MY GURUS

Dr.N.V.R.Nathan

nvrnathan@gmail.com

GURU BRAHMA GURU VISHNU GURU DEVO MAHESWARAHA

GURU SAKSHA PARA BRAHMA THISMAYI SRI GURUVE NAMAHA!

On the guru Purnima day I want to thank all my GURUS for making me whatever I am today in terms of Learning & Knowledge that I have acquired in various different forms. Each of these GURU had his or her own style and Individuality that helped me to have diversity of knowledge.

My First GURU was my sister Dr. Vijaya Basavanna whom I used to fondly call Vijayakka, I was just 8 year old when she decided to take me under her care along with my sister  susheela who was 14 Years. My parents shifted to a place called GOOTY in Andhra Pradesh where my elder brother was working with railways. My sister was working at JSS Primary school then as the headmistress at Saraswathipuram Mysore. She was also the hostel warden and we stayed on the school campus itself.  She was a very determined person who continued to study through externally her Bachelor in Education and later did her MA, MEd and finally her PhD. I was brought up by my sister Dr. Vijaya Basavanna like her own son. She wanted me to be mentally strong and manage myself in all situation and always encouraged me to be adventurous. My inspiration to continue education throughout was because of her that I managed to complete my PhD. Unfortunately I lost her in a Karnataka Express accident at Lalithpur near Jhansi on 18th April 1988 when she was travelling to Delhi to receive a National Award. She was a legendary inspiration to many at JSS Institution itself. She was responsible to create the JSS School in Banashankari, Bangalore and also JSS Public school.

My second GURU happened to be TAXI KUMAR who was our neighbour when I was studying 8th standard in Mysore at Saraswathipuram. During the summer holidays, I was not knowing how to use my time gainfully, when my neighbour TAXI KUMAR who used to run a Bakery near our house and also Multitasking with running a Milk Agency and Newspaper Vending. He in his early days used to own a Taxi and was very popular with his clients for his art of storytelling. His cliental included persons like film stars like Ashwath, Popular singer like MLV and M.S.Subbalakshmi. A most charming person and good conversationalist. He fell sick during summer when I was desperately looking to do something and I volunteered to deliver MILK & NEWSPAPER to 67 clients of his. My morning began at 4.30Am to get up have bath, do Pooja and report to TAXI KUMAR at 5 AM. My daily routine started at 5 Am in the morning cycling to 67 houses to deliver milk bottles (1970 when milk came in half litre bottles). Followed by newspaper from 7 Am to 8 Am to 45 houses. I started earning Rs80 per month and I begged him to allow me to do this on a regular basis.  Mr. Kumar was my first GURU who thought me the art of conversation with customers and I also learnt observing his interaction at the Bakery with all his customers. I realised that SALESMANSHIP is an ART. I observed how he interacted with intellectuals, young kids, rural folks etc. He was advisor, Philosopher, Guide and friend to many including me.

My third GURU was Siddaiah our head waiter at the Bar & Restaurant where I took up my first full time Job as waiter soon after my matriculation due to family commitment soon after my father’s demise. A classmate of mine helped me get this job through his brother who was CA and managed the Bar & Restaurant Accounts. The Hotel was owned by a coorgi family Mr. Subbaiah & his brother-in-law Mr.Madappa who gave me a job. Siddaiah was in his late 40’s and had been working at Highland Hotel in Gandhi Square (Now Shilpa Bar & Restaurant) in Mysore. Siddaiah taught me how to wear the waiter head gear (Similar to Mysore Turban) and the white full sleeves shirt & Trouser. I was his understudy for one week serving his existing customer, learning how to set the table, fork, spoons, glass etc.  The understudy training included understanding customer tastes & preference of liquor, snacks & food and how to serve them on plate. After a week I was initially allocated two tables to attend and after 2 months 2 more tables were assigned to me as my graduation gift. I learnt from Siddaiah art of conversation with customers, enquiring theirs & their family welfare, memorising their likes & dislikes, going to kitchen and telling the Chef how the customer chicken should be prepared, quantity of spice, roast etc. Siddaiah taught me how to do target on Chicken, Mutton & sizzlers and we used to have meeting every day to split the targets. Every day next morning we used to have another meeting evaluating performance of each waiter.

My Fourth GURU was Prahalad Singh Area Manager of Hindustan Pencil (HP) who gave me break as a salesman to sell HP Stationeries like Natraj Pencils, Apasara Pencils, Omega Instrument box, erasers etc. The distributor for HP were Ahuja Enterprises managed by Raj Ahuja a very handsome & kind person. Prahalad Singh used to be our regular customer at Highland Hotel and never liked me working at 16 years of age in a bar. For over six months he convinced me to follow him to Bangalore and work under his guidance as a sales representative. One fine day I met my employer Mr. Subbaiah & Mr.Madappa and told them I wanted to try to be a salesman. They wished me well and agreed to relieve me with assurance that, if I find the job difficult, I can always come back. But Prahalad Singh was a great GURU and took me around Bangalore locality by Locality, shop to shop and taught me how to book orders for stationeries. In about 2 months I gained confidence and in 6 months almost mastered the art of salesmanship. I had a colleague named raffeq who also helped me in my pursuit of excellence.

My sister Vijayakka got me admission at Vijaya Evening College in Bangalore, South End, which ignited my mind that I can Earn & Learn. In two years I was a star Sales representative and earned good incentives and laurel. When I was just doing great, I was in for a shock since HP went on a lockout and I had to look for another job. But working as a representative I made several friends and one such friend Mr.Raghotham Rao helped me to get interviewed with Sharp edge Limited sister concern of Hindustan Lever Limited who were manufactures of Erasmic Brand Shaving Blade & Razors.

I met my fifth GURU Mr. Alfred Fredrick Napoli (A.F.Napoli) who was Regional Manager of Sharp edge Ltd and was the toughest boss known as Napoleon of Marketing. I soon realised selling blades was not as easy as selling stationeries for two reason, Erasmic was not the number one brand and Malhotra were brand leaders making Panama & Ashoka Blade, second reason Erasmic was an expensive premium brand of Blade. I almost decided to get back to selling stationeries when one day my 5th Guru A.F.Napoli came to Bangalore to check how I was doing? He came shop to shop with me and showed how personal relationship can help in selling and how to innovate on selling ideas. End of the day we sat down for a cup of tea and snacks when I was almost in tears and told him I would like to quit. He put his hand on my shoulder and assured that I need to be determined and have a daily target and further break it down to shop wise target to enable me to achieve my daily targets, this is what Siddaiah had taught me as a waiter and how could I forget. Over a period of three months I reached a level of confidence, that I CAN DO IT. In the next six months I had very good support from my supervisor and Mr. A.F.Napoli that made me earn my first award as the “Baby of the Team” at age of I was youngest salesman in the Hindustan Lever Group and earned good reputation. The next two years I consecutively won annual award for the BEST SALESMAN. My GURU quit the company and Joined Detergents India Ltd as Sales Manager and gave me the first break to get into middle management as Area Manager.

I spent the next 17 years in Retail steadily reaching the level of Regional Manager with a downstream project of Reliance Industries Limited. Also by this time I had completed my MA in Economics and decided to do my MBA from IGNOU.

My sixth GURU was A.R.Suresh who happened to be my brother-in-law. We shared a good relationship and were wanting to do MBA together. He was an Engineer and very good in Mathematics and I was very bad at it. MBA entrance exam had 40% pure mathematical questions and Suresh taught me some thumb rule in solving specifically problems related to calculations on speed & distance covered. With his help I cleared the entrance exam and together we worked on Assignments as well as preparation for exams. He was also responsible to teach me statistics which again was GREEK to me. Suresh & me are more good friends than being a relative.

My Seventh GURU is also known as GURU OF RETAILING IN INDIA Mr.B.S.Nagesh. As General Manager of Shoppers Stop I had the unique experience and privilege of learning from a most passionate person in RETAIL the detail in Retail. He also inspired to write the Training Manual for the Retail Trainees along with Brigetta George who was the HR head at Shoppers Stop. This manual became a obsession to me and later when I joined National Institute of Fashion Technology as a Director, I continued to teach retail to undergraduate of all five stream at NIFT. The manual finally was fine-tuned and I authored the first Customer Sales Associate Handbook for Trainers published by TATA McGraw-Hill along with a student of mine Dhwani Swaminarayan who became my Co-Author. I was fortunate to have my GURU B.S.Nagesh to pen the foreword for the book.

My Eight GURU happens to be Mr.B.P.Acharya, IAS who is currently Special Chief Secretary and Director General-MCRHRDI at Hyderabad. During my tenure as Director of NIFT at Hyderabad, he motivated and inspired me to work for the welfare of the Handloom Weavers and this passion also gave me an opportunity to work under his leadership in revival of APCO the apex cooperative of Handloom in Andhra Pradesh. This was one of the most envied position I held and worked with a great TEAM at NIFT who supported me do some extraordinary things in Apparel sector including some ultimate consultancy in design and development. Mr. Acharya’s Guidance and support helped me bring National Apparel Summit to Hyderabad in 2003 which gave me a grand exit to my TERM as Director along with one of its Kind Fashion Show of the best Designers of all 7 NIFT centres at one place at Marriot Hotel in Hyderabad.

My ninth ultimate GURU happened to be legendary person Dr. Abdul P Kalam who choose me to be the founder Director of India 2020 Centre for Leadership & Societal Transformation which pioneered to create 4 PURA’s (Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas). My life completed a full circle from WAITER TO DIRECTOR. My life achieved some meaning working under his guidance and vision as to how to transform life of rural people with little planning and proper networking to create training platform that can generate employment. I continue to keep doing this and in the last one decade Trained & Placed over 2,50,000 youths in 17 states in India in over 9 different sectors and setting up 384 Training centres.

My tenth GURU happens to be Mr.R.C.M.Reddy who heads IL&FS now who gave me a major break to work on Skill Development. He gave me a free hand to experiment and conceptualise Apparel Training for training of Sewing Machine Operators (SMO). First we travelled to Hong Kong, China, Srilanka, Cambodia etc and studied best practices and later created a path breaking SMO Training for 4 weeks which today has become a standard in the Industry and gave rise to Ministry of Textiles to adopt this process for skill development for the Apparel Sector. IL&FS-CDI was the first to structure a systematic Training Manual and create Audio Visual for Sewing Machine Operators in different Languages courtesy Mr.RCM Reddy who was passionate about it. Padmashri.Shaktivel who gave Philip Knit wear manufacturers in Tirupur through his leadership lent his support to IL&FS-CDI as the Chairman of the skill development body.  At IL&FS-CDI our TEAM created over 85 Training Facilities and for the first time opportunity was provided to experienced production supervisors to become entrepreneurs by partnering with IL&FS to set up Training centres.

The journey continues and I am in search of the 11th GURU. Learning is a continuous JOURNEY.

LIFE IS A BLUE SAPPHIRE

All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am being born 9th in family of ten siblings and a clear case of too many to deal with.

Being born in a middle class family with limited choices. We lived in Mysore the princely state and my parents always played hosts to many guests in our very spacious house in old agrahara which happened to come to us by my grandfather’s legacy. Also as part of his legacy came 5 acres of cultivating land in Belagola at the foot of the KRS Dam. Our monthly ration of paddy came from this land and enough to take care of our large family and also the guests. However good things don’t last long if we do not provide for the rainy day and with my two sister’s wedding my parents had to do away with the land and the house to meet the expenses.

I was brought up by my sister Vijayalakshmi who had no children and brought me up like her own. She was a very practical women who always said we need to write our own future and not go by the term “Fate decides our Future”. She prepared me to be tough and while studying my eight class she allowed me help one of our neighbor to distribute milk and newspaper in the morning when the elderly gentleman fell sick. I found my first Sapphire in my life learning from my neighbor how to work without dignity of labour. My daily routine started at 5 Am in the morning cycling to 67 houses to deliver milk bottles (1970 when milk came in half litre bottles). Followed by newspaper from 7 Am to 8 Am to 45 houses. I started earning my pocket money at the age of 13, at my age of 15 I lost my father and my mother came to live with us and also another two sisters and a brother who were in college.  I managed to study up to class 10 and then had to make a choice to take a job to support my family with the understanding that I will get back to study once my brother completes his graduation and finds a job. I landed a job as a waiter in a bar & restaurant in Gandhi square in Mysore. I had to use my classmate’s brother’s recommendation to get this job. The true color of my sapphire surfaced in the bar which was lit with dim blue & red lights to create the desired ambience. I earned a salary of Rs 170 per month plus food twice a day and tips from serving customers which varied from Rs8 to 15 a day depending on the magnanimity of my customers. I used to walk 5 km to my house every night to save my TIPS and gave to my mother to buy daily groceries to cook for the family. My sister Vijayalakshmi was transferred to Bangalore and we were left for ourselves to fend for paying even the Rs130 House rent every month. She used to send money order of Rs100 every month to my mother as her contribution. Being born in a Brahmin orthodox family I could never tell my family that I worked in a Bar & Restaurant and served non vegetarian food and cleaned the table of bones and bites. My first big lesson in life “As long as I earn honestly, nothing is bad”.

The bar at the age of 15 is definitely not the right place for a career, but no other job would give me such facility as free food twice a day, Rs 170 every month and monthly variable earning of Rs 300 plus in 1973. The bar is also place where good and bad people come and go and test our patience and perseverance. Some have sad stories and some have advice to offer, some bad mouth and use choicest of foul language and some time I needed a dictionary to understand what it meant. As I grew up in this environment my sapphire was getting polished to become shinier. I started to believe that my life beyond this Bar is a fiction and reality is I may end up at the most as a steward in my career. Just when I decided to relegate my life to this reality I found a well-wisher in a regular customer who used to come from Bangalore. His name was Prahalad Singh and worked as area manager for Hindustan Pencil. He was not happy for me to be working in a bar in my teenage and offered to give me a job at Bangalore to sell stationeries of Hindustan Pencils. I grabbed this opportunity to land in Bangalore and stay with my sister Vijayalakshmi who was very happy. She was headmistress of JSS School in Jayanagar while she went to evening college to study for MEd . She inspired me to enroll for my Pre-University at Vijaya Evening College. I found new friends and new opportunity to redeem my life to a better standard. I cycled every day from locality to locality to book orders for my distributor almost 30 to 40 Kms every day and emerged to be a successful salesman to land myself a Job with Hindustan Levers the GEM among consumer product companies that molded me to become a perfect sapphire among salesman which brought me several awards and accolades while I continued my studies simultaneously. My career took me to several different places, several different job descriptions selling Soaps ,Detergents, Shaving Blades, Selling space for newspapers to potential advertisers, Synthetic water storage tanks and finally Garments & Apparel as General Manager of Shoppers Stop.

I got married to a very positive life partner USHA at an age of 21, she managed my finances and family while allowing me to pursue my passion for studies because of which by correspondence I completed my MA in Economics from Mysore University and My MBA from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). Post my job at Shoppers Stop I went on to become the Director of National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) at Hyderabad and later Chennai. My journey from WAITER to DIRECTOR was a very tough and hard Journey but Sapphire is not easily found and goes through grueling stages to perfection and so did my life. But in my journey from poverty to redemption in life I lost my wife USHA in 2010 to undiagnosed disease by best of three medical hospitals in Bangalore who saw us as only as ATM cards and experimented with all diagnostic tests and equipment’s and were still clueless about the ailment. In 2012 I met Suman Appachu and commenced my second innings of life. Once again Suman has instilled in me the confidence to do all over again and pursue my passion for skilling of youths. In the last 15 years I have trained and placed over 2 Lakh youths in the Industry such as Apparel, Textiles, Retail, Healthcare, Automobile etc In 2017 October I we were blessed with a beautiful princes who we call as LIYAANA.

All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am being able to shrug the past to pursue a meaningful future and not relegate myself to fate but write for myself my future. How blue is my sapphire depends on how many gems I have trained and placed them in Industry. Life is not fiction it is full of ACTION. We have two choices to make either be a part of the ACTION or be a spectator to the Action.