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Extract | The Allied victory

In ‘Who Let the Dork Out?’, Robin ‘Einstein’ Varghese takes on the challenges of an international athletic meet
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First Published: Thu, Sep 27 2012. 06 45 PM IST
Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint
Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint
Updated: Thu, Sep 27 2012. 09 58 PM IST
10 February 2010
10.03 a.m.
Humiliation on top of humiliation.
When I reached office this morning everyone, including Joel, was watching Times Now. The imbeciles on TV were discussing how the Allied Games was increasingly becoming a source of international embarrassment.
And who was one of the experts invited on to the show?
Think Diary. Of all the people in the world who would get the most joy out of seeing my downfall?
Exactly. Rahul Gupta. Times Now had invited him on to the show because he was an ‘Expert on strategy, operations and a major process consultant to the Allied Games’.
(Yes of course. And Ummen Chandy is the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.)
Who Let the Dork Out?Penguin India, 256 pages, Rs 199
Gupta said that much of the MURPS failings could be explained by one simple fact: The ministry had shown poor judgement in hiring a company with unproven credentials to advice them. The anchor asked him about Lederman. Gupta explained that Lederman was a financial services company with little to no experience in sports events and with a track record of financial fraud and white collar crime.
You could see the colour draining from Joel’s face. (But you had to look very hard. Because… you know…)
Afterwards Joel asked me for a private meeting.
He thinks that the MURPS project is now beginning to bring the company humiliation and nothing else. First there is the ongoing torture of Blunderwatch. Their latest post is about how private companies are cashing into the AG-2010 by posing as independent consultants. There is a small photo of the press conference published along with the post that shows me sitting next to Joyyontoh. This was taken at the exact moment the shoe was thrown at us. I look like an idiot.
Secondly there is the fact that our client just spent the last two months in jail.
And finally there is this new humiliation on TV.
Joel said that usually this humiliation is not a problem if the business returns were adequate. Which is why Lederman was one of the lead private sector supporters for the Muammar Gaddafi Centre for Democratic Reform in Africa. People laughed at us. But we also made 47 million dollars in fees to help find investors for a new port near Benghazi.
The MURPS rubbish, he said, was simply not worth it. Even if the merchandising plan was a success and MURPS paid us our fees on time we were looking at a realistic business of less than 7 or 8 million dollars. And for that peanut amount we were putting our entire business reputation on the line.
Now I was beginning to get fed up with his moral science class. I told him that things simply did not work like that in India. First of all the government was a huge potential client. But you had to start with small mandates and then work your way to a big one like the privatization of a PSU or something. And then one day, when the government is convinced of our abilities to deliver, they will ask you to find a buyer for Air India. BOOM! Millions of dollars in revenue for basically telling a bunch of lies to some idiot from Qatar.
And as for reputation I told Joel he was reading this all wrong. In India your corporate reputation has nothing to do with your business potential. In the morning you can have an explosion in your factory killing everybody including 150 child labourers. In the evening you make some vague announcement about acquiring some foreign company and everyone will immediately forget everything because of sudden patriotism.
So I told him not to worry so much about what people think. All that is only a problem in other countries.
Joel looked shocked. He told me that he was disappointed at my attitude.
All these months he and John and several other people in Lederman had been under the impression that I was the ideal person to lead our India office. But now, he said as my heart shrank to the size of a small green pea and fell into the pit of my stomach where it was vaporized by my gastric juices, he realized that this may have been a mistaken impression.
He said that I now seemed way too cynical, unprofessional and opportunistic for a major leadership role.
I broke out into very loud laughter. You remember that scene from Chandralekha when Mohanlal laughs and laughs and laughs till every single person in the audience has laughed and laughed and urinated a little bit. I was laughing like that. Joel looked stunned.
And then I slowly calmed down. I told Joel that if only he would let me speak he wouldn’t have been so disappointed. What I described before was the traditional line of thinking in many Indian companies. What I was going to say next, before Joel interrupted me, was that this WAS THE EXACT TOTAL OPPOSITE of my own line of thinking. If he would have just waited for a moment I would have told him what I really thought.
And that was this: A company is nothing without its corporate reputation. Even here in India the profitability of a company meant little if these profits came from dubious businesses. Do people know how much money the Tata Group makes? Do they even care? No. Why? Because the Tatas are seen as responsible corporate citizens.
I told Joel that like him I was also tremendously troubled by the recent humiliations that Lederman had suffered because of the Allied Games. Like him I was deeply moved by this and intended to rectify the situation as soon as possible.
The next move would be to launch a social media campaign that glorified the benefits of the PIMPAG(E) initiative. Once that took off we could slowly start playing up Lederman’s role. By then, hopefully, all these allegations of corruption would have blown over and MURPS would get back to delivering the Games.
At the same time, now that we have the Games messaging in place, Joel could quickly launch merchandise. This would also help to excite the public, counter the negativity and win us some credibility.
If all went according to plan by the time the Games took place Lederman would be known as the company that helped the government pull off a huge success.
Joel thought for a while and then said that he was still not entirely convinced about me. He was willing to set his scepticism aside. Provided that there were no more public relations disasters. One more humiliation and that was it. He would take over the entire MURPS mandate including PIMPAG(E), bring in Raghu and Rajeev to lead and remove me from any interim-CEO duties.
I again burst out laughing but he got up and walked out.
Right now I don’t have the energy to worry about this bastard also. I should have known from the very beginning. Firangs are always trouble. From Vasco da Gama to Greg Chappell. All fuckers.
Sidin Vadukut is editor, Indulge.
Who Let the Dork Out? will be available in book stores starting 15 October.
Write to lounge@livemint.com.
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First Published: Thu, Sep 27 2012. 06 45 PM IST