Why Write?

imageA recent chat with a friend on the subject of writing made me dive deep. The question raised in the discussion was, why am I inclined towards writing at all. And if I am, then what is the form it should take.

In anything we do in life, the first question to be asked is “Why”. Without knowing the purpose, how will we proceed? The bigger the subject on which we raise a “Why” the bigger the need for an answer. So for instance, when the Quaid-e-Azam, in 1934, considered returning to India to lead the Muslim League, his “Why” would have probably been the most important “Muslim Why” of the 20th century. The implications of the answer would reverberate into the lives of a few hundred million people.

Only when the “Why” is decided, can we proceed on to secondary questions. The “What” question first. If our purpose is X, then “What” are we going to do to achieve that purpose. And then only when we have decided the “What” question and know our domain, will we descend into the final question. The “How” question. “How” are we going to achieve that purpose. This is a perennial life and management system and has always been applied by us in managerial roles.

Unfortunately there is a tendency to lose this structure, when taking a personal decision. Perhaps emotions get in the way. So when I suddenly started writing some four years ago, there were no real thoughts behind it. I wrote because I felt the urge to write. Which is fine on its own. But then I went onto a blog and put it up for public consumption. Never did it occur to me to analyse this action and to rationalise it. I was mingling two thoughts. One was a personal need to put it on paper and get that inner morsel out. The second was an aspiration to actually have it read and perhaps acknowledged, appreciated and critiqued also.

This is very different from the person I had known all my life. In the past I had no need for public acknowledgement or recognition. During my Pepsi days, it was part of my job to go to Pakistan cricket matches and give out awards. This momentary flash on television was a problem for me. Therefore, I would always delegate this particular role to some subordinate. Even going on television in business or environment related programs was a problem. My job required me to do it, but I disliked it. So finally five years ago, I consigned it to the rubbish heap and have studiously avoided television exposure since.

Therefore belatedly, today, a Saturday afternoon, I sat down, some four years late (a meh smiley here is appropriate), to decide on the “Why”. The answers I have come to are fairly simple.

I want to write because:-

I feel an urge and in some form I can express myself. This urge is built partially out of frustration on what is going on out there. Its venting! Its a reform wish.

There is a secondary part of me which wants to write on sports. That is driven by a passion for sports and a feeling of self satisfaction that I know so much – a bit smug I think.

These two are the only specific personal reasons to write.

Then why run a blog? Is that not some internal desire for acknowledgement. In the case of sports writing, I suppose, acknowledgement would feed my smugness. But its fairly vague, unformed and not so much of a drive. I am quite happy with the self-knowledge, that I know so much about sports.

Related to the venting part. An out pouring of frustration and it all boils onto paper. At the same time I do not feel I have the authority to reform people. So then, am I seeking acknowledgement? In the end I finally worked out, that I really do want to fulfil a responsibility. But that responsibility only extends to the people “I Know“. It does not go beyond. I want my writing read by these people only, hence a personal blog, which is on my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn account also. But I definitely shy away from being put on a public forum. So I do not want to be on a newspaper, television or a public blog.

Now what do I do with this information? I guess I have to find a method of delivery of my thoughts which satisfies my inner self and also satisfies the audience (small in numbers) who I reach out to.

A pantomime

imageRight at the outset let me apologize for this rant. I do not normally criticise or write negative, but this time around it just felt like I should say something on behalf of the common, harassed and saddened citizens. This ensuing write up, is about a stage show on television, like the many one sees regularly.

So there is this lady and there is a lot of her. Most of it is showing. She is dressed in black and the smile never goes away. Around her are twenty young men and they are all gawking at her. They are all dressed in white. The lady stands out, much as she is supposed to. She epitomises Venus and suddenly she starts cavorting. The twenty flunkies around her cavort back at her. In the background, garish music plays

Suddenly, as the music changes tone, the lady becomes still, the flunkies collapse to the floor, and out bound two scrawny looking break dancers, who somersault (or whatever they call this stuff), and have their thirty seconds in the lights. They are dressed in bright green, also to differentiate them. Shortly, the music changes again, the break dancers bound off and the dead flunkies come to life. The thirty second break has done them much good. They now make a determined effort to grab the lady in black. The lady is lifted by them and she contorts in their hands and her dress comes off, to reveal a still skimpier silver coloured outfit. She smiles throughout and the music becomes a crescendo. Then it comes to a grinding halt. The lady stretches out her arms in ballerina fashion and strikes a pose to convey acclaim.

Down in the audience, the main act on the stage is not the real thing. The front row is packed with famous known faces. Most of these faces are stuck in a Botoxed smile, to be shown to the wider world. Behind the smiles they are bored stiff and thinking what the hell. Another evening uselessly spent. They have spent most of their working lives just doing this and so it comes to them naturally. They are what you may call super stars and therefore any price is worth it. One of them wears a striped pyjama type trouser and a hat (like the Great Gatsby). He has bound on to the stage a couple of times. Its his desperate move to be noticed, as his last couple of movies have bombed at the box-office. Anything to be noticed! They are apparently icons of society, but in reality they are unstable, shallow humans, who have mastered the art of creating a facade.

Why they think they are icons of society, is obvious by the reactions of the fifty odd rows behind them. These are the so called lucky commoners. By hook or by crook these people have obtained entry to this event. Some have sold their souls to get here. Others have used influence and still others have simply bought in by paying exorbitant rates. They feel they have achieved nirvana. Tomorrow they shall boast about being there. Today, they gawk at the bigwigs and try to get close and touch them. Some dance and cavort as the stage-show goes on. Others are whistling, clapping and being altogether star struck.

Its a sight to see, as the ones in the front row smile, look superior and condescending. The objective of thier narrow existence is to be admired. They do not quite realise, that their success depends on these gullible masses in the common rows. They are so used to adulation, that they are convinced they are Gods gift to mankind and will succeed regardless. Its called ego and arrogance. The whole wasteful, ridiculous, repetitive and decadent event goes on, as it has these last dozens of years. Somehow, our masses don’t tire of this idiocy and the great unwashed laps it up one more evening.

Time to shut the television and do something useful.

* picture from blogs.reuters.com

My road-stops to fulfillment

imageRemember how in Star Trek, the older Mr Spock visits his younger version and advises him? That is a luxury not afforded us humans, but if it were, I would go back to myself, maybe forty years, and give a list of ideals. Maybe I might have applied them. Anyway, here they are, for the benefit of those who are curious about such a list.

1. Vision, have a personal goal

If you get in a car and drive without knowing where you are going, you will waste a lot of fuel and time. Know the lighthouse in the far distance, see it, desire it and then let Allah guide you there. Who knows, you might even get there.

2. A value system, be honest to yourself

There is no point in living your one and only life, being someone else. Why exactly are you acting your way through life? So, when you are yourself, then you must have a set of values. Apply them. They are driven by your belief, which then drives your vision. To get to that vision, you need your value system. Hopefully, you will be an optimistic person and have a great value system.

3. Stand by your principles, but it does not have to be a hydrogen bomb decision

Through life you will have to stand behind your principles, which are set by your value system. But, here is a secret. It does not mean that you are forever fighting and beating people. Use the art of persuasion, a sweet mind and tongue. A hydrogen bomb decision is very rare. It should not happen, Allah provides an honest way out, if you desire it.

4. Opportunities are few! Take risks, but don’t need to be rash

Every now and then an opportunity will come whistling by. Do not avoid them. Look them in the eye. Be calm and do not rush. If you absolutely cannot, then let them go. There will be others. But mostly, you will prevail and you should look at it as an adventure and take the risk. A hit rate of 50 per cent is a good figure for a benchmark.

image5. Have fun

This is an absolute must. Life will be very boring and serious otherwise. Even take tough assignments as an adventure and laugh your way through. You can always move on to your next opportunity and its not the end of the world.

6. Have some passions

Definitely! Otherwise one becomes a boring fuddy-duddy. Like your sports, or music or outdoors. Have something to discuss with people other than your work. Please!

7. Don’t take yourself too seriously, better still laugh at yourself

As we become senior, we begin to believe we are a gift to mankind. You are just one breath away from extinction. So chill and laugh. Be human to everyone, they will actually like you. Otherwise in their secret chamber, everytime they see you, they will see an evil looking gorilla. You are better looking than that, so just laugh.

8. Life is not about yourself, think of others

Always think of the effects of your actions. There are people connected to your decisions. They are human. So behave like a human and look after them. Do not be a machine, especially a corporate one.

9. Give time to family and friends, before its too late

My own biggest failure and not surprisingly many CEOs say the same. Travel is the biggest culprit. When your children have stepped out of the door and gone to live life, then its too late to reverse the decision. Travel less; leave work behind when you come home. You can pick it up tomorrow again.

10. Give back as much as you can, you will be happy and content

In the end this world does not belong to us. Its leant to us, to carry to the next generation. Leave much of yourself in this world. Especially in the hearts and minds of people. You will be happier and life will be better fulfilled, based on the goodwill of others.

We all experiment and make errors, but I do wish someone, somewhere had taken a younger me and told me these things. Life would have been easier. In the end we all eventually find our path and culmination, regardless.

*the pictures are from dreamstime.com

The Karachi Moments

imageUnashamedly, for me Karachi has attachments which only happen, when you have spent your early life, memories and emotions in a place. I have written about this before, about how one would go through the art of living daily (https://sarfarazar.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/old-karachi-a-string-of-memories-from-days-gone-by/). But living is not just about eating, playing and being entertained. The soul needs nurturing also. It is this nourishment that I will try and remember here.

My nourishment and the grounding of my insides in the streets of Karachi, has so much to do with the culture and image of the place. Its got into my head and even today, when I look at my hometown, I look at it with a rose tinted glasses. Biased and unreal, but nevertheless, my perception.

Part of that imagery recalls the old, old Karachi. From pre-partition days. Archaic, but the landscape so enticing. The architecture of Elphinstone St and Victoria Rd. Those old style stone buildings. Most are gone now, but they left an impression! One building which survives today is the Karachi Grammar School building in Saddar. Huge thick stone walls, cold as hell in the winter, but the warmth of years and the embrace of history grips one. There was Mereweather Tower. I identified it with the bus conductors call of “Tower!Tower!”. But it was so much grander than a mere tower in reality, and when you saw it, the centuries smiled down from it.

There was Wazir Mansion, Katrak Mansion and a few more. Old, walls of stone, Gothic art mixed with God knows what. To me they smelled of age and richness. The ceilings high, the walls plain white and the ‘roshandaan’ such a characteristic of old days.

There were those old houses in Bath Island. Thick Walls made of stuff (sand and straw), which fascinated one and told such a story of life within. Termites had to be regularly battled on these walls, but they have survived a hundred and fifty years nevertheless. The lawns had these pepal trees. Massive ones, maybe a couple of hundred years old, having dropped their roots all over the place and grown and grown. They reminded me of Buddha and one envisions a holyman sitting under these trees thousands of years ago. Then there were those lovely old style houses, which don’t exist anymore. Why? Because we dont need the evening breeze anymore, nor do security concerns allow it. They would have a courtyard in the middle, and around it a square structure, with a patio all around and rooms behind the patio. The breeze would waft through, but then so could an intruder from outside. So such a structure is gone in today’s world.

A necessary part of those memories are old markets. Empress Market takes precedence. It was truly fit for a queen and inside I remember fondly the parchun walas shop. There were others; fish, vegetables, fruit, meat and chaai. Then there was Bohri Bazaar with its fascinating merchants, pots and pans, shoes and clothes outlets and in the middle of those winding lanes, Capital cinema. Bolton Market, burned down today, but what a place to recall. An old style market structure, with its old building and its old shops, selling many wholesale items. Old Kharadar with its small markets and apartments. Same as Burns Road (Bunz). Those balconies, from which day long women conversed with each other and with the people in the streets and hung baskets on ropes to purchase daily sustenance.

Lastly are the parks. Polo ground, Frere Hall, Jahangir Park, Hill Park, Jheel Park. No walls and children all over the place. Before and after Maghrib. Plenty of cricket and hockey taking place there. Also people having a picnic well into the evening, when it was very dark. No security concerns. But even more fascinating, there was greenery, including grass and trees. Some shrubbery too. Tell you what, I don’t remember seeing a water tanker in my childhood. But the greenery thrived. It means that water pipelines did exactly what they were supposed to do; they delivered water to everyone.

Alas, it all seems like a dream now. My old Karachi.

*the above books were with the compliments of SEED

Management…view from above

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An EFL 10 year Montage

image

imageThe Engro Foods culture records our history in montages, which reduces the need for words, gives you small touch points and is easy to view in later years. With our ten years celebrations, from the day of incorporation – not operations, which started a year later- underway, I thought to create a montage of my memories. This has then gone out in our quarterly internal magazine, Between Us.

My memory stretches back to October 17th, 2005 and some twenty-five people huddled together to set the first vision of EFL, which was about doing it the right way, about opening up rural areas, about Pakistaniat and showing the world we can succeed.

A few months later, a hole in the ground in Sukkur transformed into a dairy factory and milk collection tankers poured in ample milk, much against peoples expectations. Flashbacks of laughing teams sitting around at 3 am at the PNSC office, eating pizza, just before the Olpers launch, are warm memories. Some months later I can remember our celebrations when we hit 150,000 liters a day. Then we launched Tarang. Immediately, we knew this was a success. The Tarang moment! The purple patch moment, which hits one maybe once or twice in your career.

There were those shuddering days in August 2007, when our office burned down and there was an existential threat for a few weeks to a very new organisation. We survived and the threat passed. Three weeks later we had makeshift offices, systems restored and most items back in order by the end of the year.

From then on, life has been one long roll with flash points every now and then. Our launch of ice cream and opening of our farm were tough risky calls in 2009. We have managed them Mashallah. There were tough moments, but both businesses thrive.

2010 brought the awful floods and the EFL teams gave three months of their lives to help the affected in rural areas. It is this Sadqa-e-Jaaria which propelled us to leadership of the liquid dairy industry months later. Just some four and half years after commencement of operations, EFL became leader and it has not been relinquished todate.

The ensuing years have brought ups and downs, but have also rewarded us with the two biggest International Awards in Pakistan’s corporate history. First, the G20 World Top 15 Company Award in 2012, and then the Transformational Company of the World Award from IFC/FT in 2014.

Most, I want to remember the people. One and all who gave their lives, sweat and effort to take this company to where it is today. A phenomenal achievement by a bunch of dedicated, committed and passionate men and women. I have a lot to thank them for. EFL has a lot to thank them for.

In parting, I shall re-quote my last sentence from the speech of Olper’s launch March 2006, to our people.

“When you become old and look back, you will tell your grandchildren, this was the finest thing I did in life and these were my finest hours”. In-sha-Allah.

Bhai Babu

imageAn early morning rise. It was Christmas Day for some; Midnight Mass and early morning services too. For others it was the Quaids birthday. Whatever, it was a National holiday. It allowed one to indulge oneself mid-week , notwithstanding the approaching year end work at the office.

My son was visiting from university and so it was a good time to bond a bit. Once young people are out of the door and have gone to university, they never rightly comeback. So it was good to see him walking around the house early morning. On impulse, I inquired if he wanted to go out for a desi breakfast. And since he too has a sense of the out of the ordinary, so the answer was ‘yes’.

Off we went, my first thought was ‘lets go down to Burns Road (Bunz Rd) for nihari and some rabri’. But sitting in the car we decided to go for halwa puri, as nihari would slow us down for the rest of the day. It boiled down to where to go. Coming out of my old memories, the word Riaz Masjid popped into my mind. My childhood haunt, Tariq Road and the adjacent old Delhi walas society.

Memory is a strange phenomenon. It makes things larger than life. Riaz Masjid, where I had nihari and kebab through the years at Abdul Ghaffar. And where Bhai Babu served his worlds best gulab jamun. They are gulab jamuns to die for. Warm and they melt in the mouth, so syrupy soft they are. Riaz Masjid does not aspire to cleanliness, but it gives the same authentic old Karachi taste and feel. You can migrate back 50 years, to feel and touch a part of the brain locked away forever. This same Bhai Babu has great halwa puri and chana and aaloo saalan. It all made sense, providence desired that I take a trip down memory lane and so, we would go down to Riaz Masjid for breakfast at 6 30 am.

As we drove along, my memory recalled that adjacent to my destination was Sir Syed Rd, PECHS and that I spent my whole childhood till late teens there. It would be good to show my son a type of Karachi, he or youth like him have never seen. A city which had a lot of charm, was friendly, peaceful and had a character of its own. I still see the stamp of the old Karachi, in the individual Karachite. But alas, the individual has been swamped by a wider social cussedness which prevails today.

If you drive early morning in Karachi, it is totally still and quiet. Hardly any traffic. Its strange in a city which has millions of transport vehicles on the road for 18 hours, to go deathly quiet for 4 hours. It reminds one of Wordsworth’s Composed On Westminster Bridge. Anyway, a drive which normally would take 40 minutes was over in about 15.

At Bhai Babu, early in morning, there is not much choice. The halwa, with fat pouring out of it, the two saalans and then the puris. The puris¬†were like magic. Soft and fairly dry, which was extremely unusual. There were also what were called ‘khasta puris’, which are like no other I have eaten. Not made out of regular super refined flour (maaida), but rather out of wholewheat. These are totally different in taste and texture.

So what was the trip about then? The difference was in the old school feel. The culture harks back to the days of yore. The courtesy and language is Delhi of old and has never left the 19th century. Bhai Babu himself was reading an Urdu newspaper. He deigned to ask me a couple of questions on events, probably because he saw someone who was clearly from beyond the local community. My son, back from his university, having seen mainly one tone Karachi, was open eyed. He saw little bits of reality, which hopefully shall teach him about this country of his. Maybe, create that small spot of belonging, to a country and city, which we have all used and abused extensively, and given back little. Driving back home he was less talkative and more introspective. Even his questions seemed to leave the taste of belonging, which cannot be produced coming out of plush, swank dining places, which charge a fortune. Maybe a trip worth taking on a holiday morning, when a warm bed had beckoned. Left me with some happiness and optimism for the rest of the day.

I would recommend a trip to Bhai Babu to all of you, on a holiday morning.

*picture from pakistanifoodspoint.blogspot.com

Namal University – reaches for humanity

imageAs they showed a video about Namal University, a student asked “do I not have a right to proper education, so what that I was born poor”. That is the crux of the matter. In a land made for righteousness, ninety plus percent people can only watch from the outside, while others less deserving waste an opportunity for learning.

Imran Khan met us today at a small brunch and told us his story of Namal University. It was good that he could give thought, time and effort to such a venture, while a major by-election in NA 246 was in the offing. He said, putting Pakistan right has been my mission, but my passion is to make the Namal project successful, so that people can acquire an education. A parallel was drawn with Oxford and Cambridge, where two great universities over centuries set the grounds for the British Empire. This is inspiration indeed! To reach for the stars, while we are all broken, down on the floor.

Two things Imran pointed out in his short speech, which are worth extrapolating on.

In 2002 as Imran was driving in this Mianwalli region, his car broke down. He spent the whole night there and the local people came to tell him that they were poor and could not afford a university. There were none in this region for a hundred kilometers. Imran felt an intense call to help. Something like he had in the years when the Shaukat Khanum Hospital was formed. But his vision went beyond this region to a much larger picture. This university will be a great one, which will educate the poor of all Pakistan. Should they not have equal rights to those born with a silver spoon, who could educate themselves much more easily? He thought of the likes of Oxford and Cambridge as comparison. Why not something like this in the eons ahead. As Imran mentioned, man is Ashraful Maqlooqaat. Where mans mind reaches, Allah has given him the wherewithal to reach that. Unfortunately, the sane and wise ones will always bring sanity and maintain status quo. But actually we need to dream big and believe in our cause. Once you believe, you will always win. One only loses, when we think we have lost (Philosophy which has also served me best in my life).

The second point was as telling. He said that in sixty seven years history of Aitchison College, they have produced just one test cricketer. Despite the best class facilities, comfort and resources. But on the streets of Lahore and Karachi, playing tape ball we have produced plenty of world class cricketers. This is the same story as the poverty stricken footballers of Brazil and Italy. Poverty produces a will, focus and drive as no other can. The same applies in education. The Namal scholars, living a hard life, have already climbed a peak. Their degree results in the first three graduating classes, on comparable standards of the UK universities, have been astounding. These young people are committed and have their heart in uplifting Pakistan. They will be an asset for this country. They can be our future.

Namal University has already arrived. In three years 134 students (mainly from poor families) have graduated and are already working in our country. It is reaching out for humanity. To do this, it needs to expand for the good of this country. This is not about politics, this is about Pakistan. In my capacity as a Pakistani, I testify that I have been involved with Imran Khan’s projects for over two decades. I have always found him honest and dedicated to the bone. Whatever your views about his politics, this is about all of us. Please go on the Namal University site and help monetarily, if you can. Every little bit will assist and bring that visionary future nearer.

The moment is gone

imageIt was the 1996 World Cup Quarters at Bangalore and two older stalwarts of Pakistan, who singly and together had done it so many times, were fighting it out in the middle. They were trying to retrieve a lost game. They failed. As Javed Miandad walked off late in the innings, his very last departure from the international arena, a highly partisan Indian crowd, let him know that his moment was gone.

This happens so often. In my history of following sports and really even watching life, there comes a time when your moment is gone. It actually happens to all of us in life. Just that some recognise it and deal with it, while others fight on desperately, slowly losing this battle, till one day they depart with less than grace. Nevertheless, it is a riveting sight, sad, melancholy and yet, the spectators watching almost one and all are wishing for success to happen again. It would be a great human story. Alas it almost never happens.

The statement which typifies this journey was made about Rod Laver. Master and king of tennis, and dominant for a decade. At 37 in 1973, he was playing the Aussie Open, and the newspaper wrote, ‘Lavers mind was making appointments, which his body simply could not keep’. That is the spectacle. A former king, not recognising his ageing, his mind still forming the visionary pictures, yet his body gives out.

For me the greatest of these stories, was the one of Muhammad Ali. Boxer, brash, believing, crusader and darling of the world, other than the old conservative red necks. He was not simply a boxer, he was the icon of the 60s and 70s and people pinned hopes of revolutions on him. It was the most instantly recognisable face in the world. He did what few ever did. Reached a pinnacle, sacrificed it on a principle, took on the US government, won, came back from the wilderness, and reached the pinnacle again, not once but twice more. No wonder we thought he was invincible. Maybe he believed it also. But, in the background a wasting disease was already working. In the slow decline spread over years, Ali kept trying to climb the pinnacle once more. He got beaten and only then the body gave out enough for him never to return to the ring. It was a terrible spectacle, yet it was fascinating as a human story, played out in front of the worlds billions. Very few of those did not wish him one last success, but this never happened. What a man and what a tragic decline. What a human story.

There have been many others in our sports, in politics and even conquerors in history. Stanley Matthews played football till fifty, losing his magic in the end. Adlai Stevenson fought elections till no one would vote for him. Alexander went on conquering lands till his army gave out on the banks of the Beas. Napoleon fought till he was washed away by the hordes of his retreating army at Waterloo. None of these and others like them grasped that for reasons of age, or of changes in circumstances, or belief, their moment is gone. But, they add fascination, colour and history, in this life of ours and are part of the effect of the nature of life.

So to today. In the sporting world two such stories are being played out nowadays. Roger Federer, king and master of tennis for long, has been struggling for years for that one last big moment. Its has eluded him these many years and so many of us want him to have that. Only nature is matter of fact and has no sympathy or emotion about this. Similarly, in the world of golf, Tiger Woods, revolutionary golfer, has not won a major in seven years. He is desperate and works and enters all the four majors. Yet at almost forty, is his time past? So many want him to have one last big day, before he goes off in the sunset. One hopes that both the above do not descend to the level of ordinary mortals, as they have been kings in their domain for long. Such a sight is generally unbearable. One prays that they have their day in the sun and then fade away gracefully.

To all I would suggest there is a time and space for success and the limelight. Then the moment is gone.

*picture from countermail.com.au

The urge to cut costs

imageRecently, during a dinner with some senior MNC friends, a discussion led to the question of comparing a cost effective model with a growth model. Normally, I do not write about these management questions. Most people do not have any interest in them, whatsoever, and I myself find them very boring. However, in this case, I thought it incumbent to record my learnings, as it may help someone in the future.

Right at the outset, let me declare that I find it amazing that some big management gurus tilt towards cost effectiveness, while in my opinion, cost cutting is only an occasional tool to boost efficiencies (for minimal periods) and can never create sustainability, as compared to a business growth model, which leads to longer term sustenance.

The answer in sums is so simple. Fixed cost will be, say 10% of the total revenues of the company. A substantial saving in these will lead to an overall increase in bottom line by approximately 1% of revenue. A similar growth rate in the overall business revenue, will lead to a 10 % growth in the topline. This will lead to a very significant pass through to the bottom line. That is the essential difference. In one case you are expanding the whole pie, while in the other its just one small slice being improved, while the pie does not expand, infact sometimes contracts.

Nowadays it seems to be a habit though. Most MNCs seem to be restructuring all the time. This is really a code word to control costs and become more efficient. A continuous cost drive takes the edge off creativity and makes people risk averse. Employees are incessantly worried about their jobs, so very little space is left to actually worry about performance. There are other side issues. Uncertainty, while cost is saved, leads to tension and insecurity. This inevitably leads to politics and a lot of in-fighting. The employees forget the purpose of working for the betterment of the company. Very soon, even when the cost has been saved, the company has lost enough sales, so that we are back to square one. The same bottomline! So then this process is applied again and more costs are drawn out of the system, with the same circular reference effect on the sales. The company is actually chasing its tail and we have seen some large companies dwindle into nothing over time.

Gunning for growth is always a positive message. It means more sales, more people working, less per capita costs, greater buoyancy, more people progressing in their careers and general all round happiness. Of course it comes with more risks, as growth is not a given and many times one has to create this growth, sometimes with innovation and change, other times with out of the box thinking.

Fortunately, in almost all my career, I have been in growth situations and only a couple of times has one encountered a cost saving situation. I make no bones about it…once the job was done, my dislike for the organisation led me to leave it at the first available opportunity, as part of a general exodus of many good people. Infact, generally the best performing people find optimistic spaces and are much happier moving from these sort of adverse cost saving situations.

The need to cut costs will surface at times, especially when a business is in trouble, and to save the company and a larger part of the work force, some sacrifices have to be made. In this case cutting cost makes sense for survival sake. But not the way its practised today, for the sake of enhancing bottomline and rewarding shareholders at the cost of employees lives and families. That is a most inhuman form of management. At the same time one is not advocating rampant cost increases here. Its good to be cost conscious and not throw away efficiency. However, that is a mind-set and not the main purpose of the business, which is to sell profitably, make bottom-line, have an engaged work force and happy shareholders. A balanced path!

The picture is from the free picture site dreamstime.com

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