In my experience no Indian professional has achieved anything unless he/she has done some kind of work in Bombay ( Mumbai). In the days I talk about , Bombay was frightening for anyone coming from even a large cosmopolitan city in the South. The sheer professionalism of the city and the amazing wealth it had made even had my Joint Managing Director (JMD)tell me, while we chatted over a coffee, in Raheja Towers, Nariman Point, that he felt like a ‘nobody’ in Bombay. Now, remember this was a time when this gentleman was the JMD of the largest Real Estate Company in South India, which had branches in Bangalore, Mysore, Cochin and Trivandrum with a project in Kodaikanal too. So, forget how it overwhelmed me, when the city overwhelmed him. I was awestruck.
What we did was to hire an office space in a set up similar to today’s Co-Working spaces, called Serviced Offices, which were popular in those days. There was a reception and we had a room with a table, basic stationary, a telephone and common toilets. When we advertised that we were in Bombay to showcase Barton Center, in the monstrous sized Times of India, we had to give the number of the Serviced Office along with our suite number. Now, our stay there was for two working days.
I took a cab from the International YMCA where I stayed ( Lovely place), near Maratha Mandir, to Nariman Point. Went to my office, took out my writing pad, calculator, application forms, blank letter heads for allotment letters, receipt books, seal. Now, if you notice the confidence and positiveness was as ever, present. Else, why would you need to take all what I had taken. I had hard copies of brochures and smaller brochures made for the trip. On the first day, at around mid day, I got a call from Magna Publishing,( the people who published Stardust and other magazines) saying that their MD, Nari Hira wanted to talk to me. I was over the moon. He spoke courteously and got the details on the phone. He said he would send his driver to pick up the brochure etc. Now, remember our 65 year lease? Well, I ensured i mentioned it as clearly as ever. Not a hint of hesitation from the said gentleman. The driver arrived at the appointed time and took what I was to give him. At 5 pm I get another call from Nari Hira, he says he has decided to book two offices, 1106 & 1107. What was the final price? I gave it to him. He says – Done, I trust it will be a good deal. My driver will reach your office at 11.00 am tomorrow with the cheques. I could have died. No questions on the Lease. He didn’t care – I realised later that Bombay did not care. I called my General Manager in Madras, and with great difficulty I stayed calm. They were very happy. It was the longest evening that I had experienced in my short career. At 11 am the next day the Driver knocked on my office door, popped in and handed over a cover with the units marked, the application form filled and two cheques. I was stunned and over the moon . Our experiment with Bombay had succeeded. Later that evening I had a call from a Mr. Sh asking for details of Barton Center. In the two days I was there I must have received ten calls and we sold two units – wow.
Later, when I was back in Bangalore, I flew back instead of taking a train ( it was my bonus :-)), I was really excited to be back at work. You may have experienced this, in offices, there will always be skeptical colleagues who are waiting with the “I told you” when you failed to achieve anything. Now, I had this. When I told my colleagues that no one cared about the lease in Bombay, they were stunned. Later that month Mr. Sh called me at Bangalore and came to meet me. It took a couple of weeks of discussion as he was buying two offices in Barton Center of which one was for a friend in Bombay, Mr. R. Mr. R, another South Indian, originally from TN, was an amazing character. Both he & Mr. Sh were buying the spaces as rental investments. Virtually our first investor clients in Barton Center.
Mr. R. was working with the original Ambani. No details of what he did were asked or offered. Then came the part where I grew up even faster into a tough world. Mr. R paid me a part of the money and then introduced me to the head of the largest stock brokerage company in Bangalore. Remember, Bangalore also had a stock exchange. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangalore_Stock_Exchange. I was to get the remaining monies from the stock brokerage company in a fortnight. I waited a fortnight and then began making reminder calls. No luck, dates were given and pushed. Eventually I got adamant and visited their offices at Bull Temple Road at around 6 pm. I was asked to wait at the reception from where I could see them discussing animatedly in the conference room. We were due about Eight Lakhs. I was called in to the conference room and given a sum of Rs. 27,000.00 in cash. I was stunned. They said the rest would come very soon. Something was not right. I went back to my office, instead of going home. I had a key to the office . I made an STD call to Mr. R and told him I thought something wasn’t right. He thanked me for the call. I think it was a Thursday evening. On Saturday morning, before I could leave to work, there was a knock on my apartment door. On opening, there stood Mr. R and his wife, Mr. Sh and the Head of the stock brokerage firm. I was stunned as to how they were there. How did they know where I lived? I invited them in. He apologised to us for the intrusion. We offered them coffee. He then thanked me for the advise. He had rushed to Bangalore after my call. Heard that the stock brokerage firm owners had diversified into various fields and were nearly broke. The amount he was owed by them was Rs. 12.00 Lakhs. He kept aside that much of stock of their centering sheets and other material for himself, to match what he was owed. He gave me a cheque for two lakhs and said the rest would come in a couple of weeks. The Stock Brokerage man was silent all through this. On the following Tuesday morning paper was the news that the brokerage company had shut down on Monday and loads of people had lost money, with pictures of them standing in line outside the office. I didn’t know how to feel. Mr. R., though knew – he sent me an application for Shares to the new Public Offering of Reliance Petroleum. I called him and told him I was not to accept any gift from clients. He told me it wasn’t a gift, merely an option to be guaranteed of shares if I chose to buy. SI was a great place to work in but they didn’t pay well. In any case I asked my General Manager if I could accept this application. He said yes. However, I didn’t have the minimum amount of Rs. 5000/-. So, I called my wife and we decided to offer it to my father in laws sister and husband, who played the market. They took it and I guess their kids and grand kids will enjoy the benefits. That is just how life is, isn’t it?
The 65 year lease never bothered us after that. Completion of the building was about a year and a half behind but we sold the two top floors to a family who had just sold their estates and today you have a mini hotel and two lovely restaurants there. The shopping mall on the Ground and First Floor was a disaster in terms of sales. We sold one shop to the then unknown Cotton World, whose promoters were a lovely couple from, where else, but Bombay. One to a famous builder still operating in Bangalore, who opened up a Video gaming parlour. Bombay changed our fortunes, changed my perspective of how tough people can be and I doubt I was the same again. Later, when I finished Barton Center, with all the pressures I faced, which is for another day, the Management called all the Branch Heads to come to Bangalore and see what my team and I had achieved. Even today my kids refer to Barton Center as Papa’s building. Constructing it was another story – with a lot of excitement, which I hope you will enjoy, when I write about it. There will be another chapter to Sales…it sadly will be more sordid and befitting the world we live in today, virus infected…..
Stay safe…be positive…