Category Archives: slice of life

The Last word

The after-effects of the Chaos (1, 2 & 3) were not very clear. The life proceeded in the usual way – same apathy, same fool-hardiness, and same dis-interest. The chaos did not usher in any major transformation – positive or negative, except that CEO’s over-confidence seemed to have died down a bit. Again, I can’t say this for sure as I am not privy to all facts on what exactly happened in the closed-door meeting with the Chairman. I am also not aware what transpired in the various meetings organized between CEO and VP and chaired by the Director. The CEO stopped discussing anything about his displeasure with VP and the Cartel. This may be either due to his complete hopelessness of the situation or due to his complete loss of trust on everybody, including me. One thing was unchanged. He kept glued to his “saviour” – the tea-drinking director.

Initially, the VP was seen as victor, as the CEO was not allowed to perform the axing act on the former. The Chairman brokered an uneasy truce wherein both CEO and VP were told to stay in their respective domains. It was inscrutable how can VP show insubordination on CEO and how the group management went soft on VP.

The Director made a structural change whereby the purchasing function was taken away from VP and given to CEO. VP did not take this lightly. He registered his protest openly in a mail addressed to the Director and copied to all and sundry in the company. The Director and CEO rushed to the factory the next day and it was learnt that there was meeting organized in the Hotel where the Director stayed. No details were known of that meeting. This was strange, considering that over-all the staff never shies away from gossip and murmurs.

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Was the cartel really hand-in-glove with VP in his revolt against CEO? What was the tea-drinking Director thinking about the whole episode? Was he the real orchestrator of the chaos behind the screens? How would one explain the fact that the unionization of the cartel and the VP did not concern the group management? There are several unanswered questions!!! I have no hopes finding an answer to these. Even if I find it in a future date, I know the answers will be so stale that these will have no usefulness to me or anyone else. So why attempt to get all answers behind the events?

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When I read back my version of Chaos, it did not make any sense to me. There were too many gaps. There were many discordant notes in it. For the first time in life, I understood that what we see and hear is not really objective. Most of what I said, I realize came from my own surmises and biases. I did try to sound as objective as possible and wanted to re-produce what I saw and heard, but in the end, each word sounded more like personal interpretations. So in order to interpret and understand the events fully, one needs to be above the personalities involved and transcend the events.

Re-telling of any events is only an interpretation of the narrator. Any event is narrated on first person basis. The first-person oriented narration and the interpretation of events is never going to be accurate, as the characters and their motivations and perspectives are too many to be fathomed by one person in full.

The story writing is easier, as it is fully in the imagination of the story writer. Realistic events, when re-told and narrated, should not carry too much of objectivity if the events have to sound interesting. If objectivity is ever attempted without any first person point of view, while narrating the slice of reality, it just turns out to be vague and tasteless.

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My efforts on business front were going strong for the past 4-5 months. I was more confident this time when I presented sales budget for Rs 60 Million. Half the business was already secured. The stress of failing on my sales targets was not there in my mind this time. First year in a new company is always tough. While intellect accepts it, the mind still goes through the stress. Was so much stress necessary? Meeting the target was to have anyway been difficult despite getting stressed or not. So why stress at all? Peacefully and ceaselessly putting the effort without much fuss and stress was the only way. Like a seed, the effort grows into a fruit bearing tree over a period of time. So the stress was totally unnecessary……the insight this time is more experiential. So hopefully this will be ingrained in the psyche for a long time to come.

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“There are no facts, only interpretations.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

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The Chaos – 3

“I am very busy today. I need to wait for the chairman’s call on my intercom, so I can’t really get up from my seat whole day today”

 “Hope the chairman does not call me today between 3.00 pm to 4.30 pm when Rahukal will be on”

 “I have been told to wait until 9pm this saturday…he will call me for a personal meeting”

 “I have asked the telecom guys to divert the incoming calls to my office intercom on to my mobile phone…so in this way I need not always sit in the chamber while waiting for the call of the chairman”

 Such dialogues kept sprouting from CEO’s mouth for more than a week. I did sense the frustration and helplessness which most of the times quickly transformed into anger. He was always in an irritable mood, but, at the same time, tried his level best to be in convivial mood. Most of the times, anger got the better of him. He started having very less official interactions with the factory.

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The ants had become completely silent these days. VN (the ants’ leader) and his colleagues were very increasingly becoming worried and stressed due to the tug-of-war between VP and CEO. VN has always been obliging both sides with free information. While CEO thought that VN is loyal to him, the recent episodes of leaking of information to the factory have made CEO very alert. So these days the ants have been on the receiving end of CEO’s anger.

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There was an overseas customer visit. VP usually accompanies B if the customer meeting happens in the office. This time, I learned, that VP had been told not to come. Only B came. is VP being kept away from sales and marketing? if true, this is a positive development.

Another pleasant surprise was in store!. I was also called to join the meeting with the customer. I did provide security to B by talking minimally in the meeting. Later in the evening, I was told to come to the party on that evening, planned for the visiting customer.

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Then finally, the expected call came. CEO was told to meet the Chairman, but not alone, but along with the VP. VP came down from the factory the next day. CEO read the Hanuman Chalisa (a devotional verse on Lord Hanuman) more than once. Before going for the meeting, the VP called me to discuss about some unfinished, ongoing tasks. For the first time (since the day of joining), he started the conversation with “Good afternoon..hope you are getting quick replies from the factory these days….if there is anything pending, please bring into my attention”. Surprises’ Galore! There was a flavour of love and affection in his voice.

why is the change? does he want me on his side? or is it a reaction out of fear that CEO may win the war? Or is it the showing-off of quite confidence that he will emerge stronger from this shake-up ?

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There were many rumours around what happened in the mega meeting. I had no way of knowing the facts. Two main players involved – CEO and VP – had differing versions. Obviously, no one can go and ask to other two participants – (tea drinking) Director and the chairman. Let me only present those which I think were facts or near facts (at the time of writing this) :-

(1)     The purchasing manager was told to continue reporting on buying decisions to VP. So CEO’s attempts to influence purchasing decisions in a big way have failed.

(2)     The proposed tour of CEO to USA and the Latin America was cancelled without any clear reasoning.

(3)     I started getting frequent phone calls from the VP and the conversations are becoming more and more cordial

(4)     The Ants have less and less interactions these days with me.

(5)     The Cartel’s reaction to Chaos is yet unknown.

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 When I met the CEO on the subsequent day to the meeting with the Chairman, his body language was diffident. He did not reveal any details about the “big” meeting. I did not want to look inquisitive. It was within my functional domain to ask about his cancellation of the proposed trip to US. His answer was very evasive. It went something like this – “tongues will wag if I travel now…already the impression is that I just travel overseas for the heck of it….whatever work started have to be finished…so let me give it a miss this time… “  The sentences he uttered had everything in it – disppointment, agony, anger and revenge feeling  – except of course the coherence, which was missing. Licking his wounds?

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 chaos

noun
chaoses, plural

  1. Complete disorder and confusion
  2. Behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions

 

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The Chaos – 2

The big Noodles brand confirmed a big business with us. It took weeks of arduous efforts and follow-ups to close this business. We had to go through several rounds of sampling and our guys could not get it right. Just at the point it appeared that the customer is losing interest, somehow by miracle, the production manager submitted the right sample! I must thank my stars.

The big business did not enthuse many. The day the business got confirmed, I contacted the VP to tell about it and to ask to him start production. He just blasted me on phone “sitting in the office, you create confusion….I need to be told 3 months in advance about new orders….you don’t give me any plan…and suddenly call one day and say that the business is booked”. I had no clue what he was trying to say. Does he not want to execute the business? Or is his jealousy over my success speaking?

CEO got very much excited. He was excited so much that he called all and sundry in the factory to work on this order, except VP. Why was CEO avoiding to talk to VP?

The Director congratulated me for this business, but then also instructed me that I should make sure that the order is executed without hiccups. So I was advised that I should ‘sit on the head” of the VP on daily basis. CEO’s lack of communication with the VP and the Director’s strange instruction did hint at something.

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On a Sunday, CEO spoke to me on Phone from somewhere from Sonipat. He said to me that he was on a survey accompanied by the supplier RNC. On Monday, when he met me he talked like Sherlock Homes. He proudly boasted that he has discovered a scam being authored by VP in collaboration with the Purchasing Manager.

The company had entered into a purchase contract with a farmer in Sonipat area for supply of some raw material. RNC (the supplier) got to know from his sources that the person whom we have contracted with is not a farmer, he is actually a trader. On hearing this from RNC, CEO suspected something fishy and decided to travel to the area himself. His investigations have led him to believe that VP and Purchasing Manager are getting a cut from the trader cum farmer. CEO said that he is in possession of some documentary evidence to corroborate his finding.

Soon there were murmurs all around of imminent disciplinary action on VP. I wondered how everyone in the organization is in the know of it. I always thought such things are done in total discretion, since there is a senior manager is involved. While having lunch with one of the ants, I learned CEO had boasted of his investigative skills to everyone in the office. Factory guys do have a couple of eyes and ears in the office in the form of Ants. It must not have taken much time for this rumour to reach VP’s ears.

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In one of my daily morning meetings, CEO told me that he is going to meet the Chairman (The man who owns the company!) in the next few days to brief about VP’s activities and get sanction to remove him. Can’t the Director himself give him that sanction? I asked him. The reply was: If anyone above the Manager level is to be dismissed, the Chairman’s formal approval is required.

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Next few days, CEO did not turn up. He was hospitalized for some stomach related ailment.

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On one of the days when CEO was in hospital, VP came to corporate office unannounced. I heard later (from the Ants) that he had an audience with the Chairman along with one of the Cartel Members. The information was that the Chairman had met with VP for 30 mts and listened to his grouses against CEO’s style of working. It is also alleged that a dossier was handed over to the Chairman, listing the ‘mis-deeds’ of CEO. It was not clear if he had complained against the Director.

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The CEO who was recuperating returned to office and went into a huddle with the Director. What transpired from then on is not very clear.

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CEO did not call me to his chamber for morning meetings for a few days. Whatever I wanted to discuss with him on business matters were all done over phone. His Secretary mentioned to me that he has sought time with the chairman, but he has not got time. The CEO kept waiting for the Chairman’s appointment.

The Chaos – 1

Since last one year, the CEO and Director were backing a particular supplier whom they want to see emerging as a strategic supplier. The duo have been trying in several ways and methods to push through this supplier. But due to unknown reasons, this supplier always met with resistance from the cartel, VP and the purchasing manager.  The operations’ guys went on finding one problem or the other in his supplies. Invariably, on each episode CEO and Director intervened to resolve the issues in favour of the supplier. Let us call this supplier RNC.

The recent case was that he supplied poor quality raw material to a toll processing location.  The toll processor refused to accept any responsibility as the material was supplied by us and our QA representatives were present in the location.

RNC vehemently refused to accept this allegation. His argument was that the rejection was notified to him only after 24 hours of supply. The Raw material being perishable in nature, the rejections have to be informed then and there, as the suppliers’ representative was present on the point of supply. RNC alleged that our QA representative informed him on phone as well as to his representative in person that material is good and he is clearing the material. But the next day morning the Purchase Manager called him on phone to inform that raw material had yellow spots, so the end product is also having yellow spots.

RNC said that after the trucks reached the toll processing unit on that particular day, he immediately called the Purchasing Manager on phone and asked if everything is in order. The Purchasing manager informed him the trucks had arrived  but he was waiting for QA’s clearance. RNC alleged that he again called up the purchasing manager after sometime and asked him “is everything in order?” to which the purchasing manager alleged to have replied “yes, all is well, no problem”. RNC further alleged that he did not receive any call until the next day morning to be told that 12 tonnes of raw material were of bad quality.

Purchasing manager told that he informed 12 tonnes rejection on the same day evening, but RNC refused to take back the goods and seemed to have uttered a few expletives during the phone call. Because RNC’s outburst, the Purchasing manager did not take further calls from RNC. As the material will get spoiled fully if not processed, the operations’ team decided to use up the raw material despite the yellow spot problem. So out of the total material produced at the toll processor’s facilities, around 12-15 tonnes are sub-standard and may not be accepted by the customers. This made butterflies fly in my stomach, made me wonder for a few minutes how I would be able to dispose of this 12-15 tonnes. After 5-6 months, these operational goof-ups would be forgotten, and the poor sales guy would be under guillotine for not being able to dispose of the material.

To me, many of the arguments and the counter-arguments put forward by RNC’s side and the Operations’ side did not tally in full.

Isn’t the raw material quality inspection a serious matter? isn’t it prudent that any quality deviation especially during a stage when it can be avoided be disposed off through appropriate and prompt action as quickly as possible? Why the delay in communicating to the party? Even if it was informed the same day evening as claimed by the purchasing manager, it was still not acceptable.

From the sketchy narration by both sides reveal that our guys forgot the standard operating procedures and RNC has no clue how a professional supplier will resolve such stalemate. RNC like a crying child, complained about all these to CEO and the Director. Both felt that some kind of injustice is being meted out to this fledgling supplier.

The director in his concluding remarks found blame with VP who had become dormant when these incidents were unfolding. The director also voiced the suspicion that the toll processor may have also played dirty in it, as his own production was also going on simultaneously with that of ours in his factory. The director said that we should have agreed for toll processing arrangement with the party only with the condition that our production will take place exclusively on the days he does not do his own production.

The points exchanged seemed to have contained subtle overtone. An indifferent observer could make out easily that the  CEO / Director combination was trying to nail down the VP for his omissions and commissions. They seemed to be in search of subtle clues of collusion between Purchasing Manager and VP. Throughout the meeting, VP was a man of few words. He wanted to emit the perception that he was not handling this and it was being managed entirely by Purchasing Manager and the other Cartel members.

Purchasing Manager was a glib talker. But one can’t help sensing rehearsed quality in his words. I think that for normal human beings, it is very difficult to stay unemotional when allegations are flying left, right and centre.

RNC got emotional many times, at times so emotional that he swore on kids that he was not lying. The purchasing manager to me appeared a bit guarded and appeared unmoved by RNC’s allusion of him lying.

The meeting ended a bit inconclusive. Both RNC and the Purchasing Manager were asked to shake hands. VP appeared nonchalant. I did not fail to notice that he ate very little during the joint lunch that we had after the meeting.

Visit to the Far East

We took a flight from Delhi to Tokyo. I accompanied my senior colleagues on a trip to the Far east. They were eligible to travel by business class.

In economy class, the space was very economical. I kept rising from the seat often to search for more space to sit. My fellow passenger was a fat German. The German was transiting to USA via Tokyo after touring India for vacation. Although he was sitting in his own seat, his large frame with its gigantic features made me feel more claustrophobic. His hairy side-arm kept touching mine unintentionally.

Upon arrival in Narita airport, my colleagues seemingly appeared very impatient. Being business class travelers, their luggage arrived earlier than mine. Before I could come out of green channel, my colleagues had already exchanged currency. As soon as we came out of the terminal, the CEO without any fore-thought got into a taxi. The meter in the taxi was moving faster than the vehicle itself. When we reached the hotel in Central Tokyo, it had reached a mammoth figure. CEO shrewdly got out of the cab as soon as the Hotel Doorman opened the taxi doors. I was looking at the Director’s face. He hesitantly took out his wallet and grudgingly paid the money.

While checking-in, I realized that the tariff per night was exceeding my daily allowance by 25%. To my horror, the breakfast in the morning would cost extra. My colleagues had no such discomfiture as their daily allowance is larger and they also entail for entertainment allowance. Next day morning, we were to visit a trade fair. I was waiting in the lobby for the colleagues by around 9.00 AM. These gentlemen majestically arrived and announced their intention to have breakfast before venturing out. I said to them I would skip the breakfast as it is very expensive. They didn’t wink their eyes. “OK. Wait for us and we shall come back soon after having break-fast”.

We stayed in that particular hotel for 4 nights. Luckily CEO had bought local train tickets for me when we were on the move. I was skipping break-fast daily. I did not have a proper dinner too. My colleagues too were not having dinners. The Director had brought some preserved and over-spiced snacks from India and was savoring them. I did not see what CEO was doing for dinner. Perhaps, he might be moving out of his room after I and Director retire in our respective rooms. I had no mood to eaves-drop on him, as I tried to get sleep early every night so that I didn’t have to hear the rumbling sounds in my stomach.

In the second leg of the tour, we arrived in Osaka. Fortunately the hotel tariff was less than what I paid in Tokyo. This gave me the luxury of buying some break-fast items in a close-by convenience shop. Every day evening, I used to buy some fruits / yoghurt / Fruit juice etc…and was having them in my hotel room in the next day morning. My colleagues continued to have break-fast in the hotel itself and gladly shelled out extra charges applicable for breakfast.

In an afternoon, we were returning from a business meeting in Kobe and the Director suggested going to Hiroshima on a Shinkan-sen – a network of high-speed trains popularly known as Bullet Trains. We checked out the fares in the ticket machines. Each trip one way cost almost USD 110 per head. Director gave me some currency and told me to buy two tickets one-way for him and the CEO. When I handed over the change and the tickets, the Director asked “I am sure you will find your way back to the Hotel”. They did not return until late-night. When I met them in the lobby the next day, they narrated how they got into a wrong train due to language problem and had to buy fare difference. After coming back to Shin-Osaka station, they again got lost as they took a wrong Sub-way line. After struggling for a while, they had to take a cab to the hotel. Needless to say, all these resulted in extra expenses to them.

The third leg of the tour took us to Seoul in South Korea. I wisely took a spot decision as soon as we reached the Hotel. Like in Tokyo, we had been booked into an expensive hotel in Seoul too. I told CEO that I would like to find a cheaper hotel nearby. CEO tried to discourage me, but I persisted on it. The concierge in the Hotel where I was originally booked immediately got me a reservation in another hotel in proximity and costing 40% cheaper. I regret not taking such an initiative in Tokyo also. After all, we have to take personal responsibility for our own well-being. It is no use blaming others for our lack of well-being.

On the last day, my colleagues were on a shopping spree. Both guys were bent on exhausting all their daily allowance by buying Cosmetics, Luxury brand of belt, an expensive chain containing Amethyst stone, Long winter over-coat, an expensive tie, etc., CEO had a shortage of USD 35 when paying for the long over-coat that he purchased. He insisted that I lend (not sure if it is lending…as I have no hope of getting back this sum from him….) him US $ 35/-. The Director also was short of USD 10 while purchasing chocolates in Incheon airport. Generously, I lent US $ 10 to the Director too. From sleeping hungry in a Tokyo hotel to lending money to colleagues (who draw higher allowances) in Seoul….I have come a long way in this trip.

The Laptop Story

Things do change constantly, although it may seem that there is hardly any change. Drastic changes happen very rarely. But gradual, unnoticeable changes do keep occurring. We need to own superior perceptive skills to study the patterns to really notice the changes.

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Year back when I started working for this company, I had nagged so much about getting a used, dilapidated laptop for my official use. It was a dinosaur. When I made noises about it, the company permitted me to make some repairs. Although some minor repairs were carried out, I was working on the laptop grudgingly.

Subsequently, when I saw my colleagues (including B) working on older PCs, I mellowed down a bit and stopped cribbing about using the laptop given to me.

Many years ago, I had come across following lines of anonymous author being quoted in one of the books of Dale Carnegie :-

I had Blues
Because I had no shoes
until I met a man in the street
who had no feet.

After 2-3 months of using the laptop, the TFT screen started showing a white line, signifying the imminent collapse of the monitor. I chose to ignore it and continued to use the machine without grumbling.

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In the last couple of weeks, the business was developing quite nicely. I booked two strategic businesses – with the colour extracting company and the instant noodle company. Finalising both these businesses brought a lot of joy to me – not just because I overcome a long stint of rough weather, but also because I could employ the valuable insights on deal making which I gathered during my long, unsuccessful times.

I have now started expending my energies now on executing these two businesses without any hitch. Booking the business is only a half-victory; the success will be savoured fully only after successful implementation.

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of late, insertion of the network cord in to my laptop was becoming  a task. For a week or so, I had struggled for 20-30 mts to fix the chord. One day, I gave up trying to insert the chord. I inserted portable mobile internet card instead. Using mobile internet card on a daily basis may not be economical and the next bill will show myself using the Data Card during office hours.

I approached the IT guys to resolve the problem.

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IT Manager spoke to me – “This is going to be expensive to repair it. To correct the network chord slot, we need to change the entire mother board. Your TFT monitor is well on the way to become dysfunctional. Replacing monitor also will cost a bomb. It is better to order a new lap top which will come at the same cost of repairing. I am sending a note to you on this.”

CEO surprisingly approved the budget for new laptop immediately. As I am writing this, the order for new laptop may have been placed by now.

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The Mindless Game

Strategy is the word we freely use. Strategy as I have seen in my work situations always allude to personal strategy. Because the company as a whole does not have any strategy of its own.  Individual strategy most of the times than not always turns into mind games. While strategy ideally aims for a collective and positive goal, mind games always have selfish motives behind them.

I get terribly frustrated  when the possible deals are lost because of seniors’ indecision. CEO’s constant refusal to take positions has now become infamous in the organisation. VP will take decisions when his self-interest is served. If it is a deal that involves my effort, VP would do everything possible to mis-guide the cartel and CEO, so that pricing, terms etc will be made very stiff.  

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The Colour Extracting company had approached us sometime back for some material. While we had the facilities to do this product, we have never produced it commercially. So the pricing was worked out based on theoretical assumptions.

The purchasing manager of the Colour-extracting company is a good-looking and attractive female. I had met with her once in their office. There was a big gap between their price bid and our quote. I was convinced that our pricing is high because the finance manager must have used his imagination to work it out on a higher side  and the diffident operations managers also would have given their safest figures to the finance manager. If we do a trial production, we could get proper cost observations to work out a realistic price. I didn’t think that CEO would order the factory to do a trial production and to re-evaluate the realistic input-output ratio. 

I thought it was up to me to do something that will trigger events toward this end. I entered the Director’s cabin unannounced. He uncovered his face by keeping the newspaper he was reading on the desk and said “yes?”. I gave brief background and mentioned to him “This customer has a long-term potential. We should take a strategic view and do a small trial even though we may incur costs. Then only we will know what is the achievable costing for this product”. He asked “have you discussed it with CEO?”. I said “yes..but…” I wondered for a second what to say. Without waiting for my answer any further, he said “ok. let me see”

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After two days, I learnt that the trial production was being organised in the factory. CEO did not mention about it to me directly. “Strategy” worked!

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Trial production threw up a surprise to me. We got the same yield that we had calculated in the original costing. How to bridge the price expectations? By this time, I had committed myself so much to this particular business opportunity. I did something which in normal circumstances I would have never done. I proposed to the Purchasing Manager of the colour-extracting company to visit our office and meet with the CEO for final price discussion. While my suggestion sounded very casual and business like, there was a silent intention behind it.  CEO would start ogling at the Purchasing Manager and may try to agree to do the business at a realistic price somewhere close to the customer’s bid.  If I was to deal with this alone, then the profit expectation of 25-30% would remain intact and I would not be allowed to budge at all. The boss behaved exactly as expected – full of show-off, flirty talks, indecent humour, etc. In one stroke, he offered a counter-bid (closer to the customer’s bid) which was accepted immediately. The woman became weary at the end of the meeting. When I saw her off in the gate, she muttered “your boss is very weird”.

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The contract was received in the subsequent week.

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My personal strategy did work. But  there was an unintended  implication too. The purchasing lady gave me a phone call on a saturday. “I am sorry but I have to tell you this. Your boss keeps stalking through smses. My business card did contain my mobile number in it. I did reply him rudely on a couple of occasions, but he is not stopping….I am really sorry that I am talking to you about this…I know you cant do anything in this case….” I uttered some inrrelevant but kind words. My heart knew I sounded fake.