One morning, I was in the office of my customer, the promoter of a large manufacturing business, when our discussion was interrupted by a telephone call from his son. He explained that his son had joined an engineering college in another city a few months back. His son was staying away from his parents for the first time, but he seemed to be managing quite well. Since his college, which was in an industrial area on the outskirts of the city, did not have a hostel, he and 3 classmates were sharing a 2-bedroom apartment in the city, 2 boys to a room. They commuted to and from college by the college bus, and used public transport for other trips. They had also made their own arrangements for food, laundry, etc.. Since I enjoyed a good rapport with this customer, I jokingly asked him whether business problems had prevented him from arranging an apartment with caretaker, cook, car and driver, etc. for his son. He replied that his wife and he had decided that their son should be like any other student. Living an unsheltered life would prepare him better for the future. While he would inherit his position in their company, some experience of the lifestyle of common persons would, hopefully, ensure that he would be a humane employer. Fortunately, the son had enthusiastically agreed with the parents. I knew my customer and his wife were both very down to earth persons, but I was impressed!
That afternoon, I met the Works Manager of the same company at their factory. I happened to speak about my conversation with his Chairman. He laughed and said, “That’s nothing. Six months back, Chairman telephoned me and told me that his son had just completed his Pre-University examinations, the results of which would be announced after 9 weeks. He had expressed a desire to familiarise himself with the working of our company. Chairman had appreciated his son’s desire and suggested that he could learn about our products and our production process by working in our factory as an Apprentice for 2 months. This was subject to the condition that he would work like any other Apprentice and would be treated as an Apprentice, not as the Chairman’s son. The boy had agreed. Chairman told me that his son would meet me the next morning, and instructed me to induct him as an Apprentice for 2 months. It was my responsibility to ensure that he would be treated like any other Apprentice. He would wear the same uniform, travel from and to home by the same Company Bus and be subject to the same rules and regulations as all other Apprentices. I pleaded with him that I could not do all this with the person who would be my boss after a few years. His reply was, “Today, I’m your boss, so just follow my instructions! Don’t worry. When my son becomes your boss, I will be his boss!!” Chairman’s son worked 2 months as an Apprentice. We have all seen what a down-to-earth young man he is, and we all look forward to the day when he takes charge of our company.”
I have not been in touch with this customer for many years now, so I do not know what kind of person and what kind of employer the son has turned out to be. But, I have always hoped that, like this couple, more parents try to groom their children to be humane individuals, not just well-qualified professionals.
(This post was originally published on July 27, 2013.)