An amazing Gandhian!
Sri Pollachi Mahalingam is fondly known as Chairman for all his employees.
It was 1974 just after my father had passed away and I was employed at Mafatlals,after my MBA.My wife had hust joined me after her M.Sc and we had started our hectic Bombay life@Mulund,opp.John&Johnson!If I miss the 8.05 Bus,I miss the 8.25 Harbour Branch train to Reay Road!That was Life at that Time!
One day Mr.Ashok Rao(now famous Fin consultant in Mumbai,S/O Narayana Rao,another great IT Advisor)who was the Internal Auditor@Mafatlals,asked me:”Suri,wd you like to go to South for a very big Group?”
It never occured to me that I wd ever resign from Mafatlals,in such a short time!
He explained how a very reputed Industrialist wants to recruit a Professional MBA for his Textiles..Ashok tempted me to have a Breakfast with the Industrialist at Taj,the next day.The first impression I had of Sri NM @Taj was unassuming simplicity,all white Dhoti and Kurta in Khadi,he affectionately asked me:”What wd you like to have Iddls or Dosa?”
After discussing with Ashok Rao,he surprised me with a Qn which I never expected,as I hsdnn’t yet been interviewed by him.He asked me:”When do you come and join as a GM for our Textiles?”
I was taken aback as I was still a Mgt Trainee@Mafatlals and which youngster(I was just 28)wdn’t like to become a GM all of a sudden!
After a few days,Ashok persuaded me to resign and go to Madras to take NM’s offer.I told him:”Look,Ashok,I haven’t even got an appointment Ltr on hand!”Ashok replied:”NM’s word is more than ltr or a signed stamp paper!”
On Ashok’s advice,I resigned my post in Mafatlals,packed my things and landed on Oct 1st at Madras.I went to see him@his Villa in St.Mary’s Road around 7:30AM on Oct 2nd.He was about to go for Gandhi Jayanthi Function at Raj Bhavan,when he saw me coming in an Auto.There were atleast 60 to 70 people waiting for him.He asked his Sec Sadasivam to bring me to him.He was so nice to greet me and said politely:”Since I have to hurry to Raj Bhavan,I will see you tomorrow.”He turned to Sadasivam and said:”Pls issue this ltr of appointment as GM Sakthi Textiles,and reimburse his expenses for relocation.Ask that driver with that car belonging to Sakthi Textiles to drop him and henceforth,that car will be his!”
For a raw MBA,trying to start a career,this was something unheard of at that time!When I came back in a car,my wife,who was not too sure ,whether I have done the right thing in resigning a lucrative post in Mafatlalswithout an appointment ltr,this was a pleasant surprise.
Sri NM treated me so well since that time,he used to take me to all big companies like Madras Fertilizers,where he was the Chairman.
He,being a well respected Businessman of Tamilnadu,had taken Sri R.K.Shanmugam Chettiar’s(First Fin Minister of India)huge Bungalow,with gardens and Italian marbles everywhere in Race Course Road,next to Stanes,in Coimbatore,as Sakthi Guest House.There were only 5 suites with an excellent kitchen,run by Kandhappan and naturally,these 5 suites were always booked for either state or Central Ministers!To my surprise,whenever I visited Coimbatore,there was a standing instruction to the Manager,Mohan,to accomodate me somehow,even if a Minister had to be denied a Suite..I didn’t know what made him treat me like his own son!
There was a small problem in his Sakthi Textiles unit@Pollachi durring 75..the Emergency period.He had a special sentimental attachment to this unit as this was the First unit started by him!There were nearly 2000 workers with 9 Labour Unions.The unit was closed for a while due to continuous labour problem.He asked me to go there and help him to revive the unit!
When I came to take charge of the unit along with his son in law Sri Krishna Raja Vanavarayar as MD,I cdn’t imagine the type of mess the unit was under.Thanks to the total support of Vanavarayar and NM,bit by bit I made this unit the most profitable in entire Coimbatore area.This was possible by cooperation of all including the workers.When we declared a Bonus of 33.33%,the highest in SIMA(out of230Mills)the workers cdn’t believe this.
Pls see the ltr given to me by the Intuc Union and also the blog on that:Unforgettable Deepavali
This was possible only because the Chairman and Vanavarayar gave me a Free hand.
I had seen at that time how even reputed Groups like TVS,Simpsons,LMW,were most conservative in their approach,whereas,every GM in Sakthi Group had such a Free hand,that it was unthinkable in a closely held Family Organisation!
Tho’ they treated me very well and tho’ I was highly respected in that entire region,a lucrative offer from Nigeria,tempted me to Resign from Sakthi Group.
But I have always thanked Sri NM for elevating me to a level,unthinkable in those days!
When Sri NM was awarded a Padma Bhushan in 2007,I went and garlanded him at his St.Mary’s road Villa.He not only appreciated the poem”An Experiment with Truth” and asked his Sec,Ravindran to place it on his table.
Next month I promptly received this Kissan World in which he had published it in the Centre Page!
For me Sri NM is as great a boss as JRD!
They were more Human than most others in their approach!
About NM,Chairman of Rs7200 Cr Sakthi Group of Cos:
Sri NM,known as Chairman for all his employees,is one of the True Gandhian,in Independent India,who 1)Never utters a Lie2)Never wears any dress,other than Khadi3)Pure Vegetarian,who was responsible for Intl Conference on World Veg Conference4)A Chess Genius,who sponsored Chess Champions like Manuel Aaron at a Time,when none knew about this game5)A True Disciple of Vallalar,but for whom Vallalar wd not have been made known to the rest of the World6)A True Vallal-none who goes to him for any social cause returned ever,empty handed7)A very very simple,approachable Human ,in the Truest sense of the Word,who conducts Gandhi Vallalar Vizha for Decades from Oct2nd .God decided to take him to the Heavens on this Oct2nd!May his soul rest in Peace!