|Mr. V. Balaraman, Director,
Polaris Software Labs Limited
It was a few years ago in Hyderabad while visiting a
friend for dinner that
V. Balaraman, director, Polaris Software Labs Ltd., met a Brahmakumari, a very bright, educated lady. "What do you look for in people?" she asked him. Well, educational qualifications, experience, skills and perhaps references, he said. “Do you look at the emotional side of a person, the emotional baggage that he or she brings along? Emotions affect a person's attitude and behaviour,” the Brahmakumari explained.
What she said struck Balaraman deeply. Today, managing human development and helping to positively direct energies is a passion for him. Why do companies not get the best out of people? Why do human beings not do the best they can? Should people continue to use only 30-50 per cent of their abilities? Are we doing justice? Shouldn't we enable more human beings to work to their potential? Would nature have brought us here without a purpose? These were some of the questions Balaraman, a former managing director of Ponds India Ltd and director-exports, Hindustan Lever, posed to the PRSI audience.
Corporate chieftains turn to people for performance, yet good performance is seldom recognised and credit is not given to the employee. By recognising and unleashing the innate abilities of employees and matching their skills to positions, great organisations look inward. The environment has to support people and rewards have to be meaningful in order to move forward, Balaraman pointed out. He stressed that people must be made to realise their own potential by relating to them at an emotional and spiritual level and not merely at the rational and physical levels, adding, "Rather than focussing on managing weaknesses, never lose sight of a person’s strengths. Nurture his social and performance needs."
Do we question established wisdom? We never question the expectations society imposes on us. Be passionate and dedicated to your work so that problems cease to bother you, Balaraman said, exhorting the audience to think differently and to innovate to sustain. “There is little doubt that people want to be able to come to a place of work where they feel loved, appreciated and cared for. Each person loves to hear the words, 'Thank you, you make a difference'. That is how the human mind works. You become what you believe in”.
Earlier, PRSI members fondly remembered advertising stalwart R.K. Swamy, as well as his association with the PRSI, Chennai Chapter. R.K. Swamy, who passed away recently, had started RK Swamy Advertising when he was 50. More than anything, it was his simplicity that endeared him to many. He served with distinction as president and chairman of most advertising bodies.
What Motivates People?
People are energised if they know where they're going. Why they're and how they'll get there.
People are energised in environments that support them to be open, authentic and collaborative.
People are energised when there is encouragement and opportunity to grow both
personally and professionally.
People are energised by rewards that acknowledge their efforts at all levels that have meaning for them.
During his presentation, V. Balaraman spoke about four sources
of energy - alignment, synergy, growth and fulfilment.
|Audience paying thro' their silence to hear Mr. Rohit Modi's hard truths.|
We have always been driven by an urge to travel. The invention of the wheel brought a solution and a problem. Although speed was possible, even surfaces became necessities. From kutcha roads to today's express highways, we have indeed travelled a long way. Transportation has witnessed a revolution, with speed being paramount. However, roads are not just about speed and surfaces. They are also about safety, security and comfort.
The 113 km long East Coast Road (ECR) is a first for the country in many ways. The Rs. 61-crore project was entrusted in February 2000 to the Tamil Nadu Road Development Company Limited (TNRDC), a 50:50 joint venture between Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services and the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO). Negotiations were over in ten months and the concession agreement for developing the project on a rehabilitate-improve-maintain-operate-transfer (RIMOT) basis, the first instance of an integrated improvement-cum-maintenance contract, was signed in December the same year. The project completed in record time and commercial operations commenced in March 2002.
Special features of the ECR include reflective road studs along the entire stretch for illuminated guiding, traffic guideposts and delineators at regular intervals, crash barriers and chevron signs along the curves and extensive use of diamond-grade signage for easy information visibility. Emergency call boxes every three km are connected to control centres. A 24-hour accident relief and trauma care service is available along the entire stretch. Elegant passenger shelters, bus bays and roadside landscaping help make the ECR look truly world class.
"ECR toll rates depend on the frequency and mode of travel as well as the destination. For example, for a journey from Chennai to Mahabalipuram, a toll ofRs 24 is charged for a car; it isRs 47 for Chennai-Pondicherry. Toll rates, linked to savings in vehicle operating costs, fuel and time are levied on cars, LCVs, trucks, buses and multi-axle vehicles. The daily collection, on an average, isRs 1.74 lakh, just 50 per cent of the revenue projected; after sand-quarrying was banned, fewer lorries ply the route," said Rohit Modi, Chief Executive Officer, TNRDC, while addressing members of the Public Relations Society of India Chennai Chapter.
Depending on TNRDC's tolling strategy, Modi said that the
toll levied on vehicles using the ECR route for Chennai-Pondicherry
worked out to just 40 paise a kilometre. "Exemptions
have been granted to local residents, the Metropolitan Transport
Corporation has been granted a 83 per cent discount, and with
increase in traffic the toll rates may come down," he
"The ECR is not just about discovering the pleasure of driving. It sets a new benchmark for highways in the country and represents a new learning experience in project management. We are well past the socialist era where the right price was equated to what the customer was willing to pay. Today, the user cannot demand a service if he is not willing to pay (user charges) for it. World-class facilities come with world-class prices, though in this case the toll charged is not exorbitant at all. Alternately, when you are getting something free, you cannot demand; you are a 'helpless recipient'. In any case, if you have no problem paying for petrol, then why do you hesitate to pay a toll?" he asked.
According to the Indian Tolls Act 1851, tolls were initially levied if the project cost exceeded Rs. 25,000, that mark was later raised toRs 2 lakhs and subsequently to Rs. one crore. The common man's perception of public provision for infrastructure - why charge me separately when I already pay taxes imposed by the government? - should change, stressed Modi. "Poor planning and project management, hesitation to use modern technology, inadequate and inefficient maintenance, lack of incentive to break from the past, and time and cost overruns have been characteristic of infrastructure development in the country. It is time to break new ground," he remarked, exhorting the PR fraternity to carry his message forward.
Pointing out that low service levels and user dissatisfaction are the real issues that the public should address, Modi said that in the past the sovereign (State) was unwilling to levy or raise new taxes. It was considered a moral hazard to increase tariff to cover inefficiency. While the public perceived the private sector as maximising returns at minimum risk, the public sector was seen as providing all services at no cost. "There was a 'free lunch' element in both cases and that element has to now got to go away for good," he emphasised, adding, "That, indeed, is the hard truth in infrastructure development."
Modi went on to say that it was not the government that refrained from levying charges because people were not willing to pay. In fact, in a recent survey commissioned by the Confederation of Indian Industry, 70-80 per cent of the respondents had expressed their willingness to pay for better services. "The notion that the private sector is only concerned about generating profit, that its services come at an exorbitant price, is ill founded. Several times, the IDC (interest during construction) element or preoperative cost is not factored into the total cost of a project, especially core projects with a long gestation period such as the Calcutta Metro. Also, there is a need to provide for contingencies. The insurance cost, in terms of premium, for the ECR works out to Rs. 20 lakh a year," Modi stated.
Although essentials such as water, electricity and communication facilities can be bought (a captive power plant can be set up, for example), roads cannot be purchased. And, therefore, there is the need for private initiative, with its ability to leverage public finance, optimum utilisation of resources, high service levels and timeliness, he told the audience.
"In today's global economy, India has access to international capital flows. More than Rs. 20 billion comes in as foreign remittances every year, ten times more than the amount sanctioned by the World Bank for developmental projects in the country. Part of the international capital that comes in must be used for infrastructure funding," he said.
"Good roads help create wealth. The U.S.A. is a rich economy partly because the country has excellent roads," Modi said, pointing out that the U.S. Federal Highway Trust Fund's annual accretions amounted to $ 19 billion, with a $ 28 billion accumulated surplus. "There is no doubt that if Tamil Nadu is to become the No. 1 destination, for tourism or business, excellent roads will make a difference," he added.
Modi, however, agreed that appropriate tolling is essential.
"Levying a toll on vehicles using the Anna flyover, for
example, is impractical," he said. He cited the examples
of Virginia (U.S.A.) where there is no tolling on 'heavy occupancy
lanes', and Singapore where a system of dynamic tolling (toll
varies according to different time slots) is followed. He
mentioned economic viability of a project as another important
criteria. He wondered whether the Mumbai-Pune six-lane expressway
built at a cost of
Rs. 1,800 crore, with an interest burden of Rs. 200 crore was viable.
In partnership with the Tamil Nadu Government, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, and the National Highways Authority of India, TNRDC plans to build more world-class highways that will be a pleasure to use and a destination in themselves. Projects in the pipeline include operation, maintenance and improvement of the Chennai bypass and the Dindigul-Coimbatore (NH-209) and Salem-Ulundurpet (NH-61) highways.
Modi seemed keen on putting in place a PR strategy to educate, create awareness and mould public opinion towards an optimum tolling mechanism. "The public must understand that the onus is on us, the developer, to build and maintain roads as much as the user has an obligation to pay charges. Of course, finally, the user will have to decide whether the country needs to move forward or not," he concluded.
|Mr.S.B.Bhoje on Nuclear Energy - Fission or Fusion, Atomic Power is the future.|
Addressing the members of the PRSI, Chennai Chapter, Bhoje
said that people should be made aware of the positive side
of the nuclear technology, as in general it is perceived as
something destructive and sinister. Accidents like that of
Chernobyl, where the nuclear engineering rules were not followed
properly, arouse a sense of fear in people's mind. In such
instances public relations can play a role, he felt. People
should be informed about the advantages of nuclear energy,
such as the application of radioisotopes in medical therapy
and biological research, in generation of electricity and
Bhoje declared, "it is absolutely wrong to think that nuclear reactors are dangerous places. Even in case of an emergency, a leak, for example, all plants are so designed that radioactivity remains confined to the reactor. With advancement in technology, even the smallest dose of radioactivity can be detected and the accident probability is such that if there are 1000 nuclear reactors operating over a 1000 year span, there may be only one accident".
Hailing from Kolhapur district of Maharashtra, Bhoje graduated in Mechanical Engineering at the Poona University; he then joined the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre in 1966 and began his career designing the experimental fast breeder reactor. As a member of the task force formed to design the fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) he went on deputation to the Centre d'Etudes Nulceare Cadarache, France. Now he is known internationally for having designed and commissioned the FBTR in Kalpakkam, an achievement to be forever cherished by him.
Right now though Bhoje is happy to have been made responsible for designing a 500 MW PFBR, construction of which would begin soon at Kalpakkam. This is the first of a series of fast breeder reactors to be constructed in the country. Bhoje said with justifiable pride, "thirty years ago our first nuclear plant, the Tarapore Atomic Power Station, was set up with US assistance. We can now be proud of the fact that as far as nuclear power generation is concerned, be it construction of reactors, operation and maintenance of the plant or waste management, India is the only country in the developing world with such capability". In his opinion nuclear energy alone can meet India's long term power requirements.
We have got so used to having electricity in our day-to-day
life that we cannot be without power even for a short while;
generating sufficient power is absolutely essential. In Bhoje's
opinion our energy demand is quite large at 400-500 GW (gigawatt
electricity) while our resources are limited. Besides only
about 200 billion tonnes of coal is available, which has to
be used prudently to last for at least 60-70 years. Burning
of coal results in sulphur dioxide and carbon emission, acid
rain and destruction of crops. Importing oil at aboutRs 80,000
crores a year, we drain our foreign exchange reserves also.
Therefore a safe, reliable and economical resource needs to
be identified and there enters nuclear energy; though a nuclear
power plant is 20% costlier than a coal-fed plant, long term
costs are low; if we can exploit our huge reserves of thorium
and uranium properly, they could last us a few hundred years.
Mr Bhoje said that, whereas in France 75-80% of power generation is from nuclear energy, India's progress is rather slow in this area; only 3.5% is generated from nuclear energy, while the world average stands at 20%. India's per capita energy consumption is only 500 kWh, while in North America it is 12,000 kWh per annum and in Western Europe 5,500 kWh. According to him the scenario would soon change as everyone aspired for a better standard of living; that is why sustained power supply is so very important for future generations.
|Mr.S.Krishnamurthy of Indian Airlines . Sky is not the limit indeed!|
Starting his career as a PR person in Indian Airlines in
1968, Mr. Krishnamoorthy was neither told by Indian Airlines,
what exactly PR was all about, nor were any degrees or diplomas
available as it is today. So all the lessons were learnt in
the hard way. Even though his stint in Public Relations was
only for 4 years,
Mr. Krishnamoorthy considered himself very fortunate to have spent a few days with Mr. Sam Black, the Father of PR, traveling right thro with him and attending all the seminars.
Way back in the year 1953, there were roughly 15 private
airline operators in India.
8 of them were clubbed together and Indian Airlines was formed by an Act of Parliament. Till 1994, the Airlines remained a statutory body and in '94, it was registered as a company under the Indian Companies Act. In the early days Chennai Airport was only a small shed and there was a small building as large as a cine actor's bungalow of today and the Aircraft used to land and people used to walkup and down as there was no security and they could go right up to the stepladder, and see their people off. "From that day", said Mr. Krishnamoorthy, "we've come to a stage, where the airport is a maze and the growth of aviation industry in India has been possible because Indian Airlines is in the hands of the Government of India". In the year 1953, the 8 private airlines, which were not even accounting the money they were collecting and were not answering the share holders, were all merged. When it was taken over, Indian Airlines had 99 different types of air crafts, in which 74 were Dakotas, which was a 21 seater and a war aeroplane, meant to transport soldiers from one place to another. The airfields were also like the relics of the war. "When I was posted in Madurai in 1968, I saw a small building of 5000 Sq ft almost like a taxi stand and that was the Madurai Airport" mused Mr. Krishnamoorthy.
Indian Airlines functioned with the twin aims of connectivity and air mindedness. Remotest parts of the country were connected. Air service was operated from Kowai to Kamalpur for a fare ofRs6/-. Thus Indian Airlines linked the different regions and this provided a fillip to the industry resulting in the overall growth of the country. The year 1953 saw Indian Airlines taking a decision to modernize the fleet. Modernization those days meant going in for turbo propeller aircraft, which was the best available. Later on Indian Airlines started looking at Caravel,
Boeing, Airbus etc. In 1967 Indian Airlines went in for a Caravel aircraft. In 1971 Boeings were purchased, and 1976 Indian Airlines bought a few the wide-bodied Airbus 300 and it was the first in Asia to start operating it. Air Bus 300 was lucky for Indian Airlines and it continues to be so. It was the first ever aeroplane capable of carrying 245 passengers and 10 tonnes of cargo.
After developing the market, Indian Airlines became complacent and it being a Public Sector also got set in the minds of the people. There were nearly 13 or 14 trade unions in Indian Airlines leading to industrial relations problems too. These problems resulted in dislocation of services. In spite of all these, Indian Airlines bought Airbus 320 in 1989 and it was pressed into service in 1990, according to Mr. Krishnamoorthy. He said Airbus 320 consumed less fuel, it was a medium sized plane and the most convenient aircraft which could carry 130 passengers and could land in smaller airfields. An accident involving this Aircraft in Bangalore, resulted in the withdrawal of all the 90 brand new aircrafts, which were earlier pressed in to services.
He also added that the grounding of Airbus 320 was the beginning of all the problems. With only 12 Airbus 300, which could not land on all the air fields, Indian Airlines was not able to meet the day to day requirements of passengers and this prompted Indian Airlines to take some firm decisions. It gave birth to an open sky policy and led to the entrance of private operators in to the field dominated by Indian Airlines.
These private operators, according to him, had everything available on a silver platter. They did not have to do market survey or market research. They knew what the routes were and to top it some of the Indian Airlines staff joined their work force and even the ideas were imported. Even today when Indian Airlines operate more than the required percentage of flights on certain routes due to social obligation, private operators look at only the profitability angle on these routes. They only put in services were there is heavy demand. They always have a choice whereas Indian Airlines do not.
The good thing about the competition, said Mr. Krishnamoorthy, was that it brought better services and people in Indian Airlines were awakened. If the employees had to retain their jobs there had to be a change in the attitude and perception of the people, style of management and marketing. The recovery process was very quick when compared to the speed in which Indian Airlines was going down. Between 1994-95 Indian Airlines was able to recover and stabilize 50-50 . Today Jet Airways and Sahara Airways are the two, which are steady in the market, out of which Jet Airways is equivalent in size to Indian Airlines. The negative effect of competition, he said, was neither of the airlines could maintain the fare levels. They had to drop it by offering some kind of discounts. The coming in of private airlines was a real blessing because the air traffic had nearly doubled and Indian Airlines was not ready to meet this additional traffic.
Indian Airlines has also made plans for purchasing 43 aircrafts at an investment of Rs.10053 crores and this money has to be managed with in, barring a small advance which the Government of India would give. But this is only an idea floated by the Indian Airlines board. It has to be passed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Investment Board and the Finance Ministry; this process is on, he said. Meanwhile there is also a possibility of Indian Airlines shares being disinvested, which of course would take some more time perhaps ending up in a joint venture.
Mr. Krishnamoorthy added that the spirit of competition nurtured the growth of private airline which could be of any number but there had to exist a Government owned airlines to provide continuous service. People should not forget that Indian Airlines had always been a social-minded airlines, not forgetting the services rendered during IPKF operations, earth quakes in Gujarat etc.
He concluded his speech by saying that the future of Indian Airlines was not to concentrate in India alone. Indian Airlines is doing extremely well in the Middle East and South East Asia, Singapore, Kualalampur, and Bangkok .Indian Airlines is connected to almost all the air ports in South India except Madurai, Thirupati, and Vizag and all other airport are now international Airports. Indian Airlines is also concentrating on improving and increasing the number of passengers by introducing newer schemes and packages. Indian Airlines is doing well on the service front too and with 48 new aeroplanes the future of Indian Airlines is very bright.
|An eye-opening speech by Mr.George Abraham|
A dreamer, George Abraham had his first encounter with cricket when he was in school, way back in the year 1969, when Graham Dowling came with the New Zealand team to play in India and E.A.S. Prasanna and Bishen Singh Bedi ran through the Kiwis in Bombay. George fell in love with this game and he had a passion and a dream to become a fast bowler like Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. However this passion was nipped in the bud and he realized that he couldn't follow cricket as a career.
While working for an advertising agency Advertising and Sales
Promotion Company (ASP), Mr. George Abraham, staying at the
guest house of National Institute of Visually Handicapped,
happened to watch visually impaired boys playing cricket with
a lot of "Passion, enthusiasm and skill". They were
using a ball that rattled. It was then that George Abraham
realized that "Cricket could give the blind an avenue
to evolve, as passionate and purposeful human beings".
His faith in the group of human beings who could learn a lot
about life by playing this game was strengthened by one of
his meetings with Conrad Hunte, the West Indies player,
who had taught him the 5 mantras of life, which George calls as the 5 D's.
It was at this stage when PR and cricket for the blind had their real encounter. People wanted to know what this cricket for the blind was all about and George started getting calls and this he says was "a unique experience". The relationship, which began in 1993, moved on and in 1994 DD covered the nationals live and they continue to do so. Finally the World Cup happened in 1998. Cricket according to Mr. George Abraham is an avenue for 'Rehabilitation' and World Cup is an opportunity to demonstrate the ability and it is all about marketing ability.
The first World Cup was a resounding media success and so was the II World Cup held in Chennai which received tremendous media coverage. The media coming forward in large numbers to support, according to George is because of the 3 P's.
Sponsorship requires ability, while charity supports disability
Right from 1990, Mr. George Abraham has been trying to shift the scenario from a philosophy of kindness to one of recognizing ability. Charity, according to him, demeans or belittles the person who is being supported. He scoffs at the idea when people tell him that he is doing a noble act, because he feels that just by opening a door, which is rightfully theirs, is not a noble act, as every blind Indian is a full fledged citizen of this country, and an avenue is being provided to play and enjoy the sport they want to play.
A visit to a blind school for the first time in 1989 by Mr. George Abraham shook him 'out of his bones'. It was then he decided that he was going to spend his life with visually impaired people. Being an advertising man himself he is able to establish a link between advertising and education; he says that advertising is all about marketing dreams and education is also about promoting dreams and the game of Cricket is being used to sell and promote dreams.
He concluded the speech by saying that being a hero or a
zero makes no difference. But to be a genuine member of the
society is what counts and daring the blind to dream about
big things in life and in the process making them achievers
and contributors is what is required. If cricket be the pool
of life, he said, let us continue playing.
Do you know that the rules for cricket for the blind are more or less like normal cricket except :
The III World Cup for the blind might be held in England or Australia.
|Mr.Siddharth Sharma - supporting the cause of the specially abled in sports.|
Siddharth Sharma at the age of 25 lost his eyesight in a motorcycle accident and from a senior merchandiser in a Garment Export Company he stepped in to Public Relations by sheer accident, which later on became his career.
Way back in the year 1998 before the International world cup for the blind, a phone call to Mr. George Abraham enquiring about the World cup because of his keen interest in the sport made him being accepted "as a part of their World Cup Managing Committee" and George entrusted the responsibility of talking to the media to Siddharth. Two large press conferences in Delhi were held. It was during this time that World Cricket Council also decided to have a PR agency to help out with the World Cup for the Blind and also to have their messages spread across the country. 'Connections' was the agency, which was asked to give a presentation in this regard and this contact resulted in Siddharth taking up an assignment there and heading the business development in operation. Siddharth was a part of this for nearly four years when he decided to start his own agency for the sake of upgrading and sharpening his skills. Thus was born the Foundation PR, which partnered with a very old ad agency called Foundation Advertising in Delhi. Foundation PR at present works with MNCs and a few corporates and when the World Cup for the Blind 2002 was coming up, Mr. George Abraham, President of World Cup Cricket decided to entrust the PR activities to Mr. Siddharth and his team. With immense strategic planning the Chennai press coverage for the game was more than a success. The Local TV channels, National networks and the media had so much to talk about and there was a flow of print about the World Cup.
|Mr.Kumar Ramanathan, delivering his speech aided with a multimedia presentation|
|Mr.Kumar Ramanathan responding to an interactive question answer session.|
|Mr. Garry Jacobs addressing the members.|
|Past Chairman, Mr. Mohan Punnen handing over a memento to the chief guest Mr. Garry Jacobs.|
Garry Jacobs is an American consultant
on business management and economic development with 30 years
of experience in India and founder of Mira International,
a consulting firm based in California. His clients are appeared
over the US, Europe and India from basic manufacturing to
high-tech electronics. He has also authored two books along
with two other experts. He is the president of the International
Centre for Peace and Development, USA. He also wrote the report
of the International Commission on Peace and Food called "Uncommon
Opportunities" which was presented to the UN Secretary
General. He spoke on the role of corporate communications
at the meeting of PRSI on August 28, 2002 illustrating some
Jacobs said: Prudential Insurance known for their stability - their symbol is the rock - in the 80s moved into other areas, by acquiring a large real estate company and other non-life insurance businesses and also one of the large brokerage houses on Wall Street, which came to be known as Prubage. Jacob's company was asked to plan a public presentation to showcase a common public image of all the companies under one umbrella. Instead the consultants advised them first to find a common basis to link the various acquired companies that had not been together in the past and had different cultures. Soon a disturbing news from Wall Street informed that the brokerage company was being implicated in insider trading and providing of less than accurate disclosures to their own clients about some of the investment they were selling. For a company like Prudential this was quite devastating to be brought into something like that. A few years later the brokerage company lost and had to pay about 3 billion dollars in damages, a sizable amount even for Prudential. The image of Prudential was thus damaged badly and it hardly ever recovered its original image again.
One of the companies which impressed Jacob's firm in its growth - he wrote about it in his Book - was the one which had grown from 2 million dollars to 220 million dollars within 10 years in an industry of remodelling homes. After six months of writing the book they went to meet the CEO of the company. They told him that after studying the company they found that there was some serious gaps in the internal development strategy which could retard and stop eventually the growth and wondered if they could help him. The CEO and the President, both founders of the company, asked why they waited six months before coming to them and that they would have appreciated if they'd been advised earlier as already they were in trouble. The company took a bad slide.
The attention received by problems in the companies, reflects a change in social expectations and social standards as to what the public expects from corporations. This makes corporate communications within the company more important than ever before. PR problems of whatever nature they are of, in almost every case are reflections of internal management failures. Corporate (CC) communications need just not only to rectify whatever has gone wrong but avoid them up front. Cc is an integral part of the growth and sustained success and profitability of any business. This has to be matched by corresponding corporate behaviour.
A favourite story of Jacobs of creative advertising and success:
In 1892 a station master in mid-west of US received a consignment
of wristwatches to be delivered to a retailer and collect
the money and send it to the manufacturer. The retailer could
not accept them as he had no money; when informed by the station
master, the manufacturer suggested that he sell them himself.
He had access to telegraph lines and also had several friends
in station masters across the mid-west; he offered to sell
them the watches for a good price, which they in turn could
sell to visitors to their stations; he was so successful that
he ordered another consignment of watches from the manufacturer
soon after. Within a short period he resigned his job and
published a mail order catalogue wishing to sell to people
all over the state and began selling items of personal care
required by people in rural areas, all sorts of spurious merchandise;
his business grew in spite of his lack of discrimination,
making products seem better than they actually were. When
he lacked the capital he approached an experienced businessman
of Chicago, Julius Rosenwal and asked him to become a partner
and invest in his company. Rosenwal looked at the catalogue
and told the station master Sears that if he joined as it
was he'd lose all the goodwill he had; but as the young Sears
was imaginative and talented, he'd invest if he were given
full authority over what they say in the catalogue. Thus he
changed the top line on the catalogue which read "the
largest mail -order catalogue in the world" into "satisfaction
guaranteed or your money back. This was unheard of at that
time in US. Within 20 years the business grew to 20 million
dollars and became the largest retailer in the world. They
went on to open the first suburban department store and grew
during the 20s and even through the depression and by the
mid-80s Sears Robeck were a corporation of 40 billion dollars.
The one thing that spurred their growth is the commitment,
which is still over the door of any of their shops "satisfaction..."
Though there are instances many times of the public taking
advantage of the promise, they remained committed to their
promise. It is the communication of the message, which helped
them grow successfully.
The Wall Street Journal in 1984 had the highest circulation and was the most admired for their accuracy of information. They came to know that the Security and Exchange Commission was doing an informal investigation of one of their journalists for disclosure and misuse of sensitive information about 21 companies' shares in the market, which had influenced the behaviour of people in buying and selling those stocks. Though nothing was proved nor any accusation against the paper was made, the paper could have avoided SEC action, if any, by sticking to laws and constitutional rights of confidentiality. But instead they published a small article the next day stating that the SEC was investigating their journalist about some information and mentioned the name of the column and the writer. Media took notice of this and wondered. Two weeks later after their own in depth investigation they published an article "Stop Scandal" in which they gave full disclosure of their investigation and admitted that the journalist had misused his position and must be prosecuted. The US media was aghast; some of them admired the paper's integrity and transparency; New York Times took a different view and questioned whether they had gone too far in their disclosure and why they didn't take recourse to their constitutional rights. The public confidence with the journal grew due to their frank dealing of this issue.
In 1972 Johnson & Johnson launched a new over the counter pain killer Tylenol, which was the most successful one in the history of such products till then. By 1982 Tylenol commanded 30% of the entire OTC painkiller market as a branded patented product. At that time some crazy man in Chicago took some bottles of the pills and laced them with cyanide and as a result 7 people died. It became a scandal all over the country. The FBI cautioned J&J not to overreact, that from all evidence it looked like the job of one person severely isolated in one place and if they withdrew the product from that area the problem would be over. The general public did not share this view of FBI and the sale of Tylenol fell by 80%. 60% of the American public said that they would never buy it again. The company decided that their responsibility was to the doctors and the people and withdrew 31 million bottles of Tylenol from the market costing about 100 million dollars. Within a year they recovered 90% of their original market share and now after several years since their patent expired, the product still enjoys premium price in the market, even though there are several other similar generic products available.
In the early 60s there were many questions being asked about
the pharmaceutical companies in the US. The Congress began
investigations on the claims made by the companies about the
efficacy of their drugs. Laws were tightened. One of the companies
which went through this process but against whom no accusations
were made was Merck, which was at that time No.6 in the US
drug industry. They reflected on their commitment to accurate
credible communication with doctors. They began to adopt what
they called fair balance. When their medical representative
went to meet the doctors he had an absolute responsibility
to present fairly objectively the strengths and the weaknesses
of this product relative to other products already on the
market. The result was that in the next ten to twelve years
Merck rose from No. 6 to No. 1 in the US pharmaceutical industry.
In 1984 when Fortune magazine, for the first time, introduced
their survey of the "most admired corporations in the
US" Merck was selected by their peers, not only as the
most admired pharmaceutical company but as the most admired
in any industry overtaking long time giants like IBM, Coke,
Johnson & Johnson and so on. If you asked them how they
maintained this fair balance, they had a moral; the medical
rep. was trained that when he met the doctor, he should imagine
that the next patient was his mother, or wife or his children,
what he would want them to know about not just the strengths
of the drug but also the weaknesses or dangers, whether a
competitive drug would do the job better or more safely or
with a more proven track record. These representatives are
so good that some of them are invited to speak at conferences
of physicians on specific decease syndromes and remedies for
them. Some of them have more than one post graduate degree
in different fields of medical science. What started as a
public image issue for the industry was internalised by Merck
as a fundamental lesson reducing it to a firm corporate policy,
what kind of people they recruit, how they are trained, it
goes into the systems they have in their company. They have
a rule that no medical representative of Merck gives out any
information to doctors about any drug that has not been officially
passed by a committee and permitted by a legal and medical
review board. To do what looks to be extraordinary, to take
the view point of the public to such an extraordinary degree,
that they win a level of public confidence that is quite outstanding.
All these cases can be summed up under the theme of what Jacobs calls 'Values", a word used often by management these days, which he tried to define in very broad terms, that is the qualitative aspects of carrying out a business.
He said: Qualitative goals energise people and activity and
elevate levels of performance far above normal levels. The
commitment to achieving these values requires extraordinary
effort internally from management in systems, training, discipline
and monitoring of people in order to actually execute it in
practice. Therefore the values of corporate communications
programme is determined not by how good it sounds but how
actually plays out in practice and transactions of the business.
Values are a key component of a company's mission and strategic
direction. The world of corporate communications is perceived
to present a message that would satisfy people internally
or externally but not nearly as often as it should be in actually
formulating that message in compelling senior management to
formulate and implement the message that will energise people
internally and will energise the market and the performance
of the company. One of the conclusions I have come to by looking
at companys that have succeeded over a very long period of
time that the long time growth and profitability of a business
is directly proportionate to not their commitment to the bottomline
but their commitment to doing this - to continuously elevating
qualitative performance in practice and whether they try to
project it externally or not, it gets projected to the public.
North Western Mutuals, an insurance company, was started about 130 years ago. Their mission from the beginning was to be first in the benefits they offered to their policy holders and not to be first in size. Since Fortune magazine introduced the 'most admired' survey in the mid 80s, it has been the number one 'most admired' company year after year. Even in the USA this company is not too well known. They have been number one in performance and they would tell you that it has been possible due to their commitment to this principle.
To cite an example: one of their policy holders, a man of
32, fell ill and died soon after. The doctors later confirmed
that he had died due to a brain tumor. His devastated wife
knew he had his life insured with North Western. The agent
who visited her said that her husband had stopped paying the
premium six months earlier; the case was closed for all practical
purposes. But the agent discussed the matter with some specialists,
who said that the type of brain tumor the patient had could
not have happened suddenly and also it had debilitating effect.
When this was reported to the company authorities, they began
their own investigation and came to the conclusion that the
patient might not have been in a position to know what he
was doing and that might be the reason for non-payment of
the premium; the agent came back to the wife with a check
for 100 000 dollars, full payment of the insurance. This was
possible because the agent was taught from the first day he
joined the company that the policy holder's interest was of
the atmost importance.
In another case of suicide, though the government agency and the investigation agency had declared that the company had no legal responsibility to pay, the company, after its own investigation, decided that it could not be sure if it was suicide and paid the full value.
Another company started as a crop dusting company - spraying insecticides over the crops from the air - in 1927 in southern Mississipi by one Mr Omen. It was initially so poor and after passing through the depression, it was converted into a passenger airline in the late 30s; the company was so poor that it had to pass around the hat to its employees to collect the money for fuelling the aircraft.Out of the rural rugged background the company developed two very key values, which have been prominent throughout its history - a very scrupulous financial control and a family feeling; even when it grew to be of 40 000 strong employees, it had the family feeling, going all the way back to when Oman began the company in the rural background.
One story to illustrate this aspect - a young man was on night duty at the mechanical shop, in charge of spare parts; till about midnight there were men coming in with requirements, but later around two in the night he felt asleep on the table; sometime later he felt a presence in the room and slowly lifted up his head to find Mr. Oman standing in front of him. The young man was sure that he would lose his job. But all his employer said was, "if you wanted to go to sleep, the least you could have done is to put off the light". The young man was thrilled to have escaped but also to realise the humour and humanity of the situation and the commitment of Mr. Oman to reinforce the core values of the company. The story soon reached every employee of the company and many others too.The message conveyed here was that how Mr. Oman wanted every employee to feel and how every manager should behave. He later founded the Delta airlines and once when a flight ws overbooked he, the chairman of a Fortune 500 company, withdrew to allow another passenger to fly. The message was here to his employees that every single customer counted.
Mr. Jacobs displayed lists of physical, organisational and psychological values. According to him more than communication strategies, targets and objectives, it is important for senior management to communicate what type of company are they trying to be and what type of behaviour they want from people at all levels of the company; corporate communications has a vital role to play not only in communicating that message but in helping the management formulate that message, which is a critical, vital and central function that is dirctly linked to the strength, growth and long term sustainability of the business.
In 1973 for the first time Fred Smith established FedExpress
for delivering parcels overnight, at a time when in the US
it took about 5 days to do it. Smith, a student of business
history, came to the conclusion before setting up his business,
that a set of values was absolutely essential for rapid, sustained
profitable growth. He identified the core values to focus
on - speed of every function (from telephone answering to
repairing the airplane), communication at all levels (the
path of communication is open to the 2,00,000 employees from
their immediate boss to the chairman) - elevating any value
or commitment to any value,releases the energy of people;
it makes them feel more committed, more involved, makes them
feel happier about the company they are working for, happier
about the services and products it is delivering, giving them
respect and therefore they give more of themselves. Practising
the values energises employees, customers, suppliers, investors
and anybody who comes into contact with the company feels
that this is a quality business. Values not only release energy,
they tell the people within the company how to express the
energy, it directs energy, challenging people and directing
people to reach higher and higher levels. Values enhance growth
A French aristocrat ran away from persecution just before 1800 to America, leaving all his wealth behind. He just had a formula his father had developed for making gun powder, which was used, besides in wars, for also mines etc. He founded a business manufacturing gun powder in Delaware. But with the crude technologies of those days, gun powder would now and then blow up. He decided that the safety of his employees was most important and set several policies. When building a gun powder mill or commissioning a new equipment, the real dangerous point is when the switch is pulled the first time - it either works or it could blow up. He made the rule at such times the only one who could turn on the switch must be a member of his Dupont family. The business grew and by 1900 Dupont company gave up making gun powder and went into chemicals etc; but they never gave up this commitment to value of safety. One can see it working at every stage. Even today at every board of directors' meeting of this 26 billion dollar comapny the first item on the agenda is a report on safety as well as any management meeting at any level. The safety officer is the chairman of the board! Down to the security guard everyone knows his responsibility to safety. Maintaining values also needs continuous training. Dupont trains their employees on safety at home also.
Most companies with set of values and commitments have made it their culture, it has become an integral part of them. No special effort is made to show off this to the outside, but it gets known. It is Mr. Jacob's vision of the role of corporate communications of the company, a company that recognises this conception of what it wants to be and how it wants to grow. It need not be right at the beginning, some like Merck started it after 40 years in business; but it is never too late to begin; but it is an integral part of management's thinking and its commitment and action.
|Ms Ranjana Kumar lighting the lamp to inaugurate the year 2002-03 of PRSI, Chennai chapter.|
|Ms Ranjana Kumar addressing the members of PRSI Chennai|
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