As I keep reading the reports on K in every newspaper, wondering which political party in India he will now help, I also keep thinking about how luck helps many of us, good luck and, sometimes, bad. It is one of those things.
In the rough and tumble of corporate life, many things can happen. Some of us will suffer, for no fault of our own. Others will be plummeted to the top or towards it, with little contribution of their own. Sparks emanate from red hot cinders and, depending on where they fall, some will help to light new fires; others will fall and die out.
Most of us would have read and mulled over Shakespeare's verses,
"There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries."
My friend, Rajan, worked as a salesman in a music shop in Mumbai. He was a very presentable young man who spoke well and had a pleasing, attractive personality. He had completed Inter-Arts, then got involved in an amateur jazz combo and gave up further studies, much to the disappointment of his parents. He worked as a music shop salesman for two years.
A chairman of a large multinational company came in to buy records. Very impressed with Rajan's salesmanship, he gave Rajan his visiting card and told him to drop by and see him if he thought of taking up another assignment.
Rajan took him up on his offer and met him the following week. Rajan joined the ANZ company as a trainee. Exactly 12 years later, Rajan was appointed the regional manager for South Asia, for the agro-products division, at the global corporate headquarters in New York!
Rajan had gone a long way from the music shop in downtown Mumbai to downtown New York because, with good luck, he got a break. He worked hard and never looked back. Lady Luck had smiled on him.
Mario had been the head of a large advertising agency which was plagued with staff union problems. The agency's services deteriorated; they began losing clients with, predictably, the blue-chip ones being the first to go.
Finally, it was Mario's turn. The pressures that built up all around him were too many to manage. He could not buy time to find another assignment and then quit.
A fortnight after he had resigned, he was flying to Delhi to tie up some loose ends when he met Kimani, an industrialist from Hong Kong. Kimani was in the next seat and when the plane took off, they struck up a conversation.
Kimani got to like Mario and asked whether he would be interested in a general manager position in his company in Hong Kong. He fixed a time and place for the next meet.
Two months later, Mario was installed in his new assignment in Hong Kong. Much later, he became managing director of the company, with a large tax-free salary! Lady Luck had smiled on Mario.
What happens when Lady Luck frowns? That can happen as unexpectedly and suddenly as when she smiles.
Mohan had graduated from Cambridge University, UK, and was selected as a management trainee for the Indian affiliate of a large UK-based multinational in India. He worked there for eight years and was the sales promotion executive when he resigned.
His father was a large shareholder of a medium-sized but well-known food products company and often requested Mohan, his only child, to join the family business, which was founded by Mohan's grandfather. "It's a shame," Mohan's father confided to close friends that Mohan should waste his talents by being a small cog in a large multinational when he had a better alternative of building his own business.
Mohan finally relented and joined the family business as deputy managing director. All went well until three years later, someone who had been cornering the company's stock in the market came in and announced that he had become the company's largest shareholder.
Unknown to the family, they had lost ownership control of the company. Mohan's father quit first as the MD.
Mohan had to follow suit some months later. He was 40 years old at the time. Having been deputy MD, he found it difficult to find an equivalent position. He got frustrated and took to drink. He kept blaming his father for having dragged him from the multinational where he was happy and had established himself. He kept looking at the past, never at the future, and his life was in ruins. Lady Luck had frowned!
In my last job in the corporate world, I was sent to the global HQ in UK to make the annual budget presentation to the board of directors. This was part of the training for future top management. I worked hard and made the presentation lasting nearly three hours. It went off smoothly, without a flaw and the board was impressed.
The MD for international operations sent a telegram to the company MD in India: "Walter fared extremely well. Congratulations to the India company."
I was greatly touched and honoured. In my mind, I thanked my MD for having given me this opportunity. My path to success was being cleared, or so I thought.
When I returned to India, my MD did not hide his revulsion. He took the telegram as a sign that the path was being cleared to replace him with me. Over a period of time, it became impossible for both of us to work as a team.
I had to quit!
But the seed of another's hate was watered by my new ventures into consulting, training, journalism, authoring and lecturing, until they grew into a wooded plantation—much greener than what a corporate job could have offered!
It showed me that it is possible to change the sails with the changing winds.
If Lady Luck smiles, the executive path is strewn with roses. If she frowns, the thorns could hurt even covered feet. Sometimes, however, the 'frown' can later turn into a blessing, as happened with me.
( Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India- FIMC. He was a successful corporate executive for 14 years and then pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books, a business columnist and has been visiting professor in Marketing in the US, Europe, and Asia for over 40 years. His latest books are "Marketing in a Digital/Data World with Brian Almeida and "Customer Value Starvation can kill" with Gautam Mahajan. He now spends most of his time on NGO work and is presently Chairman, Consumer Education and Research Society, India)