Year 1995- landed a job from college; Godrej Ge Appliances headquartered at Vikhroli- Mumbai. I was scheduled to join in the first week of June, could manage to do so only a week later. My father expired in the last week of May, the cremation happened in Goa and I had to be there for the 13 days of mourning that followed (more on this later).
Upon joining, learnt that I was to go to Guwahati as Executive for washing machines. I spoke with the HR team to check if there was something for me to do in Mumbai itself. I could not leave my mother and two younger brothers given the recent death of my father. Very kindly they agreed to my request and I joined the product development team.
It was during this stint that i learnt a great lesson, which for me has always embodied the Godrej company.
The situation — Mohali plant inauguration. My boss gets a call from the Mohali team around 10:00 a.m. stating that the locally made back drop banner has a serious flaw. The logo had not come out correctly and could he arrange for a banner to be sent across. Some of our department heads were travelling from Mumbai, for the function, on that day. I was deputed to scrounge for a banner from the nearby Maharashtra branch — lord bless them, they had one in absolute pristine condition. By the time I got back to home base, the aforementioned folks had left for the airport.
So now I am told to rush to the airport, catch hold of anyone who I can and get the banner across. This mind you is the pre mobile/pager era (if ever there was a pager era). Off I went, speeding away in an autorickshaw.
Reached the airport, met some airline staff and told them of the situation. Our team was not outside, they had already checked in — I could only guess. The airline staff directed me to the airport security chaps. In my best Marathi, I tried explaining how important it was for the banner to reach the people on the aircraft. Nahi zamnar, Na da, no dice… my entreaties were all useless, got the rule book thrown at me.
I now stand outside the airport, dejected that i could not complete the task at hand, hoping against hope for a break.
And then it happens.
A car draws up near me (if memory serves me right, it was a white Mercedes), the chauffeur springs out, opens the door and a gentleman steps out slowly. While I do recognize the gentleman from photographs, still make sure by asking his name — chauffeur confirms. It is indeed Mr. S.P.Godrej- Chairman of Godrej group of companies. I also remember he being dressed in a simple safari suit and was wearing a black armband.
Mustering all the courage at my disposal, I approached him, introduced myself and checked if was indeed going to Mohali, for the inauguration. He confirmed and then I requested, if would carry the banner as it was quite important that it reached Mohali.
He looks at me and says “Sure, put it in a bag or something”. I rush to some airline counter, get a bag, stuff the banner in it and rush back. Some airline staff arrives to receive him and collects the bag too.
Mission accomplished, I rush to a PCO and call my boss. Excitedly tell him that the banner is off and away to Mohali. He asks “kisko diya” and I say “SPG”. I can still remember the long silence followed by a huge “WHAT” from the other side.
For me this incident has always been about humility and grace. For SPG to accept a banner from a rather disheveled executive, without any hesitation whatsoever, always reminds me that no task is big or small, no matter your position on the corporate ladder. It is people who are big and in case of SPG, giants. He could have refused but did not.
Through this I also learnt that one should always stay the course, opportunities present themselves, it is upto us to grab them when they come our way. I could have chosen to not approach SPG, but I did. Not that I have grabbed every such opportunity, but I am glad I did reach out on this one.
For the lesson learnt, I will always be grateful. In my opinion the Godrejs’ are truly one of the most humble, cultured and sophisticated families that I have encountered in my corporate life. Much respect.
And that’s all I have to say about that.