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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Why I Will Not Sue Rahul Gandhi for Stealing my Speech


Why I Will Not Sue Rahul Gandhi for Stealing my Speech

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Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, 09 April, 2013

Copyright © Dr. Seshadri Kumar.  All Rights Reserved.

For other articles by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, please visit http://www.leftbrainwave.com

You can reach me on twitter @KumarSeshadri.

Disclaimer: All the opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of Dr. Seshadri Kumar alone and should not be construed to mean the opinions of any other person or organization, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the article.

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I was watching the TV last week on some goings-on at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) summit, notably the presence of our young Yuvraaj (heir-apparent) at the CII.  That reminded me of an interaction I had in a previous company I used to work in, not too long back ago.  Watching Rahul Gandhi on TV, I thought that was me speaking on screen, and that my presentation at my old company had been recorded secretly and was being telecast!! 

So, without further ado, let me tell you about my exciting interaction with my colleagues, years ago.  Judge for yourself if this is a straight lift or not.

My CEO had asked me to give a presentation to everyone in the company on my division’s performance and help everyone understand how we could all do things better.  Following are some excerpts from the interaction...I saved a transcript of the speech at the time because I was so proud of it.  Now it looks like I had good reason to be proud of it.

Introduction

Dr. Kumar will talk to us about how we can succeed in this company, based on his experience in our company and his understanding of the challenges facing our company in this challenging environment.  In particular, our competitors are aggressively innovating, adopting new and more efficient sytems; the world’s economies are in a downward spiral and so there is less money to go around; being lean and still being profitable is a huge challenge.  Europe’s spending is rapidly going down, so we need to tap the Indian and Chinese markets to sell our products effectively.  All of these challenges need to be addressed, and we are hoping Dr. Kumar can help us see some light in this regard.  Please welcome Dr. Kumar!

My Speech of a Lifetime

What an Honor!

Thank you very much!  It’s an honor for me to be here today.  And I’ll tell you why it’s an honor.  These days, we think of our organization as a chemical company.  But if you go back 50 years, 100 years, you think of our company as rivers – rivers of sulphuric and nitric acid, streams of naphtha, petroleum, natural gas, chorine, bromine, fluorine.  Everything we make is based on those rivers.

And now, we have gone way beyond that.  We have built products, chemical structures, with energy and force, and you are the people who are telling the world about it.  And that’s why it’s an honor to be here talking to you.  We had rivers of chemicals, now we have rivers of products, and by that I mean rivers of energy, rivers of force – and you are giving those rivers of force to the people – I mean forces of rivers – I mean energies of forces – or was it energies of chemicals? ... sorry, I lost it.

When I joined this company 10 years ago, nobody knew about it.  It was absolutely unknown, even though it was founded by my great-grandfather and then managed successively by my grandmother and my father for 50 years.  People said to me, “what company is that?”  But now people know us!  So thank you!  Thank you for raising our company from the mess and wilderness that our founders, my great-grandfather and his colleagues, and those who followed him, like my grandmother and my father, and his colleagues, including many of you, left it in.  Like I said, that’s why it is an honor to address you.

Suresh the Plumber, or...??

I want to start off by telling you a real-life story.  I was coming to Mumbai from Dehradun via the Dehradun Express, and I met Suresh the plumber.  I asked Suresh why he was coming to Mumbai, and he said he didn’t know.  I asked him, did he know where he was going to work when he came to Mumbai?  He said yes, he was going to come to our company here and get a job.  I said, do you have a job offer from our company? He said, no.  We continued talking on the train and by the time we arrived in Mumbai – for the next 40 hours – and they call it an express – ha ha – isn’t that funny? -  I had really gotten to know Suresh the stenographer very well by now.  We went to his home in Mumbai, which was a 6x10 hut in Bandra, and he offered me tea.  Yes, tea!!!  In a 6x10 home!  That’s the kind of people we have in this country!!  I asked him how he was confident that he could get a job in our company when he didn’t even have an offer.  He said, hey, you work there, right?  How hard can it be then?  So, boss, that is the power of our company that I see!  The idea that we are seen as an employer for one and all – this diversity is our strength!

I want to talk about diversity rather than company performance for three reasons here.  One, it is easier than talking about company performance, which I know sucks right now.  Two, man doesn’t live by money alone!  Three, as Warren Buffet said, “Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”

Boss, what is important is that a Dalit like Suresh the accountant, who I met in the Dehradun express, has the same opportunities as people from other communities in our company.  Because if we don’t have that plurality, that diversity, our company will never be strong, and if it is not strong, we cannot get great results in the future.  I know we can.  We may not have them today, but I have faith in you.  I have faith in this company.  I have faith in the Dalits and Muslims in this company, like Suresh the office boy.  What an example Suresh the office boy can be for the rest of his community!  He can take the entire Muslim community forward – sorry, I lost it again – that was supposed to be Iqbal the office boy – and they all have hopes and we have to pave the dreams that our hopes are walking on – or pave the hopes that our dreams are walking on. (sotto voce: I think that’s right.  Yeah, sounds about okay.  Which consultant wrote this damned speech?  To think I paid Rs. 500 for it.)

I know a lot of people are saying that we should focus on hiring people based on their knowledge of chemicals, chemistry, the chemical industry, and other such irrelevant things rather than look at Dalits, minorities, women, tribals and other such groups.  The argument used for such ideas is that we are a chemical company.  But let me tell you, we are a company made of humans first, and then a chemical company.  The biggest danger for us – well, for me – is if we stop hiring minorities who have no knowledge of chemistry but are beholden to me and instead actually start hiring competent people regardless of their background!  How will this company – or at least my group – survive?  Well, you did ask me for MY perspective, right? – so there, you got it!

I Have Faith in You!

There are many things lacking in this company.  I know things have been bad.  I know it is my group’s responsibility to build the infrastructure on which the rest of the company depends.  But I cannot do it alone.  I need you.  I need you to solve my problems.  I know you can solve them.  That’s why I want to encourage partnerships between my group and other groups in this company – together we can solve my group’s problems – the problems I couldn’t solve.  I have faith in you.

And why is that?  Well, when was the last time anyone in our group talked to the rest of you about what you want in the last 10 years when I was the group manager?  What kind of infrastructure were we building without talking to you?  When did you have any input into what we were building?  Have you ever been asked for your input, in the last 10 years that I was heading this group?  That’s a question!  I’ll tell you - the answer is no!  The manuals we are using in our group talk about how to make tea and coffee, when the need of our company is to make acetic acid!  When was the last time you needed a lesson to make tea?  I don’t remember the last time I needed one.  Hahaha – aren’t I funny? 

So we need to change the way we train our people.  There has been no vision in the way our employees are being trained.   We don’t have vision because we cannot see!  We don’t know how to make acetic acid.  All that has to change.  And you have to help us make acetic acid.  But only if you understand and accept diversity.

No Knight on a White Horse

Sometime back the company went ahead and got an outside management consultant who gave lots of suggestions on how to restructure the company to make it more efficient.  I tell you the problem with that.  See, companies like that – Accenture, McKinsey – these companies are very simplistic in their thinking.  We are complex.  You are all managers of complexity, so you will win in the end.  You are dealing with people trained in complexity.  Our problems will not be solved by some knight coming in on a white horse telling us to focus on simple things like efficiency, innovation, vision, aspiration, and the like.  

If you cannot carry all the diversity of the company – Suresh the security guard, Iqbal the cook, and the others, with you, then all solutions are useless.  Diversity is the only thing that will take our company forward.  The decision-making structure in this company consists of a few senior managers who take all the decisions.  How can the company move forward with this model?  Unless we have every Iqbal, Girish, and Suresh involved in the decision, we can never be profitable.  I consider Wack Jelch a hero but he was only a representative of all the other heroes in GE.  I want the voice of all the minorities in our company to be heard.

And that is the central question: how to give voice to Girish, Suresh, Iqbal and others like them.  We do things like this, we do it softly, and we will win.  You know, visitors come to our company and I take them to the cafeteria for lunch, the noise there drives them crazy.  Boss, why is everyone here complaining about the company, they ask.  They ask me, give us a simple answer.  I tell them no, I cannot give you a simple answer because our environment is complex.  It isn’t because we are sinking as a company; it isn’t because we haven’t paid a raise or bonus to our employees in years; and it isn’t because promotions have stopped for the last ten years.  No, that’s not why they are complaining.  Those are the simple answers you are looking for...but we are not simple.  We are complex, like a complex beehive full of activity.  They are complaining because they don’t have voice.  I tell them I know that’s too complex for you to understand, but we in our company, we are trained in complexity.  So we will win.  All we need to do is give everyone a voice.

***End of Speech***

Concluding Thoughts

Now you see why I was stunned when I saw Rahul Gandhi’s speech.  I thought it was just lifted straight from mine!!!  My immediate reaction was anger.  He stole it, dammit!  He should be punished for that!  My talk was recorded, but was for only intra-company viewing - some rascal must have sold it!

Then I thought of how rich Rahul’s family must be, and I started getting greedy visions – visions of me suing the hell out of him for damages for copyright infringment, getting awarded millions by the courts – and then I would retire, spend my time shuttling between the beaches of Goa, Kerala, Majorca, and Miami; the hill resorts of Kullu, Copper Mountain, and Turin; live the life in London, Paris, and New York; and sip martinis in Rio.  Maybe even get myself a dacha in the Crimea and discuss defense deals with Putin and Depardieu.  Time to call Ram Jethmalani, I said to myself.

Then suddenly reality hit me and I thought of a possible discussion in the courtroom.  The judge might, I thought, ask me a simple question: “What damages?  What benefit do you think he might derive from your speech?  And why do you believe it will benefit him?  How much did it benefit YOU?”

That stumped me.  I didn’t know how to answer that one.  Googly! 

Because, you see, the day after I made that speech in my past company, they fired me.

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Concluding Disclaimer:  For those to whom it isn't yet glaringly obvious, the entire preceding article is meant to be a joke.  I do not mean to imply that Rahul Gandhi actually stole from this speech - it really isn't worth stealing from! :-)  Just making it obvious in case someone is tempted to use legal flak!  Also, some of my friends were worried about the ending of the article - the company firing me.  Rest easy.  This story is fictional.  If I really had given this speech, I wouldn't be telling you about it publicly - I'd be too ashamed of myself.  Not ashamed had I been actually fired, but ashamed if I had given such a miserable speech :-)

25 comments:

  1. I am mortified that your company failed to see brilliance in your excellent speech. Just because you do not have a @JhaSanjay or NDTV to promote your thoughts and explain it to the lesser mortals, your company has unfairly dismissed you. The actions of the company are certainly discriminatory and communal! As a concerned individual, I would advice you to sue your company with the aid of public spirited persons like @katjuPCI. The financial damages from your company alone is adequate to keep you in comfort for years. It is a shame that the company does not appreciate your 'complex' solution to producing acetic acid - how can a company produce it without having manuals on producing tea and coffee? The company is irrelevant, just smoke. As to your speech, I can only describe my reactions as 'speechless.' It is an excellent blueprint to keep you 'empowered' without responsibilities. Regret greatly that the same was hijacked and plagiarised. Maybe in national interest, you should forgive them. All said and done, it is RG who is the best campaigner for his rival, no?

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    1. Thank you so much for your sympathetic reply. The nation needs more people like you! I like your brilliant suggestion! Why didn't I think of it? @katjuPCI can be my savior! Maybe I can still beach-hop in my retirement from Kovalam to Rio!

      Thank you from the bottom of my heart. With people like you, me, and Pappu, our country is sure to get its just desserts!

      I have faith!

      Delete
  2. Kindly view the latest Vodafone advertisement - it says "Power to You." Why is it that the words of crony capitalism is acceptable whereas when an intelligent and sober statesman, Yuvaraj utters the same, the social media (paid by the opposition, of course) trashes the same and uses uncouth expressions like #PappuCII? It requires keen observation and objective reasoning to understand a brilliant speech as made by our Pappu-ji (the great-grandson of Chacha-ji). Critics should note that such prodigies are produced not yearly but only once in a century. Nearly 108 years earlier, an intellectual proposed the famous equation E=mc2. This took 14 years to gain acceptance. Mark my words sir, the brilliance of Yuvaraj who understands that matter and energy is interchangeable (as is money between Indian bank accounts and Swiss ones) needs many more years to be recognised. Till then, I can only make a request that if you cannot understand genius, at the least, do not mock one. I hope my request is reasonable and will be accepted in the right spirit (or smoke, whatever)

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    1. You are absolutely right. After all, like he says, it is in his DNA. I disagree with you - geniuses like him are not produced once in a century. Why, in just this century, we have seen his grandmother, his father, his mother, and now him - the only 4 Indians who have mattered! (there was that other Gandhi, too - some chap named Mohandas, but let's not waste time over him.)

      I accept your suggestion in the company of the best spirits and smokes.

      Delete
    2. Badari Narayan V T or Central jee, have you heard the song "Pappu can't dance saala"? You reminded me that. The genius in him we applaud. The next Einstein in the making, we understand. Send him to NASA. A better proposition for us and for NASA. They will get a subject to diagnose. Let us get over Chachajee and Chachijee, Daadajee and Dadijee. Its time we say in chorus, Auntyjee auntyjee .. enough of dance !!
      Mr. Sheshadri .. hats off boss !! Was Rajeev Shukla jee your ex colleague? I bet this grand speech was never lost otherwise.

      Delete
    3. Mr. Spectacular - sorry, I missed this comment from you. Thanks very much for your feedback! Glad you enjoyed it! :-)

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  3. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    thats all i can say !!

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  4. Absolutely devastated to know that you lost your job after such a brilliant speech. Pity the company owners who don't know the value of a person who is making such an effort to take everyone along even at the cost of the sinking company. Next time when you give any speech in the next company make sure that you hire that marketing genius Sanjay Jha who will use social media and will personally tweet about you being the new youth icon that the company was desperately waiting for and blah blah blah. All the best for your future but I am not sure how bright it will be.

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    1. Thank you for your heartfelt sympathies. I am thinking of seriously considering them. I am planning to take up an apprenticeship under Jha. :-)

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  5. @sanjay, Lol.... After reading your article, I feel sorry for two reasons, First that you were fired the very next day, and second we couldn't fire the stupid Pappu till now. You have my sympathies. Had you had bootlickers like @jhasanjay @ashutoshibn7 Pagalika @sagarikaghose your day might have been saved.

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  6. But... I thought it was "YOUR" company as it was founded by your Grandfather and had remained in the family fold...? Are you sure you are telling us the whole story of the speech? ;)

    Man, even though I am no longer in India, if either of my kids who have been born and brought up in the US had used the phrase "Rani Ki Jhansi", I would disown them post haste! Let alone have them work for me! An insult to the Ruler class of yore when there used to "Sone ki Chidiya & Dudh ki Nadiyan". Though stripped of the Privy Purses by RG's Grandma in one of her moments of weakness... All SG & RG are doing is trying to right the wrongs of the last 50 years or so, is that really so bad?

    ... And seriously, when did democracy mean that everyone has a voice? A truly functional democracy since the time of Athenian Democracy has consisted only of an elite class of citizens whose voice mattered in the civic process. Power corrupts and when it is decentralized absolutely it corrupts absolutely... instead of having corruption limited to a few elitist we have corruption down to the grassroots level in India!

    Take a look at history right from antiquity. Great Empires have never included the voice of the masses and any started to do so soon went into decline and were erased from memory or will soon be.

    The problem with India is / was that right from the time of Independence "EVERYONE" was supposed to matter, huh! Look where that has gotten us... either trying to create an elitist environment for our(poor)selves overseas or trying to right the wrongs, that were committed over half a century ago, in India itself.

    And puh-leaze, for the sake of the nation be grateful that your humble self was acknowledged and validated in some small measure, otherwise you would have been living in the shadows or the banks of "Tezaab Ki Nadiyan" or whatever!

    It is only in India that a person boards an express train as a plumber and 40 hrs later disembarks as a stenographer (BTW, what is 'Stenographer'? I know of 'Plumber' in the US)! ;)

    India is Great! Mera Bharat Mahaan! Jai Hind!

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    1. See, that's what I thought, too - that being the great-grandson of the founder, no one would dare say anything to me... they have all these newfangled ideas nowadays - performance, accountability - and actually had the gall to fire me! Can you believe they actually said that since my group was just sinking the company, they had to let me go! I tried my best, with the support of all the useless chaps I had hired on the pretext of minorities, etc. - but they still pushed me out. Useless company. :-)

      BTW, a stenographer is a person trained in shorthand. In the old days, bosses would dictate memos, letters, etc. to their stenographers, who would transcribe them and then type them up for signature. I think they are used even today.

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  7. Sirji - I took the liberty of posting a link to your original speech on facebook. Please only sue me right before suing Pappu samrat !

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  8. You deserve an Oscar award for the most humorous and satirical critique. Just wondering how you missed the nigh clubs in Spain and yoga in New York which would help you company make the most acidic checmicals in this world!!

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    1. Thanks!

      It was whatever I could think of - what ideas came to mind. One person also told me I should have done something with that "Boss, not going to happen" bit (when he was talking about the poor lady who wanted her son to be an IAS officer.) I missed that, and the night clubs and yoga. If I can think of something creative, I will add it. Thanks!

      Delete
  9. Your handle should be FakeCIISpeaker (on the lines of FakeIPLPlayer)

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    1. Let it not be misunderstood, liked your post. Thanks.

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    2. No misunderstanding! Thanks for the suggestion and the feedback! :-)

      Delete
  10. Hello Sir,

    You never know you could make a next Steve Jobs, he was fired too fom his own company.....

    Excellent! is an understatement.You are above the notch you have succeed in written form of communication :)

    Do share your blog address in case you blog

    Thank you!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words!

      You can see all my articles at my blog site http://www.leftbrainwave.com (see archives on the right hand side for previous articles - this year, last year, and 2011).

      Thanks again for visiting and for your feedback!

      Delete
  11. Nice. Sorry you worked at a heartless chemical company which is only concerned with making this chemical stuff and turn your enterprise profitable, how barbaric.

    But hope your excellent 9+ year stint as a non-working manager of this chemical company has ensured, that it cannot turn profitable anytime soon, particularly after you finished the "compaNy bReaking and sabotagE GuArantee [NREGA]" project successfully, where you taught the employees how NOT to make chemicals.

    Some of us know how to kill the satire, by making you write a disclaimer.

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    1. Hahaha! Thanks for your comment! :-)

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