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Earlier on, we had touched upon the importance of brand equity. One can undervalue the criticality of this attribute only at one’s own risk and peril.

Corporate Brands

Companies benefit immensely from making conscious efforts to keep their brand images shimmering. If asked to quantify the resultant financial uplift though, their CFOs would be found twiddling their thumbs. But it is not difficult to see the kind of benefits which accrue from having a shimmering image, whether in matters of human resources, sourcing or marketing, besides in such grey areas as liaison and government dealings.

Several instances can be quoted from my own stints with the Tata group.

When a INR 5 crore modern leather processing factory was established at Dewas in 1975, the plant was commissioned without any delay, with all necessary government approvals in place. No government officials had to be appeased, whether in cash or in kind. In fact, the then government of Madhya Pradesh went all out to support the complex being set up.

In another case, a senior manager deputed to the headquarters of the Electricity Board to secure power connection for a small manufacturing unit ended up assuring a demanding government officer that a measly amount would be paid upon the issue of the necessary permission. A 50% advance paid to the officer concerned was shown in the manager’s travel expenses claim. A furious general manager called in the manager and gave him a severe dressing down. Yours truly was called in and asked to resolve the issue. My visit to the place cost the company five times the amount demanded. Somehow, I could secure the permission without any further underhand payment and got back to my desk with a feeling of triumph and pride at what had been accomplished. The senior manager soon left the company and moved on to a greener pasture.

Tatas are well known for their sound values and systems. They have a unique way of handling under-the-table demands by all and sundry. When it comes to compliance, the emphasis is on avoidance and not on evasion. As to corporate governance, their 150 year old record is blemish free.

Tatas repersent a fine example of what Alan Wallner is apt to call a Conscious Brand. As one of the thought leaders who happen to be a part of the Conscious Enterprises Network, he believes that branding is not just about physical attributes; rather, it is about the inner presence of a person and of the team that creates the brand of a business – it’s the way we treat other people and work together to create something remarkable.

A Mighty Responsibility

To keep a brand duly buffed up and shining is no mean task. Besides management back-up, a positive culture and clear policies which facilitate an ethical approach to business dealings, it needs extensive training at the front level of any organization.

Experiences of Customer Delight

Sometime during the late 1980s, I once had a problem with a Kodak camera I had bought just about a few months back. Somehow, I had not been careful enough to save a copy of the purchase proof with me. I contacted the shop from where I had bought it and he refused to entertain me in the absence of either a bill or a receipt. But when I contacted the Kodak office in person, they made no fuss. A technician checked my camera and within twenty minutes, I walked out with a brand new fresh camera in my hands.

As a lay customer, I once had a problem with my TataSky direct-to-home service account. When nothing satisfactory happened for a week, I gave a piece of mind to the next person I could manage to speak to. Within a day, not only was the problem addressed but even a senior person called me up to apologize for the inconvenience caused.

Such first-hand experiences restore one’s faith in a brand, thereby giving it a unique advantage – that of free word to mouth publicity!

Converting Ex-employees into Brand Amassadors

At HCL Infosystems, another large company, a separation with a disgruntled star performer was handled very delicately. The outcome was that he ended up being an ambassador for the company, referring candidates for several other key positions in the following years.

Even a massive plant closure involving over 1,000 persons was handled so very decently that there were no protests and red flags of any kind, nor any interference from the local politicians or communities. Key personnel who could not be accommodated were assisted in securing alternative career opportunities, with the Human Resources Department playing a key role.

Caring for the Delicately Nurtured

Unilever recently stated having introduced a policy with zero tolerance towards domestic violence.

 

A ten-year stint of mine with Tatas matched well with my own upbringing. However, by the time the episode touched upon by me earlier occurred, I was in a bubble at the other end of the spectrum of values. I had perhaps permitted my honest visage and sincere disposition to be put to nefarious uses. Sure enough, the fault of accepting a situation of this kind lay somewhere within me.

Personal Brand Equity

It stands to reason that one’s brand equity is built over a long period of time. Once built, it becomes like the fragrance of an exotic flower. It travels much ahead of one, often opening up new vistas, offering a wider canvas for one to perform and excel at whatever one undertakes to do. The observant ones amongst those around us are surely able to size us up much quicker than we can manage to do ourselves.

Professionals need to step back every once in a while and check if their brand image is bright and shining. Keeping one’s brand value burnished helps in career progression. It is also an immensely satisfying slice of life which promotes self-worth and boosts self-confidence.

My experience tells me that these are the kind of inputs which go into keeping a professional’s brand value burnished.

Under-promise, over-deliver

Being aware of our core strengths as well as limitations helps us to assess our chances of success in delivering on a project. By ensuring that we commit conservatively but deliver zealously, we build up a reputation of reliability. There are indeed times when a polite ‘no’ could save us from denting our reputation.

Honesty and openness in relationships

Our colleagues and team members are equally smart. They are quick to sense a touch of opacity on our part. They detest a lack of transparency in us. Dealing with those around us with honesty ensures that they repose their faith and trust in us. As a result, our capability of getting things done improves.

Being a friend, philosopher and guide

All of us have some expertise which may not be directly relevant to our Key Result Area. It could be an insight into the realm of alternative therapies which a colleague can use for one of her family members. It could be about handling rebellious teenagers at home. If we put such expertise to use by helping others around us, word goes around and others rush in to seek our counsel. We might have the image of a tough task master, but this softer aspect of our personality helps us to build a unique brand for ourselves.

Networking

Whether within the organization or outside, networking goes a long way in building up our reputation. The trick, however, is in avoiding those with a negative outlook, while promoting ties with those who have positive vibes.

Keep learning

Keeping the saw sharpened always helps. By refreshing our knowledge pool continuously, we remain a leader in more ways than one. Often, a dash of humility is all it needs to remain ahead of the curve.

Being genuine

By being ourselves, we enhance our dependability. Others feel reassured and refreshed after each encounter with us. They do not mind confiding in us. In turn, this helps us to understand and address their anxiety and concerns better. Our ability to deliver improves.

A brand is all about reliability and dependability. It offers good value for money. So do professionals who work on the basis of deliverables. Smart ones realize that an image cannot be built up purely based on optics and communication. It needs to be backed by real inputs so one’s brand value remains intact and is kept shimmering at all times.

One of the key factors in building a brand and sustaining its image is the kind of value system it represents; moreover, the purpose which guides it.

 

(Illustration: Keller’s Brand Equity Model)

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/bidding-an-adieu-to-mr-ratan-tata

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/building-up-the-employee-brand-value-3

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/a-not-so-plummy-encounter-with-an-arm-of-the-law)

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Netizens who have made the cardinal error of following me on any social network could be forgiven for imagining me as a dashing speaker, blogger and author.

Not a Jeeves in the realm of Management

Snapshots, videos and blog posts would inevitably depict me as a managementPGW MuchObligedJeeves expert dishing out sage advice with an impish sparkle in the eyes, often misconstrued as indicating supreme intelligence. Seasoned observers would notice a receding hairline and imagine me to be an intellectual cove. Perhaps a head bulging out at the back, much like that of Jeeves, would lead many amongst my followers to conclude that I would have minted millions by this time, squeezing the last penny out of some Bertie-like super rich but mentally negligible bosses I would have assisted in a long career.

Well, nothing could be father from the truth. Those who wish to dig deeper into the subject of…

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Netizens who have made the cardinal error of following me on any social network could be forgiven for imagining me as a dashing speaker, blogger and author.

Not a Jeeves in the realm of Management

Snapshots, videos and blog posts would inevitably depict me as a managementPGW MuchObligedJeeves expert dishing out sage advice with an impish sparkle in the eyes, often misconstrued as indicating supreme intelligence. Seasoned observers would notice a receding hairline and imagine me to be an intellectual cove. Perhaps a head bulging out at the back, much like that of Jeeves, would lead many amongst my followers to conclude that I would have minted millions by this time, squeezing the last penny out of some Bertie-like super rich but mentally negligible bosses I would have assisted in a long career.

Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Those who wish to dig deeper into the subject of who I am would be startled to find that the responsibility of depicting yours truly in such a flattering manner falls squarely on the illusory sophistication and the veneer of respectability a lesser mortal gets imbued with, when behind the façade of social media.Panjab_University

An error of judgement

Fondly known as ‘AKB’ to my friends and colleagues, I am a management graduate of what I would prefer to describe as the pre-Jurassic period of management education. Delhi University is to be squarely blamed for dishing out a post-graduate degree to me in Physics, way back in 1974. The University Business School at Panjab University, Chandigarh, also appears to have made a singular error of judgement in awarding me a MBA degree in 1976.

Professors who had the misfortune of educating me came in several sizes and shapes. The brilliant ones could never come to terms with the singular absence of common sense in my thought processes. The mediocre ones had no other option but to feel frustrated at not being able to detain me at any level of my educational ladder. The poor ones were so indifferent that I often landed up studying the subject myself, thereby gaining more interest in those subjects.

An expert at Mismanagement

If an expert in the field of management were to put my escapades under the microscope of academic rigour, she could be condoned for recommending my appointment as a Dean of a School of Mismanagement at an Ivy League institute of international repute.Tata logo

The fact remains that several top corporates in India and abroad have had to bear with my unique style of mismanagement for over thirty-five years. The ones which have suffered in particular are such companies as Tata International, Hidesign, and HCL.

My entrepreneurial endeavours in the realm of market research and HR have left many of my had-been-clients shaken but not stirred. A benevolent client once rued how happy his company had been if I had done my own market research better and if only they had not availed of my (dis)services.

A number of start-ups have seen me in the stellar role of a promoter-director. Records would show that many of these sank without a trace. I was blessed with a flair for visualizing lofty goals. I always attempted flawless planning and backed it up with miserable execution. My lack of attention to detail often left my customers exasperated.

From delegation to abdication

While in a career, I always followed the policy of focusing on the peripheralHIDESIGN_LOGO_withouttag targets, whereas my team members took care of the Key Result Areas. With me, the art of delegation often evolved into sheer abdication. Needless to say, companies were often happy to see me packing my bags and leaving.

My travels have taken me far and wide, but those who know me well are still not too sure if I have yet understood the work culture and ethics of different countries and continents.

I do believe I attract people with my positive vibrations, but I have played no role in the recent confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves by physicists. I might sound like a global manager, but have not been successful in cross-cultural validation of any of the management theories and concepts.

The perils of those who receive my services

Having hung my boots in the corporate world, I am now working with some NGOs in the field of Management and Spirituality. One can only wish these outfits well.

I am aware that I happen to be an active blogger whose tardy progress in the blogosphere is being watched with little interest by any of my occasional followers.

Yes, I am passionate about movies. Many movie directors are delighted at not having been approached by me with any script of a likely blockbuster. This way, their careers are not likely to go bust any time soon.

Of ‘Wodehousitis’ and ‘Professoritis’

I am happy to be suffering from “Wodehousitis” and “Professoritis” and do notHCL logo seek any cure for these ailments. A scholastic attitude and a habit of “keeping my saw sharpened” have made several University departments and educational institutes invite me for sporadic guest lectures, only to repent later.

CEO World in Portugal has recently made the mistake of making me an Editor-in-Chief of their blog site. Vida Economica of Portugal has even gone ahead and taken the risk of publishing a book of mine in Portuguese.

The corporate world heaves a sigh of relief to discover that my activities are now mostly confined to delivering inane talks at leading management institutes and unleashing pseudo-scholarly books and articles on the unsuspecting public. This ensures that they remain free to run their businesses the way they like, whereas I spend the rest of my days on this planet in a high-spirited state of bliss, doing what I love to do – reading, writing, listening to music, visiting exotic locales and generally pottering about in Norway, Switzerland and India.

The Association of Ineffective and Morose Managers

If ever your luck were to run out and you were to step out of your virtual world and get to meet me in person, and also have the misfortune of spending some time with me, I would not be surprised to receive a frantic call the very next day, pleading with me to immediately assume the position of the President of the Association of Ineffective and Morose Managers.

Wish you all a goofy April Fools’ Day!

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/07/16/an-interaction-with-some-rotarians-at-pondicherry)

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