The year 2005 was a landmark year for the Indian economy. Foreign direct investment was permitted in multiple sectors – including Real estate. Many industrialists sought to benefit from this ‘opening up’ of the economy. A large Indian firm that must stay anonymous, decided to start a joint venture with a large multinational corporation.
In a rush to benefit from the recent liberalization moves, they hurried to have a new office site inaugurated. The site was to be located between Mumbai and Pune, Maharashtra. The MD of the MNC was to arrive in three days’ time and the CEO of the Indian firm decided that the MD must be the one to perform the ‘bhumi-puja’ for the new office ! This created enormous pressure on the marketing team, responsible for conducting the visit. All hell broke loose as there were no banners printed, no posters, no welcome arrangements had been made till then and even the responsibilities were not decided.
The next two days were very confusing as no one stepped up to the plate and finally on the day of the inauguration itself, the CEO just sent his EA – a young, ambitious business school lad in his 20s along with one of his colleagues to save the situation. The two men reached the site, carrying some basic material for the event – only to learn that there was no site demarcation. It was just vast, empty farmland that had been recently acquired from farmers and called the industrial area by the government. Frantic calls to the legal and administrative departments of the company yielded nothing useful. The company had the papers but no one had bothered to demarcate anything since.
With just about three hours to go, the EA decided that the very plot of land they were standing on was to be claimed as theirs for the purpose of the Bhoomi-puja (the traditional ceremony of worship undertaken before commencement of any construction activity). Two bamboo poles were planted into the ground fifteen feet apart and a hastily printed banner welcoming the MD of the partner firm was slung across. Just then, his cell-phone rang.
CEO: You know the MD loves elephants.
EA: He does?
CEO: Make sure there’s an elephant garlanding him for welcome. You know, traditional Indian way.
EA: Yes, sir.
The EA, who knew his boss’s pulse, made an on the spot executive decision and called another colleague of his, who was known to be an expert in all matters – mundane and esoteric. That man, in an hour flat, managed to not only find an elephant for hire, but got the animal at the site along with the garlands necessary.
Shortly thereafter, the dignitaries arrived. The plateau of Deccan can get very windy and the banner was pulsating quite violently by then. The EA signaled to one of his two friends to get a hold of it. The poor man could hold only one of the bamboos. This forced the other guy to leave the elephant’s side and hold the second one, fifteen feet away.
The two top bosses were busy fawning pleasantries on each other and how great, long lasting and strong their partnership was going to be. Shortly thereafter, they moved under the banner where a pink ribbon had also been tied with the intention that it be cut by the MD. In a split second, and thanks to one of the two young men no longer able to hold the shaking bamboo, the wind uprooted both and the banner et al crashed to the ground.
Mortified, the EA ran to the side of the elephant and asked its handler to be ready. Meanwhile, he held the two garlands in his arms and signaled his boss to escort the MD.
So, the CEO said to the MD, ‘Please come, We have a traditional Indian welcome waiting for you’. The two men walked a few steps forward towards the elephant. The beast, undulating in a manner only elephants can, picked up both the garlands simultaneously from the hands of the poor EA, and as the entire gathering looked on, camera shutters clicked, calmly ate them.