That Leadership Journey – 9. A Tribute

One of the things that I always learned in my leadership journey, is to acknowledge the role that others have played in my life. Now, the boss who I really admired very early on in my career, is a gent known as Harshad Priolkar. He is one of the bosses “A” and “B” in one of my earliest blog entries.

We don’t always acknowledge those who report to us. So, I would like to take this chance, before I move on to the next stage in my leadership journey, is the supervisor I had in Uttar Pradesh, the chap I moved from Delhi. This is a gentleman called Ishwar Chand Saini, or IC Saini.

Saini was quite a character in those days. He would have gone to a more senior position, if it were not for the fact that he was a bit of an acerbic character, who always called a spade a spade. This did not work for many people, but it worked very well for me, as I have never liked a person who tries to bullshit me, or tell me a lie just to make me happy.

So, in that sense, Saini was the man for me. We used to have a lot of arguments, and heated discussions, but when we would agree on something, I could be assured of perfect execution, with no back-sliding. Over the years, this is one quality that I have always appreciated in any one – tell it like it is, and stay with your commitments. Intellectual honesty is critical.

If you can’t find people you can trust, you may as well pack up your bags and go home.

Now, I have to relate a story, but I can’t reveal the name of the brand. A brand manager came to the region to announce a new launch. At the end of his impressive presentations, he asked us if we had any questions. As we hummed and hawed, Saini stood up on his legs, and told the brand manager why the brand would flop. He gave four reasons, and in the end the brand flopped for exactly these four reasons. It is the quickest and biggest flop I have yet witnessed in my life.

One of the four reasons, was the name. Now, North Indians have thicker accents than westerners, and don’t pronounce the “-tz” sound well. We were hauled into Delhi for the launch, and a week after the launch, I went back to the market to ask one of the dealers in one of the most posh part of Delhi as to the progress of the launch.

As luck would have it, there were two English ladies in the store at the same time. I politely asked the dealer about the brand, and he grunted that he had never heard of it.

“What the ‘F’?”, I thought. I had sold it to him the previous week. So, I pointed to the packs on the shelf, and he said, light dawning on his face, “Ah! Rich Bitch? Does not sell…”

I tried to coax him and tease him about the great qualities of the product, and finally losing patience with me, he yelled:

RICH BITCH? It does not sell… Take it back… I don’t want your RICH BITCH!“. With the two English ladies looking at me aghast, I made a quick retreat to save my blushes!

A lesson to all brand managers, “Make sure the local folk can pronounce the name of your brand, or you are dead!” 

The Brand Manager? He got a promotion. Strange are the ways of the corporate world!!

Back to Saini. The man knew the market. He had a sense of the market. He would walk into the market, his nose twitching like a terrier, and within half a day, would come back with the finest bloody analysis of the market, I could ever get! Saved me tons of money, he did! Ensure your people know their business! 

Finally, as I said, he complemented my skills in many ways. This was fantastic. I did not need a clone. I needed someone to complement my skills, and while I say this now, in all honesty, I did not think of this quality of Saini when I got him in my team. I discovered this by and by, but this was a lucky discovery.

What I wanted was an honest guy who knew his market, who could help me grow the business, and who the team would. respect. These, I got, and more.

At the end, I must confess that I learned a helluva lot about sales management, and for this as well, I owe him a great deal!

4 Comments

  1. Hi Rajiv, been following your writing off and on. Wonderful piece – haven’t got even half as far in my career, but there are a few people without whom i wouldn’t have learned what i did and reached where i have. Thanks for reminding me about them.

    1. Hi Anand
      Thanks. Yes, I find that I too would not have reached anyway near where I am if it were not for the people I met along the way
      Best
      Rajiv

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