Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A day in the life of an entrepreneur - Between banks for a Rs 100 DD

Chandra is a former banker, who left the corporate world to spend the second innings of his career as an entrepreneur. Any resemblance to anyone living/dead is coincidental (no pun intended).
- There is nothing like a "former banker". Banker once, banker for rest of life.

Chandra was sitting at the third branch in less than 2 hours, and looking at his phone... a conversation among one Whatsapp group on entrepreneurship caught his eye. It was all about 'being' an entrepreneur... "Who is most affected when we take the entrepreneurial plunge"? More so if they are first generation entrepreneurs, who left corporate jobs?

Chandra participated in the discussion and also reflected on his own journey from a banker to an entrepreneur.

This image was shared by one of the group members... 

As he looked around the new branch and also outside the window, he felt grateful, he was out of it. That is when the story unfolded...

2017: Chandra is back from his New Year break. Three days away can do wonders to you, at all levels of existence. So, this morning, when he volunteered to help someone with a demand draft (DD), it was with all its purity.

- - Why a Rs 100 DD in this era of demonetization and digital money (and some demonization thereof)?! That is a story by itself...

- - As an entrepreneur, Chandra is clear of his priorities. He always was but was less vocal about it. These days his son threatens to call him, 'Priority Pops'!

Thanks to his obsession with priorities, he went about doing some urgent work in the morning hours. After all, it was his first day at work in the new year.

Bank#1, Branch #1 - Late in the morning he went to his bank branch:
- At the 'May I Help You' counter, there was a new face. And not a friendly one. The old staff, one of the best, was missing. The new staff was seeing Chandra for the first time. And Chandra is not one who is very good at making first impressions, esp at banks!
- He enquired about DD. She said, "that line, sir". The lone teller-counter had some ten customers in a queue. 
Who said only Mumbaikars stood in line, with discipline and patience. Or has demonetisation taught us to be more patient at banks? Not in case of Chandra...
- He said, 'I am your affluent customer (not cattle-class, Shashi Tharoor may add?). Should I also stand in the queue?" Priority/preferred/wealth management being the tag in different banks. Banks also believe in priority! But sadly only lip service, not in terms of banking service
- She looked offended with an expression that said, "reservation at the bank counter?" type.
- Chandra,  an ex-banker, would not relent.
- She said, "try (your luck) at the next counter"
- He walked up to the 'next', empty counter, like a parent to his child's class teacher and asked for a DD.
- She took her eyes off her mobile and said, "pls join the next counter". She was free. Also, a couple of other employees in the bank. The branch manager was around too, blissfully unaware of the travails of his customers. But, those who are destined to stand in a queue, better stand, quietly. That is Karma!
- Chandra wanted to get out of the bank. But he had a promise to keep... to get a 100 rupee demand draft. 
- It was now Chandra's turn to look at his mobile and clear some mails, all official of course. One of his resolutions for 2017 was to reduce time spent on gadgets. He is off the target at least today...
- As he stood there he reflected, 'as a kid, when I accompanied elders to a bank or as an employee at various banks, banking was a lot more personal. Not any more'.
- As he was just getting used to standing in the queue, just like a lot of Indians since Nov 8, he was distracted by some commotion at the entrance.
- Another banker was asking, 'whose i10 is it? Traffic police taking it away'.
- A lady, who was ahead of Chandra, stopped talking to her mom, to raise her hand and an alarm..

Chandra was more agile. As he rushed to the door, the compassionate banker asked, 'is i10 yours?' 

Chandra said, 'no, the one behind it'. Chandra's car was parked right behind the Hyundai i10.

At a different setting, he would have updated the banker, his evolution from a company-owned Fiat Premier Padmini to Fiat Uno to Maruti 800 Deluxe to (own) Santro to Swift and beyond.... also, how he helped thousands drive their dream cars, as a car-finance banker in his previous avatars. No time for all that. He did not want to depend on the inefficiency of Bangalore's traffic police, notorious for their speed for action, often lack of it.

Chandra reached his car, took a quick look at all four wheels, for any lock. He was relieved to see his car was untouched. The car had just got a wash at  3M, before reaching the dusty road-side at the bank.

It was well past 1 PM, so he rushed home for a quick lunch.

- Why do banks open branches with nil parking space? And they are no. 1 car financier in India!
- Why do local authorities to RBI, allow opening branches at such inconvenient locations?

Bank #1, Branch #2 - After a quick business lunch at home, he went to another branch of his bank, which was near his flat. The area was at least away from the scrutiny of traffic police.
- At the 'May I Help You', he asked the lady if he can go to the counter for a DD. She said, "yes". Perhaps she had not had lunch or not kept herself sufficiently hydrated, her energy was low. (Chandra's interests include wellness)
There was one elderly lady withdrawing cash at the counter. Then it was Chandra's turn. He felt, "thankfully, no queue"
- Teller at the counter told Chandra, "Can not issue DD. Speak to madam at counter #5"
- Chandra went to counter no. 5. The lady said, 'system down sir, can't issue today'
- Chandra said, 'ok'.

As he stepped out he wanted to tell the lady at the counter, "you could have actually helped me more if you had told me your branch systems were down, instead of wasting my time"! Chandra was getting used to the inefficiency of the system and lack of empathy of professionals.

Bank #2, Branch #3: Chandra had to complete the task, not carry it over to next day. He remembered there was a new branch, not far away. Another leading private bank, and also where he worked for 6 years in early 2000.
- The new branch was brand new, so clean.
- Hardly one or two customers, more employees. They were all busy with their stuff/discussing.
- There was no "May I Help You" counter at the branch. That was better than misguiding clients.
- Branch manager, a young looking guy, was busy with some paper work.

Chandra does not expect red-carpet welcome when he enters any branch of the bank, where he spent 6 years and remains a loyal customer. The account is still his old salary account. "Misplaced sense of loyalty?",  he has asked himself. But he was comfortable being old fashioned.

- Chandra went to the first counter and asked for DD form. He was directed to the Personal Banking counter, with a disclaimer, "it will take some time, as madam having lunch". At 2:20, she was entitled to her lunch.
- He still went to the teller and enquired. She directed to the desk of a deputy branch manager. 
- Deputy branch manager gave the DD form (why it has to be asked for, why not on display?) and said, "it will take 20 minutes, as the person-in-charge was having lunch".
- Chandra sat down to fill up and found it was half filled form. He asked for a fresh, blank DD form.

He filled up and went back to his phone to participate in the conversation on 'being an entrepreneur', on WhatsApp. He looked around, outside the window, It was clean and professional settings inside, including the color-code of the interior. It was sunny, but clean outside. Chandra felt
... the bankers operated from high IQ, not from EQ.  That is poor leadership, professional & personal.
- Branch manager left, promising to come back tomorrow.
Very optimistic? Chandra's family lost the senior most cousin of his mother early morning. He was mourning, as his mother was very close to her cousin.

- After few minutes, Dy BM started the process. By then, the DD-madam was back from her lunch. She signed the DD and handed over to Chandra.

As he stepped out, he was more at peace. That bank had given him a lot. Still, did he want to come back? Not sure... Loyalty has its own limits. Afterall priorities matter to Chandra.

Post Office: Chandra rushed to post office, checked for registration-counter. The guy at the counter said, "closed sar".
- Chandra enquired on the timings, he said "930 AM to 3 PM" It was 3:20 PM. (These timings are not customer-friendly)

Chandra did not feel like using his persuasive skills to get the post office staff to accept his letter. If banks were not working for him, how can a sarkari post office deliver the service he expects? He would rather come back tomorrow...

Gandhiji's quote on the customer is no longer part of bankers' DNA. That was not the case in the past.

Banking was always people driven. Whatever be the level of tech-penetration at our banks, it was still people-dependent. Technology did not provide seamless service to the hassled customer. Jugaad still rules...

- ET said, 'Not happy with restaurant service? You can opt not to pay service charge'. What about banks? (ET 3 Jan 2017)

Any amount of external effort to demonetize will not help.
Demonetisation has to happen from within. 
The transformation has to happen from within, for the bankers. A shift from IQ to EQ, for sure, if not SQ. We are far away from that, as of now. If people can not service, they should not be in the service industry. These white collar bankers do not know, AI can do most of their jobs, in the near future. (Consumer-oriented tech to shine in 2017 - ET 2 Jan 2017)
Ease of doing business ki aisi ki thaisi . . . It is day-to-day hell for an entrepreneur
Sir Richard branson's advice to young entrepreneurs: "Just do it..." (ET Panache 2 Jan 2017)

For Chandra, the banker-turned-entrepreneur, tomorrow is a new day. He will pursue his dream, in spite bankers, post office, government, connectivity (mobile or 4G). 

He passionately lives his life-purpose...

No comments: