Apr. 30th, 2010

It has been festival season for the media - scandals unfolding one after the other and the headlines writing themselves:
- A first-time MP and minister with enviable credentials falling victim to the temptations that seem to inevitably accompany political power in this country
- the country's newest addiction,IPL cricket,losing its sheen while its bosses are being dragged in muddy waters of deception and dishonesty;
- an officer at the embassy passing information to Pakistan handlers as her way of teaching her arrogant bosses a lesson;
- the party in power making deals with corrupt politicians (is there another kind in this country) just to win a cut motion.
I am sure there is more in today's papers. When you feel you have heard the worst, they lower the bar a little more and your watch in shock as your jaw keeps dropping to your foot.It seems that money and power don't go hand-in-hand with humanity and compassion, right? wrong. This is a story someone sent me by e-mail today.

Tatas, a legacy.

After what happened at the Taj Hotel on 26/11, what Ratan Tata, the current CEO of the Tata Group and his team did is what this post is all about. All category of employees including those who had completed even 1 day as casuals were treated as being on duty during the time that the hotel was closed. Relief and assistance was extended to all those who were injured and killed during the attack. Relief and assistance was extended to all those who died at the railway station surroundings, just behind the Taj, including the “Pav- Bha jiâ” vendor and the paan shop owners. During the time that the hotel was closed, full salaries were sent by money order to all employees who were at home.

A psychiatric cell was established in collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences to counsel those who needed such help. The thoughts and anxieties going on in people’s minds were constantly tracked and where needed psychological help provided. Employee outreach centers were opened where all help, food, water, sanitation, first aid and counseling was provided. 1600 employees were covered by this facility. Every employee was assigned to one mentor and it was that person’s responsibility to act as a “single window” clearance for any help that the person required. Ratan Tata personally visited the families of all the 80 employees who in some manner “either through injury or getting killed“were affected.

The dependents of the employees were flown from outside Mumbai to Mumbai and taken care of in terms of ensuring mental assurance and peace. They were all accommodated in Hotel President for 3 weeks. Ratan Tata himself asked the families and dependents as to what they wanted him to do. In a record time of 20 days, a new trust was created by the Tata’s for the purpose of relief of employees.
What is unique is that even the other people, the railway employees, the police staff, the pedestrians who had nothing to do with Tata’s were covered by compensation. Each one of them was provided subsistence allowance of Rs. 10K per month for 6 months.

A 4 year old granddaughter of a vendor got 4 bullets in her and only one was removed in the Government hospital. She was taken to Bombay hospital and a fortune was spent by the Tata’s on her to ensure full recovery. New hand carts were provided to several vendors who lost their carts. The Tata’s will take responsibility for the education of 46 children of the victims of the terror. This was the most trying period in the life of the organization. Senior managers including Ratan Tata were visiting funeral to funeral over the 3 days that were most horrible.

The settlement for every deceased member ranged from Rs. 36 to 85 lacs [One lakh rupees translate to approx 2200 US $] in addition to the following benefits:
Full last salary for life for the family and dependents;
Complete responsibility of education of children and dependents anywhere in the world.
Full Medical facility for the whole family and dependents for rest of their lives.
All loans and advances were waived off irrespective of the amount.
Counselor facility at Tata’s cost for life for each person

How was such passion created among the employees? How and why did they behave the way they did? The organization is clear that it is not something that someone can take credit for. It is not some training and development that created such behavior. If someone suggests that everyone laughs. It has to do with the DNA of the organization, with the way Tata culture exists and above all with the situation that prevailed that time. The organization has always been telling that customers and guests are #1 priority. The hotel business was started by Jamshedji Tata when he was insulted in one of the British hotels and not allowed to stay there.

He created several institutions which later became icons of progress, culture and modernity. IISc is one such institute. He was told by the rulers that time that he can acquire land for IISc to the extent he could fence the same. He could afford fencing for only 400 acres.

When the HR function hesitatingly made the very high cost proposal to Ratan he asked “do you think we are doing enough?”

Wow, what a man! While it is indeed true that it is impossible to put a value on the lives of people who lost it during the terror attack, it takes a real leader and a good human being to react the way he did. Especially in today's world.

I must admit that I have not actually confirmed the details with anyone directly involved but whoever I asked had this to say: "Knowing the Tatas, it is bound to be true"! People did not say "Ratan Tata" - they said 'The Tatas'. It is not about the individual or his glory. It is about the organization and its culture. That is how great institutions are built.

And that is the way one pays homage to one's mentor - by continuing his legacy, by continuing his vision and by living by his principles and ideals. Not just by erecting statues and by naming streets after him and totally forgetting what he stood for.
Now I understand why so many of the employees stayed 'on duty' during the attack putting the safety of their guests above their own even to the point of laying down their lives.
Now I understand why the name of Tatas evokes such respect in the minds of people and such commitment among the people who work for them.

In the midst of all the depressing developments of the past weeks, this is truly inspiring news. It would be nice if our politicians would start by asking the question "are we doing enough?' rather than 'are we making enough?'

1.) The co-captains of the Time Bandit from Deadliest Catch doing a Geico commercial...

2.) Meeting with my bariatric surgeon today. I respect her as a doctor and surgeon, and thats pretty unusual for me. We "got" each other and that was aaaaaaaaaaallright!
I have one meeting a month with her for 6 months and then I can have my surgery.
As a surgeon I have decided on the sleeve gastrectomy via laproscopy.

3.) I saw a pheasant, an egret, a red tail hawk and several hummingbirds today!
The pheasant was an unusual sighting. I didn't realize we had them in California.
I saw a flock of cedar waxwings last week, also a non-normal bird for this region.
(Global climate change is messing up the migration patterns.)


Apr. 30th, 2010 01:42 am

What Would Jesus Buy?
Crazy, weird and wonderful! Can I get a hallelujah!
Anti-consumerist street theatre. Awesome.

Kudiyon Ka Hai Zamaana
Pacing was irregular and I didn't like a single character.
Had the inimitable Rekha and Vasundhara Das, but it still couldn't be saved!

The Red Carpet: Bangalore stories
Really, really good.
Lavanya Sankaran is an impressively talented young writer.



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