The road to being an entrepreneur began when I learnt to make time and money work for me –
The second phase of my work life was filled with steep learning and these lessons paved the way to catapult me into the entrepreneurial arena.
Continuing my journey., my reporting officer, the Quality Control Manager, was very happy with his Maruti Car, and this gave me the much awaited mind space. I learnt the value of processes from him. The learning helped me evolve QC process at the vendor sites. The vendors were open to learning and certification, and they produced and delivered goods Just In Time to the assembly line. This reduced inventory levels and also the crucial time taken for QC in the Goods Receiving Bay (GRB).
During this time, I also enrolled for a six-month computer software program in COBOL & FORTRAN – it was the early 90s – and software programming was the in-thing. The trainer cum owner of the institute was a very strict person. The classes commenced at 6:30 pm and this meant that the doors were closed at the dot of 06:30:00 pm. At the end of the six-month course, I did a 1000 line code for payroll processing which was well received by the trainer. He was impressed with the fact that I was on time every day and did not miss even a single class – and suggested that I take up programming as a career option. The crucial lessons of Discipline and Time Management learnt here would pave the way to many happenings in my later life.
English Electric was committed in its quest for process and quality and implemented the Quality Standards, ISO 9001. By this time, the work I had done in QC department was recognized, and I had two options open to me – one was to move into the IT division (Electronic Data Processing) and the other was being an assessor in the Quality Assurance space. My limited knowledge (or rather lack of it) made me choose Quality Assurance. I was impressed with the many stories that I had heard that QA team members have evolved as CEOs of great organizations.
My QA manager was my guru and I learnt the clauses and its relevance and the intricacies of drawing out process for each activity. This learning helped me to derive systems, process and procedures for any of the ventures that I have been associated with since then. Keen observation and minute attention to detail and an eye for picking up the right data for business decisions are life skills needed for an entrepreneur and working in the Quality Team gave me immense learning in these life skills.
My QA manager also was called by other organizations to conduct presentations on various QA topics – and I was his able assistant who helped him prepare for the same. I had to necessarily get into the habit of reading – he used to give me books on various topics and I had to read, understand and come out with presentations (ppt) on the same. This enabled me to understand and interpret the Quality Standards and its minute details. I also learnt how to draw out key inferences from huge data. This gave me the impetus to read and I understood the key to success was hidden in the many books that I was yet to read.
During this time, many organizations came to study the process of implémentation of ISO 9001 at English Electric, and my boss used to also freelance to support those organizations in their ISO certifications. One such organization that came to ours was from Gujarat, and as the person who came in was just a manager, my boss let me do all the talking and explaining. I was passionate about the work we had put in and went into great detail while explaining the process to the gentleman. My purpose and passion struck the right chord and he asked me to meet him at the hotel he was staying in that evening as he had more queries. I met him that evening and resolved all his queries. He requested me to visit his factory at Gujarat as he had the objective of implementing the Quality Process, and told me that my air travel and accommodation would be taken care of. My first flight – and at others cost!!! This sounded very interesting, but I told him that I had to obtain permission from my boss to accept the same.
Next day, I came back to office to inform my boss about the same – his first expression was that of the loss that he occurred as he did not sense the opportunity; but being a magnanimous person, he was happy for me and gave me very good counselling. He asked me to charge Rs. 2500 per day and not to provide any consulting for free. The money was very big back in the late 80s and early 90s.
I still accepted his counsel and was pleasantly surprised when the Gujarat gentleman accepted the same. Imagine my feel when I landed at their office – and I was literally swept off my feet to see a huge board welcoming “Mr. M V Subramanian”.
The pleasant joy was however short lived when I realized that it was a casting unit and not an assembling unit like ours! It meant totally different processes and different controls. The basics of process are the same, whatever be the set up. This confidence helped me unravel the puzzle. I started making observations for three full days. At the end of the third day, I gave a report to the Managing Director of the Steel Cast Unit. I was able to identify the problems in people, process, and the place. The head could not believe that I could decipher all this in just three days. His appreciation was conveyed effectively when he increased my emoluments to Rs.3000 per day.
Three months later, the unit was ISO certified and also went public, they also offered me promoters shares, which I could not afford to buy. The manager was also promoted as a General Manager – and he kept in touch and invited me for his daughter’s wedding as well. This opportunity and the resultant output gave me immense satisfaction and the confidence to move on. This was one of the most important turning points of my life.
In addition, my QA Manager also gave me chances to conduct the ISO process training in various departments and teams. I had observed him so closely and made my notes, that I was able to repeat even his jokes verbatim. He silently observed me from the last rows a couple of times, and motivated me to experiment further.
I have always been an introvert and having studied in a government aided school and finishing off from a remote college, my confidence levels to communicate in English and in public was very limited. On retrospection, I realize that each time I got an opportunity to move out of my comfort zone, there were two options – one to say NO I cannot, and the second was “Why not?” I knew that I had to do a whole lot of preparation and homework to handle whatever came my way. But that hard work gave me the confidence to explore, and I realized that subject matter gave one the confidence needed, even if they had issues with communication.
The series of incidents gave me confidence to consult independently and also charge by the hour for my subject matter expertise, and being treated as royalty gave me the impetus to experiment more – I tried everything beyond office hours – starting from advice in share marketing, investing and running investment decisions for friends, giving advice and consulting on ISO… you name it, I did it. I learnt to convert what I know into money and in the process, networked with many seniors and influential people – those people who would have a profound influence in my life in the future.
At that point in time, I just connected, networked and found out how to solve pain areas of people who were around me.
The key trend of finding out what people need and helping them to resolve their issues in whatever way I could would help me a lot during my later years. My networking helped me gain many influential friends, and also many ideas to move on as an entrepreneur. Everything sounded easy, and when one High Net worth Individual (HNI) gave me an option to open my own office… well that was very tempting.
Was the journey smooth…. what happened next…. I will continue my journey soon….
( All pics are from Google I don’t own any of them)