to grow and prosper in life. Or I talked about my grandmother who always chose to eat the last vestige of food every time a meal was served, lest someone go unfed or un-nourished, it actually made the family understand sacrifice and no wonder my grandmother never had any lack of food, she lived for 86 years.
Talking about values we choose to talk of successful people and one that comes to the top of the mind recall is Warren Buffet. The most successful investor of all times, but he had his moments of failures as well. This is a man who starts by selling newspapers from door to door and saves $1200 and starts his investing business. His great moment came when he bought Berkshire the New England Textile company. But look at how he understood his vulnerabilities. In a letter recently published in Financial Times, one would see how he explains the risks ahead, which is an admission of the vulnerabilities at hand. He talks of diversification. No wonder he later remarked that Berkshire was undoubtedly the worst investment of his life. It is in the understanding of vulnerabilities and being nimble all the time that his was a case of successful failures.
Then we have this man Jack Ma, who goes from one failure to the other.
This is a man who failed in his primary school, middle school and twice in his University. He even failed to get a job in the KFC, the story goes that he was the only one amongst 25 who did not get through. Now this man first touched a computer in 1995 and they said internet was also there so he typed the word “mirror” and he found so many hits. He then typed the word “Chinese Mirror” and nothing came up. He knew that China was not in the internet and he saw the huge potential. He gathered his thoughts and made a group and told the group in the year 2000, you know in 15 years, E-Commerce would be like electricity and so it was. But to what does he ascribe his success at Alibaba, in creating the concept of the escrow account where the money would be parked till the material is delivered. The secret of his success was building of trust through the escrow account.
Is it that inspirational things only can be told of great men, successful men and not about ordinary men, like us? Not at all. I remember my colleague Aravind Vasudevan, he was a Lead-Leap candidate who came to Zurich and was in the Supply Chain Group there. One day young Aravind was buying the rail ticket for going to Goettingen and he received the change in excess of 100 Swiss Francs. He came and told me the story and he was not waiting for my advice. He went back to the same ticket counter and gave back the money. The lady at the Counter asked him, from which country are you coming from and after some time came back with a Swiss Knife set worth 85 Swiss Francs. This is how good work and honesty is rewarded and it is contagious and reciprocal.
Reciprocity and sustainability are the two great values that the Swiss possess, whether in dealing with nature and animals or with the fellow citizens. Look at what they do for driving lessons. It starts with a rigorous training on First Aid. Then it moves to Danger Appreciation program and finally understanding about partners on the road, the pedestrians or cyclists and how to share the road with them. This is true about animals as well as there is a harsh winter of almost five months and the animals have to be all provided for, even the birds are, one would see seeds for the birds being kept underneath the trees all through winter.
How do they do it in the schools? Zurich school for example had a prize for the House not the individual, so when the individual wins a race it goes as a point to the House where he belongs. Or my daughter for example won many awards in school, but they were all for making maximum improvement in the year, not for the best proficiency in the subject. That is perhaps the best way to imbibe collaboration and teamwork.
I have this distinction of being parachute dropped in great places and one such place was Hirakud and there are lots of stories to talk about. One was a story where we had a huge ball of fire in Line-4 and the fire was spreading from one Pot to the other. It was spreading below the pots through the metal pads at the bottom of the pots and were in inaccessible places. Ravi Pandey was the Line-4 Incharge and while we were helpless thinking how to isolate the fire, he took a large tool and single handedly started cutting the pads to stop it from propagating. In hindsight I think maybe it was an unsafe act, but at that time it was the one and only possible solution. Later however we ensured that the entire line was cleaned up for the metal pads lying beneath the pots.
Great acts come from people, sometimes the least that you expect them to do. I have one such example, one that came from one of our service providers. This was a case in Talabira and there was a transport strike which went into several days and we did not have stocks. The truck drivers were not willing to accept and the negotiation was led by no other person than Bijoy Pandey. When the discussions reached a major stalemate Bijoy received the news of the death of his own brother and he was shattered. I told him, never mind we would have to find a way to do the discussions without him. But Bijoy did not agree and he stayed back and completed the negotiations and settled everything amicably. It was a supreme sacrifice from such a man. He said, I saw the concern in your voice and I could not leave you.
I am so happy to be part of this process of redefining and re-inforcing values in our lives.