Corruption: a twist in my life

One day in the early 1990s, I visited my customer, a private limited company, to finalise their requirement of spare parts for 4 machines which were in the last month of Warranty. The Managing Director introduced me to their new General Manager who had been the DGM (Materials) of a large automotive ancillary. The MD told me that henceforth, the GM would handle all spare parts requirements. All capital equipment requirements would continue to be handled by the MD. He also told the GM that he had very high regard for me and trusted me completely. After a cup of tea, I accompanied the GM to his room.

The GM explained to me that, while we had submitted a quotation for various spare parts amounting to about Rs. 60,000.00, most of these parts were not needed immediately. They would immediately order only the urgently required spare parts amounting to about Rs. 5,000.00.

This was followed by an interesting conversation.
GM: How much cash payment will I get?
I: Sorry, sir. Our prices do not contain any provision for cash payment.
GM: You should be able to pay something, at least a few percent.
I: Sir, even if we can pay 5% of the order value, it would be only Rs. 250.00. I would not like to insult you by offering such a low amount. It would be worse if my Head Office agrees to a lower percentage like 2%.
GM: I’m OK with whatever you can offer. Please check with your Head Office and let me know. When can I expect your call?
I: The day after tomorrow.

The GM had actually asked for a bribe of Rs. 100.00 (2% of Rs. 5,000.00)! Even considering that their annual requirement of spare parts would be about Rs. 60,000.00, 2% of that amount would be Rs. 1,200.00 per year. As I had told him, this would not be a bribe, it would be an insult!

I was totally confused. Was this guy actually asking for a measly bribe of Rs. 1,200.00 per year, or was he testing me? If he was testing me, was it with or without his MD’s knowledge and approval? If he was actually asking for a bribe, wasn’t he afraid that, in view of my excellent equation with his MD, I might report the matter to his MD? Of course, I realised that, if I reported the matter, he would claim that I had misinterpreted his attempt to get a discount for the company.

I had to close the matter. After considerable thought, I hit upon a solution. Two days later, I telephoned the MD on his direct line, explained that I had been trying to reach the GM, but was unable to get through (this incident took place before the advent of cellphones), and informed him that I had referred the GM’s request for discount to my Head Office, but we could not offer any discount. The matter was closed.

That day, I realized 2 things:
1. Corruption is universal. It is not only politicians, policemen, government servants and public sector employees who ask for bribes. Even private sector employees ask for bribes.
2. Corruption can be addictive. Often, persons who start making money by unfair means continue to do so, sometimes without any sense of proportion.

This post (a re-post, with some changes, of Corruption can be addictive) is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

A twist in the tale!

My Sales Manager and I were in a meeting with a potential customer in his factory, trying to clinch his order for two VMCs (Vertical Machining Centers), each costing about Rs. 2.5 million.

With a very thoughtful look, the potential customer said, “Sir, out of the 6 offers that I received, I’ve shortlisted 2: yours and NMT’s. According to me, your machine is better, but only marginally. However, NMT’s final offer is about 6 % lower than your latest offer. With that price advantage, I’m inclined to order their machines. I could change my mind if you match their price or if you can give me hard information about your machines or about your after-sales service, or any information about NMT’s machines or about their after-sales service, that convinces me that it would be good business sense for me to pay a higher price for your machines.”

I replied, “Mr. Ashok, we have already offered you our rockbottom price. Any further reduction is not possible. We’ve also given you all information that would convince you about the superior features of our machines and the excellence of our after-sales service. Of course, I’ll be pleased to reply to any questions that you may ask.”

“I have no questions about your machines or about your after-sales service. But, your sales personnel have not pointed out any disadvantages of NMT’s machines nor have they given me any negative information about NMT’s after-sales service. If I get such information from you, I may be convinced to change my mind in your favour.” Having said this, Mr. Ashok leaned back in his chair and gave me a searching look.

I replied, “Mr. Ashok, it is our policy not to make any negative remarks against any of our competitors. If we lose business because of this policy, so be it.”

“OK, sir. NMT are meeting me later today. I’ll convey my final decision to you tomorrow morning,” Mr. Ashok said.

At 9.30 am the next day, Mr. Ashok telephoned me and asked if I could meet him at 12.30 pm. I agreed.

As soon as my Sales Manager and I were seated in his office, Mr. Ashok said, “Sir, neither you nor your sales personnel gave me any negative information about NMT. On the other hand, NMT made many negative remarks against your machines and your after-sales service. Hence, I’ve decided to buy your machines. I am convinced that your positive approach to business is much more valuable than the higher price that I’ll be paying! Here’s my Purchase Order. Now, please join me for lunch to celebrate our new business relationship!”

This post, a true incident, is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Happy Independence Day! Mother India’s message to every Indian

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. (Prompt: It is the night of August 14th. You are sleeping peacefully until a lady, who identifies herself by the name of Mother India, wakes you up and starts talking. What does she talk to you?)

I am Mother India. You, my child, are an Indian. Your name, age, gender, religion, caste, economic status, educational background, profession, place of residence, etc. are not important.

Tomorrow is my 68th birthday. I am grateful that you celebrate my birthday every year. However, I want to speak to you about the remaining 364 days of every year (365 days if it is a leap year). Please spare a few minutes to listen to me.

I know you are proud to be an Indian, but you must be aware there are many aspects of life in India that need improvement or correction. If these aspects of life are changed for the better, life in India will improve, not only for you, but also for all your fellow-citizens, particularly those who are less privileged than you.

In almost all matters, you have not created the problem.

But, in almost all matters, you are partly responsible for keeping the problem alive because you are, knowingly or unknowingly, willingly or unwillingly, a perpetrator, participant, beneficiary, victim, or bystander.

Since you are partly responsible for these problems being kept alive, you share the responsibility to solve these problems.
Others share the responsibility, maybe more so, for solving these problems.
But, you should not wait for others to act.
You should start contributing to solutions to these problems.
Hopefully, others will do the same. If not, you must try to make them do so.
If many persons start contributing to solutions to these problems, each in her/his own way, these problems will be resolved or reduced.
This is not easy. It will take a lot of time and effort, and there will be many obstacles to overcome.
But, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
So, please start with a single step.
You must be proactive.
You must be a proactive Indian!

Bodyguard (55 Fiction)

A funny thing happened on my way to work today.

There were huge crowds outside all schools.

On enquiring, I was told that, since all parents had signed forms saying that the schools and their staff are not responsible for the safety of students, almost all parents had sent a personal bodyguard with each child.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. (Prompt: Include this line in your post: ‘A funny thing happened on my way to….’)

Helping Hands

One morning, based on information received through a couple of anonymous phone calls, Steven, the founder of an NGO called Helping Hands found a newborn baby in a bag inside a dustbin. The baby was gasping for breath and frothing. The umbilical cord of the baby was not tied and there were ants all over its body, feeding on its tender skin.

Steven rushed the baby to a nearby hospital. Two days later, the baby was ready to go back home; home for the baby was Helping Hands, as it was for many other abandoned babies.

Steven named him Robert Steven (all abandoned babies at Helping Hands have the surname Steven, as Steven is ‘Papa’ to all of them).

When he was 10, Robert learnt that Papa Steven had picked him out of a dustbin.

As Robert explained, “I started searching through Papa’s files and found, completely by chance, my file with a photo of me as a baby in a travel bag. It was not sorrow or anger that I felt when I saw the picture. I felt blessed that I had a Papa who gave me shelter and took care of me. He brought me up like his own son. What more can I ask for?

My parents might have abandoned me in a dustbin. But Papa picked me up from there and gave me life. So instead of shattering me, the truth behind my origins made me feel calm and peaceful.”

Not even once did he feel like searching for his own parents. “I don’t even think of my biological parents. Why should I think of those people who never bothered about me? I think of my Papa and nobody else.”

Robert was well behaved, very focused and an extremely good student. That led Steven to send him to a private boarding school in another city. He also wanted to get the boy away from the institutional atmosphere of the orphanage.

True to his potential, Robert was a recipient of a scholarship throughout his school and college days and scored excellent marks. In college, other than topping in academics, he won many inter-collegiate competitions, and also received awards for Perfect Attendance and being the Best Outstanding student.

Having studied Commerce, his initial desire was to be a Chartered Accountant. But he now wishes to prepare for the Civil Service Examination and become an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer. Though many children from Helping Hands have become engineers and bankers, it is for the first time that a child from the home is trying to become an IAS officer.

On his birthday, Robert always thanks his Papa first. Only after that does he pray. He says that he has never asked for anything for himself. “I have only asked for Papa’s good health so that he can continue to care for orphans. I also ask God to give me the courage and willpower to help the underprivileged in our society. That is my only prayer! On second thought, I would say, Papa is my God, a God that has taken human form.”

I am sure this story has moved you, maybe to tears. You will be even more moved to know that this is a true story (with the names changed). Please CLICK HERE to read the complete story of Abhilash Vidyaakar and ‘Pappa’ Vidyaakar of Udavum Karangal (Helping Hands), Chennai.

Please also visit Udavum Karangal’s website.

If I were given a chance to be a superhero, what power would I want? Forget it! I know I can’t be a superhero. Nobody can be a superhero. But, inspired by this super human being called Vidyaakar, each one of us should try to be at least a good human being.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. (Prompt: If you were given a chance to be a superhero…what power would you want and why?)