Recent developments in the Indian corporate world remind me of an old Malayali joke.
I am not sure if they do this anymore. I hope they do. But there was a time when, each year, after the Kerala state Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) examinations, newspapers would publish excerpts of particularly interesting exam answers. For instance:
Q: How can you distinguish between a sea snake and a land snake?
A: In order to do this you must pick up the snake and lick it. If it tastes salty it is a sea snake. Otherwise, land snake.
Surely the above child will grow up and become an expert at process optimization and business process re-engineering, i.e. a passport office tout.
So when the media reported that two high-profile Indian companies are “hunting” for head honchos, I was reminded of the greatest such SSLC joke ever.
It goes like this:
Q: How does an amoeba hunt prey?
(I am going to take many liberties with the translation.)
A: It is a dark and stormy night. The clock strikes half past six. Troubled Amoeba is pacing back and forth outside his house. Inside, his children are howling in hunger. They have not eaten for days. Amoeba decides, at that fateful moment, to go hunt for his Prey...
The answer goes on to describe the gory murder of Prey by Amoeba.
Two things are clear. One, the student has no idea what an Amoeba is. Two, he has no idea what kinds of things it preys on. So he only refers to them as Amoeba and Prey.
Genius. The student has a superb mix of imagination and irreverence for details. Indian media could do wonders with him.
Now coming back to that news development. One of the two companies have even set up a selection panel that will now begin “hunting”. I assume this will be an elaborate process of identifying potential successors, shortlisting and finally hiring the perfect fit.
Frankly, all that sounds a little boring to me. Where is the excitement? How is this going to be any different from regular hiring? Sure, the resumes will be longer, the reference checks more detailed and the salary negotiations more substantial. But otherwise, it seems entirely pedestrian. Or, to coin a phrase, where is the Amoeba in the story?
(Unless they do an actual hunt for a new CEO. With nets, tranquilizer darts and sniper rifles. Awesome.)
In the interest of cubicular excitement, I put forth a couple of ideas.
First, and the most obvious, is to convert the hunt into a reality TV show.
Reality television is truly a medium that has its finger on society’s pulse. Think of a facet of life and there is a show that exposes its stark reality. Dancing, cooking, singing, singing while cooking, cooking while dancing, losing weight and modelling are some of the aspects of my life that I often see portrayed through reality shows.
To initiate thought I have shortlisted some names for the CEO hunt show: So You Think You Can Make Money From A One Lakh Rupee Car, India’s Next Top Murthy, Fear Factor: Dadar Parsi Colony and, Top Chop Shop Chef.
Alas, many people think that reality TV is demeaning to human beings. That it reduces them to commodities.
Which is why I have a second idea. Something that respects the worth of an individual and treats him like a human and not a tradeable good: Indian Premier League-style auctions.
The benefits are manifold. There is the entertainment, which is a given. Then there is the financial incentive. You can not only make money from the broadcast, but also save costs.
Let me explain. There are two ways in which you can use CEO auctions.
One is to draw up a shortlist of candidates and then do a reverse auction. The candidates bid for their desired salaries. As the company’s idea is to minimize outlay, candidates will keep bidding this amount lower and lower.
Every few minutes, in order to add drama to the event, the company can reveal that the salary bid so far actually includes PF contribution. Or maybe a car. Or maybe newspaper allowance. Or maybe not. Who knows? Drama!
Alternatively the company can include employees. The employee community will be asked to bid for the various candidates. But there is a twist. This bid amount will come from the company’s bonus pool. Since appointing a CEO is compulsory, employees have to choose. However, candidates have the option to decline bids.
Imagine the decisions facing the employees: Do we bid Rs2.5 crore per annum for the Harvard MBA with foreign experience? Or settle for the Rs38 lakh fellow who has that funny resume without company names, but with inspirational quotes?
As you can see all stakeholders, from TV viewers to shareholders, are being served adequately.
I sincerely hope both Indian companies will consider these exciting Amoeba approaches to hiring.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
To read Sidin Vadukut’s previous articles, go to www.livemint.com/cubiclenama