Sunday, February 14, 2016

Manhandling a Jacket, Allen Solly way

Till this time “mishandling” and “yours truly” never featured in the same sentence. Last week an attempt has been made to tarnish the reputation built over years by representatives of Madura Fashion & Lifestyle, the company that owns the brand Allen Solly.  I have been accused of mishandling a jacket, for Christ’s sake! By this post I shall make others aware and caution others to be careful as this could happen to anyone. I could approach them as I purchased from a physical store in a high end mall, I shudder to imagine how desperate who purchases online would be.
We used to buy Allen Solly products as it is an Indian brand and in the same time lending support to the Make in India initiative in our own way. A premium brand is distinguishable by its willingness to accept its deficiencies and addressing those to ensure total value to their customer. Little did we know that Allen Solly in its dealing with us will demonstrate none of these characteristics while pretended to be one.
The shocker came in the form of my Allen Solly Jacket which I had worn sparingly for 3 odd months.  A casual jacket is seldom worn and more so when one resides in the Middle east where the opportunity to use worm clothes comes once in a blue moon.  After using it on a few occasions, I noticed the collar of the jacket having a defect of peeling.  Following winter, I took it back to the store in Kolkata. The staffs were visibly embarrassed and decided to send it to Bangalore for replacement, verbally assuring us that it was a manufacturing defect and the company would compensate.
A month later the store informed that the quality team has sent the jacket back and I received a letter stating that it was neither a defect of the fabric nor that of manufacturing. On a follow-up email they informed that based on comprehensive analysis by “Quality Care Cell” they concluded that the damage is noticed due to mishandling of the product. 
How does one mishandle the collar of a jacket that it starts peeling off?  Obviously, they did not accept the product is of substandard material and shied off from their responsibility of replacing the faulty product. At the very least they could have rendered an apology for selling substandard material to a customer in the garb of premier product.
I have made my decision not to purchase their products again and would caution people to learn from my experience and be prudent while making the next purchase decision. It’s another reminder for, “all that glitters are most certainly not gold”.

I am reproducing the mail that they had sent 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Our old teacher

Myanmar is under the spotlight as Ann Suu Kyi is finally set to have a say on her country’s affairs. She made big sacrifices to ensure democratic rights for common people and in the process becoming an inspiration for countless young people around the world. Myanmar has been under international scanner in the past decades but this time it brought back one childhood memory.
The only time we had a private tutor coming to our home was when I was in grade 3 and my elder sibling was in the 4th. He was an old man in his sixties with balding head, thick eyebrows and a hardened face that bore marks of tough journey his life has endured. Our association lasted less than a year but I still have some memory from those early days. His primarily role when I think back was to help with our homework and engage us in some routine activities. As a consequence we were disciplined about our afternoon study sessions, something that continued all through our student life. 
For us he was irritatingly punctual, never missing to turn up at the correct time every afternoon. My sister once demonstrated how easily ink from her pen got soaked into his khadi kurta. I thought it was a sweet revenge but her argument was that she was verifying if he washes his clothes.
At times he shared some of his life experiences and the one that I remember vividly was his escape from Rangoon on foot. In 1941 when Japan was planning to attack British administration in Burma, he told us the law and order situation in Rangoon worsened rapidly. Indians with the scars of Burmese riots of the past decade still fresh, panicked and prepared to leave. The Japanese air raids on Rangoon in December that year created chaos. The perception of people was that the British would withdraw leaving behind the Burmese mob to plunder the Indians. A mass exodus started.
The British administration restricted the exit through waterway to British and Anglo Indians only. With the railroads bombed, they were left with no other choice but walk on foot. Even the shorter road known as the “White path” were reserved for army and other government personnel. They were forced to take the long and perilous path called the “black route”. It was a long trek through the mountains and forests in the north. They were clearly not prepared for such a journey. The transit camps along the route were running above capacity. Rainwater trapped in the layers of banana plants once saved his life inside a dense forest and many a times they improvised in order to filter stagnant water.
People moved in closed groups of trustworthy companions and mostly within their tribes. The worst sufferers were women, children and many perished on the way. There were no one to remove the corpses as people left behind their deceased. Some even walked off to save their life without completing the cremation of their own children. Their state of the mind was such that no one even bothered to remove the gold ornaments from their dead before marching away.
It was too difficult for young minds to reason such miseries inflicted by human on fellow beings. There were lessons to be learned from the story our father had explained, “You need to believe in yourself and have determination to successfully make a journey of such magnitude. When one is struck between a rock and a hard place with no alternatives, one gets enormous strength to fight for survival”, he told us.

Unfortunately, people around the world continue to push others to make such perilous journeys and they continue to perish in large numbers.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Checklists & Construction Success

This was first published in LinkedIn

I have been a proponent of checklist all through my construction management days and I usually practice what I champion. The checklists has been part and parcel of construction process and procedures for years. Other high risk industries like Aviation, or ship building too uses this as missing a step could result into expensive losses of time, money and sometimes human lives. The Hedge fund managers too have their own checklists.

In our industry it is mandatory to attach a checklist while submitting “method statements” or ITP (Inspection and Testing Protocol) for consultant’s review. These are equally important while conducting a Risk Assessment before commencing a fresh construction activity at sites.
It is difficult to apprehend why there should be such resistance in implementing a powerful tool like this one in their day to day work activities. It would be interesting if a research was carried out to find out if the reason behind this reticence is ignorance, over confidence, the “I don’t need it, I know it all” state of mind or a combination of many such factors.

As a matter of fact, Checklist are tools to make an expert perform better. Human memory and attention often fails when it comes to routine matters and important aspects can be easily overlooked. Checklist can solve our dilemma about when to follow the protocol and when one’s own instincts. It also comes handy when faced with a situation requiring us to process high volume of information.
Aviation pilots uses one before takeoff and landing and someone once explained that is not a recipe for how to fly a plane but a reminder of key things that often get forgotten or missed if not checked. Since then when I notice the aircrew making the routine checks before takeoff, I get reassured.

The organizations that practically implement these processes are few and far in-between. This results in high volume of avoidable rework and frequent incidents leading to life changing losses to humans. The direct impact on the project is invariably low quality, higher cost and delayed completion.
It was a shot in the arm listening to Dr. Atul Gawande, a Boston based surgeon highlighting the advantages of using Checklists in his TED talk. His narration about collaborating with WHO to develop a universal “surgical checklist” and making significant difference to the world was very intense. He admitted that the idea of checklist was borrowed from high risk industries such as aviation and skyscraper construction. Interestingly enough it was a team from Boeing who provided him assistance while preparing the first checklist for medical field.

Checklist can be categorized into two distinct types. The first one is “Do-Compare” checklist for general routine tasks which one does out of memory and compare against the list. The second one is “Read-Do” checklist are like recipe and mainly for events that are very new for the users.

I wish we play our part to use this powerful tools more extensively to improve the KPI (key performance indicators) as well as make our construction project sites a safer place to work.