My First Innings in Management

My First innings in Management begin with my short (four month) stint at Reliance Infocomm (now Reliance Communication). Though I am still dont understand why they selected ME for a managerial role that too in Corporate Wireless Group, which was headed by Reliance Infocomm Delhi CEO himself..

I was asked to work for providing technical help and co-ordinating for key projects for Reliance. Though the technical part was limited, my major work was for co-ordinating for conversion of PNB ATM links from VSAT to CDMA. It took me time to sit down and understand the process at first.. Bcoz, May be I was not too keen on this job, as I was dreaming of a tech job rather, but I guess Destiny plays its own games..

My work involved speaking with lot of people (on phone).. and regular interaction with many others. To begin with, I learnt the technical details of the conversion project and other business related issues that I should be ready to confront with. Made a proper note of all the things which is key to my job. As I got along in the job, I realized a major issue of remembering the names of the people whom I speak to. I was talking to almost 40-50 people on a daily basis, who were totally new to me..So I decided to use an excel sheet, containing the names and numbers of those people along with their roles and responsibilities.

So during phone when they talk, I would ask them their names, and quickly use an excel sheet to find about this person and talk accordingly. However, direct interaction was really tough..because you may never know.. how senior the other person is !!

It took me pretty long (about 2 months) to get the names and roles of those people right.. May be I was beginning to believe.. dunno know.. Not just by knowing their names, I developed some cool personal contacts with many of them as well.. & that I leveraged it well for Reliance as well..

As per the original process (which my boss followed), we needed to contact the local branch manager corresponding to the ATM site. However, this process was cumbersome, as they were reluctant to give their mobile numbers, and reaching them on landlines was a big headache. I was expected to formalize a schedule for "Installation" as per the convenience of bank managers, but I faced another big issue...

The problem was not only from the bank side (Local Branch Managers), we had issues with the Router Dept(provides personnel support for router installations), which was outsourced and worked only from 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM. Working hours beyond this was not acceptable to them. The Bank's local branch managers often give time after 6:00, and thus many times we had to cancel the Installation.

I decided to make this whole set up more systematic. While trying to meet both the ends, I reached out to supervisors of the branch managers and found atleast person for each region - Haryana, Punjab, UP, Orissa, Bihar, Delhi and Tamil Nadu.

Luckily, the Regional Managers were supportive and I was able to put in a process with detailed discussions with the Reliance's Router Department. So this is how it goes:

Monday -> I Schedule multiple Installations for next week in different locations and send to the router department for any review.

By Tuesday -> Router Department will get back with any concerns. The concerns will need to be solved by Wednesday EOD.

Thursday -> Weekly Installation details would be sent to bank by Thu morning. Any concerns, bank had to responded by Friday EOD. The mail would copy the Router Dept and the contact numbers of the key people. For any concerns after Friday, it needs to be addressed both on Phone and Mails.

If everything goes fine, in the next week, all scheduled Installations would happen, and I would happily plan for the next week based on the availability of equipments and personnel. Sometimes RF related technical issues would pop up, and I would spend some time on them..(which I loved to do most). Nonetheless, I had lots of spare time in office.. and need not talk on phone also much..! Lifezz got Chilled !

Lesson Learnt: Process can kill you or make your life heaven. It depends on how well it was developed keeping the practical realities in mind.

But there were more issues that relate to post installation. Often some technical flaw would come in the ATM sites which needed to be serviced. Again the process was the branch manager should call up Reliance Call Centers and Inform them about the ATM Site details. Reliance's Call Centers would be horrible (around 2005 atleast.. not sure how good are they now..), and you would spend lot of time to get through to a customer care agent.

Here is where we swing into action.. Me & Boss decide to twist the process a bit, and started servicing the clients without require a proper complain through Call Center. A simple mail would suffice and we would send our guys to do the work. This policy paid off after sometime, which made me realize the true importance of Customer Service for survival of Business.

After sometime, TATA Indicom made a ridiculously low tariff's for the same conversion. The tariff's suggested that they were taking in a loss during installation, but would get profitable as the revenue stream coming from each site is constant and ever-lasting. So the bank decided to stop all installations from Reliance and give it to TATA Indicom.

But such a move was not favoured by the Regional Managers who were now happy with the progress of ATM Installations from Reliance and the kind of Customer Support that Reliance gave them. I had sensed that while talking to few RM's, though I was not sure what exactly would be happening.

Within two weeks, the project was again awarded to Reliance. Got info through un-official means that TATA Indicom was unable to provide the kind of customer service that Reliance provided.

Lessons Learnt : Customer Service Matters and even if it means twisting the existing process.. because finally the business matters and not the conventional process !!

I believe the contract is still with Reliance and based on its success, they were able to acquire contract from SBI ( having one of the largest ATM networks). The work is on, and as long as they provide the Customer Service and customer oriented process, the contract will be with Reliance.

There are lot of things during my four month stint and most of which cannot be documented... But yes I cherish those moments, which changed my perception.
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