Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Venkataramana! Govinda! Goovinda!

I am writing this post in 2012 and when I look back or shall I say think back, I always get pleasant memories and the wonderful times we had in the seventies.

It is said that when senility sets in, one tends to remember events of distant past and not very recent ones!!

You see, in the seventies there was no internet, no TV, no Mobile to send SMS and so on.
To become known we always resorted to door to door campaign.

We used to go house after house and canvass for business. If ever we got an inkling that the prospective customer's mother tongue is telugu, we would speak only in telugu, in order to develop familiarity.

As we were entering a house we found children playing and conversing in telugu.

We knocked at the door.

"Evaru kaavala?" (Whom do you wish to see?)

"Ayyagaru unnaraa?" (Is Sir at home?)

"Evaru? Ramanagaara?" (Who? Mr. Ramana?)

"Avunandi" (Yes ma'am.)

"Pakka Illu" (Next door please).

AND WE BEAT A HASTY RETREAT. What else could we do?!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Empty vessels make the most noise...

In the early days of our business career when we were into manufacturing
transformers, we used to purchase electrical items from Sai Sendhil Electricals
in Perambur.

The following words which were printed boldly in all their challans and invoices had
a striking effect on me:


I used to peruse many of their bills and everytime would read this sentence again and again.

True to their motto they were very prompt and courteous in rendering their services.
A few years later the proprietor of this concern passed away and his wife continued the business. May his Soul Rest in Peace.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What did you say?

Some years back I was the CEO of an air-conditioning company. A leading nationalised bank had its head quarters close to our company and we were regularly supplying air-conditioning units and our services to them. Our relationship was cordial.

Times changed. Banks were asked to enquire from atleast three sources before they placed an order to purchase an air-conditioner. I was now with another air-conditioning company. The very same bank used to ask me for quotations which I faithfully sent.

One day I jokingly told the officer in charge: " Madam, I have become a supplier of quotations to you!" She said: What did you say? I explained to her that while I have submitted to them innumerable quotations never once have they placed an order with me.

To this she replied: But Bhargav, you have to give yourself an order. It was now my turn to ask her: What did you say? She replied, You see, if your quotation is lower than all others then you will surely get the order.

Next time round, I deliberately quoted a very low price and I did get an order!

Subsequently I refrained myself from quoting lower and lower until I lost all my margin and more! How could my business sustain?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I want EC. What do you want?

Our family and our relatives had four adjoining properties in Gopalapuram. All the houses were
quite old. The apartment culture had begun.

We thought it wise to develop all the properties together and approached Alacrity Foundations.
They had made a name for themselves for straight dealings and were totally against corruption (long, long before Lokpal and all that).

We finalised our deal with them in mid-1990. They were meticulous in their paper work. We had furnished all the documents and related paper work for all the four properties - except the EC (Encumberence Certificate) for our property "The Cottage".

The EC was to be obtained for a period of 30 years. On enquiry I found that papers relating to these years were available not in one office, but in three different Registrar offices. Time was running out.

I was pushed to the wall. Then one day I spotted one bright and enthusiastic chap. I went straight to him and uttered just two sentences:

I want EC. What do you want?

He said, "Give me Rs.1,500 and your job will be done within a week". Fortunately I had taken with me exactly that amount. Without any negotiation I immediately pulled out the money and handed it over to him without giving him a chance to say anything else.

When should I come and collect the papers from you, I asked him. At that point of time my office was in Royapuram and he said, " Come next saturday in front of Royapuram Police Station exactly at 9 am and collect the papers from me."

In those days, there was no cell phone. I went to the Police station at 9 am with my fingers crossed. The guy was waiting for me and handed me over the ECs.

I remembered what my father often used to repeat: "Thank God there is corruption. You can get your job done."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Induction motor joke-man

Time machine goes back to year 1988.

CAL. I am not talking about Calcutta (Kolkata). I am talking about Carrier Aircon Limited.
We were among the firsts to be inducted as their dealers. Besides we also doubled up as their C&F Agents.

Noel's Air-conditioners. How these cross-belted(!) guys could name themselves as Noel's one might ask. Well, CAL was in a hurry. They gave one minute time to name ourselves and my friend came up with Noel's, because he had just then returned from US and Noel's was the biggest dealer for Carrier in US!!

Mr. Ramesh Sarin visited our show-room, it was in a lovely location in T. Nagar, Venkatanarayana Road (now known as High Road), adjoining the T.Nagar Social Club.
The palatial Venkataramana Centre stands there today.

Mr. Sarin's visit was followed by Mr. Raghavan's. He ivited all dealers to a cocktails and dinner in a five-star hotel. He suggested that each one of us should tell a joke.

Student was called for a campus interview and he was asked how an induction motor starts.


Stop it.


Ever since that day, I was known as the Induction motor joke-man. Even today, after
all these 23 years, I am sure Mr. Raghavan will remember this induction motor joke-man!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why is this fridge not working?

I was not a technical person. I was an IAS aspirant interested in mathematics who studied Botany and ended up repairing air-conditioners and refrigerators!!

My friend often used to educate me in the technical aspects of the business.

He will question me:

Refrigerator is not cooling properly....

I will say:

(1) The plug top is to be removed and incoming current checked. There may not be any supply.
He: Supply is there
(2) We have to check the compressor.
He: Compressor is okay.
(3) Gas (refrigerant) might have leaked out of the system.
He: No. There is sufficient gas in the system.
(4) The relay might have burnt.
He: Relay is in good condition.
(5) Ah! Thermostat..
He: Thermostat is okay.
(6) There must be door leakage.
He: No leakage in door.
(7) ??????

Any suggestions? Please give suggestion in comments section.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monica, oh my darling!

Some years back Voltas used to conduct yearly dealer meets for all the dealers in the four southern states. Each year the meeting would be held in a different state.

In one such meeting which was held in Visakapatnam an upcoming actress had been invited
to sing a few songs. After one or two songs she started singing:

Piya tu ab to aa jaa
Shola sa mann daheke, aake bujha jaa
Tan ki jwalaa thandi ho jayee, ai se gale laga jaa
Aa ha aha, aa ha aha, aa ha aha, aa ha aha

Then she paused a little and looked around waiting for someone to sing the male portion.

Nobody took the cue and so I shouted with gusto:

Monica, oh my darling Monica, oh my darling

There was cheering all round. I was on cloud nine. It was an unforgettable experience....

Cartoon from Punch and a similar incident....

My father used to subscribe to Punch, Tit-bits and other magazines. I reminisced about this and since I nowadays work on my computer, googled for Punch.

You have the wonderful site punchcartoons.com. And this is the very first cartoon which I viewed in the site:

Instantly I remembered an incident that took place in our early days of AC business. We were
instructed by our elders that we should go on a door-to-door campaign to canvass business.
Everday we would go around neighbouring areas from 7 am to 8 am canvassing for business.

In one of the houses that we visited the wife opened the door and we explained that we were refrigeration engineers. She went inside and woke up her husband and when he came and met us we repeated our mission.

Husband gets infuriated and tells his wife: Why did you wake me up? Don't you know that we have no refrigerator in our house?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Enter the Sardarji

I was studying fifth class in Brinda Elementary School.

I used to wear Hawaii chappals to school and got my first pair of shoes when I entered college.

When I was in the fifth class,

my father called me aside one day and narrated this joke to me:

Sardarji comes wearing one blue and one red sock.

When questioned why? he replies that he has been cheated by the shop-keeper
and has a similar pair at home!

I didn't get the joke. My father explained.

I had a hearty laugh - and was introduced to the wonderful world of jokes!

Come on! Come on!!

On an earlier occasion I had mentioned about my visit to the Guindy Race Course and the
enthusiastic screams of "Come on!".

But several years prior to this we went to one of our customers house in Poes Garden
with a bill for Rs.880 towards repairing his refrigerator.

On seeing the bill he said: Come on, Come on.

At first we didn't quite understand what he was up to. Later we realised that he was asking
us to reduce the bill amount!

So we said after some hesitation: Okay, Sir. You may pay us Rs.850.

Again he said: Come on, Come on.

This went on for some time and I had to find some way out. So Isaid: Oh Come on, Sir. We cannot reduce any further.

He made out a cheque for Rs.800.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

FRIEDRICH Air-conditioner

In the eighties people had a fancy for imported air-conditioners.

There was an exodus of workers from the middle east to their homes in India. While coming back on T/R (Transfer of Residence) each person was allowed to bring in two used air-conditioners.

Quite a few of such people after some time wanted to dispose of their air-conditioners and often
sought our help.

Once we received a Friedrich air-conditioner for disposal. It was offered to a rural customer through a common friend.

Customer: I want an imported air-conditioner.
Our friend: Yes, sure, we can give you Friedrich.
Customer: Sorry. come again.
Our friend: Friedrich. Friedrich.
Customer: Sorry.
Our friend: Friedrich. You know something like fried rice.
Customer: What did you say?
Our friend: Fried rice, Sir. Like Plate rice.
Customer: Oh. I understand. SEND IT.

The deal was closed. People were crazy for foreign goods. Tomorrow I will tell you
something even more strange.

Manitou - Come on, come on!

My father Flt. Lt. C.M. Gopal was always keen that I should broaden my knowledge.

While in school he insisted that I learn type-writing. To this day I find it very useful. Also cycling and swimming. But swimming I never learnt. I did visit the YMCA swimming pool at Nandanam a couple of times, but the cold water didn't suit me.

After I had finished my college and started working, he explained me about horse racing and also told me that while on the race if a horse became lame, they would shoot it and end its life. He goaded me to visit the Madras Race Club and witness a race. Somehow I never felt enthusiastic,

Mr. Santhanam, an elderly person of about 70 years, fondly called by us as Santhanam Iyer, used to work with us and he had a mechanical mind and would visit Moore market, pick up some parts and assemble machines for us! But come Sunday, he will take some money from us and go the races along with his friends.

And so, one day, I went with him to the Guindy race course. I bet a small amount on the famous horse Monitou. I saw the bookies. People shouted: Come on! Come on!! There was excitement all around!

During one of the races a horse fell down and became lame. A tempo was brought and the horse was shot dead and taken away.

That has been my only visit to the race course. But I had learnt everything, saw everything.

This itch to learn about things has stayed with me. My daughter has an Apple 4-S mobile phone. Even if someone were to gift me this phone, I would politely say: No. Because I really have no need for this phone. But while I am in my daughter's house I keep exploring it and try to learn what all it can do. Thanks to my father for instilling in me the spirit of enquiry.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Used newspaper!

I market Voltas air-conditioners.

These air-conditioners are manufactured in PRC (Peoples Republic of China).
From China they are shipped and sent to Mumbai.
From Mumbai port to warehouse - warehouse to Chennai warehouse and finally
they reach our store. From our store they are shipped to the customer place.

In this chain of events at some place/s there is every possibility of the carton
box getting dirty and/or slightly damaged.

I have come across a few customers who exclaim: Look, the carton is damaged!
So what, Sir. The carton is a packaging material and it protects your item inside
by getting damaged. What if it is damaged a little, you are anyway going to throw
it away. Please inspect your air-conditioner and let me know its condition!

While conversing with my elder brother Janardan a few days before I left for the
US recently the above subject came up for discussion. He told me: Dad used to
say that there are some people who would refuse to accept a used newspaper
from the newspaperwallah.

Used newspaper? My foot!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The most important thing in communication....

The management guru Peter Drucker said: " The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said".

I learnt this long back when I was a school-boy.

We were a joint family with my father C.M. Gopal and my uncles C.M. Ramachandran and
C.M. Narayanan.

(My uncle Ramappa owed some money to my father and my father was in dire need.)

My father called me one day and gave me a small bit of paper and asked me to hand it over to my uncle.

I looked at the bit of paper. It was a bus-ticket. On it my father had scribbled with a pencil:

. . . _ _ _ . . .

But, there is nothing in this paper, I said. My father smiled and said: Just give it to him. I will explain you later.

A day or two later my uncle came to my father and handed over some money to him. My father explained: What you saw is known as the Morse code. It means S.O.S. and is sent when ships are
in distress.

So you see, my uncle had heard what was not being said! I learnt a lesson and was proud of my father and uncles (who isn't?).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Mind without fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not broken up
Into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

A friend of mine came running excited to me. Both of us were dealers for Voltas air-conditioners.
He said, Do you know? Hitachi is showcasing their latest models of air-conditioners in this star hotel. I wish we were there.

On further enquiry he told me that the products were on display in the lobby area of the hotel.
If such is the case, I told him, why not we go and have a look?

We roped in another friend (also a dealer) and the three of us visited the place. Seeing us moving together (!!) the V.P. of the company came to us and started conversing with us. I told him, Sir, we three are Voltas dealers and we came here to see your air-conditioners.

You three are competitors and have come together?, he asked. I said, Sir, we three are friends and we complement each other.

He felt very glad and complimenting us asked us to go around. He further added: After seeing the models, don't forget to join us for cocktails and dinner!!

Hand-set......................Head reeling!

On your mark, get set, ready, GO. But sometimes you can't.

I am talking about the remote hand-sets that are used to operate the window and
split air-conditioners.

Custom cannot stale their infinite variety! They come in all sorts of colours, shapes
and what have you.

As long as they work everything is fine. But the moment a handset stops functioning
you are in for trouble. I have come across rare instances of these handsets being lost or being broken due to mishandling by children. If the problem is due to drained batteries, feel blessed. Else you could be in trouble. It is very difficult to repair these hand-sets.

To cap it all, if your unit is more than two or three years old, chances of your getting a new remote is very remote indeed! In this era of use and throw probably the manufacturers
deliberately go in for such a tactic. For want of a nail, the war was lost. Here for want of a remote the unit might have to be lost!

I wish someone designed a universal hand-set which could conveniently operate at-least the basic operations of any unit. Then we can rightly say: What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

No questions asked replacement

We've all heard about "No questions asked replacement". Rarely do we get a chance to experience this first hand.

The Chennai Book Fair is an annual affair during the month of January and at present the 35th Edition of this fair is on. (While talking about the Book fair many of you might remember the ghastly fire that raged and burnt thousands of books a few years back.)

Many years back I purchased my favourite COD (Concise Oxford Dictionary) in the Oxford University Press stall. After a day or two I found one or two pages missing. Not that it really mattered, the fair was still on and I visited them.

With dictionary in hand, I started, "Sir, I ..". Even before I could begin my sentence the salesman gave me a new copy of the dictionary, took the defective copy gently from my hands and threw it aside!

No questions asked? One might call this "No complaints heard replacement!!"

The German connection

In the seventies very few people had refrigerators in their home. Fewer had air-conditioners.
Flats and apartments were unheard of. All houses were palatial.

Allwyn and Godrej were the Indian brands. Some houses had Frigidaire, Hotpoint, GE and Bosch.

We brought a beautiful Bosch refrigerator for repairs. On inspection the relay was found to be defective. We tried many shops and different relays but we could not get the right one.

Call it out-of-the-box thinking or lateral thinking. I wrote a nice appreciative letter to Bosch GMBH and told them how I could not use their fridge because of a defective relay and our futile attempts in trying to get one.

The letter which we wrote got erased from our memories. Believe it or not, in about a month's time we got a small parcel from Bosch with a new relay. Imagine our joy! Within five minutes the fridge was in working condition and was returned to an excited customer.

A year or two later we suggested this to another customer and he too got the relay, free of charge.

Danke Schoen! Danke Schoen!! Long live Bosch.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

This is also service

Just one of those days. Place: MGR Nagar, Chennai Time:06.15 a.m.

My wife and I were on the way to attend a wedding.

We were almost there but did not know which way to go. I slowed my car and enquired one or two persons - they were neither enthusiastic nor informative. I realised it would be better to enquire with any shopkeeper than passers-by who themselves could be new to the area.

It was then that I saw this flower-seller. She had a small wooden table on which she had kept the flowers nicely displayed. She looked bright and beaming. We went to her and asked her where the marriage hall was located. With a pleasant smile she said, " Go straight, second right and the hall is almost towards the end of the road. You can take your car inside and park it on the road side." She then gave my wife a few flowers and smilingly asked us to proceed.

On the way back after attending the wedding, I stopped my car near her shop and bought flowers for 30 Rupees. It was my small way of expressing my admiration (read:gratitude) on her rendering service without any expectation.

Render service without expectation and God will take care of your cash registers.

The truth, whole truth, nothing but the truth.....

Three 0f us friends ventured into the air-conditioning business.

Gopalakrishnan had just passed his B.E.(Mech) from the famous Guindy Engineering College (now known as Anna University), Ranganath had studied in Bellary in a technical institute and after completing his D.E.E. already had two years experience in the field having worked with a dealer of Allwyn refrigerators and as for me, I was just out of College having completed my Bachelor's in botany!

A month or two passed and we trying to get our bearings in the business. Our elders had by example instilled in us discipline and a very high degree of business ethics. Never to utter a lie.

We wanted to expand our business and thought we should meet the Director of Blue Star Limited and seek some business from them. Since I was not an engineer, I opted out of the adventure (if I may say so!).

They worked out a strategy, went to the Director (Mr. Advani) and Ranganath introduces the duo: Sir, this is Gopalakrishnan and I am Ranganath. He is B.E. (Mechanical) and I am Electrical.

This Electrical engineer was far from being mechanical! Mr. Advani liked the fire in the duo and we were recommended for sub-contract work and our business started growing...

You see Ranganath had spoken the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Friday, January 13, 2012

What I need to know

When a customer walks into my showroom or converses with me over phone I gather the following information:

(a) Where does he/she want the unit to be installed?

The area will give me an idea whether this customer has to have a single boost or a double
boost stabilizer.

(b) What is the room size and is there a room above?

You should note that the second part of the question is very important. A 10' x 12' room in the ground floor of a three floor apartment complex would need a one tonne unit whereas the same room in the top floor needs a one-and-a-half tonne unit because of the heat radiation.

(c) What would be the approximate distance between the indoor and outdoor units?

We need to know this to determine the length of copper pipes and the cost.

(d) Where would the outdoor unit be kept?

If an angle iron stand is required, would cost extra.

(e) What is the mode of payment?

If credit card is presented, there is a service charge.

(f) Delivery charges: This I need not explicitly ask. During the course of my conversation, I will
come to know of the address where the unit is to be delivered and I will mentally calculate the delivery cost based on the distance.

Once I am certain that I have all of the above information, I am in a position to offer a price to my customer based on the model that he/she chooses and then say: This is the price, AND NOT ONE RUPEE EXTRA!

By this time the customer realises that there are no hidden charges whatsoever and the deal is closed!


You see, all of the above information is given gratis to you and if you need further tutoring, I am afraid I will have to charge you fees of just 2 dollars an hour!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Uppundha? Pappundhi!

This was narrated to me by my wife Lalitha.

Customer comes to shop and asks: Uppundha? ( Can I get Salt?)
Shopkeeper replies: Pappundhi (Dhall is available)

Well in yesteryears probably the superstitious shopkeepers didn't wish to give a negative reply.

In my neighbourhood shop, the shopkeeper will never start his day with a credit sale.

But life is not so simple these days. If you visit a super market with self-service, it is okay.

Le us imagine the kirana shop:

Do you have paste?

What paste?

Sorry, I meant tooth-paste.

Pepsodent, vicco, colgate.........

Colgate will do.

Colgate - Salt or Total or plus...?? What size?

Oh, maddening!

To you, or to me!!!!

In my line of business, I have devised my own format to arrive at the right item
for the customer. More about this tomorrow....

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

And I thought the job was done!

And I thought the job was done!

Many years back we were supplying transformers to a leading switchgear manufacturing company in Madras (as it was known then).

So happened that for some reason our bills were outstanding for a very long time and the total amount due from them became quite huge.

We knew the General Manager (Finance) of that company very well - used to play cards with him every weekend - but never would we converse about our relationship with his company.

At one point of time, we could wait no longer and so thought why not we visit him in his office and explain our predicament. We did exactly that. He was very polite, understanding and quickly glancing at our list of bills outstanding, wrote: Pay and handed it over to us, asking us to approach his officials. We were on cloud nine.

We took the paper to the person who prepares cheques and handed it over to him...

He immediately opened his drawer and threw the paper inside. We wanted the cheque.
The guy says: Our GM has mentioned Pay. He has not written PAY TODAY. When I get the funds I will prepare the cheque.....

In those days - we never had the mind to see the GM again. We got our cheque in a few days though.

STRIVING for World Class Service


Today I want to tell you about an organisation which is indeed delivering world class service
but where the employees took it a little too much (no offense meant)!!

V. Motors in Chennai is having a modern Maruti car service centre in the heart of the city
in Mylapore. Sometime back I had given my car for service to them and later informed
them that I will myself collect it back from their service station. Being in the service industry myself I wanted to have a look into their service station and the kind of service they deliver.

The staff were very courteous. They promptly took me into their plush customer bay. This is an air-conditioned room, with sofa sets, centre table with newspapers, TV with cable connection, drinking water, rest room attached and so on. They asked me to be seated for a while till they complete the formalities of delivering my car which was ready after service. A person came in said: Sir, here is the newspaper. Again he said: Shall I switch on the TV? Which channel would you like to view? Yes, I wanted to look into the newspaper and also wanted to watch my favourite programme which was being telecast at that time. To crown it all a person came to me and asked me whether I wanted to have Tea or Coffee. I said: No, thanks. You see it was around 9.30 in the morning and everyday I have a cup of tea around 11 am. Not before that. I could see that somehow he was not satisfied and wanted me to have either. So, to please him I half-heartedly said: I will have tea. He felt excited and promptly brought me a cup of hot steaming tea.

Just before I left I was handed over a customer satisfaction report (which was to be sent to the car manufacturer) in which there was a question: Were you offered tea/coffee?

Ah, how I wish that he had known that even though I said, No, thanks, I would have promptly
replied Yes to the question of their offer for a cup of tea or coffee!!!

Monday, January 9, 2012



These days we often hear of world class service.

What does world class service mean? It is an extra-ordinary excellence in the
delivery of service.

But when one experiences such world class service it becomes more understandable.

Let me explain to you what happened to me today. I was under pressure of time, since I am leaving India to fly to US of A. I had to pay a sum of Rs.4,350 in the Bank.

As I entered the bank premises near my house, to my dismay I found that there was a power
glitch and the computer systems were down and not expected to be back in service for a few hours.

Just then I heard a friendly voice; the bank officer Balaji recognised me (he had been seeing me regularly many years back when I used to frequent another branch of the same bank were my company was having an account). He enquired about my well-being and put me at ease. I also found him helping people all round with pleasant demeanor.

I told him my predicament and without hesitation asked me to give the money to him and that he will do the needful once the computers are set right.

After a few hours he sent me an SMS saying that my job was done.

If this is not world class service, what else is?

Out-of-the-box thinking....


Out-of-the-box or innovative thinking is needed not only in business but in day-to-day
life as well.

I have an apartment in Coimbatore in a complex which houses around 140 apartments.
Most of the owners have bought apartments for investment purposes and they send their
monthly maintenance charges on-line. Each apartment owner pays Rs.4,320 for three months
and with a large number of entries for this very same amount, the association mentioned that they
were finding it very difficult to reconcile their Bank statement.

So what do I do?

Today I paid into their account a sum of Rs. 4,350 (4,320 + 30 extra). This way my amount will be an odd-man out and they can very easily check out the payment made by me.

To blow my trumpet - some innovative thinking!!

Until tomorrow...

Sunday, January 8, 2012



A war is made up of a number of battles. A single battle may be lost. But to win a war a large number of battles has to be won.

We could think of undercutting as a single battle. But if one resorts to undercutting in all the time, then the war will be lost.

Some years back, a large insulator company in Chennai was in the market to purchase five window air-conditioners. My purchase price for one air-conditioner was Rs.20,500.
I for one was determined to get the order, come what may!

This company was known for some delay in payment. So I worked out a strategy. I should get the payment within a day or two of delivery of goods. There were already many companies in the fray to supply the machines.

I bulldozed myself into the General Manager's cabin and told him that I wanted to supply the units and at what price he can issue me the order. Pat came the reply: Rs.20,000. Without any hesitation and without batting an eyelid I said, Yes I will and I want the payment immediately upon delivery (of course, I was prepared to wait for a day or two). I had won the battle. I lost a sum of Rs.2,500 in the deal but that did not make a big dent to my overall profit for the month in question.

Now coming back to Shafi's issue which I spoke about yesterday. I could have undercut the price by 200 to 300 rupees per machine. I might have ended up losing a couple of thousands. But one has to think of the aftermath in this strategy.

(1) ABC company is regularly purchasing machines and I will end up losing time and again.
(2) ABC company may feel cheated and think that they have been paying a higher price all along (which is not the case).
(3) Think about Shafi. He is already not making much margin in this supply and he will feel sorry.

One should go by the maxim United we stand, divided we fall. We should beware of undercutting, since it is a double edged sword.

But of late we find that in some instances undercutting has gone to ridiculous levels...

Let us see about this tomorrow...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

No time to stand and stare

No time to stand and stare

The poet W.H. Davies wrote:

What is this life, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

We indeed live in a fast world today. Disposable incomes having gone up many of us
have cars which can speedily take us from point A to point B. And yesterday in Chennai
it took me more than an hour-and-a-half to travel a meagre distance of 12 kilometres.

This being so, people really don't have the time. I wonder what Davies would have written
if he were to rewrite the above poem today.

But people have the heart. They may not have the time to put pen on paper and write a letter.
They have the cell phone from which they can quickly send a message.

Recently my friend Shafiullah sent me this message from his cell phone:

Thank u for your support, we have received the order from ABC company.

This one line is sufficient to understand Shafiullah's frame of mind.

Bobby Darin sang: Multiplication, that's the name of the game. But today in a dog-eat-dog
scenario it is undercutting, that's the name of the game.

When I was talking to Shafi sometime back he had told me that he has been receiving regular
orders from ABC company. Soon after this, an official from ABC company rang me up and wanted to know if I could supply them 10 air-conditioners. I wanted ABC company to know and appreciate that the price at which they are buying from Shafi was a very good price and no purpose will be served if they scout around for a better price.

I quoted a higher price than what I thought would be the price at which Shafi supplied. ABC company told me okay and after some hesitation told me that they could not purchase units at a higher price than at which they were already buying. I immediately told them that the price at which they are buying they cannot get anywhere else and that they should continue to buy from Shafi. I also promptly rang up Shafi and told him what had transpired between me and ABC company. The order was saved for Shafi.

Had I been crazy enough to undercut Shafi, what would have happened?

Let us see tomorrow....

Friday, January 6, 2012



Let us first see what the Kural has to say about fair means:

Kural No: 112 says 'seppam udayavan aakam sidhaivindri Echathirkum yemmaapu udaithu'

It means: 'Wealth (children, financial wealth, friends, charity and fame) earned by a person using fair means will protect not only the person but also his future generations.'

Year: 1976

I had joined hands with two of my friends Ranganath and Gopalakrishnan to do air-conditioning and refrigeration business. We had our trials and tribulations - and there were people around to encourage
us to continue.

One such person was Mr. C.V.R. Panikar, IAS officer and his letter sent to us is standing testimony
to such encouragement.

C V R Panikar
19/2 Harrington Road
Madras 600 030

16th Nov 1976

Dear Mr. Ranganathan,

As discussed with you over the telephone, I am herewith sending you a cheque for Rs.300/- (Rupees threee hundred ) as the charges for your services in attempting to repair my "Hotpoint" Refrigerator. The Indian-made thermostat you supplied, for which you had indicated a cost of Rs.185/-, is also returned herewith because the original thermostat is found to be working and the extra one is not really needed.

I trust this settles your outstanding Invoice No.115/76-77/Ser dated 8.8.1976 and is a fair solution of how much to pay for a job which continues to remain incomplete!

Let me also take this opportunity to thank you for your consistent courtesy and helpful attitude despite the many frustrations this particular repair job must have caused you!

Yours faithfully,

Mr. Ranganathan
Kool Kontrols
115-B Mowbrays Road
Madras 600 018

Encl: Crossed cheque drawn on Syndicate Bank B 17 No.467175 dated 16.11.76 for Rs. 300/-

Life moved at the leisurely pace then and people had the time and steno-typist to shoot out such letters.
But then, how do people appreciate now-a-days?

Let us see tomorrow....

Thursday, January 5, 2012



TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch).

In my line of business, I have had occasion to use this adage hundreds of time.

Let us see what advertisers say:


When a customer approaches me and asks me why I should charge for stabilizer when it
is given free elsewhere, I come up with TANSTAAFL.

I explain to them that the cost of the stabilizer is inbuilt in their pricing and it could be termed
as a hidden cost. My pricing gives threadbare the cost of each component and the final pricing arrived at.

In a lighter vein I tell them (particularly the youngsters), I am not your father-in-law to give you something free!

Some years back when people said something was given free, we used to ask them, OK, but what are the strings attached?

But what is even more funny is ads which say:


I always thought that a gift is something which is given free!!

Until tomorrow....

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Vade mecum


This happened many years back. I have been using these reminder pads for a very, very long time. It proves very useful to me in jotting down important phone numbers, addresses , things to do and so on.

Once I was sitting in my friend's house along with a few others over tiffin and coffee. It is then that my friend told me about vade mecum and that it refers to the reminder pad that I always carry. So happened that the evening tiffin was idli and vadai.
So I said, Oh, I see. Now the vadai may come!! We all had a hearty laugh!

For anybody be it a businessman, student or whoever it is good to have one of these always.
It is really useful indeed as I have experienced myself.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Customer's need - and want


Hi everyone!

Have a nice day!

I wanted to tell you something about a customer's need - and his want.
Before I relate my experience in dealing with a customer's need and his want,
let me tell you something even more interesting.

I was curious to know what people tell about needs and wants and I happened
You may want to visit this site - but let me tell you, you need to do it right now!!!

About a month back a young yuppie approached me and his need was for
a two ton and a one-and-a half ton air-conditioner. I explained to him everything
that he needed to know and the sale was closed. Well, almost.

He said that he wanted to come to my showroom and see the units before they are
sent to him. The two ton unit was in packed condition but the one-and-a-half ton unit
was fixed in our showroom.

I for one, never bluff to my customer. I explained to him that the said unit was indeed
a new one and moreover the unit is kept only for display and never actually operated.
Furthermore this unit was fixed in the showroom only a day or two back. I was being
very truthful.

But wait. The customer went home and insisted that he wanted to have a packed unit

I promised the customer that I would get a packed unit from elsewhere and have it
delivered to him. He agreed and so the sale did not slip from my hands.

Lesson learnt by me: Identify a customer's need ........ and his want!!!!

Until tomorrow...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tomatoes and the tale of retail.....

Much is spoken these days about FDI in retail.

In the beginning air-conditioners were sold only by small companies who were
the authorised sales and service dealers of manufacturing companies.

The story is quite different now. You have retailers, retail distributors, wholesale
dealers, multi-brand dealers and so on.

Still being in a small company, many a time customers pose me this question.
But the price quoted by you is much higher than in xxx retail shop. Why so?

And so I tell them the story of tomatoes. You see they buy tomatoes in lorry loads
whereas we buy tomatoes in basket loads. So much so there is bound to be some difference.

The very name retail - has a tail! And is it any wonder that the tail is wagged once in
a while?!!

Until tomorrow....

Sunday, January 1, 2012



First I will talk about my own approach to customer service.

This happened several years back. I was into selling a famous brand of air-conditioners.
A customer of mine (a lady officer from a leading nationalised Bank) purchased an air-conditioner. This air-conditioner was a one ton window model unit of the non-remote type having two knobs.

It so happened that within a few weeks one of the knobs developed a crack and broke. Unfortunately spare knobs were not available and also similar new units were out of stock.
Else I could have purchased another new unit and removed the knob from it to service the customer. The customer got annoyed and she immediately contacted the Chairman's office in Mumbai and created a scene.

The news came to me through proper channel to solve the issue. I have a great passion for customer service and furthermore I am a fan of the particular company. So I explained to her my inability of getting her a knob or another new unit. But I immediately offered to pay back to her from my kitty the entire money (to the last rupee) that she had paid for her unit and take it back. She accepted this offer and to this day our relationship is very cordial! That the said company did not compensate me in this issue is another matter!!

I wish to recall another incident which took place recently in a company to which I was a part-time consultant. This company had supplied a one ton air-conditioner and there was some issue with the unit. The customer had filed a complaint with the consumer court and the company requested us to close the matter. I visited the customer and after going through the details I found that the particular location required a one-and-a-half ton unit. So in order that the customer may be satisfied, I asked my company to replace the one ton unit with a one-and-a-half ton unit. The court case was withdrawn and the company also gave us a new one ton unit as replacement.

Having said this much I wish to recall what I saw in the newspaper (Hindu) about an order issued by the consumer forum (read: court) to a leading manufacturer of Geysers and a leading retailer to pay Rs.10,000 as compensation for causing mental agony and to replace the defective geyser with a new one. The cost of the item in question is only Rs.3,550. This very same retailer has in the very same paper released an ad worth several tens of thousands. I just wonder why the company in question did not replace the item earlier and earned goodwill.

Let us think about this. And so until tomorrow......


I have been in business for over forty years. Over the years I have been through ever
so many trials and tribulations, successes and failures , happy moments and so on.

Since I will be going away from the country for over six months and will be having plenty (more than plenty in fact!) of time, I thought I will share my views and my philosophy of business with you all. I wish to do this on a daily basis as far as possible.

A major part of my business life, I have spent in selling and servicing air-conditioners and it is inevitable and natural that I keep mentioning about the Air-conditioning business. But then there are ever so many things that are common and can be applied to any business.

Today is January 1, 2012. And it is time for resolutions.

I received this wonderful message from my friend Francis Xavier who is a dealer for air-conditioners. Now let us see what he says:

Fresh Hopes, Fresh Plans, Fresh Efforts,
Fresh Feelings, Fresh Commitment,
Welcome with a fresh Attitude.
Cheers, Happy New Year !!!!

Wonderful Xavier!

Fresh Hopes: Man lives on hope. Hope can move mountains. With hope one can achieve anything. Remember Hanumanji? He moved an entire mountain and brought it miles across.

Fresh Plans: Nothing can be achieved without planning. It is often said: Plan you work and work your plan.
How true. Let everyone of us start planning - realistically!!

Fresh Efforts: One must have untiring effort. Can anyone forget Edison? After thousand failed attempts he just said:
"We now know a thousand ways (how) not to build a bulb". How we wish we could put in such untiring effort?

Fresh feelings: Feeling is very close to attitude. I suppose you cannot attain altitude without attitude!!

Fresh commitment: My elder brother greeted me for the new year this morning and he was recollecting how my father used to say that even if you (any one of us) were to be a gardener you should take up your work seriously, be committed and explore ways and means to make it more happier, more purposeful. Alas! This is one trait which I sadly find missing in a majority of the youngsters today. Let us all be more committed towards our work, our family and our world and surroundings (!!!).

Fresh attitude: And may we all have a positive attitude!

Let us resolve this year to strive for the above!!

Once again, Happy New Year.