Thursday, September 1, 2022

Meeting Shobhana after a Decade

We had a surprise visitor recently - Shobhana from  my IDBI, Hyderabad days dropped in to see us all the way from the US with her three year old Eva. Shobhana has come a long way from being the Assistant Manager she first came to IDBI, Hyderabad, sometime in the early 2000s. She then went from strength to strength - joined TCS, JP Morgan and is now Senior VP at Citibank, New York. If anyone needs a lesson on how to fulfill potential and all their dreams with the resources one has (and a learning mindset), Shobhana is a perfect case study. She always had clear ideas of how she wanted her career to be, the kind of a life she wanted, the kind of a partner she wanted (she and Sankar make a great pair) and has ticked off all boxes. 

Shobhana, me, Eva, Shobhs and Anjali

It's been over ten years, maybe closer to fifteen since we worked together but the work we did in the Resource Mobilisation Department of the Hyderabad Branch Office was perhaps some of the best and something I am extremely proud of. There is much we learned during that period and what we all (from that team) share today is the pride of being part of a winning team. There was this desperate need to raise deposits for the bank, most of us were new to the department, our boss Smitha had just left. The rest of the team - Shrikanth Mulaokar, Damodar, Purnima, RK, Shobhana and me - were left wondering if we should just do the standard stuff and hope for the best or - do something serious about it. 

Being new we were driven and wanted to do something different. I remember we got an earful when the last issue went badly for no fault of ours. So I used some Marketing fundas I remembered from my MBA days and we first studied and segmented the markets - wholesale, retail, HNIs, short term borrowers, long term borrowers.  - and devised a different strategy for each. Now this needed a lot of background work - like getting all the past data of 14 issues, sorting the same, analysing it, segmenting it, reaching out to each segment, making separate lists and mailers for communication etc. And while I could strategise and plan, I needed hands who could execute. I found a more than willing associate in Shobhana who was willing to put in the hours, coordinate with Mumbai, use all her resources to get the information, sort information out etc. Damodar handled wholesale, Shrikant handled retail and our entire team worked like crazy, activating agents, contacting new ones, old clients etc. Everyone pitched in - Murli, caretaker Srinivas, Gangaram, Gajanand, Ahmed the electrician.  Our day would begin at 8 and end at 8, still discussing the strategy for the next day. It was great creative energy at play. 

In the middle of all this Shobhana broke her hand, but she continued gamely which was amazing commitment from her. I remember her roommate Seema yelling at me for making her work with a broken hand! Anyway it was a classic marketing case and we ended up mobilising a whopping 16 crore as opposed to the 2 crore we had in the previous issue.  

Encouraged, we kept up the good work in the issues that followed and explored new avenues in advertising, public relations, tie ups with big agents. We mobilised even more in each subsequent issue- 18 crores, 22 crores and 24 crores etc. By the end of the next issue we had set all the systems and nothing much had to be done really. I learned much about how Marketing fundas could work so well during that period and am sure a learner like Shobhana certainly did.  

The DRD team after the agent's meet (standing l to r) - Purnima, Ahmed, Srikanth, Murli, Srinivasa Rao, Shrikanth, Shobhana
sitting l to r - Me, Sunil, Srinivasan, Ramachandran and Damodar

As a team we were thrilled at the results and the turnaround - Damodar, Shrikanth, Shobhana and I - and we would celebrate our small victories with a biryani at Mohini or something. Somewhere along the way the team named me Thakur, Damodar became Jai and Shrikanth became Veeru and Shobhana became Basanti. It was all fun but more importantly we ended up on the winning side. Nothing can beat the satisfaction of being part of a winning team and today we all share those memories forever, like cricket teams that win a championship. To top it all we did one of the best agent meets at Taj Krishna, an event I assigned entirely to  Shobhana who ran the entire show, dealing with the Taj Krishna people. menu, arrangements etc, compered it beautifully and brought in the biggest attendance ever on a day when it rained cats and dogs. 

Shortly after, I resigned from IDBI to pursue a career in writing and soul searching. She continued with the IDBI. The gang would call me up once in a while and update me on stuff and we'd meet for lunch a few times as well. Shobhana would still insist on learning new things whenever we spoke  - from stuff about joints and places to see in Hyderabad, to ways to develop herself as an individual and her career. I remember she would do many workshops and courses over the years for self-development- Landmark and so on. She would also have a lot of fun alongside, and I remember dancing was  a passion for her and continues to be I am sure. Shobhana got transferred to Mumbai soon after and when IDBI became IDBI Bank she became a Branch Manager. 

Then she joined TCS and went abroad and her career sky rocketed. And when she said she finally met the man of her dreams Sankar in New York and got married to him, it was just perfect how she had manifested her life the way she wanted it. We were in Mumbai when they had a wedding function and were glad to be part of it - Jai and Veeru were there as well.

Now, her wish list seems complete with the arrival of Eva, now three. She has recently got a promotion as a Senior VP, Citibank which, in retrospect is brilliant in how she has grown her career. And after all these years, the family was on a trip to India, and she said they were planning to visit Hyderabad. I said they should definitely drop by for lunch. A last minute fever to Sankar and he had to drop out but Shobhana and Eva made it despite a hectic schedule. I spoke to Sankar though over a video call.

It was wonderful catching up with Shobhana and reliving some of the old stories. We called Jai and Veeru who are in Mumbai and Pune now and with some advance planning could have met surely. Eva was a big bundle of mischief and very adorable - Hari Uncle, this or that - and she literally painted the home red. Shobhana was thoughtful and got us all gifts and I gave her a couple of my books. Though a decade had passed it was pretty much like we met yesterday.  And as always, meeting Shobhana once again reinforced the importance of being part of a winning team - it's a feeling of pride we carry forever. 

Thanks Shobhana for dropping in and making the effort despite a very very hectic schedule and despite being unsure about the trip until the last minute. I am so glad you could make it and we could catch up. Next time, we should try and get Jai and Veeru to join us as well. And meanwhile, wishing you, Sankar, Eva, a wonderful life ahead and especially waiting to see you scale greater heights in your career.


Smitha Leo said...

Shobhana was my first best friend, we studied together in college and to read about her through this blog gives me immense happiness. You have penned down your journey with Shobu, as we fondly call her, so beautifully that my heart swells with pride, not just for my friend but for your entire team. May this friendship last a lifetime.

Harimohan said...

So nice to see your comment Smitha. Thanks for writing in. :)