Chowdhury found his salary account had been debited with an amount 20 per cent less than what his salary was. The reason? You get salaries according to what you earn
It's Chowdhury again and this time, it's a tale of how management, or rather mismanagement, can run a company aground.
In mid 1990s, when he joined this company in Gulshan, an international company that researches on foreign exchange and commodity, he was excited about the work.
Lazy as he is, he was in no rush to wake up in the morning and join the rat race. If he could somehow haul himself up from bed by 12 noon, he would enter his swanky office just in time for lunch.
Lunch was lavish. Beef, mutton, fish, vegetables, salad, rice, dessert – everything was served on a long table. You picked your own menu.
And then the work would begin. He would glue himself to the screen and watch the world markets wake up one by one.
He had paid access to all the major financial news services. He would watch the Nasdaq and the Dow Jones. He would watch the oil prices and OPEC decisions. He would look at the Reuters FX terminals to track currency volatility. He would study the forward and spot rates.
And then he would run programmes to predict markets. In the end he would produce news letters that the company sold worldwide.
He worked with a multicultural team. People from Hong Kong, India and mostly from Bangladesh, worked together.
The reason why the office was in Dhaka was obvious. It saved on salaries. A Bangladeshi researcher comes much cheaper than a British brain.
And the team was happy. They got paid well for a high-octane job that stretched late until two in the night. And the perks were good too – with cars and everything.
Then came Chan – a man from Hong Kong who knew everything about research, and a management wizard, to take charge of the office.
In his first meeting with the team, Chan said he was a work-master who would drive the company's revenues higher and higher. He would get more juice out of every worker and he would make pay 'exciting' in line with their work. His aim was to always push harder.
The first thing he introduced was a system to reward performers with cars. Anybody meeting the target would receive the perk.
People were excited and started working harder.
One fine morning, Sohel, who had a Master's degree in economics, came down from his apartment to be met by this man.
"Sir, I am your driver."
"Driver? What driver?" Sohel was surprised. He owned no cars.
"I am the office driver. I am here to take you to office. The car will be at your service round-the-clock," the man pointed to a reconditioned Toyota Corolla.
Before he could clear his mind to absorb the surprise, Sohel found himself inside the car. In office, things became clear. It was his perk for doing excellent work last month.
The incident created a new wave of enthusiasm in office. The marketing people started looking around for new subscribers of the newsletter. People tried to be more analytical in their work.
Two more received cars the following month. They were not surprised when the vehicles arrived at their garage unannounced, because by now, they knew this was Mr Chan's style.
Another person got a 50 per cent raise the month after, followed by another one.
But high-end intellectual products have limited demand. The same company will not buy two costly newsletters without good reason. And so sales plateaued.
It was then the management guru started churning out his new mantras to keep the company bottom-lines shinning.
One fine noon, Chowdhury woke up and took the lift to the garage to find his driver missing.
"Where is my driver?" he asked the guard.
"He did not turn up, sir."
Chowdhury felt a bit irritated. "The lazy bum must have slept a bit too long and failed to wake up in time," he thought. He took a taxi to work.
In the evening he wanted to take a break and visit another office. Whistling to himself, he took the stairs to the basement and lo and behold, his car was not there!
So he rang up the driver. "Where the hell are you? Do you think you work for your Shoshur (father-in-law) that you don't even need to report that you are not coming in today? You will be fired."
The driver sounded nonplussed. "Sir, I am no longer your driver. The management has cancelled your car."
"No idea sir."
Chowdhury scrambled up to his office and asked the HR guy "what's cooking?"
"Mr Chan has cancelled your perk because you did poorly last month."
Chowdhury's head spun. He grumpily went back to his desk.
The next day, Sohel was furious. His car did not show up and had been recalled for 'poor performance.'
Stranger things started happening. The HR guy came in grinning one fine morning. He got a car because he had been performing 'well' by cutting vehicle expenses.
Another shock awaited at lunch time. The first day, mutton was missing from the lunch menu.
"Cost-cutting," the HR guy said.
Next in line was the fish. And then dessert. Finally, it boiled down to the basics – daal, bhaat, beef and veggies. The coffee machine was whisked away.
One day, Chowdhury was engrossed in an analysis. Figures were popping up around the screens. The financial market had gone haywire.
"Khaleque, bring me a cup of coffee," he ordered, without shifting his gaze.
Khaleque went out of the room and never came back. Fifteen minutes later, a furious Chowdhury got up, looking for the peon and found him weeping in the corridor.
"What's the matter? Where's my coffee? Why the heck are you crying?"
"Sir, I just lost my job."
The reason? Mr Chan saw Khaleque tearing open a pack of biscuits to serve some guests. Mr Chan thought Khaleque was stealing office biscuit – a grave crime.
The cost cut then hit the salaries.
Chowdhury found his salary account had been debited with an amount 20 per cent less than what his salary was. The reason? You get salaries according to what you earn. Somebody lost 50 per cent of his salary.
In the end, people started leaving faster than animals in a forest fire. A month later, the company pulled its shutters down and that was the end of the management guru Mr Chan.