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Man in the hot seat

Man in the hot seat
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First Published: Thu, Jul 23 2009. 10 43 PM IST
Updated: Thu, Jul 23 2009. 10 43 PM IST
Ominous music, flashing lights. Man walks out on brightly lit stage in a grim manner, sporting a grim frown on his face, in a grim suit. He speaks into the camera. Grimly.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to CEO Ka Saamna. The heart-stopping, nerve-jangling show where we subject the chief executives of the biggest companies to the greatest challenge of their lives. I will seat them in this here swivel chair, under these unforgiving lights and ask them penetrating questions about the deepest, darkest secrets of their professional lives. Some of these incidents, they have long forgotten in their incessant hurry to head organizations and attain power and wealth. But thanks to the ‘Previous Employment’ field on LinkedIn.com, and an unpaid summer intern armed with MS Excel, we draw up a list of previous subordinates. We pay these underlings to offload dirt on the CEOs. Then, in front of a national audience of between 17 and 24 people—basically all those not watching Balika Vadhu—we ask them if these things are true! Did they really do those things to their subordinates?”
Camera flashes between swivel chair, show host, haircut and once more swivel chair. Dramatic music with deathly drums and vagabond violins.
“They must then think for a long time, looking intensely distressed, before—in front of the entire nation and perhaps dozens of ex-employees eager to see the CEO’s façade crack—we go into an ad-break. When we return, after an advertisement about how you can lose weight by simultaneously speaking on your mobile phone and not eating anything, he must confirm whether the allegation is true or false.
“It is a tremendously difficult moment. One that few people can handle. The CEO in the hot seat must explain his actions. When he has finished explaining, we will check the veracity of his statements. If his statements are true, as per lie detector testing, he has lost and he must immediately leave the studio. On the other hand, if he is able to immediately come up with an utterly laughably false explanation for his behaviour, then he qualifies for the next round. In each round, the questions will get tougher and tougher.
“Ultimately, if he is able to last through 10 questions, he is declared the CEO Ka Saamna champion. The champion goes home with pride, glory and one year’s unlimited use of an auditing firm that is open-minded and has plenty of paper shredders, if you know what I mean.
“Come! Let’s play CEO Ka Saamna! Our first contestant is the CEO of a mid-sized manufacturing company based in Mumbai. B.B. Kumar joined the company as a graduate engineer trainee in 1987 and became CEO of the firm just seven years later. Please welcome Mr Kumar!”
Kumar jogs on to the stage, waves at the audience and settles into the chair.
“Welcome Mr Kuma…” the host starts before being interrupted by the CEO who looks at his BlackBerry.
“Wait one moment. I need to lay off our e-commerce team due to budget cuts,” he says typing away on the BlackBerry.
“Oh, I am so sorry, this must be a terri…” but the host is interrupted again.
“OK, done. Thanks,” Kumar says, tucking the BlackBerry into his jacket pocket.
“Mr Kumar, welcome. Before I ask you your first question, let me remind you that accompanying you today are some friends.” Camera pans to 11 old men in suits in the front row. “Please introduce yourselves, ” the host says.
“We are his Board of Directors.”
The host explains: “If at any time you feel intimidated by one of my question, any of you members of the Board, except the independent directors, can ask for a question to be annulled. I will drop that question and move to another one. However, you can only do this once in the course of the game. Choose carefully.
“Mr Kumar, this is your first question. Do you feel nervous? Is it intimidating that you have to lie through your teeth in front of hundreds?”
“Not at all. We just had our Annual General Meeting last week. So I am feeling quite confident and calm.”
“Very good, indeed. Your first question is this: Three months ago, your company declared its worst results in 17 years. You decided to summon a special cost-cutting meeting of the top management at a spa in Goa. Is it true that in order to set an example for your staff, you decided to cut costs by sending only yourself to Goa and making your staff do a videoconference from an Internet café in Ghatkopar?”
A cloud descends over Kumar’s face. Just as he open his mouth to speak, a siren sounds in the studio.
“To find out about this and that time in 1999 when Mr Kumar went to Tuscany for three months maternity leave…tune in same time tomorrow to CEO Ka Saamna. Good night!”
Studio lights fade out. Channel switches to a promo for the new show: Iss Half-yearly Sales Review Meeting Se Mujhe Bachao!
Cubiclenama takes a fortnightly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at cubiclenama@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Jul 23 2009. 10 43 PM IST