It was mid 1987 when I met Dr. Arun Vakil at Bayer India. He told me that I should consider working for an association. My reaction was that there is no meaningful work being done by people working at these associations. They cyclostyle and dispatch circulars to concerned members or stakeholders, there was no fun, excitement or job satisfaction. Dr. Vakil explained to me that there was a need for young people to look for career in associations, since normally retired people with limited aspirations join NGOs and associations, and fail to deliver or raise the bar. It had a huge potential if contributed well. Arunbhai said that while corporate may give a vertical growth, associations would provide huge opportunity to grow horizontally. He challenged me to take up an assignment at the Indo-American Society (IAS) — a bilateral socio-cultural organisation, and assured me that I would not regret my decision. I believed in him and plunged.
I started as Assistant Secretary. We had a very small team — a Secretary, an accountant and 3–4 glorified peons. Working at IAS was a turning point in my life. My decision based on the trust in the advice of Dr. Vakil truly changed my personality, my outlook and…my life.
We, at IAS were organising Management and Personality Development programmes. In August 1988, Mr. H.K.Shah who was chairing the Academic council at IAS introduced me to Mr. Suresh Lulla, Managing Director of Qimpro Consultants, and the Indian affiliate of world renowned Juran Institute, USA. (https://www.qimpro.com) We discussed about organizing seminars on “Quality” to be conducted by Mr. Lulla. We launched the series on 14th December 1988 at The Roof Top, Oberoi Towers (Now Trident at Nariman Point). Over 50+ CXOs from all over India and multiple industry verticals participated. The event was a huge success and set a new way of thinking about quality as propagated by Dr. J.M.Juran. Till then Quality was discussed among “The Quality Circles” at the workforce level. Mr. Lulla highlighted and emphasized that Quality should be the concern at the Boardroom level and should percolate down in the company.
After this mega success, we planned another one for mid-level managers, “Making Quality Happen” on 15th February 1989 at Hotel Leela Kempinski. We started preparing for the seminar by creating the brochure content, newspaper advertisement, artworks etc. In those days, the advertising agency would prepare the design and copy on the photo-paper, and would cover it with butter paper on which the client would do corrections in the copy.
It was 17th January 1989. I had very limited experience of proofreading and did my best when I got the copy of the advertisement to be released the next day in newspapers to promote / market the seminar. I looked at the copy carefully and made corrections based on my limited ability and exposure. But I was having immense confidence in my boss who had 35+ years of experience working with the editorial team of SPAN magazine. I took the proofed copy to him. He had a look and approved sending the same to Mr. Lulla for his review and approval. The peon delivered the corrected proof copy at The Sindhu House, Nanabhai Lane which was not too far from Kitab Mahal where IAS is located.
In next five minutes, my desk phone rang. It was Mr. Suresh Lulla on the other side. Normally Mr. Lulla is a very quiet and soft-spoken gentleman. But the voice I heard was quite stern and filled with anger. He said, “Rajiv, if this is the way you want to handle “Quality” seminars then consider this to be the last one. I am not going to work with you and IAS any further.” Those two minutes of conversation seemed never ending….my hand was shivering, my ears were red, I could not gather why Mr. Lulla was so angry…I did not argue but pleaded and said “Sir, I am coming and meeting you.” I kept the phone and ran to Qimpro’s office.
By the time I reached, Mr. Lulla’s angry demeanour had passed, and he was calm as always. I asked nervously “Sir, what happened?” He smiled with light dimples on his cheeks, and said, “Rajiv, I know it is not your fault entirely, I was not angry on you. You are trying your best and helping in order to promote the seminars. But I must tell you, if you want to grow personally and professionally, there should be a “ZERO LEVEL of Compromise” in the way you do things. The “Chalega” attitude will shunt your growth.”
We had tea together as I carried the advertisement copy back and assured him to re-work the content and layout.
As I left Qimpro and started walking down the stairs, Mr. Lulla came to see me off till the door. I was a changed person. I felt new energy, new perspective and renewed way of life. Mr. Lulla’s anger was long forgotten and I was filled with gratitude towards him for the lesson he taught me that was befitting the title of the seminar, Making Quality Happen.
From that day till now, I call myself as NRQ — a non-resident Qimpro and in my mobile, Mr. Lulla’s number is saved as “Daddy”. I keep telling him on every 17th January when I call him to seek his blessings, that “Sir, though I was born many years ago, professionally I was born on the 17th January 1989. Today is my birthday”………………….- yes, I called him today as well.
I am truly blessed to have some amazing people in my life. Dr. Arun Vakil was one, who always treated me as his younger brother and guided me at every step . And thanks to him, I could meet Mr. Suresh Lulla, my ‘daddy’ at IAS.
जो आप को “चैलेंज” कर सकते हैं,
वो ही आप को “चेंज” कर सकते हैं l
Jo aap ko “Challenge” kar sakte hain
wohi aap ko “change” kar sakate hain.
Those who can “challenge” you
are the ones who can “change” you.
1 thought on “Birth of a Professional in Me.”