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29 January 2017

TVS Iyengar: Story of an inspiration...

I am currently doing a project for TVS group in Chennai. The group has HO in Chennai and has offices in other parts of country including Madurai. 

Selvakumar is an accountant with the group and he works out of Madurai. He is a third generation TVSian (or is it TVSser? I am not sure). His grandfather used to work with TVS Group when it was founded by Mr.Sundaram Iyengar. His father followed and now Selva is also working with the group for the last 24 years. In fact many of the people I met are second or third generation employees, especially in Madurai.

Selva is a storehouse of knowledge about the group. I asked him to give me some nuggets into the group.

TVS group was founded by TV Sundaram Iyengar who trained as a Lawyer and worked in a bank, before quitting working to start his business. He originally started his business as a timber merchant in Palakkad district of Kerala. He later moved to Madurai and started a Cycle Repairing unit. When General Motors wanted to enter India, he took the pan India dealership of GM. 

During second world war there was acute scarcity of Petrol. Mr.Iyengar designed a gas powered bus and started running the bus for public transport.

He also set up the first Public Road Transport network in India. The buses were known for their punctuality. It is said that the temples on the route will do their morning pujas based on the horn sounded by TVS Buses plying in their area.

TVS buses did not allow any standing passengers. The buses were frequent and hence that was not a problem for the passengers. 

He also started a logistics business through a company called Southern Roadways Limited which later became TVS Logistics (I think).

TVS group is currently being run by third generation Iyengars. Most of the employees are also third generation employees like Selva.

This is an employee friendly group and has many amenities for employees like Schools for Employees Children, Hospital (both inpatient and outpatient), Houses that can be purchased by the employee based on 100% low interest rate loan provided by the company etc. Hence the turnover is very low.

The story of Mr.Iyengar is fascinating. Every time he saw a problem he took steps. When petrol was scarce, he ran his buses on gas, started the public transport system known for their punctuality etc.

He also took part in the Independence Movement and was a close associate of Rajaji.

For marriage purposes, employment in TVS group company is like US Visa. Just as US Visa removes the need for local vetting by Visa authorities in many countries, a TVS Employment means that the boy is of high calibre. Boy belongs to the TVS Family and that is it. No more vetting is required. This a tremendous honour for the TVS Family. 

Truly great man, Mr.Iyengar. I salute you for all that you have done for the country.

22 January 2017

Has India been ignored in Davos?

This article by Tavleen Singh in today's Indian Express makes me very unhappy. Indian economy was growing at over 7.6% per annum and now where are we? Standing in ATM and Bank queues for withdrawing our own cash. I am afraid that demonetization is inflicting long term damage on the Indian Economy. A reversal in economic growth is not something to be taken lightly. It changes people's expectations and behaviours. Also, one generation may suffer due to a few years of degrowth.

I am reminded of Mr.Pan whom I met in China in 2002. Pan spoke excellent English, but was working as a cab driver in the company that I was visiting. I asked him why it was that, he, one who can speak good English, is working as a cab driver, when China desperately needed English Skills. His answer was eye opener. He graduated in English Literature in 1975 when the 'Gang of Four' was ruling China. They branded English as 'unpatriotic' and barred any companies from recruiting English Literature Graduates. This policy continued for over 10 years during which Pan and his batchmates decided to pursue other occupations. But they were branded as 'Anti National' because they learned English and no one was ready to give him a job. Finally, he learned Car Driving in desperation and has been working in this job for over 15 years...
The point is, two years is a long time in the lives of people. A reversal in their fortunes due to ill thought out public policies could put them on the path to an irreversible loss of quality of life.
This is the implication of even one or two years of degrowth, especially if that was due to badly planned and executed policy. Confidence in the government can take long time to come back...

08 January 2017

Budget Conundrum...

"Should the Budget be presented on Feb 1?", I asked MEMEHIF.
Remember MEMEHIF? I had introduced him to you sometime ago as My Engineer MBA Educated Highly Intelligent Friend. He has views on everything, this friend of mine.
Since this is the issue that seem to be bothering the country now, I wanted to know what he thought about this.
"No, of course not", MEMEHIF was quick and emphatic in his reply, "Government has unleashed demonetization on the country and we are going through a pain. With elections in key states coming up, a budget just before elections will only give this government an opportunity to announce some soaps to the electorates in these states that will tilt the election in their favour. After all Pranabda postponed the Budget in 2012 when elections were announced in UP."
"But people say that at that time India was going through some crisis and postponement of budget helped government avoid some tough decisions prior to the elections. That is not the case now. Economy is growing. At this time postponing the budget means other parts of the country will have to wait for UP Elections to be over. That is not fair on the country", I pointed out.
"But BJP had asked for postponement of the budget then?", MEMEHIF pointed out.
"Are you saying that any time state elections are announced, the budget should be postponed?", I asked
"Yes, of course. Budget gives an unnecessary advantage to the party in power", replied MEMEHIF.
"This is a vast country. At any point in time there will be elections to some states or other. Which means that some of the Central Governmental actions will always be at the mercy of some state elections.". I said
"So what?", replied MEMEHIF, "Heaven will not fall if budget is postponed. Haven't we managed for 70 years now?", he responded
"I think that you are making a case for combined election. Let us have State and Central elections together. That way we can avoid the confusion and constitutional crises. Are you saying that?"
"No, no, no, no....", MEMEHIF's reply was quick and vehement, "I am not saying that. Don't put words into my mouth. Single election to the state and centre will only give absolute power to the party in power. That is not a good thing. We need the checks and balances that we are having now"
"Let me understand this. On the one hand you are saying that Budget should not be presented since state elections are announced. You are ok with the ensuing crisis and the obvious lack of fairness of that action on the rest of the country. On the other hand, you are rejecting the obvious solution to the issue, vis. having a single election to both Centre and State Governments. Am I correct?", I asked
"Yes, I guess you are", replied a sheepish MEMEHIF
P is for Paradox...