The other side of business – The True Story of Ratan Tata


‘It is futile to mix business with emotions!’ A well established fact that fuels lay-offs, inhuman sell-off’s, stone hearted acquisitions and the ever diminishing regard for people in businesses driven by people.

There is story that presents the other side of this picture. To top it up, it happened right here in India.

Ratan Tata is the chairman of Indian Hotels who owns the Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai, which was the target of the terrorists on 26/11/08.

Hotel President a 5 star property also belongs to Indian Hotels.

Lets talk about what he did.

A. The Tata Gesture

1. All category of employees including those who had completed even 1 day as casual were treated on duty during the time the hotel was closed.

2. Relief and assistance to all those who were injured and killed

3. The relief and assistance was extended to all those who died at the railway station, surroundings including the “Pav- Bha ji” vendor and the pan shop owners.

4. During the time the hotel was closed, the salaries were sent by money order.

5. A psychiatric cell was established in collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences to counsel those who needed such help.

6. The thoughts and anxieties going on people’s mind was constantly tracked and where needed psychological help provided.

7. Employee outreach centers were opened where all help, food, water, sanitation, first aid and counseling was provided. 1600 employees were covered by this facility.

8. Every employee was assigned to one mentor and it was that person’s responsibility to act as a “single window” clearance for any help that the person required.

9. Ratan Tata personally visited the families of all the 80 employees who in some manner – either through injury or getting killed – were affected.

10. The dependents of the employees were flown from outside Mumbai to Mumbai and taken care off in terms of ensuring mental assurance and peace. They were all accommodated in Hotel President for 3 weeks.

11. Ratan Tata himself asked the families and dependents – as to what they wanted him to do.

12. In a record time of 20 days, a new trust was created by the Tatas for the purpose of relief of employees.

13. What is unique is that even the other people, the railway employees, the police staff, the pedestrians who had nothing to do with Tatas were covered by compensation. Each one of them was provided subsistence allowance of Rs. 10K per month for all these people for 6 months.

14. A 4 year old granddaughter of a vendor got 4 bullets in her and only one was removed in the Government hospital. She was taken to Bombay hospital and several lacs were spent by the Tatas on her to fully recover her.

15. New hand carts were provided to several vendors who lost their carts.

16. Tata will take responsibility of life education of 46 children of the victims of the terror.

17. This was the most trying period in the life of the organization. Senior managers including Ratan Tata were visiting funeral to funeral over the 3 days that were most horrible.

18. The settlement for every deceased member ranged from Rs. 36 to 85 lacs [One lakh rupees tranlates to approx 2200 US $ ] in addition to the following benefits:

a. Full last salary for life for the family and dependents;

b. Complete responsibility of education of children and dependents – anywhere in the world.

c. Full Medical facility for the whole family and dependents for rest of their life.

d. All loans and advances were waived off – irrespective of the amount.

e. Counselor for life for each person

 

Epilogue

1. How was such passion created among the employees? How and why did they behave the way they did?

2. The organization is clear that it is not something that someone can take credit for. It is not some training and development that created such behaviour. If someone suggests that – everyone laughs

3. It has to do with the DNA of the organization, with the way Tata culture exists and above all with the situation that prevailed that time. The organization has always been telling that customers and guests are #1 priority

4. The hotel business was started by Jamshedji Tata when he was insulted in one of the British hotels and not allowed to stay there.

5. He created several institutions which later became icons of progress, culture and modernity. IISc is one such institute. He was told by the rulers that time that he can acquire land for IISc to the extent he could fence the same. He could afford fencing only 400 acres.

6. When the HR function hesitatingly made a very rich proposal to Ratan – he said – do you think we are doing enough?

7. The whole approach was that the organization would spend several hundred crore in re-building the property – why not spend equally on the employees who gave their life?

It is funny why was this not repeatedly on the news?

Moreover, it drives attention to a rather undervalued aspect of business in this competitive era. That side is Kindness.

Source: Facebook Post with personal commentary.
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Amazing Life # 5 – Going to School


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Going to school

‘What days were those!’ everyone out of school would gasp. No matter what the school was, big or small, urban or in a village or even whether you were the person who got picked the most upon.

Along with the fun, a school was still a lot more than a promise of future, a statistic, a job guarantee or a social obligation. For some it was life’s playground and for all it was hope.

Yet, what did we really learn?

Learning was about sharing and never about competition so sharp that could split a hair in two. It was hard to get up everyday and difficult to stay up before examinations. A lot would refer to that as hardship.

But, is that as hard as it gets?

I call myself fortunate to have been able to get education at a good school, though at a point in time I did not have money to pay the fees and believe it or not my teachers paid it from their pockets; it was a 30 km bicycle ride and a still a lot of upset relatives; but I would still call my self fortunate. This is still a lot better than a lot of others who had it worse.

Take APJ Abdul Kalam for instance; who had to walk miles to get to his school every morning or these girls who do even more to get to their school in Nepal which happens to be in a different, distant village .

What is it that drives so much effort to school?

What could it mean? What Does it stand for?

What does it lead to?

These questions have been with me since I was at school but  to my vain I haven’t been able to answer them yet.

The only thing I could figure is that I owe it to the school to give back to the world. I owe it to the school to get those to experience the joy of learning who do not get to.

Answer the above questions for yourself if you can. But answer one for me first – What have you given back to people, that you took from your school? Sounds too idealistic!

I genuinely acknowledge the people and organizations who have dedicated their existence to help this cause. However, lets face it … not all of us can and not most of us will!

Here are a few simple things that led to me believe that it is not as difficult as we may think of it to be!

1. Give it back – When ever you can, what ever you can, how much ever you can – I am no philanthropist, it did not take much to go to McDonalds ,spend 500 bucks on a few – well actually 25 – McVeggie burgers and drive around Gurgaon. Look for the kids, playing around and share it with them. What a weekend! I ate 5 of them burgers myself , over 3 hours of driving around but the shining eyes of those kids can make all the effort worth it. Here is ‘Appu’  with his sister ‘Rani’  and the little dude. Some of the kids i had lunch with. Try it if you can and see for yourself how fulfilling it is while being a lot more interesting than lunch with your colleagues!

2. Teaching is the best way to learn (Yes, even the small things) – I remember, about 14 years ago, we had a person who used to do the cleaning etc. for us in our Jabalpur home. Her name was Sashi and we called her Sashi didi, she wasn’t too old – about 23, mother of two. My brother was in kindergarten and I never sat to teach him anything… it was boring.

One day I did, and her elder daughter (5) walked up to the book, picked it up and kept looking at it. She had a big smile. It was majestic, so I decided to teach her and my brother,that is the day, with very little help for me ‘Pooja’ wrote her name in English for the first time. My brother took another year to do so 😛 all in good spirit but he was just 3.

Pooja had then become the most literate member of her family and it cost me nothing to share those three minutes of joy and see her mother proud. Would do that again in the next opportunity I get.

3. Donation is great – Charity is good, but does not always cost. At least a simple thing that I have tried a last couple of  months works just fine. When ever you go out to buy some thing for yourself, buy something for others. Even if it is just a pencil. I refrain from buying food because it just doesn’t appeal to me. I would rather share some hope and if it costs 5 Rs. and can write, I sure don’t lose my savings over it.

All I am trying to say is that life isn’t the same for everyone and that is something I learnt at school. That is why it was such an amazing thing and now its my turn to return.

Just to get you started, here are some stats:

    • Less than half of India’s children between the age 6 and 14 go to school.
    • A little over one-third of all children who enroll in grade one reach grade eight.
    • At least 35 million children aged 6 – 14 years do not attend school.
    • 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
    • In India, only 53% of habitation has a primary school.
    • In India, only 20% of habitation has a secondary school.
    • On an average an upper primary school is 3 km away in 22% of areas under habitations.
    • In nearly 60% of schools, there are less than two teachers to teach Classes I to V.
    • On an average, there are less than three teachers per primary school. They have to manage classes from I to V every day.
    • High cost of private education and need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by 3 in every four drop-outs as the reason they leave.
    • Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V, its 50% for boys, 58% for girls.
    • 1 in 40, primary schools in India is conducted in open spaces or tents.
    • In Andhra Pradesh (South India), 52 upper primary schools were operating without a building in 2002, while in 1993, there were none.
    • In Maharashtra (West India), there were 10 schools operating without a building in 1993, this has climbed to 33 in 2002.
    • More than 50 per cent of girls fail to enroll in school; those that do are likely to drop out by the age of 12.
    • 50% of Indian children aged 6-18 do not go to schoolSource: 7th All India Education Survey, 2002

Going to school made me stop wanting help and taught me to take responsibility and stand up with dignity. That is exactly what these 8.1 million children need. The whole world can be a school if we choose to make it so.

After all, what does life have to offer if not a little hope?

For you to do, not just read ; Abhi