Karm karo, phal ki iccha nahi – the real test!
Updated: May 8
On a recent article someone commented about one of my awards and that took me back to the early days of my career. Being an extreme introvert, the idea of selling sent shivers down my spine. I have always been a fairly reluctant leader, through school/college I was the class monitor, head girl, games captain, student leader, pushed into the limelight whether I wanted or not. With the passing years, I would remind myself as they raise you up, they will bring you down so don’t bother about all this drama, focus on your goals only. Fortunately, in my formative years, I had great leaders who understood that about me. Ravi Kant had said early on ‘aap karm karo, phal ki iccha nahi, that is my job’. And he followed through, we didn’t have to suck up to anymore, sycophancy was heavily frowned upon, and no allowances were made for your gender, age or any of the superfluous reasons used by other leaders to discriminate against me under the guise of concern. So that became a way of life, just focus on your job, deliver the results, get the grade & promotion, rinse, and repeat.
In 2010, when I landed back in India for the PVBU turnaround, in the early weeks itself I was whisked off to Andheri to present an award. I couldn’t understand the fuss, I was informed you come from Commercial Vehicles, you don’t get cars. Thank God there is no truth to your face getting stuck in the expression you pull, for mine would be frozen to the classic Delna eyeroll. I curtly informed, do what you must for our products, our company, not me. I am off limits. Partners heaved a sigh of relief through their own admission, and we went on to create some amazing clutter breaking work for years. The phal was our sales results.
But a principle is not a principle till it hurts. At one stage, things changed and I was faced with a new manager who sarcastically informed me that our work was of no consequence, where are the awards!? His attitude was a risk to the long term plans I had discussed for the brand turnaround of the entire business unit. I called all my partners, apply for every award and ensure we win on merit, so write the entries well and keep me out of it. And then an avalanche of awards, our work was stellar anyways, evidenced from the fact that we are still the template for many things. I realized that sometimes my personal value system was robbing others of their due recognition, their phal, so while I stayed out of most of it, I encouraged the team and partners to go ahead.
In Dec 2013, I was done with the work environment, the work was easy, the strife within some management not. I walked out, it was a tough decision but I was done, I had anyways intended to build my own business at some stage. The Group leadership stepped in to ask I stay on and complete the work, again the inherent work ethic won & I came back. With the finishing line on brand turnaround in sight, our work got bolder, we had solid products across the range coming in. I set the template up for all launches and started my notice period in Jan 2016. But one more test was due, the world got hit by the Zika virus and we were at the Auto Expo in Feb 2016 with our next 4 products at production / launch stage led by Zica. We took the tough call to change the name of the car. By then I had a panel of smart people I respected across our partner spectrum, the idea to do a crowd source on name was suggested by our Bangalore dealer Prem. I departed from my normal stand and decided to speak myself inviting names from the wider audience, we went viral across the world, it was truly an innovative campaign born out of a tough situation. Our design head and brand head also recorded videos, rest is history, the name changed to Tiago and went on to become a success. The phal was that.
But tests never end, in 2017, I was informed that some of my videos had been deleted, on querying I was informed it was because I had left, which made little sense since it was always brand work. Unofficially it was because they had too many views and was making some managers uncomfortable. I asked for permission to load it on my own website for nostalgia, I was informed I didn’t own the rights. Gosh. Eyeroll, now I know how someone’s contribution gets wiped out of history. But once again, a principle is not a principle till it hurts, I decided to take the high road, never drop your standards. Fortunately, enough well-wishers around to ensure the legacy was respected and the perpetrators faced their own karma. But to me, the phal was in seeing the cars on the road. It is easy to pontificate but if you are truly internally driven then your thoughts, words and actions should be aligned, whether good or bad ;-) We all function in a wider society so it is natural to enjoy the adulation but that is rarely the true phal.